New Profit Makes Six New Incubation Investments
Over the past year, the Reimagine Learning Focus Fund has made six new incubation investments. Incubation grants are one-year investments that focus on supporting innovative organizations and programs to evolve their work in line with the Reimagine Learning vision. Look below for information about all six incubation grantsJuly 12, 2016
For over 20 years, Big Picture Learning (BPL) has worked to put students at the center of their own learning. Today, hundreds of BPL network schools in the United States and around the world work together to reimagine and reshape education. BPL focuses on transforming education to enable students to pursue their own interests in a supportive community of educators. BPL strongly believes that learning needs to be relevant and connected to students’ passions and interests, and that real world experiences (often in the form of student internships) are necessary for building students’ skills, social capital, and long-term success. Big Picture has a network of over 55 schools in 20 states and provides professional development and technical support services to a set of other schools and education organizations worldwide.
Reimagine Learning invested in Big Picture Learning because we recognize that BPL is at the vanguard of the student-centered learning movement with a strong evidence base and significant potential to drive systems change. BPL’s core insight is that for many students, learning is uninteresting or simply unrelated to their own experiences. This contributes to a vicious cycle of disengagement. By deeply knowing each student and creating learning experiences that connect students to the real world, students are engaged in their own learning, build social capital, and are poised for greater choice and success. Reimagine Learning is excited to work with BPL and its innovative leaders, Andrew Frishman and Carlos Moreno, to continue sharing BPL’s unique perspective on the next wave of education reform and what it takes to truly put students at the center of their own learning.
Branching Minds is a web-based platform designed to empower learners by (1) leveraging the learning sciences (cognitive science, developmental psychology, education research) to identify a student’s learning strengths and challenges; (2) employing a recommendation engine to match the student’s needs to the most effective learning supports (interventions/accommodations) and assessments for him/her, as well as guidance regarding their implementation; and (3) providing an easy mechanism for collaboratively monitoring and communicating progress with teachers, parents and students.
Reimagine Learning has invested in Branching Minds to support the organization to develop a comprehensive database of learning supports and assessments. This database will include a full complement of tools, activities, strategies, games, apps and programs, as well as assessments that teachers, parents and students themselves could utilize to address learning obstacles.
We believe Branching Minds is a disruptive solution that will enable teachers to better support the most under-served students in our schools and in turn better serve all students. Informed by her classroom experience, CEO Maya Gat developed Branching Minds as a technology solution that can easily diagnose learning challenges and provide immediate solutions – addressing significant challenges teachers face in the classroom each and every day and solving a critical gap in Response to Intervention (RTI) implementation. As a young organization, we believe partnership between Reimagine Learning and Branching Minds can support them in charting a path forward that will enable the organization to sustainably grow and respond the extreme amount of demand for the tools and support services from schools and districts across the nation.
Founded in 1984, CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all students through innovative uses of technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). CAST is well known as the organization that first developed UDL as a framework for improving the way teaching and learning happen in our classrooms based on a deep scientific understanding of how humans learn. UDL is recognized nationwide as a best practice in teaching and learning and was featured in the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Always looking to work at the cutting edge of the learning sciences, CAST aims to launch a multifaceted program that puts kids with Learning Disabilities (LD) squarely in a design role to imagine educational apps that would make the world a better place for LD students and other at-risk learners. The program combines mentoring, a coding/hackathon experience, and incubator formats to create a year-long design program and public awareness campaign.
Reimagine Learning invested in a unique initiative through CAST to support the design of a student hackathon project. With a history of using learning sciences to advance the field, CAST has the ability to mobilize its network to drive a multi-sector project that involves technology developers, students, and nonprofit actors. We are inspired by CAST’s focus on creating a program that unleashes the talent and creativity of students with LD to improve education for all students.
Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) is dedicated to being an independent and effective voice for children who face significant barriers to equal education and life opportunities. MAC works to change conditions for many children while helping one child at a time. Working in Massachusetts since 1969, today MAC acts as an advocate on behalf of children and families. In 2004, MAC formed a partnership with Harvard Law School to establish the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) to ensure that children traumatized by exposure to violence and other adverse experiences succeed in school. TLPI works to help create trauma-sensitive learning environments by implementing a systemic change strategy at three interrelated levels: with individual families, with schools and districts, and at the state policy level.
Reimagine Learning invested in TLPI to support a descriptive study to understand how to create trauma-sensitive school culture while helping schools to achieve positive student outcomes. This project seeks to identify best practices to then be shared and brought to scale across the Commonwealth and beyond. MAC has a sophisticated understanding of the effects of trauma on neurodevelopment and has developed a solution that focuses on building a foundational learning environment focused on the whole child. The trauma sensitive approach equips schools with the process for implementing change at the school and classroom level to enable learning environments for all students. With its unique perspective and deep understanding of the impact of trauma on learning, MAC is positioned to be an important contributor to Reimagine Learning and in turn, Reimagine Learning can help provide a platform by which to amplify MAC’s work.
After many years of plummeting test scores and graduation rates, Lawrence Public Schools entered receivership in 2012. The state of Massachusetts put Superintendent Jeffrey Riley at the helm. As a part of his turnaround efforts in Lawrence, Jeff Riley brought with him an intervention he had initiated in Boston Public Schools – the Acceleration Academies. The Lawrence Acceleration Academies are weeklong intensive learning opportunities over the February and April vacations in which students that are hungry to learn are placed in small classroom settings. During each of those weeks, excellent teachers from Lawrence and across the nation are selected to provide 30 hours of direct instruction in either English Language Arts or Math. The majority of participating students fall in the two lowest performance groups on the most recent state standardized assessment and are deemed in need of additional academic supports. A recent study from Harvard demonstrated that these Academies are a particularly effective aspect of the turnaround.
Riley views the Academies as an in-district incubator and has specifically expressed interest in codifying a set of principles and practices to inform the district’s change strategy writ large, and to help other inquiring districts understand what it takes to launch a successful Academy. See more about the Academies in a recent blog post by Reimagine Learning team member Jane Feinberg. Students and teachers routinely walk away from the Academies Week reinvigorated and find new inspiration for their teaching and learning in these vacation weeks. Riley is eager to understand what elements of the Academies can inform practices district wide throughout the school year in teacher hiring and retention, professional development, and, perhaps most importantly, in how teachers learn to personalize learning for the unique needs of their students.
Reimagine Learning invested in the Lawrence Acceleration Academies to support the continued success of the Academies in 2016 and to support understanding of the core elements of the Academies that have improved learning outcomes in the district.
Now in its 25th year, Teach For America has an impressive track record of recruiting, developing, and mobilizing remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds to join the movement for educational equity and excellence. Teach For America corps members commit to teach for at least two years in low-income schools across 53 regions, and many of their 42,000+ alumni continue to lead as school and school system leaders, veteran teachers, non-profit leaders, and entrepreneurs. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Teach For America held a national summit in Washington, DC with 15,000 attendees. New Profit’s Reimagine Learning Fund provided an incubation investment to support the creation of a learning track at the Summit specifically focused on “Diverse Learners: All Means All. “
The Reimagine Learning Fund worked closely with Teach For America to co-design the Diverse Learner’s track. Managing Partner and Co-Lead of the Reimagine Learning Fund, Shruti Sehra, presented at the event to share the Reimagine Learning’s vision and focus on the most underserved students in today’s schools – students with diagnosed and undiagnosed learning and attention issues and exposure to high doses of trauma. The Diverse Learners track was oversubscribed with approximately 500 attendees participating in the event, which brought together teachers, district leaders, policymakers, parents, and non-profit partners to delve into what it takes – as individuals and as a community – to build an inclusive educational system. The Diverse Learner track was rated among the top leadership development track by participants, and over 90 percent of attendees agreed that the opening plenary effectively framed the day. Through our incubation grant to Teach For America, Reimagine Learning continues to support thinking and practice across the organization and, its international partner, Teach For All.