NewSchools Venture Fund http://www.newschools.org A non-profit venture philanthropy firm working to transform public education for low-income children Mon, 06 Jul 2015 11:00:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Launching NewSchools Catapult: Invent 2015 http://www.newschools.org/blog/launching-newschools-catapult http://www.newschools.org/blog/launching-newschools-catapult#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 11:00:11 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13958 […]]]> At NewSchools Venture Fund, we have always had a great affection for early-stage school entrepreneurs who are (re)imagining, (re)designing, and (re)creating the student experience and we are truly excited by all the school leaders realizing these visions in schools and getting great results for students.

One of the more famous early innovators, Leonardo daVinci, not only excelled at painting and sculpture, but was also skilled in science, mathematics, engineering, inventing, and architecture, among many other domains. DaVinci famously brought some of those skills to bear on the catapult, not by inventing it, but by seeking to improve upon the designs which already existed. We envision the imagining and launching of new schools much as daVinci approached the catapult; we already know a lot about what works for students, but there is still ample room for continued innovation and improvement.  To advance the state of the art in school design, just as in catapult design, we need to foster the imaginations of the greatest minds out there. We must partner with and encourage collaboration among ambitious innovators with diverse and varied skills and backgrounds, to put their skills to use in service of advancing student learning.

NewSchools Catapult

In that spirit, we’re thrilled to announce NewSchools Catapult, the first endeavor of our new national strategy. Its goal over the next several years is to propel successive waves of education entrepreneurs to launch new schools – the kinds of audacious, life-altering schools that can truly prepare our students to pursue their most ambitious dreams. In keeping with our mission and core values, our focus is on schools that serve significant numbers of underserved students in grades PreK-12 and will be operated by (a) early-stage charter networks for which this would be their first or second school or (b) district-operated schools with sufficient autonomy and support to realize their vision.

To help prepare school teams at similar stages to plan and launch successfully, we have separated NewSchools Catapult into two distinct phases:

  • Phase 1: Invent: A 6-10 month program designed to support school teams during the year prior to launching a new school. Teams selected for this phase will receive financial support (averaging around $100,000), targeted assistance and a cohort experience with others at a similar stage of development. All teams who participate in Invent will be working toward developing an application for Launch, though we expect that some will decide to postpone or abandon their launch plans.

  • Phase 2: Launch: A highly competitive 2 ½ year program designed to support school teams for the months leading up to launch through their second year of operation. In addition to continuing to receive ongoing assistance and a cohort experience, teams selected for this phase will receive financial support (our investments vary widely based on factors such as seat count and local funding conditions, but averaging around $400,000).

Here is a link to our Invent 2015 application and other materials which is intended only for school teams with aspirations to launch a new school in fall 2016. In the application, you’ll find an overview of our strategy, a description of the opportunity, the application and eligibility requirements, what we mean by “innovative schools” and our investment criteria.  We hope it’ll answer any questions about our work, but if you’re still left with questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to akinder@newschools.org.

Later this fall, we’ll release our Launch 2016 application, which would provide a larger investment to support the first two years of a new school that opens in fall 2016. Schools that receive an Invent 2015 investment will receive priority for this program.   

We’re excited to start this phase of our work and to spark the imaginations of entrepreneurs who believe in the limitless possibilities for meeting the educational needs of students.  If you meet the eligibility criteria and your vision aligns with ours, we strongly encourage you to apply.  Otherwise, please send this on to great innovators you know who are reimagining schools and together, let’s watch the inventing take place.

Apply for Invent 2015

NewSchools Catapult: Invent 2015 Application

NewSchools Catapult: Invent 2015 Budget Template

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Educate78 Launches in Oakland http://www.newschools.org/blog/educate78-launches-in-oakland http://www.newschools.org/blog/educate78-launches-in-oakland#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 22:42:15 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13941 […]]]> I am excited to introduce Educate78, an Oakland-based not-for-profit spin off from NewSchools Venture Fund.

We chose the name “Educate78” because the city of Oakland is 78 square miles, and our mission is to ensure that every student, in every neighborhood of Oakland, has access to world-class public schools. We will do this through informed giving and strategic initiatives.

educate78

The time is right to focus on Oakland. The city’s robust and vibrant community of educators, innovators and social entrepreneurs is growing. We have an inspiring new leader in OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson, who shares our vision of putting results before ideology in service of all students. Voters have elected school board members who are open to change. We have great partners to collaborate with, like GO Public Schools, Seneca Family of Agencies, Lighthouse Community Charter School, and Youth Uprising. And we are honored to have supporters such as the Schwab Charitable Fund, Koshland Family Foundation, Irene S. Scully Family Foundation and Rogers Family Foundation.

