Dave was a disengaged 14-year-old. Everything about his world suggested he would fail. He came to class, eyes glazed over, seeing little relevance in school. He was lost. That is, until a teacher found ways to reach him. A teacher who helped Dave find his voice and discover purpose and passion.
A central premise of the cradle to career approach is that this work requires the collective effort of an entire community to really achieve the systems level and institutional change that is necessary to support every child, from cradle to career. Inherent in this, is the engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community around this cradle to career vision. Part of successfully achieving authentic engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community stems from understanding who is and what is the community.
When we talk about community engagement, we often encourage individual partnerships to define what ‘community’ they are trying to intentionally engage and for what purpose. Community engagement needs to be a contextual process not only in regards of a specific community or region but also to a specific topic or challenge. We have broadly defined the community as “Individuals in the defined geographic scope who are directly affected by the quality of the education pipeline (e.g. students, parents, business and civic leaders), and therefore must be clearly understood, actively involved, and eventually satisfied by the impact of the partnership.” This definition of community can essentially encompass every individual in a partnership’s region; however the expectation is not that every person in the region will be engaged in every engagement strategy that the partnership employs. Rather, this definition of community is intended to identify who should ultimately be engaged and informed, recognizing that the strategies to achieve this broad engagement should look different for varying purposes, sectors and individuals within the community. Different partnerships across the Network have identified various community sectors such as youth, students, parents, general public, business leaders, teachers and others as the major focus of their engagement efforts. No matter what part of the community we are trying to intentionally engage, a major lesson learned has been around needing to tailor the engagement strategy for the specific audience. The strategy employed to engage youth voice in the partnership should and will look different than a strategy to involve business leaders in the work.
With the recent launch of the Theory of Action, a continuum of key benchmarks that acts as a guide to implementing the Strive framework, we have taken the opportunity to reinforce the critical role of community in cradle to career partnerships. We are also working to get clearer than ever on what community engagement is and looks like within the context of this cradle to career work.
This is the first blog in a 6 blog series that aims to further define community engagement and illustrate on-the-ground examples of community engagement throughout the Theory of Action. Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about categorizing engagement strategies! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
We are all familiar with the arguments on Common Core. It’s safe to say that among edu-circles, the Common Core has become a lightning rod of sorts. I understand the arguments both pro and con. Understanding does not mean agree, however. The most prominent argument is that the Common Core has been framed as a federal incursion on states’ rights even though the standards are state led and state created.
We can give the Obama Administration full credit for this one because they took one too many victory laps for something that they didn’t do as well as attaching it to anything that moved including RTTT, ESEA Waivers, and the 2012 Democratic Party platform. The Common Core has been blamed for everything from brainwashing our children to destroying the teaching profession to teen pregnancy. The Common Core has produced wonderful branding with the frequently used term ObamaCore. It has produced the laugh- out-loud Daddy CoreBucks to describe Bill Gates’ (actually B&MGF’s) role in funding some of the standards and assessments development and implementation. There are even advocacy groups that have emerged like Mothers Against Common Core. I can only assume that MACC has bumper stickers and t-shirts. All of this is illustrative of one thing. The development of any national movement, no matter its focus, will fundamentally become political. It is the American way. The Common Core is political but it is also the right thing to do for the country and as a parent it is the right thing to do for kids.
I was taken aback recently by a piece in the New York Times on the Common Core. The piece discussed many of the standard arguments (pro and con) surrounding the Common Core but delved into the implementation challenge. There is absolute truth there. As arduous as the development and adoption of said standards was, the implementation is the more difficult task. It involves teachers developing new curricula, teaching a more rigorous set of learning outcomes, rolling out new assessments, and students digesting the new standards and tackling new assessments. This is really hard stuff, make no bones about it.
In the article, Randi Weingarten is quoted as saying, “I am worried that the Common Core is in jeopardy because of this…The shock value that has happened has been so traumatic in New York that you have a lot of people all throughout the state saying, ‘Why are you experimenting on my kids?’” This quote references the fact that states like New York and Kentucky have experienced a significant drop in test scores with the newly aligned assessments. It is important to note that any time a state has rolled out new standards and assessments, scores go down. I saw this first hand in Texas when I was working at Baylor University. When the state migrated to the TEKS and from the TAAS to TAKS, scores fell big time. But you know what? It wasn’t experimenting on kids and scores eventually went up. It is an adjustment period. Teachers adjusted and kids did, too. And once again, high standards are a good thing. Said another way, through my lens as a parent, high expectations are a good thing.
