New Designs for School
New Designs for School

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Grants to identify and support fundamentally redesigned, scalable whole-school models that combine the best of traditional brick-and-mortar and online learning

Feb. 26, 2013 (Washington, D.C.) – Seeking to enrich the educational landscape with a larger and more diverse portfolio of schools that are innovating to achieve breakthrough results, Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) today announced the availability of $12 million in grants that will help build a robust pipeline of new schools that serve secondary students (within grades 6-12).

NGLC expects to make 20 awards of $150,000 for organizations and institutions planning on launching schools in fall 2013 and fall 2014, with a pool of $6 million in additional one-to-one matching funds for those grantees. Another 30 organizations in the pre-launch planning phases of new school development will receive planning grants of $100,000 to support the launch of schools in fall 2014 and fall 2015. The grants will be awarded in two cycles, with deadlines for initial applications on April 22 and December 2.

“Right now, the nation’s schools are facing significant challenges in preparing students for careers and college-level work. New learning and school organizational models, enabled by technology, hold the key to overcoming many of the traditional barriers to individual student success,” said Next Generation Learning Challenges deputy director Andrew Calkins. “This wave of grants will identify, support, and connect secondary school leaders who are reimagining the educational experience literally from the ground-up.”

Wave IV, Breakthrough School Models for College Readiness, seeks redesigned, scalable models that combine traditional classroom instruction with online or blended learning. NGLC considers a “Breakthrough School” to be a new, whole-school model that incorporates all of the following design principles: 

Student-Centered: designed to meet the diverse learning needs of each student every day 

High Expectations: committed to ensuring that every student will meet clearly defined, rigorous standards that will prepare them for success in college and career 

Self-Pacing and Mastery-Based Credit: enables students to move at their own optimal pace, and receive credit when they can demonstrate mastery of the material 

Blended Instruction: optimizes teacher and technology-delivered instruction in group and individual work 

Student Ownership: empowers students with the skills, information, and tools they need to manage their own learning

Financial Sustainability: sustainable on public per-pupil revenue within four years 

Scalable: designed to serve many more students if it demonstrates impact

With this round of funding, NGLC is seeking significant student success results – outcomes that reveal themselves in the successful pathways that students take following graduation from high school. Specifically, grantees will need to demonstrate plans to support 1.5 years of growth annually on Common Core State Standards, graduate 90% of middle school students and 90% of high school students (using federal definitions for transience,) and matriculate 80% of students to postsecondary education. Grant applicants will also need to produce a financially-sustainable business plan. NGLC is also seeking approaches that are designed to extend beyond the Common Core standards, helping all students develop the skills, knowledge, and aptitudes necessary to lead productive lives in the 21st century – especially low-income students and students of color. Among the key requirements for applicants is a student population with a minimum 40 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Launch Grants and Planning Grants 

NGLC is inviting a range of organizations to apply for the Wave IV Planning and Launch grants, including charter school operators and charter management organizations, school districts, state education agencies, postsecondary institutions, for-profit firms, other school developers, and aspiring entrepreneurs with promising business plans. 

Unlike earlier NGLC investments in new breakthrough school design, Wave IV welcomes proposals from higher-performing schools that want to undertake what NGLC is calling “Complete Redesign,” and from districts that want to replace failing schools using the federal “Restart” provision, along with new school startups. “We hope to generate a diverse cohort of brand new district and charter schools, Complete Redesign schools, and Restart schools, all in an effort to map many pathways towards breakthrough learning,” said Calkins. “Even in the cases of Redesign and Restart schools, we do believe – and emerging evidence indicates – that the degree of change required for breakthrough learning is most effectively accomplished through a fresh start, rather than gradual migration.“ 

Launch Grants: All applicants for launch grants must be on a clear trajectory toward opening new schools in the fall of 2013 (for Cycle 1 applicants) or the fall of 2014 (for Cycle 2 applicants). Launch grants are intended only for school developers who are already well along in their designs and in securing required approvals (charter authorization, MOUs between developers and districts, etc.). 

Planning Grants: All applicants for planning grants must be on a trajectory toward opening new schools in the fall of 2014 (for Cycle 1 applicants) or the fall of 2015 (for Cycle 2 applicants). Planning grants are intended for school developers who are well enough along in their designs to be able to articulate how they would meet the grant program’s key design criteria. 

“These investments in new, comprehensive school models build on earlier NGLC investments that helped accelerate the adoption of “building block” innovations that used technology to support teaching and learning staked to the Common Core standards,” said Diana Oblinger, President and CEO of EDUCAUSE, a professional organization that seeks to advance higher education through the use of information technology and is the managing partner of the NGLC initiative. 

In addition to providing substantial investment capital, NGLC provides an opportunity for both grantees and other adopters to learn from the successes of peer organizations working to solve the same barriers to student success. “Over the last three years, we’ve seen practitioners step up to the challenge of ensuring that all students have access to a personalized learning experience,” Calkins said. “Too often, successful models have a limited platform and audience for sharing what works and, as a result, do not have the wider impact they deserve. Our goal is to not only seed the education community with breakthrough model schools but also to analyze their outcomes, generate a range of tools and useful research, and establish a community of innovators and communications channels to disseminate lessons learned.” 

In addition to the grants announced today, NLGC has already provided nearly $40 million in support to 75 grantees in all, including 39 new blended-learning secondary schools and educational entrepreneurs focused on college readiness. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been the initiative’s major supporter, is providing the funding for Wave IV. 

For a copy of the Request for Proposals, access to resources, and a schedule of deadlines, interactive webinars and program officer chats, potential applicants should visit


Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) accelerates educational innovation through applied technology to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States. This multi-year program provides investment capital to expand the use of proven and emerging learning technologies, collects and shares evidence of what works, and fosters innovation and adoption of solutions which will dramatically improve the quality of learning in the United States, particularly for low-income students and students of color. NGLC is managed by EDUCAUSE in partnership with the League for Innovation in the Community College, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Funding for Wave IV was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (

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