The education environment in Oakland brings many challenges. Oakland ranked 147th of 149 among California school districts in terms of performance of low-income students, and has one of the largest achievement gaps statewide. But we see a unique opportunity here to make a real difference for students and do so in a sustainable way, by using a community-based approach. We may even provide a roadmap for similar efforts in other cities.

Our work will be driven by the needs of Oakland families, open to diverse perspectives, and characterized by the creativity that stems from collaboration. The challenges facing Oakland students and schools are complex, numerous and intractable; to solve them, we cannot be hampered by tired politics and old dividing lines.

Educate78 is about getting results for Oakland students – all of them – and we believe that the community of excellent public schools in Oakland needs to include both charter and district-run options. Accordingly, we will provide resources to replicate and expand high-performing charter schools, as a proven strategy for creating great choices for families. And, we will also invest to extend what’s working in district-run schools, and help mend what’s not working in the system, such as enrollment and Special Education.

Educate78 also seeks to develop and empower Oakland teachers and parents. We will support a survey of Oakland teachers to elevate their voices and leverage their expertise to find new ways to make Oakland a city where the best teachers want to work. We believe impactful and sustainable change must be directed by the community, so we are backing organizations that provide data to inform better local decision-making about schools, and that help develop family leadership within schools. And in order to enable families to choose schools that are the best fit for their children, we have joined a diverse coalition that includes OUSD, community organizations, and local parents to improve the enrollment process.

Uniting people and bringing different perspectives together is not always the easiest way to get things done, but we are guided by the African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I am thrilled that Anne Soto and Rachel Garcia James will be part of the founding Educate78 team. Every day, we are inspired by the determination, hard work and passion of Oakland students, educators and community members. We feel privileged and are energized by the opportunity to make real change for the families of Oakland. Collectively, we are forging a new path for public education in Oakland, and we invite you to join us.

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A New Way to Measure How Well We Are Supporting Students http://www.newschools.org/blog/a-new-way-to-measure-how-well-we-are-supporting-students http://www.newschools.org/blog/a-new-way-to-measure-how-well-we-are-supporting-students#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 15:02:19 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13917 […]]]> When the teachers of the year from across the country were asked in a Scholastic/Council of Great City Schools poll released recently what the biggest barriers are to their students’ academic success, it was no surprise that family stress and poverty topped the list.  Students who experience physical or emotional abuse, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, or family economic hardship can suffer from “toxic stress,” which significantly limits the amount of learning possible in a classroom without adequate supports.

As an organization committed to transforming public education so it works for the most underserved students, we constantly ask ourselves: how do we know how well we are supporting our highest need students?

Common practice across the country is to use a student’s eligibility for the federal school Free and Reduced Priced Lunch program (FRL) as a measure of student poverty. Students can qualify with a family income that is less than 185% of the poverty line.

The graph below looks at academic achievement during school year 2013-2014 on Washington, DC’s standardized assessment—the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—relative to the percent of students who qualify for FRL.  Here is what we and many others see in this picture (Graph 1):

  • What’s exciting: The graph shows that there are schools with high numbers of low-income students that show very high achievement.
  • What’s less exciting: The graph points out that schools with 100% FRL status students have widely different results for student achievement. Some schools with 100% FRL status students help their students achieve very high academic results, and others do not.

Graph1Last year, DC began measuring student need by a new classification called “at-risk of academic failure.” This new classification started as a way to better allocate resources to the students most in need. To qualify as at-risk, a student’s family must receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or be homeless, involved in the foster care system, or be a high school student who is over-age and under-credited.  As a result, this classification gives us a more accurate picture of which students are facing acute challenges including hunger, homelessness, grief, violence, and other physical or emotional distress. Using this definition, we can get a better picture of what is going on behind the scenes for these students, and educators can support the specific needs of each student.

The second graph below (Graph 2) compares the percentage of at-risk students at a school with the overall level of student proficiency on DC-CAS. The picture changes to a tight correlation between acute student need and academic proficiency results – that is, the more at-risk students in a school, the lower the average student achievement. When we use this more precise measure, we can see that extreme poverty is very highly correlated with student achievement results. 

