Every State Should Run A Next-Gen Learning Challenge

Last month, I ran a three part series about the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) outlining how they took on the turnaround challenge, leveraged higher education partnerships, and improved the performance and sustainability of school networks (as outlined in part one of this three-part series);  illustrated how blended learning supports and extends experiential learning (in part two); and promote system redesign (in part three).  The 20 profiled models embrace Common Core expectations and illustrate the promise of blending the best online an and onsite learning.
The only problem is that we need 2,000 new schools fast to show the way and 100,000 converted schools before the end of the decade.
As states plan for the shift to digital learning and online assessment, they should use the NGLC framework– developed by the Educause team and sponsored by the Gates Foundation–to support innovative new schools. Having served as a judge for a couple rounds, I fully support the six criteria:

  1. Defined learning goals for more comprehensive outcomes indicating readiness for college, career, and civic life
  2. Measurement of progress against those goals for formative and summative use
  3. Learning designs that are personalized and competency-based; that agilely provide supports and resources to students who need them; that are enabled by the deeply integrated use of technology, and continuously improved by cycles of feedback and revision
  4. Effective implementation that encompasses the fundamental restructuring of roles (among educators and students alike), budgets, schedules, environments, and practices
  5. Enabling conditions in the surrounding waters of policy, regulation, funding, and governance with which next generation learning models need to contend
  6. Rapid, broad, effective scaling to meet the scope of the need in the United States today

Here’s an example of how this could work:

  • The feds could put up $100 million for 25 state matching grants
  • States (or foundations on the behalf of states) put up a matching $100 million.
  • The combined $200 million pot would fund 400 planning grants of $150k and 250 implementation grants of $500k resulting in more than 600 new or converted schools.
  • The $200 million pot also includes $15 million for grant administration, technical assistance, and evaluation.
  • A typical state grant program would be $8 million, big states maybe twice that, small states half.

In relative terms, this is a small grant program but it could make a big difference.  NGLC is a proven model already showing ripples of impact.  It’s time to double down and launch a tidal wave of schools that work better for teachers and students.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Marie Bjerede

NGLC is brilliant in getting at the drivers of real innovation at scale. Still, I worry that the focus on metrics will be hijacked into the fallacies of the accountability movement. I suspect that until we can offer authentic measures of success that are meaningful for each local context, all bold innovations are vulnerable to being derailed.

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