NewSchools Catapult’s Invent 2015: Broader Aims, LX Focus, Strategies & Impact

Leadership, Learning, PreK-12

In their 17th year of providing grants and technical assistance to teams creating new learning environments, NewSchools Venture Fund announced a major update to their strategy. They just launched a new program, NewSchools Catapult, that focuses on three big bets: personalized learning, student agency, and an expanded definition of student success.

Scott Benson, whose team leads this initiative, said, “We have made a lot of progress in recent years, but we’re not there yet. We need many more teams of educators designing new types of schools that work better for a wide range of students. That’s why we launched Catapult.”

The first NewSchools Catapult application is seeking teams that want to open schools fall of 2016. Planning grant (a.k.a. Invent) applications are due August 14. A follow up Launch application will be released in December.

District or charter, NewSchools is looking for new school plans – no school improvement grants here. Schools plans can include any portion of PreK-12 (ages 3 – 19).

Investment Criteria

Grantees will be selected on eight criteria:

  1. Serve a significant number of underserved students
  2. Embrace an Expanded Definition of Student Success and Hold All Students to High Expectations
  3. Reimagine, Redesign, and Recreate the Student Experience
  4. Aspire to Replicate and/or Pursue Other Means of Scaling Impact
  5. Have Strong Leadership Teams
  6. Demonstrate a Commitment to Diversity
  7. Pursue Financial Sustainability
  8. Plan Appropriately and Remain On Track

In addition to well-defined selection criteria, there are four notable things about this new program.

  1. Broader aims. In addition to academic knowledge and skills in literacy and math, the grant program embraces broader aims including “advanced cognitive skills such as creative and critical thinking, and habits of success like social-emotional competencies and perseverance.”NewSchools expects “an expanded definition of student success” and defined “means they will use to assess student progress within each.”
  1. LX focus. NewSchools hopes to work with early stage edupreneurs that want to help underserved students to achieve their greatest aspirations. They’re looking for “incredible, life-altering schools that combine successful elements of today’s best schools with new innovations and adaptations that they believe will yield even greater impact.” NewSchools is looking for two key learner experience (LX) design principles:
    • Personalization: accelerating and deepening student learning by tailoring the experience – the what, when, how and where students learn – to address the individual needs, skills and interests of each student.
    • Student Agency: placing trust in students to take ownership over the path and pace of their learning, set learning goals and monitor their own progress. NewSchools is interested in “Creative and scalable approaches that enable students to develop and explore their interests and pursue their passions.”
  1. Strategies. NewSchools is excited about:
    • Competency-based models that truly allow students to progress along a path and at pace that best meets their needs.
    • Blended learning models that integrate digital content with teacher-facilitated instruction.
    • Bridges between early childhood and K-12 systems and ways to integrate the two.
  1. Impact. NewSchools is looking for teams with, “Ambitions to expand their impact on student success well beyond a single school,” particularly interest in building a multi-school network and/or compelling plans to catalyze impact in schools beyond those that they operate directly.

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