Graph2

This new way of measuring student need has sparked a lot of conversation in the DC education community. Are students better off in socioeconomically integrated schools?  What’s happening in schools that are “beating the odds” with at-risk students?  How do enrollment policies that vary between charter and district schools contribute to this picture? 

We’ll keep sharing what we’re learning here, and we’d love to know what other cities learn as they seek more precise measures to understand student achievement for our most vulnerable students.

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Achievement Prep Invests in African American Male Leaders http://www.newschools.org/blog/achievement-prep-invests-in-african-american-male-leaders http://www.newschools.org/blog/achievement-prep-invests-in-african-american-male-leaders#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 17:27:41 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13923 […]]]> 22% of leadership positions in our network are held by African American men.  We hear a consistent message from our African American male leaders that they strive to be examples of positivity for our scholars, despite a pervasive public message to our children about the dubious position of African American men in our society.  These gentlemen provide our predominately African American scholar population with real and varied models of leadership within our community.

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Innovative Schools Need a Thriving Ecosystem of Digital Tools and Services http://www.newschools.org/blog/innovative-schools-need-a-thriving-ecosystem-of-digital-tools-and-services http://www.newschools.org/blog/innovative-schools-need-a-thriving-ecosystem-of-digital-tools-and-services#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 14:12:00 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13897 […]]]> Innovative schools working toward an expanded definition of student success – in which ALL students graduate with a mastery of academic and critical life skills to achieve their most ambitious dreams – require sophisticated tools and services to help deliver personalized learning experiences for students and effectively leverage teachers’ time and talent.  Without the latest technological innovations in education, it would not be feasible for teachers to efficiently personalize each student’s learning in a class of 20+ students given the wide range of students’ individual needs in most K-12 classroom scenarios.  As more schools implement school designs that incorporate blended instruction, educators will seek effective edtech tools and services that support efforts to deliver personalized learning and promote student ownership of their own learning.  

Over the last few years, edtech innovation and investment has grown rapidly; however, there are still gaps in the market for tools and services that innovative schools need to be successful. For instance, while the availability of high quality digital math content is increasing steadily for most grade levels, digital science content aligned to Next Generation Science Standards is lagging, as are the platform tools and assessments needed to effectively manage competency-based progressions at scale. A key pillar of our strategy for 2015 and beyond is to highlight these and other important market gaps and use grant dollars to mobilize entrepreneurs to tackle these gaps.

Video: NewSchools Entrepreneurs Celebrate Our Work Together in This Holiday VideoWith our Tools & Services strategy, we intend to build on and extend the success of our Seed Fund, which over a three-year period invested in 40+ early-stage tools and services and helped catalyze growth in the availability of edtech investment dollars overall. We wound down the Seed Fund in April 2015 and helped create a new entity called NewSchools Capital which makes equity investments in for-profit edtech companies through its new fund called Reach. We own 50% of NewSchools Capital, and it is run by team members of our former Seed Fund.

Our Tools & Services philanthropic capital makes us a unique player in the edtech tools and services sector, since we use philanthropy to make grants to catalyze development in market segments where innovation is lagging. This is different from venture capitalists who take equity stakes in entrepreneurs who are likely to generate financial returns for their investors. Our goal is to generate more great choices among tools and services that matter most for teachers and students, not to create financial returns for ourselves.

We will do this by continuing to support for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs developing solutions that drive better results for students, specifically in areas where there are market gaps in the tools and services that schools need. We will do this through market gap challenges and direct investments in a limited number of service organizations annually. We believe that the accessibility of these critical tools and services will make it easier for schools to successfully adopt innovative models to positively impact student learning.

Beginning in Fall 2015, our Tools & Services team – Cameron White, Esther Tricoche, and myself – will launch a series of national challenges open to for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs working to address the most pressing gaps in K-12 education technology. Challenge topics will be chosen based on market research including input from a diverse group of educators and edtech decision-makers from districts and schools. For each challenge topic, we will select 8-15 of the most promising entrepreneurs and connect them with each other and the NewSchools network of experts and innovative schools as part of our challenge cohort program. By providing winning teams with educator feedback, research evaluations, strategic guidance and grant funding through our cohort program, we seek to cultivate high-impact, sustainable and scalable innovations that will improve academic and social outcomes for millions of children nationwide.  