The article continues to quote Diane Ravitch, an education historian who served in President George W. Bush’s Education Department. Ravitch is quoted as saying, “We’re using a very inappropriate standard that’s way too high…I think there are a lot of kids who are being told that if they don’t go to college that it will ruin their life.” I’m sincerely troubled by this notion. I’ve been in a lot of meetings with CCSSO and NGA and with state chiefs across the country but have never heard one person say that if kids don’t go to college it will ruin their life. I will say that the data are clear that in our world today college should be the goal. Education is the silver bullet and success in a nimble, globally connected, ever- changing economy favors a mind well prepared for college AND career. Does a student HAVE to go to college, no (Daddy CoreBucks himself didn’t graduate). However, we should do everything in our collective power as educators and parents to make that option, to go to college, a reality.
Many states already had high standards prior to Common Core development and adoption. Massachusetts is widely considered one of the leaders in implementing high standards and aligned assessments. The article smartly cites David Driscoll, former commissioner of education in Massachusetts, who led an effort to raise standards in the 1990s in the state. Driscoll assesses the situation correctly, “It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take a lot of work.” Furthermore, I recently heard Mitchell Chester, current commissioner of education in Massachusetts, discuss why his state adopted the Common Core Standards and is currently implementing them. He offered that the state has extremely high passage rates on its end of course exams in math, ELA, and science that are based on the state’s high standards. However, 40 percent of students from Massachusetts schools who matriculate to public universities in the state need remediation. Massachusetts, again viewed as having high standards, needed to raise its standards because students weren’t prepared for college and career.
This is the perfect argument for why high standards are not inappropriate but essential. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not right or needed or vital. As a species we have always tackled what is hard. We came out of the cave, harnessed fire, built the wheel, created art, designed architecture, and went to the moon. It is who we are. We crave what is difficult and what propels us forward. I’m not comparing the Common Core to fire or to the moon shot. But it is what is next for education. How can we grow economically as a nation if we don’t educate our students against high standards? How can we be okay with our college students spending PELL grants, loans, and hard-earned money on courses that don’t count towards graduation? How can we look our children in the eyes and lie to them at graduations across this country by telling them they are now ready to tackle the challenges before them? It may be hard. It may be a big lift. But it is absolutely essential because I’m not going to look my three kids in the eyes and lie to them.
In the piece he reviews outcomes in new report from the Lumina Foundation, “A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education.” While the report shows increased demand for skilled workers in Ohio, it also reports not enough college-educated residents to fill those positions. Merisotis asks, “What can Ohio do to produce more talent? For starters, new models of student financial support must be created. So, we need more leaders to engage on making college more affordable, making costs more predictable and transparent, providing incentives to increase completion and aligning federal, state and institutional policies and programs.”
That’s exactly why EDWorks is focusing its work on early college high schools, one of the most promising strategies for dramatically improving college completion rates, especially among first generation and low-income students.
Our Fast Track Early College High Schools, and many others around the nation, are demonstrating that many students from those communities can in fact succeed not only in high school, but also, in college. To be successful, they need to have access to rigorous, supportive learning environments, adults with high expectations for them and flexibility to focus on their individual learning needs.
Neither Ohio nor the nation can afford to ignore this increasingly significant portion of the population if we are to have a robust economy supported by a more highly educated workforce in the future. Getting them prepared for and experienced in college success early is a proven strategy that is worthy of our attention and investment.
What do you need to know to be successful in this endeavor? While it is the starting point in all good Project-Based Units, dragging them out of young people can be a challenge. Quality Project-Based Learning Units also focus on deeper learning and facilitate inquiry and research skills needed to be successful participants in a constantly evolving workforce. This last year, my co-teacher Ryan Steuer and I grappled with the concept of creating meaningful Need to Knows for our middle school learners and we came up with two strategies to improve them.
Last week was kind of a big week for competency education but in an understated way. Is that possible? I hope so, because I’m writing it.
