Danville Schools Earn National Grant to Back Innovation Efforts
Danville Schools Earn National Grant to Back Innovation Efforts
Posted on 07/16/2013
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Danville Schools were today named one of 38 schools or districts across the country to receive a Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The Danville district will receive $150,000 to launch components of its innovation plan recently approved by the state as part of Kentucky’s new Districts of Innovation program. The grant also promises up to $300,000 in additional matching funds if the district can raise additional outside funding.


NGLC said that schools earning its grants are focusing on promising new ways of a critical national challenge: how to close the achievement gaps among K-12 students and meet significantly increased expectations for all of the nation’s high school graduates to be college-ready.


Schools and districts that earned grants show a degree of innovation that is “striking and compelling,” said Andrew Calkins, NGLC deputy director. “These breakthrough model grantees are not just pushing the edge of the envelope on school design. They are bursting through it with ideas and approaches that place higher student achievement and genuine college readiness first – and accept no limits on the school and learning designs that might best bring them about.”


Danville Superintendent Carmen Coleman says the funding will help to drastically accelerate the district’s innovation plans. “The model of schooling we have now was designed to meet the needs of the Industrial Age. Today we live in the Information Age, a time when creativity, entrepreneurial thinking and customization are key components. Some have called this the age of ‘extra,’ suggesting that to be successful, you must bring something extra to your work. Knowing this, we have been working to design a learning experience for our students that will allow them to do just that – bring something extra to their work, something that will allow them as many opportunities as possible. Being an NGLC grantee provides a tremendous boost for our plans and ultimately, for our students.”


The Danville district will use the grant funds to support new roles, such as a Technology Integration Specialist, as well as to compensate teachers for additional professional learning time — both of which are elements proposed in the District of Innovation application, one of only four approved by the state Board of Education in June to test new learning strategies to boost student achievement. The Danville district is still working with the state on details of its program and plans school and community forums to share details of its plan this fall.


In today’s grant announcement, the NGLC initiative said that efforts to make significant improvements in education systems is now occurring in traditional school systems like Danville and not just new start-up schools designed to work in new ways.


“Change needs to happen at all levels—systems, policy, and infrastructure—to bring about breakthrough learning for all students,” said Calkins. “But right now, the most pressing need is to get it right at the only level where it really counts: the student level, with schools that are fundamentally re-imagining how learning is ignited and supported. We’re encouraged by the partnerships and diversity of approaches among the Wave IV grant recipients in their efforts to catalyze vastly improved student outcomes.”


In this round of funding, Next Generation Learning Challenges was seeking significant student success results — outcomes that reveal themselves in the successful pathways that students take following graduation from high school. Specifically, grantees were asked to demonstrate plans to support 1.5 years of growth annually on academic standards, graduate 90 percent of middle school students and 90 percent of high school students, and move 80 percent of students to postsecondary education. Grant applicants were also required to produce a financially-sustainable business plan. The program looked for approaches designed to extend beyond the state standards, helping all students develop the skills, knowledge, and aptitudes necessary to lead productive lives in the 21st century – especially low-income students and students of color.


In addition to Danville, seven other schools or systems received launch grants today:


e3 Civic High in San Diego, CA: This district- and community-supported early college high school, located in San Diego’s new downtown public library, has an intentional civics, service, and internship focus aimed at developing deeper learning, ownership, and inquiry-based thinking skills. Students in grades 9-12 learn through a mix of self-paced online instruction, small-group work, direct instruction, project- based work, internships, and college courses.


The Great Oaks Foundation in New York City: This charter organization is opening the Great Oaks Charter School of New York City (GO- NYC), a 6th-12th grade school with a significant proportion of English language learners. GO- NYC’s model integrates Swedish-based Kunskapsskolan Education’s (operating in the U.S. as KUSA) competency-based Learning Portal and resources.


Ingenuity Prep in Washington, D.C.: This new civic leadership-based charter school located in the nation’s capital will span preschool to 12th grade at full maturity. The model creates more learning time for students through an extended day and year as well as more efficient and effective educational delivery provided through a four-tiered staffing approach (from resident to master teacher), looping and small-group, discourse-rich blended learning instruction.


KIPP Bay Area Schools in San Francisco:  This network of seven charter schools is opening its newest high school this August, KIPP San Francisco College Prep. As the first high school within the national KIPP network to adopt a personalized blended learning approach, KIPP SF College Prep will prepare its low-income student population to attend college and earn a degree.


Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania:  A founding member of the Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Initiative, this medium-sized district in central Pennsylvania, serving a socioeconomically diverse student population, is implementing a hybrid learning model in Lebanon High School to personalize learning in a cost-effective manner and demonstrate that transforming a “mainstream” school toward blended learning is possible without starting a new school or securing special waivers.


The Workshop School in Philadelphia:  In partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, this nonprofit organization is launching a new school that is fully organized by projects related to real-world problems rather than by academic subjects. The school’s model integrates blended learning and mastery-based progress with problem-based learning in grades 9 to 12 in order to unleash the creative and intellectual potential of young people to solve the world’s toughest problems.


Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in New Hampshire: For 5th to 12th graders, this statewide online charter school is redefining “school” to mean wherever learning occurs, whether in a classroom, online, or in the community through VLACS Aspire, a 100% self-paced competency-based approach (rather than a course-based curriculum) that harnesses the face-to-face learning potential of internships, service-learning, and distributed learning team-based projects.


Thirty planning grants of $100,000 each were also awarded by NGLC to schools and districts across the country.