Ed Reform

NewSchools 'Invent' to Support Launches of 29 Schools

Their school names freely use words like "academy" and "public" and "charter, " "new, " "design" and "college preparatory." They all intend to set up new models of education that, if successful, can serve as exemplars. And all are teams of educators making up the 29 recipients of the NewSchools Venture Fund Invent 2017 cohort.

For example, the learning model at Digital Pioneers Academy in Washington, D.C., a charter college preparatory for grades 6-12, will use traditional curriculum that also includes computer science as a core content area. Students will do personalized project-based work, develop computational thinking skills and be pushed to head into four-year colleges.

ACCEL Day and Evening Academy will be Alabama's first public charter school, serving grades 9-12 in three counties: Mobile, Baldwin and Washington. The curriculum will also focus on college-prep courses using individualized instruction, small class sizes and "engaging use of technology in a safe, supportive environment."

Each will be receiving some share of $5.6 million in investments NewSchools is making in this cohort, 23 of whom are beginning the planning process with the intent of opening schools in 2018, and six of whom are getting ready to open new schools in the fall.

In addition to the funding, NewSchools will lend management assistance and help create a community of practice for the cohort members. The idea is to support school leaders and teachers who want to set up innovative public schools within school districts and charter networks where students will receive a "strong academic foundation along with other important mindsets, skills and habits like self-awareness, perseverance and problem solving," as a recent article on NewVentures' website explained.

NewSchools is a philanthropic organization that invests in both for-profit and non-profit entities with the mission of transforming public education.

The recruitment and selection process for the cohort has required NewVentures to become heavily proactive, according to Partner Arielle Rittvo Kinder. "Our recruitment strategy had largely been based on the idea, 'If we build it, they will come,'" she wrote. During recent applications rounds, however, the organization was disappointed by the "number and quality of teams that applied."

To boost visibility on the recruitment side, NewVentures promoted the Invent program more heavily, adjusted its application timeline to work better within the schedules of educators and pursued applicants "outside our echo chamber and beyond social media."

On the selection side, the organization "pushed" itself to take bigger risks with unproven leadership, knowing that it would need to increase its support to those individuals and teams, but also recognizing "that it could result in better school outcomes."

Because of those efforts, the "number of applications doubled, and the number of teams led by leaders of color jumped from 30 [percent] to 50 percent," noted Rittvo Kinder. "We're also finding schools and leadership teams in new regions and states. It's great for the field, but more importantly it will impact tens of thousands of students who eventually will be learning in these schools every year."

The new cohort includes four schools in Washington, D.C. and California; two each in Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and Washington; and one school in Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

"Too many of today's schools were built for a different time and purpose," said Scott Benson, NewSchools managing partner, in a prepared statement. "We believe schools can be reimagined to better prepare young people for the future. That's why NewSchools Invent is proud to invest in these teams of educators who are thinking boldly and creating new opportunities to set students up for success, regardless of where they're from."

A complete list of school recipients, past and present, is here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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