The first thing that made it a big competency week is the approval of Maine’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. On the surface, this doesn’t have a ton to do with competency but if you dig deeper into the Pine Tree State’s waiver application, you’ll find that it’s actually very important. Maine’s new accountability system under the waiver, you can find the full application here, contains several accountability factors including achievement data and a school accountability index. One of the five components of the school accountability index is graduation rate. Maine’s graduation requirements are proficiency- (or competency-) based. This means that, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time any sort of federal accountability system has included a measure of competency.
The other big competency-related event also comes from Maine. State school chief Stephen Bowen in leaving Maine’s DOE to serve The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) as Director of Innovation. According to CCSSO’s press release, “In this role he will direct work in emerging innovative practices in education, including digital learning, competency based learning, and open educational resources…Bowen will also oversee CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network (ILN), a group of states brought together by CCSSO taking action to identify, test, and implement new and transformative ways to structure the public education system….” Having someone with so much practical experience implementing a competency-based, or in Maine’s case a proficiency-based, system working with other states trying to move in the same direction can only mean good things for the competency-based movement.
Like I said, kind of a big week for competency education but in an understated way….
This week our Twitter Feed was filled with "back to school" tweets and lots of inspiration. Our chat topic was "Sharing ice-breakers and beginning of the year culture building strategies". The full archive is here on our Storify Page. It is full of great ideas and has already been viewed nearly 200 times!
In other #PBLChat news we would LOVE for you to do two things!
When my colleague Jesse Moyer and I visited Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) recently, I was especially curious to learn about ways in which the school’s approach had impacted the roles of adults in the school. BDEA serves over-aged and under-credentialed students via a competency-based education model that Jesse describes further on the CompetencyWorks website and in an earlier post on this blog.
BDEA has a team of instructional leaders, who include a director of curriculum and instruction, department heads, and lead teachers. A transition coordinator helps smooth students’ way into the school, and a director of post graduate planning helps them meet with success after graduation.
During the core of their studies, a student support team focuses on students’ social and emotional growth. Student support counselors become involved during the intake process and stay with cohorts of students until they graduate. As part of advising students on their learning pathways, teachers also refer students to the team.
As we learned during the tour, BDEA has had to trim its student support team to four due to budget constraints. To counterbalance that reduction without compromising student support, the school has been making greater use of graduate student interns, whose pay comes from sources other than its own budget.
On Fridays, external partners host experiential electives at the school based on students’ interests so that the teaching staff can focus on planning, collaboration, and professional development. Electives support core learning and help students progress toward a career. (Current areas of interest include art studio, voice, culinary arts, dance, hydroponics, and fitness.) Each partner is a specialist in his or her area but is not necessarily a certified teacher, and each one commits to a regular engagement with the school in order to build trust with, and provide consistency for, students. Next year’s plans include strengthening the connections between such electives and the school’s academic program.
As the staff whom we met described it, supporting students through their time at BDEA involves partnership, and community is key. In a case study of BDEA, Rebecca Wolfe highlighted how competency education there “is more than a grading or curricular system; it is a cultural, structural, and instructional mindset.” That mindset is, of course, reflected in the staff structure that I’ve been describing.
To me, these roles also stand out as examples of the shift toward the more diverse educator roles – which we call learning agents – that our forecast on the future of learning describes. For the BDEA staff that opened the school’s doors to us, it seemed hard to focus on the idea that they had created innovative roles for supporting learning. Their focus seemed simply to be on student success.
I’ve talked with a number of communities over the years who are undertaking the work of building a collective impact education partnership, and one of the first things they are thinking about is how to manage the data collection and data initiatives of the partnership. “What exactly do you work on as a data manager?” they ask. “And what kinds of skill sets do we need to be looking for in a data manager?” So through those conversations and reflecting back on the data work when Strive was still young, I’ve put together the following “Day in the Life of a Data Manager,” split into two parts. Part II is below.
All of the outcome indicators that you would like to track as a partnership not be readily available – part of the work is directly with partners to help develop shared measures and determine the best way to start tracking them. One example from Strive’s early work was in selecting our outcome indicator for Goal 1: Every child will be prepared for school.
