The has announced a new program to enable education entrepreneurs to launch "audacious, life-altering schools" that prepare students to pursue their most ambitious dreams.
As part of the fund's Innovative Schools strategy, the NewSchools Catapult program will focus on charter schools that serve significant numbers of underserved students and are operated by early-stage charter networks or district-run schools with sufficient autonomy and support to realize their vision. The program will support educators who plan to open or redesign pre-K-12 public schools that emphasize personalized learning and student agency, with a focus on the full range of academic and non-academic knowledge, skills, and habits needed for success in the twenty-first century. Innovative components of the schools' curriculum could include individualized competency-based models, blended learning that better integrates digital content with teacher-facilitated instruction, pedagogical approaches that encourage students to explore and pursue their interests, and approaches designed to bridge early childhood education and K-12 systems.
To that end, the program will include two phases: an "Invent" phase in which ten to fifteen teams will receive financial support averaging $100,000 per team, targeted assistance, and peer networking opportunities during the year prior to the launch of a new school; and a "Launch" phase in which teams will receive an average of $400,000 each in support of their efforts from pre-launch through the second year of operation. Teams that receive phase 1 grants will be expected to develop an application for phase 2.
"We're trying to really conceptualize what these features are, and what they look like in schools," Scott Benson, managing partner for the innovative schools team at the NewSchools Venture Fund, told . "Habits of mind...[and a] broad-based definition of student success [are] something we're trying to elevate as an area of priority."