Over time, we believe these challenges and our investments will spur a more robust edtech ecosystem that will help educators, entrepreneurs, researchers and funders better understand what it takes to develop high quality tools and services that benefit students across the U.S.

For more information on our investment strategy, please visit the Tools & Services webpage.

 

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Big Takeaways from Early Pioneers of Personalized Learning http://www.newschools.org/blog/big-takeaways-from-early-pioneers-of-personalized-learning http://www.newschools.org/blog/big-takeaways-from-early-pioneers-of-personalized-learning#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 18:51:33 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13875 […]]]> For the past four years, I’ve been lucky to have been a part of a thriving community of practice of early-adopters of blended and personalized learning in charters and districts called the Community of Innovative Practice.  This group comes together twice a year to exchange war stories, share best practices, engage in lively debate, explore new ideas and problem-solve together around this challenging work.  Much of the early work we produced together can be found in my book, Go Blended!  A Handbook for Blending Technology in Schools.

Last week, our group, comprised of high performing charters and districts around the country, got together in Chicago to discuss our burning issues: what tools we were excited about, new developments in data integration, challenges around scaling blended learning, student learning profiles, making the case for more personalized learning, and sharing what new tools our organizations had developed that might be useful to each other.  And, we just wanted to catch up with each other, learn what new work we were doing in our respective organizations, tour a few innovative schools, and have fun together.  (And, we know how to have fun!)  A special shout out goes to LEAP Innovations, for hosting our group and making our Chicago experience all the richer.

We shared a packed and intense couple of days together, and I had some big takeaways from our discussions together:

  • Increasing opportunities for students to get personalized learning is still really important work in schools.  

    Much discussion centered on how students in our schools have gotten greater opportunities to learn through our work, and that this endeavor has paid off in other unexpected ways.  Some have found teacher retention to be higher at their schools with personalized learning, some shared that running Common Core assessments in blended learning schools was much easier than in non-blended schools, and some have found that educators’ opinions about using technology for learning have shifted considerably to become much more open to change.  

  • The work of innovating in schools is changing quickly and innovators need each other more than ever in order to really move the work forward.

    When we started this group, we were discussing math software and understanding how to run pilots.  Now, what we’re talking about has moved from discussing pilots and products, to sharing scaling challenges, comparing student learning profile models, eagerly awaiting our Common Core assessment data and thinking deeply about student agency. Part of what has kept this group together is our belief that the best way to problem-solve is by using each other’s work and expertise to inform how we take the next big steps in our organizations and schools.

  • Schools’ needs continue to evolve, but the market is not responding quickly enough to meet the needs.  

    We’re still looking for incredible blended learning software, and what we’ve found is that while a few players have entered and exited the field since we started, most of the software we use in our schools hasn’t changed all that much.  We still desperately want data integration, and yet struggle against the barriers to make this easier for our teachers and principals.  And unfortunately, some content areas are still woefully bereft of viable products.  (Thank goodness my colleagues at NewSchools on the Tools & Services team will be running a science software challenge later this year!)

Educators collaborating and learning from each other are part of the “secret sauce” that has allowed early adopters like the leaders in the Community of Innovative Practice to simultaneously engage with the future of learning on a local and a national level and impact thousands of students in our respective organizations in the process.  And, as a professional community, this collaboration has made all of our jobs much richer, more dynamic, and and more fulfilling.

At NewSchools, we’re excited to embark on the work of building more communities like this one, as one way of supporting the folks doing the work of accelerating innovation in schools and engaging educators in building these connections with each other in service of greater student learning.  Come join us!

 

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Summit 2015: Creative Solutions to Classroom Challenges http://www.newschools.org/blog/summit-2015-creative-solutions-to-classroom-challenges http://www.newschools.org/blog/summit-2015-creative-solutions-to-classroom-challenges#comments Sat, 30 May 2015 00:11:36 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13835 […]]]> Across the country, we’re excited to see many schools, districts and charter organizations exploring ways of innovating in classrooms.  We’ve learned that innovation is a journey that individuals and teams take (sometimes together, sometimes separately), and the ease of that journey depends on many things (teammates, school readiness, political context, landscape, other things swirling around, chemistry, time, and so much more). 

At the NewSchools Summit this year, we wanted to showcase how different teams of teachers embark on this journey with the support of design firms.  We believe there’s something powerful about educators working together to solve complex problems, and we also think that sometimes teams benefit from using an outside voice to help them examine their work using design thinking in order to rethink education in new ways.