There were a number of indicators that we could potentially track (infant mortality, low birth weight, pre-K experience, etc). But we knew the best measure would be one that is a close proxy to the goal – and the one we landed on was “Percent of children who are assessed as ready for school when they enter kindergarten.” But this data wasn’t consistently available. We worked closely with the Success By 6® early childhood networks and the school districts to land on an assessment and begin tracking the data on a regular basis. The early childhood networks were meeting on a regular basis, and I remember that in one of the Covington network meetings, we brainstormed a list on flipchart paper of about 20 different assessments that were being used by partners. There are no common measures for kindergarten readiness and there aren’t even standard definitions of it. There are many factors that influence a child’s readiness for school including cognitive development, physical well-being, language use, approach to learning, motor development, and social/emotional skills. But we needed to land on something as a population level measure, even if the measures are imperfect, in order to advance the conversation. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” was a mantra, and we had three good measures in our three geographic areas – Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport.
Cincinnati is using a brief assessment tool called the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment – Literacy (KRA-L) which helps teachers identifies early reading skills. It is an assessment that has been adopted by the state of Ohio. Newport started out using the Developmental Indicators for Early Learning (DIAL-3) screen tool. The DIAL-3 provides scores for motor, concepts, and language. Covington started out using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS). The DIBELS measures letter naming fluency and initial sound fluency.
The work of a Data Manager could involve getting into the weeds on all these measures with the members of the collaborative action networks, where necessary, helping to sort through the various measures. The partnership can highlight the discrepancies in the ways school readiness is measured, and help advance the conversation around the importance of good data and in pushing toward common measures. Covington and Newport agreed on and began reporting a common measure (the Dial-3) a couple years after the initial baseline report. And just recently, the state of Kentucky adopted a new statewide assessment that all districts in the state will be using.
As mentioned earlier, there are three primary areas where I found myself spending time on any given day: digging into data, building relationships and consensus with stakeholders, and supporting the data needs of collaborative action networks. A short list of competencies for a Data Manager would include:
- Knowledge and demonstrated success in data collection, management and analysis; knowledge of education and community data resources
- Ability to build relationships and work with key partners to develop a comprehensive community accountability system that incorporates data across the cradle to career education pipeline
- Ability to address and overcome uncertain and complex issues to achieve desired results
- Plans for the collection, analysis, and reporting of data to measure the partnership’s impact and to facilitate evidence based decision making and continuous improvement
- Develops and cultivates relationships with community partners and stakeholders, including data and research professionals in education, business, faith, nonprofit, philanthropic, and civic sectors
I was recently “trapped” in an airplane for a weather-related delay. We couldn’t use electronic media, and I quickly exhausted all of the print material in my briefcase. Finally I decided to pull a magazine out of the seat pocket in front of me. Nestled neatly between restaurant reviews and travel destinations was an in-depth series on distance learning.
The series focused primarily on the proliferation of online degrees, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and digital learning platforms in higher education, but its salient points apply equally well to the K-12 setting – and have particular importance for our EDWorks Fast Track Early college High Schools, which blend the K-12 and higher education experience. The information in the section was not new or earth shattering, but it made me think about next steps for the schools with whom we work:
Point 1. We’ve really just given “lip service” to distance learning for more than 30 years, at higher education and K-12. Even with more than a generation of experience, the world of distance and online learning is still, as the series points out, a “wild wild west” of approaches, with no real consensus on the best format for online, blended or distance learning.
Point 2. As educators, we’re now faced with students who are not necessarily comparing one teacher to another or one school to another; they are comparing their school-based experiences to the rest of the learning and communication experiences in their lives. How can we make “physics” or “chemistry” or “English 101” as relevant and engaging to them as social media?
Point 3. Different people learn in different ways, and computers and technology really can be helpful in meeting students where they are, presenting information in a format compatible with their learning style and differentiating content and approach to meet individual learning needs. But we’ve not harnessed their power to accelerate learning for all students.
Point 4. There are now a wide range of digital platforms available that make it possible to offer a high quality, deep learning experience at a reasonable cost. But in our experience, K-12 and higher education are not using the same platforms. That makes it more difficult for students to move from one world to another and to apply tools that make them successful in their high school classes to the college courses, and vice versa.
Point 5. Our K-12 students (and teachers, for that matter) now have access to literally a world of great courses and instructional materials free of charge online, in our communities, or across the globe. And the focus, once again, on competency learning, means students can earn credit for work in settings outside the classroom and the school building. The walls of the school really are becoming more and more permeable and flexible. How do we integrate traditional classroom grades and assessments with credit for learning in nontraditional settings – whether you’re talking K-12 or higher ed?
