NewSchools Venture Fund A non-profit venture philanthropy firm working to transform public education for low-income children Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:02:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DC Prep Ramps Up Diversity Training & Recruitment Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:49:28 +0000 Increasing diversity across DC Prep’s organization is a strategic priority. During summer 2014, DC Prep launched a set of ongoing Cultural Competency trainings with leadership teams in its award-winning network of preschool-8th grade public charter schools. DC Prep has also increased diversity of the Home Office staff, and its Talent Team will be implementing diversity recruitment/retention initiatives as the organization gears up to launch its fifth campus in the 2015-16 school year!

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Trip Notes: SXSWedu 2015 Wed, 18 Mar 2015 18:21:31 +0000 […]]]> Last week I was in Austin for SXSWedu, which I’ve attended every year since its launch. I thought I’d share some excerpts from my trip notes:

  • Shark tank has jumped the shark at South-By. Several sessions used the popular television show for inspiration. Here’s a rundown on three of them:
    • Teachers could pitch their classroom innovation ideas to judges and a studio audience in a shark tank edu session, followed by a shark-tank themed after-party.
    • LaunchEdu ran throughout the conference, which is a pitch contest for early stage education companies. Zaption was this year’s winner (also a NSVF investment). As a finals judge I was referred to as a shark, and there was an after-party.
    • In a session called Teacher Tank, great teachers with shark fins attached to their heads saw demos from ed tech companies and gave them insightful, hard feedback. Given this was an 8am session, there was no after-party, at least not that I’m aware of.
  • Tanesha Dixon (DC public schools teacher), Jon Deane (CIO of Summit Public Schools), and I were on a panel about personalized learning, moderated by Seth Reynolds from the Parthenon Group. We had great attendance and tried to have a concrete yet nuanced discussion. Some themes that stood out for me:
    • The most interesting school models emerging are aiming for an expanded definition of student success. Doing well on important exams is a critical sign of academic preparation, particularly for low income students, because these instruments are often the ticket to further opportunities. But if we’re just using instructional software to help kids score a little better on tests and calling it personalized learning, let’s stop.
    • Personalized learning has two key elements that are important to long term academic and personal success: students have more control over their learning and can navigate through content and skill development via competency-based pathways. Technology is a key enabler of being able to do this with high quality at any kind of scale, but the most important factor is the way students interact with each other and their teachers in pursuit of their learning goals.
    • The shift to student control and competency-based pathways fundamentally changes the relationship students have with their school work. Rather than seeing assignments as discrete tasks to be completed at the behest of their teachers, students can see the bigger picture of where they are headed, take responsibility for setting goals and moving toward them, and connect what they are learning to their longer term aspirations.
    • One policy change that could accelerate innovation and adoption of personalized learning environments is related to accountability. Rather than measuring the absolute percentage of students scoring proficient on their grade level test in a given year, next generation accountability systems should reward the rate of learning growth for each student every year, and continue to pay special attention to struggling learners. This would recognize educators for helping students fill in gaps in prior knowledge and accelerate beyond their current grade level rather than getting a specific score on an end of year exam.

    Of course, we were just one of 100s of panels and workshops over the four days. With 20 – 25 sessions running at once, all day for several days, it’s difficult to navigate the conference and predict where high quality conversations are likely to happen across the sprawling, sometimes seemingly duplicative sessions. This is one downside of the crowdsourced mechanism SXSW uses to generate content. I hope the conference team will consider playing a more active curation role in the future.

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Nepris and LinkedIn: A Win-Win Partnership to Engage Professionals to Inspire the Next Generation Tue, 17 Mar 2015 17:14:05 +0000 […]]]> According to LinkedIn surveys, 1 in 5 managers hire someone because of their volunteer experience. As the skills-based volunteering movement gains momentum, many people are looking for opportunities to use their skills and talents to effect change. Yet, many professionals struggle with finding these types of opportunities.

LinkedIn is addressing this need by engaging professionals with opportunities to use their passions and skills to make a positive impact on the world. The Volunteer Marketplace allows organizations to recruit LinkedIn members interested in using their skills to make a difference.

Likewise, Nepris is an education technology company that matches employee skills to classroom and curriculum needs. Using Nepris, teachers are matched with an industry expert who connects virtually to their classroom. The expert is able to bring relevance to a topic students are learning about in class, mentor students on projects or evaluate student work.

Thanks to a partnership between LinkedIn and Nepris, LinkedIn members can receive recommended Nepris volunteer opportunities based on the details in their LinkedIn profiles. After clicking on a Nepris opportunity, LinkedIn members are directed to the Nepris site where they can become a classroom speaker and have a meaningful volunteer experience from the convenience of their home or workplace.

