Next Generation Schools at Scale: 49 New NGLC Grantees

It’s not the technology that is transformative, it’s the powerful learning experiences teachers can facilitate for 30 (or 300 or 3000) students that is a game changer. It’s being able to string powerful experiences together into personalized pathways that creates the potential to boost achievement and completion rates at scale. That’s the focus of Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), an initiative of Educause.

NGLC announced today that, through six regional programs, 49 school teams received grants as part of a $25 million K­-12 initiative to create new and transformed secondary schools; that includes 29 new or redesigned K­-12 schools that will open this fall.

Backstory. Formed in 2010 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, NGLC launched grant programs to support 10 new breakthrough postsecondary degree programs and 58 new breakthrough secondary schools. Support has also been provided to dozens of blended learning, open core courseware, learning analytics, and deeper learning tools.

In 2013, Broad Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation added their support to six regional funds. Partner organizations are CityBridge Foundation (Washington, D.C.); The Colorado Education Initiative; LEAP Innovations (Chicago, IL); New Schools for New Orleans; New England Secondary School Consortium (working in five New England states); and the Rogers Family Foundation (Oakland, CA)

Next-gen framework. As Andy Calkins explained last year, next-gen models fuse aspects of blended, competency-based, personalized, and student-centered learning into a coherent whole. They are activated by project-­based approaches and staked to rigorous, college­ and career­ ready outcomes.

From a student perspective, the Attributes of Next Generation Learning include:

  • Personalized to my needs and learning goals
  • Flexible so that I can try different ways to learn
  • Interactive and engaging to draw me in
  • Relevant to the life I’d like to lead
  • Paced by my own progress measured against goals I understand
  • Constantly informed by different ways of demonstrating and measuring my progress
  • Collaborative with faculty, peers, and others, unlimited by proximity
  • Responsive and supportive when I need extra help
  • Challenging but achievable, with opportunities to become an expert in an area of interest
  • Available to me as much as it is to every other student

NGLC co-published a toolkit with iNACOL (where I’m a director) to help educators build next-gen models. RETHINK: Planning and Designing for K-12 Next Generation Learning provides guiding questions, resources, and tools to customize approaches. The guide addresses understanding next generation learning models; planning for and managing change; designing next generation learning opportunities; and engaging the planning team and stakeholders in the process.

Outcomes. When it comes to the question of what should graduates know and be able to do? There is growing appreciation for broader aims of college and career readiness (the NAFTrack Certification system that combines school and work feedback is a great example).

To help bring clarity to all of the different success definitions associated with college, career and life readiness, NGLC developed MyWays, a synthesized definition and toolset to map a student’s current readiness and then plan to attain that deeper/richer definition of success. Building on work by David Conley, Summit, and others, MyWays surfaced 20 competencies arranged in four general areas: Content Knowledge, Creative Know How, Habits of Success and Wayfinding.


This framework recognizes the depth and complexity of student success. NGLC is working on assessment strategies for the hard-to-measure items and will release MyWays tools this summer.

Smart Cities. The six intermediaries were chosen given their capacity to support new and transformed schools. The opportunity isn’t adding technology to the schools we have, it’s designing new schools using new tools to produce new experiences aiming at new outcomes.

Every region of the country needs this capacity, we make that case in Smart Cities That Work For Everyone.

When these regional fund schools open, there will be more than 100 schools serving 50,000 students with transformed teaching and learning models. That’s a start; there are 100,000 schools that need the same guidance and support.

For more, check out:

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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