New Designs for School
New Designs for School

We’ve all had the experience of truly purposeful, authentic learning and know how valuable it is. Educators are taking the best of what we know about learning, student support, effective instruction, and interpersonal skill-building to completely reimagine schools so that students experience that kind of purposeful learning all day, every day.

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Is my school design bold enough? What is bold, anyway? I was recently asked this question by an educator and for good reason. 

The great thing about being able to preview the discussion questions at the end of a chapter, be provided an advance copy of interview questions, or preview evaluation criteria, is that it tells you what’s important beforehand. This kind of information may be useful as a kind of focusing filter or self-evaluation. It also signals the underlying values and assumptions of an organization or initiative. Our recent blog posts have been aimed at supporting potential Wave IV Breakthrough School Model applicants. This one is too. However, even if you are not an aspiring applicant, but rather a regular reader and friend of NGLC, you may find our criteria telling about our commitment to accelerating new models of learning.

Is my proposal bold enough? What is bold, anyway? I was recently asked this question by a caller and for good reason. The RFP outlines the criteria by which Wave IV proposals will be reviewed. Boldness of innovation, impact on learning and student outcomes, capacity to deliver, and scalability are some examples. Regardless of your intention to submit a planning or launch grant proposal for a new Breakthrough School, here are some questions to ask yourself before you hit the submit button.

Boldness of Innovation

  • How different is your idea, really, from other models already being piloted in the personalized/blended/mastery-based-learning space?
  • How or in what ways does it fundamentally challenge traditional practice, or create new possibilities and realities for students?
  • Have you shown how your model is different than a previously NGLC-funded or existing school model?

The ideal application reflects ideas inspired by existing schools and currently, it does not already exist.

Impact and Outcomes

  • How well thought out is the instructional design? (NOTE: most relevant for launch grantees)
  • Have you made explicit how your proposed school incorporates and leverages NGLC’s seven design principles (listed on page 2 of the RFP)?
  • Have you provided evidence and/or compelling logic that your proposed academic model will, in fact, lead to the desired outcomes (as stated on page 9 of the RFP)?

The ideal application balances proven and promising (innovative) practice and demonstrates how this balanced approach generates results.


  • Did you highlight the relevant experience, knowledge, and skills that you and/or your partners possess?
  • Have you described how the relevant resources, partnerships, funding, or other supporting efforts you’ve already lined up (or will line up) contribute to the success of your proposed school model?

The ideal application engenders confidence in readers that you will achieve your goals and the vision for your proposed school will be fully realized.


  • Did you describe your strategies for scaling to reach beyond the students directly served and enrolled in your proposed school?
  • Have you outlined ways in which one or more aspects of the proposed school model could be (or will be) expanded, replicated, or adopted?

The ideal application outlines the ways in which others (educators, policymakers, innovators and reform leaders, students) become aware, inspired, adopt and ultimately benefit from the proposed Breakthrough School.

No single element above will determine the fate of an application. Proposals are taken as a whole and ultimately the composite picture is what determines a good investment for NGLC. Criteria for Wave IV are considered in context and more loosely by applicant sub-category. This post is intended to help you focus as the Cycle 1 deadline draws near, but don’t over analyze it. Simply speak to the strengths of your school design. Let your passion and vision play a lead role. And don’t forget to enjoy the opportunity before you! We think it’s an exciting one. We could not be more energized or more grateful that such inventive people are designing such compelling ways for students to learn in school. That’s the primary goal we all share—that more students reach their educational goals through rich learning experiences. Thank you for making NGLC part of your own pursuit of that mission.

Learn more about the Wave IV Grants: Breakthrough School Models for College Readiness.

Sarah Luchs headshot

Sarah Luchs

Program Officer, NGLC

Sarah Luchs coordinates NGLC's K-12 grant making strategies, investing in promising educators and the next gen learning designs that define Breakthrough Schools.