LinkedIn member Lynn Elliott is a retired paramedic with 20 years experience and was one of the first female paramedics in Mississippi. She was matched with an Aldridge Elementary classroom in Plano, Texas to discuss what it’s like to work in an emergency room. To help students better identify with the ambulances they see, Lynn researched the town of Plano and used actual pictures of their equipment as visual aids.  With her personal experience, Lynn was able to help the students better understand emergency rooms and their role in the Plano community.


Lynn enjoyed the Q&A portion of the session and noted, “For second graders, I was impressed with the depth of some of their questions. Reflecting on her experience Lynn said, “I’ve given many talks and presentations to children of all ages. This was different in that I could do it from home and I also liked that it connected several classrooms at one time.

LinkedIn member Hassan Habib is a Web Application Developer at Robert Half Technology in Iowa. He was matched with Madison High School in Houston to discuss his typical workday and what it takes to get into software development. Hassan has mentored budding developers throughout the years and was excited to have that same impact in a classroom setting and on a broader scale. He found the setup process to be seamless and felt that “the time invested compared to the number of kids whose futures I might influence was a win-win!”

hassan3During Hassan’s session, students also were curious about his Egyptian background and asked questions about pyramids and camels.  Hassan welcomed these questions because in his mind if this experience “leaves an impression and can serve as the link for just one child to remember the guy from Egypt who works on computers all day, then the tangent would be well worth it.”

Many other LinkedIn members have had similar experiences and as a result of this partnership, Nepris currently sources a third of their industry experts from LinkedIn. According to Alison Dorsey from LinkedIn, “Over 4 million LinkedIn members have added to their LinkedIn profiles that they’re interested in skilled volunteering or nonprofit board service. LinkedIn is excited to partner with Nepris to connect more professionals with opportunities to volunteer their skills while contributing to classrooms throughout the country.”

If you are a professional looking to inspire the next generation and expose students to exciting career paths, sign up to be a Nepris Volunteer Virtual Classroom Speaker through LinkedIn.

Nepris is a NewSchools Venture Fund portfolio company where Shauntel Poulson is a Partner.


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Our Commitment to Diversifying Education Mon, 16 Mar 2015 17:30:58 +0000 […]]]> Many education reformers ask, “Why should we focus on closing the demographic gap between the children we serve and the leaders of the ed reform movement?”

Our answer is simple. Research shows that diversity matters, and a sustainable education reform movement requires a community to participate in its own liberation to achieve the practice of freedom.  As the UNCF Done to Us, not With Us project reported, “the history of social change, like the civil rights struggle, teaches us that no such movement can succeed without the support and active engagement of its intended beneficiaries.”

Following the death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012, members of the NewSchools team gathered to share our reflections and pain.  Given that our mission is to transform education so it works for poor kids and kids of color, the conversation made us realize that we needed to invest more to enhance leadership and power in our partner communities.  

We created an internal Diversity Collaborative with representatives from every team and integrated our diversity goals across our organization and the ventures in our portfolio. I announced our goals and progress at the NewSchools Summit in May 2014.  Our CEO Stacey Childress joined NewSchools in July 2014. She enthusiastically embraced our first steps, expanded the scope of our diversity initiative and assigned members of the leadership team to spearhead the work. We look forward to sharing more about our investment strategy and impact in future blogs.

In the meantime, please take inspiration from Koya Partners & Education Pioneers’ From Intention to Action Report and the stories we have shared about diversity work being done by our partners and ventures.  At last year’s Summit, our honor roll celebrated organizations that have made diversity a priority, and more than 200 organizations and individuals pledged to ramp up their diversity efforts. We have started to share the stories of their work to inspire ourselves and our readers to take action.

Please help us inform, inspire and empower the education reform movement by sharing your stories about how you are diversifying the leadership of your organization.  Tweet us at #DiversifyEd!

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UP Education Network Assembles its 2nd Diversity and Inclusivity Task Force Fri, 13 Mar 2015 14:00:04 +0000 UP Education’s second Diversity and Inclusivity Task Force is creating a scorecard to measure our organization’s progress and performance in the areas of recruiting, hiring, training, supporting, promoting, and retaining a diverse group of employees.

We look forward to hearing the diverse voices and perspectives from across the network and holding ourselves accountable for realizing our vision of diversity and inclusivity.

