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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Primary Contact Name:
Sajan George
Award Date:
October 2012
Grant Type:
National Launch
Start Date:
Fall 2014 and Fall 2015
Startup Type:

The schools funded by the NGLC grants were closed in June 2017. Matchbook Learning continues to support a school turnaround in Washington, D.C. through its Spark Accelerator.

School Name: Michigan Technical Academy
Grades Served:
Detroit, MI
Operator: Matchbook Learning
Operator Type: Nonprofit
School Type: District
Setting: Urban
Students: 1,014

School Name: Merit Prep Newark
Grades Served: 6-12
Location: Newark, NJ
Operator: Matchbook Learning (formerly Touchstone Education)*
Operator Type: Nonprofit
School Type: Charter
Setting: Urban
Students at Start: 80
Students at Capacity: 630

Blended Model Type: Flex

Key Features: Turnaround School, Competency-Based Learning, Next Generation Staffing Model

The Operator: Matchbook Learning envisions an ecosystem of public education that applies the very best turnaround design to the very worst schools. The goal is to lead schools out of the bottom five percent into the top 20 percent. What works for a school district’s lowest-performing schools will eventually work for all schools, creating a transformed education ecosystem in which all students thrive. The turnaround process is laid out in a prescriptive 206-step project plan that addresses assessment, content, and classroom design and works with the community and school on mission alignment and student-centered practices grounded in evidence.

Matchbook Learning launched its first student-centered blended turnaround model prototype in 2011 with a bottom five percent K-8 school in Detroit Public Schools. After taking on two more schools, witnessing school improvement in student performance and state-level recognition, and iterating its model, Matchbook Learning shifted to a fourth prototype with two charter school turnarounds, Merit Prep in Newark, NJ in 2014 and Michigan Technical Academy in Detroit in 2015.

Sajan George at TEDxUNC on the Future of Education

The Academic Model:

  • The “very best turnaround design” combines the very best of what teachers can do with the very best that technology can offer in competency-based blended learning.
  • Students work at their own pace through a Learn & Practice, Peer & Teacher Conference, Apply, and Assess learning cycle.
  • Teachers meet daily with students for one-on-one conferences, small group instruction, and goal setting.
  • Learning is leveled according to students’ ability as determined by adaptive assessments, not by age or grade level.
  • Project-based learning (PBL) is a part of each core subject every day to ensure that students learn problem-solving and 21st century collaborative skills in addition to their individual learning progressions.

The Organizational Model:

  • A principal and two full-time program managers implement the turnaround design. To scaffold teachers’ capacity for student-centered learning, the two program managers conduct 40 observations and 20 one-on-one coaching sessions per teacher per year.
  • Matchbook Learning is creating its own learning management ecosystem aligned to the academic model: Spark
  • Matchbook created a school model that relates to the wishes and needs of students, teachers, parents, and community stakeholders in order to enact real and sustainable change. And through its technology-based innovations, that positive change is affordable and scalable.

*Merit Prep launched in 2012 by Touchstone Education with funding support from NGLC. On July 1, 2014, Touchstone Education merged with Matchbook Learning, another NGLC grant recipient. Learn more about the merger.

Application Deck

Archive: Learning Matters - Technology in the Classroom at Merit Prep

Archive: Profiles Video of Touchstone Education