Again, none of this information is new. But it was collected and presented in a way that really that made me stop and think … this is powerful. We finally have the tools and resources to offer every student an amazing learning experience that meets his or her individual learning styles and academic needs – really individualize teaching and learning, not just play around the edges of individualization.
Schools and communities are at a real nexus. How will we bring all of these digital advances to scale? How do we move from isolated offerings to “just the way we do business” in every classroom, in every school, in every community? How do we move from the traditional classroom to a leaving, breathing, ever-changing, ever-growing, learning organism? Educators and students should demand nothing less.
Last month, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a report scanning the course credit policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This is part of Carnegie’s effort to re-evaluate the Carnegie Unit, which defines credit solely based on the amount of time students spend in class. The report breaks state policies down into five categories:
Category 1) Carnegie Unit abolished as primary measure of student learning. Credits must be awarded based on students’ mastery of content and skills rather than on seat time.
Category 2) Districts define credits and may use seat time OR another measure (e.g. proficiency or competency) to award credit in core courses.
Category 3) Districts may apply for special status or waivers to use measures other than seat time to award credit for core courses.
Category 4) Districts do not have any flexibility and must use time based credits.
Category 5) Districts have some flexibility, but it is limited to special circumstances, such as credit recovery programs or out of school learning, and may require approval from the state.
Given KnowledgeWorks interest in competency education, this report is especially interesting given that Category 1 and Category 2 are practices most consistent with states moving towards a competency model. Only one state, New Hampshire, is rated in Category 1, abolishing seat time all together. 29 states are ranked in Category 2, offering credit based on competency or seat time. These two states clearly show that there are a lot of states exploring, or beginning, the move toward a competency-based education system.
Some of the more interesting, and by interesting I mean forward-thinking, policy examples include:
- Colorado and Maine offering competency-based diplomas
- Delaware offering credit for out-of school activities including internships, independent study, and volunteer work
- Kentucky introducing the Districts of Innovation (highlighted by my colleague Lillian Pace here)
- Rhode Island offering credit for intensive two-week summer expanded learning opportunities
A huge hat tip goes to the folks at Carnegie for pulling all of this information together. The notion that so many states are finding innovative ways to educate are students is extremely exciting to me. If it’s exciting to you, the new report is definitely worth a read.
I'm still on the NTAC cloud nine. There's just nothing as energizing as spending five days with a thousand-plus teachers who come together to learn, connect, share and push one another as we look toward the coming school year. That week felt like the best kind of family reunion you could imagine — filled with old friends and welcoming new teachers.
“Polarization by race and ethnicity in the nation’s postsecondary system has become the capstone for K-12 inequality and the complex economic and social mechanisms that create it. The postsecondary system mimics and magnifies the racial and ethnic inequality in educational preparation it inherits from the K-12 system and then projects this inequality into the labor market.”
This is among the conclusions in Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the International Reproduction of White Racial Privilege, a new report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.
One reason for this inequality is that traditional high schools in urban school districts don’t align curriculum with post-secondary institutions. As a result, most students aren’t adequately prepared for college coursework and are in need of remediation. Starting college behind starts a pattern of being behind throughout the student’s college career, assuming they are able to persist to a college degree.
EDWorks Fast Track schools help prepare students for college by working directly from the college course guide and partnering with faculty at the college. Early College High School students are taught the same college courses as other traditional college-going students, by the same professors, while they are still in high school.
Our students earn up to 60 college credits while still in high school, which is the equivalent of an associate degree or two years of college credit. Students at EDWorks Fast Track schools are generally the first in their family to graduate college and often include those from minority backgrounds. We set these students up for success by:
- Introducing them to the rigor of college coursework while still in high school, surrounded by a strong system of supports
- Implementing a personalized learning plan for each student
- Creating a culture of high expectations, in which students believe in, and demonstrate, their capacity for handling work found in top tier schools
Our Early College High School model eases the transition to college and helps students, including minority students, succeed in the university environment.
The American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath once wrote, “...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” As an English facilitator, I know writing is a powerful tool towards self-confidence. Writing should be an exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. Unfortunately for some high school students, writing has become a dreaded task—a desperate attempt at a word count.