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Beyond Z Accelerator Preparing Diverse Next Generation Leaders Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:34:50 +0000 […]]]> Beyond Z believes leaders can emerge from everywhere and is creating a new talent strategy for the country.  Their career accelerator empowers promising young people on their path to college graduation, meaningful careers, and lives of impact.  They are creating a model to discover, develop, and connect at least 100,000 extraordinary, diverse young people to high-quality skill building, opportunities, and networks.  From the Accelerator will come a generation of leaders as diverse as our future demands. See a short video at:

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Announcing Summit 2015 Opening Speaker: Brené Brown Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:40:46 +0000 […]]]> We are honored to announce that Brené Brown will join us as the opening plenary speaker at Summit 2015 on May 6.  Brené has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  Her research has helped thousands of leaders learn how to turn difficult situations into opportunities for connection and growth.  Her keynote will launch a day of conversation and exploration around how education leaders, teachers, parents and students can harness the power of vulnerability, put their creativity to work, and persevere to transform education to work better for all kids. 

brene-brownAbout Brené

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk on the power of vulnerability is one of the most watched talks on, with over 18 million views. Brené is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012). She is also the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), and I Thought It Was Just Me (2007).  Brené lives in Houston with her husband, Steve, and their two children.  To learn more about Brene’s groundbreaking work, please visit

About Summit 2015

NewSchools Summit is an annual gathering of thinkers, innovators, and doers in K-12 public education who are working to expand opportunity for young people in the United States. Each year nearly 1000 educators, entrepreneurs, community leaders, public officials, policy makers, and funders come together to confront key challenges to improving public schools so that they work better for every student, in every neighborhood. Through big conversations, bold speakers and collaborative working sessions, Summit 2015 will create space for attendees to connect with each other and immerse themselves in important topics.  Read more about Summit 2015


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UP Education Network Invests in its Staff Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:00:23 +0000 […]]]> UP Bridge Mentoring

UP Education Network launched the first ever Bridge Mentoring Program for employees of color who have an interest in exploring career pathways in the Network. Mentees will work with mentors to identify existing leadership opportunities in line with their career goals and trajectory and participate in on-going professional development. Through this program, we will create a sense of community to ensure our staff of color know that we are invested in their development and value their contributions to our network.

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New Talent to Support Our Strategy Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:40:38 +0000 […]]]> A couple of weeks ago we shared an infographic about our strategic direction over the next few years.

New folks are joining the team with the background and skills we need to invest in and support entrepreneurs in our priority areas. Here’s an up to date look at new members of our innovative schools and tools & services investment teams.

Innovative Schools team

Scott Benson joined us at the beginning of February to lead this team. During 4 ½ years at the Gates Foundation, he supported more than 100 teams of educators launching or redesigning schools for next generation learning. He was an early investor in some of the most innovative school models in the country and is well known and respected among entrepreneurs, other investors, and thought leaders. He also has experience in the public sector at DC Public Schools and in the private sector in the management ranks at Home Depot.

Liz Arney arrives March 1st after 11 years at Aspire Public Schools. Most recently she was the Director of Innovative Learning, supporting Aspire school teams as they transformed their traditional instructional environments to ones focused on personalized learning with blended instruction. Her book “Go Blended,” a practical guide for schools interested in learning from Aspire’s journey, was released on February 2nd. She began her career as a teacher in Washington state.

Arielle Rittvo arrives April 1st, fresh off a couple of years of independent consulting focused exclusively on supporting teams of educators launching and redesigning schools for next generation learning all over the country. After a number of years working on operations and strategy across the KIPP LA network, she joined Rocketship Learning, a pioneer among next gen schools, where as national VP of Strategy and Operations she led a team that supported schools across the network.

Alex Caram joined NewSchools last summer to work with our teacher prep entrepreneurs. As we sunset our investing in those types of organizations, Alex will continue to support our teacher prep ventures throughout 2015, while working on the innovative schools team to think about their human capital needs and opportunities we might support in the future.

Tools and Services team

Tonika Cheek Clayton joins us March 16th to lead this team. She spent 8 years at Amplify and Wireless Generation, where she most recently was Vice President of Product Management, guiding teams of product and project managers to develop and execute product roadmaps and project plans. This included working closely with clients to understand and incorporate their needs into products and establishing a network of schools to test product prototypes. She also held leadership roles in sales and account management and led a team that sold and supported more than 600 school, district, and state accounts.  

Esther Tricoche joined us on February 23rd from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in Houston, where she was the Education Program Manager for Social Innovation & Education Technology. She managed a $120 million portfolio of K-12 public education investments. Esther supported several city-wide education reform action plans in collaboration with city government, local foundations, and nonprofits across the country, including the Arnold’s first city-wide portfolio schools investment in New Orleans.

As these new investment teams come together, we are excited to begin building a portfolio of innovative schools and tools & services entrepreneurs!


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New Research on Hispanic Families’ Use of Media for Learning from JGCC Tue, 24 Feb 2015 23:37:44 +0000 JGCC Hispanic-Latino Families Research

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center released three reports that explore the diverse and growing Hispanic population in the U.S. and how these families are using media to promote learning at home. Aprendiendo en casa reveals findings from a national parent survey; Connecting to Learn recommends policy solutions to improve digital equity among low-income Hispanic families; and Digital Media and Latino Families examines how technology proliferation affects family and community relationships.

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