News + Ideas

Announcing our NewSchools Invent 2017 Cohort…and the Fantastic Journey to Find Them  

Two years ago we launched NewSchools Invent. We wanted to invest in teams of educators who are reimagining learning, and looking to launch innovative public schools in school districts and charter networks. To create the future they want for themselves, we believe young people need a strong academic foundation along with other important mindsets, skills and habits like self-awareness, perseverance and problem solving. At NewSchools we call this an expanded definition of student success. So, we set out to find people who wanted to create schools like that.

Today, we are announcing $5.6 million in investments for a new cohort of 29 teams who are either beginning the planning process or getting ready to open new schools in the fall. It’s a phenomenal group, and I am as thrilled about them as I am about the process that brought us together.

When we started Invent in 2015, we were encouraged by our first group of investments. However, the euphoria was short lived. When we reviewed our second and third application rounds, there was a big drop in the number and quality of teams that applied. And, that’s when we realized to achieve the greatest impact for students, we needed to increase our application pool. Until this point our recruitment strategy had largely been based on the idea “if we build it, they will come,” so we took a step back and reexamined our efforts.

This led us to make significant changes to our recruitment and selection process over the next year, and started me on a journey to find these amazing potential school leaders. On the recruitment side, we knew promising teams were out there; they just didn’t know about NewSchools or this program called Invent. So, we became more proactive about promoting Invent, and worked to reach teams outside our echo chamber and beyond social media. We also adjusted our application timeline to better meet the needs of educators.

On the selection side, we had been hesitant to invest in teams considered risky due to gaps in their instruction, leadership or operations. However, some of our riskier investments had become the most prepared to launch new schools with our management assistance. So, we pushed ourselves to take more risks, knowing that we would need to increase our support, but that it could result in better school outcomes.

Finally, we expanded our definition of “reimagining the student experience.” We still help all of our teams design schools that personalize learning and foster student ownership, but we’ve also broadened our frame to recognize that at the application stage, teams might prioritize other ways of supporting an expanded definition of student success.

With these improvements applied to our pipeline process, we launched applications for our 2017 cohort. We were encouraged by the momentum and I am excited to tell you the results.

First, we attracted lots more teams. The number of applications doubled, and the number of teams led by leaders of color jumped from 30 to 50 percent.

We’re also finding schools and leadership teams in new regions and states. It’s great for the field, but more importantly it will impact tens of thousands of students who eventually will be learning in these schools every year.

Congratulations to the 2017 cohort!

Planning teams with the intent to launch schools in 2018: 

  • Achievers Academy Early College High School (Trenton, NJ)
  • Altura Preparatory School (Albuquerque, NM)
  • Boston Big Picture Learning (Boston, MA)
  • Bricolage Middle School (New Orleans, LA)
  • Chicago Collegiate Charter School (Chicago, IL)
  • The CUBE (Denver, CO)
  • DC International School (Washington, DC)
  • Design School X, Oakland (Oakland, CA)
  • Digital Pioneers Academy (Washington, DC)
  • Equity Lab Charter Schools (Lynn, MA)
  • Future Public School (Boise, ID)
  • Impact Public Schools(Seattle, WA)
  • Learning by Design (Los Angeles, CA)
  • LEEP Academies of Texas (San Antonio, TX)
  • Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School (Washington, DC)
  • North Star College Preparatory Academy for Boys (Washington, DC)
  • PRIME School (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Promise Public Schools (San Jose, CA)
  • STAR Academy (Birmingham, AL)
  • Tulsa Legacy Charter School (Tulsa, OK)
  • Urban Assembly School for Computer Science (New York, NY)
  • Walkabout Consilient School (Ossining, NY)
  • Willow Public School (Walla Walla, WA)

Planning teams with the intent to launch schools in 2017:

  • Academy for Advanced Learning (Aurora, CO)
  • Accel Day and Evening Academy (Mobile, AL)
  • Big Picture Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Ignite Achievement Academy (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Purdue Polytechnic High School (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Treasure Valley Leadership Academy (Nampa, ID)

Teams interested in receiving support for the design and planning of an innovative school launching in 2019 or beyond can submit their ideas here; the formal application period will open later this summer. Those selected for planning support can later apply for launch investments, which offer select applicants funding to move from planning to implementation. The grants range from $100,000 to $500,000 across both categories.

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