Thanks to landmark legislation enacted in 2012 (House Bill 37), every district in Kentucky had the opportunity to apply to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to become a District of Innovation. The legislation, which was modeled after charter school laws in other states, promised districts relief from a number of regulatory and legislative barriers in exchange for an innovative proposal to reimagine teaching and learning. Of the 16 districts that applied to the Kentucky Department of Education, four winners emerged: Danville Independent, Eminence Independent, Jefferson County Public Schools, and the Taylor County School District.
Here is a snapshot of each district’s provocative vision. I look forward to following each of these districts as they begin implementation in the fall. I commend their willingness to take risks and am anxious to see how the state begins to refine and scale these ideas.
Danville will create a customized series of courses beginning in sixth grade to ensure all students are college-and-career-ready by the 10th grade so students can use the remaining two years of high school to engage in deeper mastery of academic content and skills. The district will develop new staffing roles to develop unique pathways for students such as a skilled learning designer who will develop courses aligned to student interests and styles. All instruction will align to the Danville Diploma which identifies the skills and experiences students deserve throughout their studies. (Click here to learn more about the Danville Diploma from my colleague Jesse Moyer’s recent blog post).
Eminence plans to blur all lines of secondary and postsecondary learning. Students will not progress based on what “year” they are in school, but on what competencies they have met. Students will chart their learning with the assistance of Student Parent Advisors Readiness Consultation Teams. Pathways will include access to full-time university programs, virtual or blended courses, and career and technical education programs leading to industry certifications.
Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS)
JCPS will give its persistently low-achieving schools the opportunity to re-think what a school might look like by incorporating non-traditional approaches to curriculum, instruction, assessment and governance. The district will use four strategies in implementation: 1) Creating Equal access to highly effective instruction through professional collaboration; 2) Extending learning opportunities so students can learn anywhere/anytime they have access to instructional materials; 3) Creating Schools of Innovation; and 4) Creating a system of support for each student to be successful.
Taylor County School District
Taylor County will implement a 10-year plan to become a public school environment that mirrors a college campus. Students will be responsible for their personal education and goal setting, but with a system of remediation, intervention, and acceleration to lay the foundation for college and career success. There will be no bells and no schedules. Students will move freely with a set of standards to complete. They will select teachers that fit their preferred learning style. Business and industry professionals will be allowed to teach students useable, real world skills.
Ohio is about to embark on one of the most innovative education initiatives in the country, boosted by revenues from casino gaming and a free-market oriented executive office that is rightly calling for investments where they count the most.
The Ohio General Assembly has approved a proposal from Gov. John Kasich to designate $250 million over two years for grants to help K-12 education entities in Ohio fund projects that “aim to achieve significant advancement” in one or more of the following goals: student achievement, spending reductions, and using a greater share of resources in the classroom.
It’s called the Straight A Fund, and Ohioans who care about the future of education for their kids ought to be excited. I’m enthusiastic about the fund because it imagines a home-grown solution to curtail the “brain drain” in our state and keep our talent at home. It can also build on successful education initiatives already in place in the state, including STEM schools, early college high schools, and community wrap-around services that support schools.
Those entities eligible to apply for the Straight A Fund are broad and diverse: school districts and buildings, joint vocational school districts, educational service centers, charter schools, STEM schools, institutions of higher education, consortia of those educational entities, and private entities partnering with one or more of the educational entities.
The initiative, known as the Straight A Fund feels a bit like the federal Investing in Innovation (I3) grants awarded to school districts and nonprofits in partnership with schools to pursue innovative ideas that increase student success. What sets the fund apart, though, is the massive amount of money being made available. For comparison, the two-year allotment (2012-13) for I3 was $285M for the entire United States. What’s more, unlike similar federal competitive grant programs, the Straight A Fund won’t have focus areas as part of the qualification process. So, applicants get to define what innovative education reform initiatives look like.
The Fund is being administered by former Ohio Department of Education Superintendent, Susan Tave Zelman, who is looking for ideas that stick and can be replicated. Grants are capped at $5M for individual grantees and $15M for educational consortia. The Ohio Department of Education website will list more information on how applicants can take advantage of the fund in the coming weeks.
Ohio, which in recent years has made it easier for schools to incorporate blended learning in the classroom and has piloted performance assessments based on mastery as part of its Race to the Top award, has a rare opportunity to leap frog its counterparts with the Straight A Fund. Historically, education reform in states has primarily been driven by business and private philanthropy, so Ohio’s initiative is as rare as it is bold.