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Trends in the News

Alternative Education Models and Funding Mechanisms

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EdSurge, 2/20/19

How to make district-wide innovation personal—and collaborative

A new case study by Entangled Solutions at Arcadia Unified School District highlights the following five takeaways which show that keeping people front, center and involved is key to scaling personalized learning effectively across any school community. 1. Build a culture of agency and risk-taking: “To get to a point where a teacher is vulnerable in a classroom in front of kids, we had to highlight ways you can fail and talk about it in a positive way,” said Greg Gazanian, Arcadia’s chief strategy and innovation officer. 2. Engage the community early and often: Arcadia has engaged its community in a multi-year effort to not just explain what it is doing, but also give community members a seat at the table to help define its goals. 3. Seek a partnership rather than a product: How teachers and students interact with each other and with the curriculum often is more important than the actual software they use. 4. Plan big, but start small: Arcadia has been intentional about who pilots the AltSchool platform first and the sequence of teachers with which it will grow its innovation efforts over time. 5. Set clear goals you can measure.

Chicago Tribune, 2/9/19

Time to say goodbye to 5-hour school days? Naperville school district officials say yes

In the past, a school day was mandated by Illinois to be five hours of direct supervision by a teacher, and how the state funded schools was based on student attendance during those days. In August 2017, the evidence-based funding formula was signed in to law, shifting the way state money is allocated to school enrollment figures and the number of students in need of extra supports. Because funding was no longer tied to attendance, the law also opened the door to more flexibility in terms of where and how students received instruction. Naperville District 203 has already taken great steps at the high school level toward making e-Learning days a reality by offering more blended classes, which combines direct-teaching days with days for independent online instruction.

CRPE, 11/30/18

Funding a nimble system

In this essay, Travis Pillow and Paul Hill explore what it would take to ensure that personalized and weighted funding follows students across multiple learning experiences, and could meet the needs of all students. Information through online portals and navigators who help families select the best options for their children are critical, the authors argue, as are addressing oversight and helping manage the transition from traditional funding models. “Low-income students or students with special needs who receive larger funding allotments under the weighted student funding system would be more likely to have money left over after covering the cost of school enrollment…Parents would have a more versatile mechanism to respond to needs that arise during the course of their children’s education,” write Pillow and Hill.

Forbes, 1/15/19

How this Chicago nonprofit is changing education as we know it

One Chicago-based organization, LEAP Innovations, is changing the education narrative and bringing forth innovation for every child. LEAP Innovations has worked with more than 120 schools across the Chicago area to implement personalized learning, and have supported over 2,400 current and pre-service educators. Through their work, they’ve reached 30,000 students since their launch date and nearly 90% of the students they impact are children of color. This interview with Phyllis Lockett, the Founder and CEO, highlights how she’s bringing innovation and personalized learning to the classroom.

Education Week, 1/8/19

Gates giving millions to train teachers on ‘high quality’ curricula

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest in professional development providers who will train teachers on “high quality” curricula. The investment, at around $10 million, is a tiny portion of the approximately $1.7 billion the philanthropy expects to put into K-12 education by 2022. Nevertheless, it’s likely to attract attention for inching closer to the perennially touchy issue of what students learn every day at school. Gates officials emphasized that the new grants won’t support the development of curricula from scratch. Instead, grantees will work to improve how teachers are taught to use and modify existing series that are well aligned to state learning standards. The funding announcement also comes as a number of recent reports conclude that teacher training suffers by focusing on general teaching strategies rather than on how to use a specific curriculum.

Education Dive, 12/18/18

Few federally funded ed innovations show positive gains

The field of education, just like other industries, has been fascinated by innovation in recent years, but this wave, as a federal report demonstrates, doesn’t guarantee positive change among the students it’s oftentimes supposed to help. Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Education has spent more than $1.5 billion in grants on nearly 200 educational innovations, but out of 67 evaluations of these innovations — which make up $700 million of the total — only 12, or 18%, found positive effects on student achievement, this report finds.

Education Week, 10/22/18

Billionaire makes major investment in public schools

Barbara Dalio, who is married to…billionaire hedge fund founder Ray Dalio, has spent the past decade leading the Dalio Foundation’s efforts to strengthen public education by investing millions in it. During that time, Dalio’s focus has shifted away from giving to charter schools and reform efforts such as Teach for America and toward troubled public school districts. “A few years ago, there was a feeling among some wealthy donors that giving to local neighborhood schools might be a waste of money, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies with the American Enterprise Institute. “Now the zeitgeist has changed,” said Hess. In 2016, Dalio provided $3.25 million to Achievement First and $2.25 million to Teach for America. But by fiscal year 2018, those figures were down to zero. Meanwhile, the funding Dalio gave to public school districts increased from $4.2 million to $4.8 million.

Seattle Times, 9/13/18

Bezos targets homeless families, under-served preschoolers with $2 billion fund, but details are few

The Amazon founder said Thursday that he and his wife, MacKenzie, would commit $2 billion to fund existing nonprofits working with homeless families and to create a network of nonprofit preschools in low-income communities. The Day 1 Families Fund will make annual awards to organizations “doing compassionate, needle moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families,” while the Day 1 Academies Fund will start and operate a network of “full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities,” Bezos said on Twitter.

Chalkbeat, 9/6/18

Lifting the veil on education’s newest big donor: Inside Chan Zuckerberg’s $300 million push to reshape schools

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has given away millions to groups working to “personalize” learning, reshape teacher training, and diversify the ranks of education leaders. But the full scope of that giving hasn’t been clear. The organization has given $308 million in education grants since January 2016, when CZI took its current form. As a limited liability company, CZI is not required to list donations on its tax forms, unlike private foundations. Still, the organization says its approach is changing. “We have begun sharing our learnings to date with the education community and news media as part of our commitment to transparency,” spokesperson Dakarai Aarons said in a statement. “As we continue to build our strategy and systems, we plan to share more information about our grants in the future in a way that respects our grantees and community partners.”

Education Week, 8/28/18

With $92 million in grants, Gates Foundation launches newest strategy to improve K-12 schools

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced more than $90 million in grants to support networks of schools’ work to help students of color and low-income students into college—marking its first major wave of K-12 giving since announcing a significant change in direction last fall.  In all, the $90 million is the first of what Gates says will be about $460 million spent to coordinate networks of schools that will work to tackle specific problems that can trip up low-income students and students of color on their way to high school graduation and college.