We identified design firms and asked them to identify schools they’re currently working with, and asked them walk us through their process.  How did they make sense of the problem?  What kinds of exercises did they take the team through to examine their needs and context?  How did they push the team’s thinking?  What makes the best balance of teammates for this kind of work?  How can you tell if someone’s ready to innovate? What is challenging about this kind of work?

Here’s a recap of the session.  Check out the full session on video here.

Misty Garvin of Luella Middle School in Henry County, Georgia, and Jeff Tsang of Mastery Design Collaborative took the stage first to detail how they worked together to create a completely different learning model for Luella Middle’s students.

Misty explained how Jeff and his team helped the school have very intentional discussions about what they wanted, make informed decisions on data through teacher, student and parent surveys, prototype and pilot ideas, and celebrate short term wins.LA-Misty

In the end, they had a model where teachers felt ownership and excitement about implementing with their students.  Luella Middle School is implementing a model that features small group direct instruction, online learning and project-based learning.  Misty explained that she believed that because of their work with Mastery Design Collaborative, the staff was able to land on a model that better met the needs of Luella students, and which had complete staff buy-in because of the process.

Sarah Ritsema, principal of IDEA High School (Innovation Design Entrepreneurship Academy), opening fall 2015 in the Dallas ISD with 100 9th graders took the stage with Todd Kern of 2Revolutions to talk about their work together designing Sarah’s new school. 

2Revolutions worked with Sarah to design a school that incorporates the “best” elements of other successful models: project-based learning, learning through internship, dual-credit/AP courses, and other ideas that Sarah valued as a school leader by helping her refine her priorities, operationalize her vision, and engage external stakeholders.  Sarah explained that working with 2Rev fostered a mindset shift that moved away from having all the answers to challenging assumptions (sometimes ones she didn’t even realize she had made).  2Rev helped her and her team taking risks in a safe way, and helped strengthen their planning.  LA-Sarah 

Sarah’s model has three priorities. First, a competency-based education that gives each student a personalized learning path. Second, students are engaged in applied learning experiences, including a mentorship and challenging internship program, where community partners further personalize instruction by helping students tailor how they apply their learning to the real-world. Third, students need to be taught skills such as innovative thinking, collaboration and articulate communication.  The fall, when Sarah’s school opens, she will operationalize this design and we look forward to seeing the results of this work.

Finally, Jim O’Shaughnessy, a science teacher at Chicago Academy High School, and David O’Donnell of gravitytank, took audience members on their journey together using design thinking to tackle the problems of student ownership and confidence in their own learning.

Jim experienced a series of design workshops that helped Jim consider not only how design thinking could push his own thinking, but also that of his students. Jim explained, “In my experience in developing an instructional model it has been a great help to have a partner in the people at gravitytank to help me adapt the design process they use to work in my classroom. Since I know the issues that have in my classroom, I can take the design process and fit it to my classroom needs.  At the same time Jenny and Ben at gravitytank had much more experience in actually using the design process, albeit for other purposes. It was great being able to call them, and at times, have them come to my school and work directly with me to develop these protocols for use in my classroom.”

 LA-Jim

Jim used design thinking to reimagine student ownership and confidence in his science class by having students go through the design process with science content.

Overall, audience members were given a window into the inner workings between designers and teachers, and learned that while the work can at times be messy, it’s also important and meaningful when teachers are engaged throughout the planning process as agents of their own change.

 

Liz Arney is a Partner on NewSchools’ Innovative Schools team, and the author of Go Blended!, which chronicles what Liz has learned so far in her work designing and implementing blended learning in schools.

 

Many thanks to Alfred Binford and Pearson Education, who sponsored the Creative Solutions to Classroom Challenges session at NewSchools Summit 2015.  See more of what happened at Summit 2015.

 

 

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Celebrating STEM Standouts in Boston: The Akamai Scholars Program http://www.newschools.org/blog/celebrating-stem-standouts-in-boston-the-akamai-scholars-program http://www.newschools.org/blog/celebrating-stem-standouts-in-boston-the-akamai-scholars-program#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 18:23:12 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13826 […]]]> Tuesday was a special day in Boston.  NewSchools, in partnership with Akamai, held its annual Akamai Scholars Program to honor top 8th grade STEM scholars in high-quality charter school networks citywide.  The 12 students represent six growing charter networks in Boston that have been supported by NewSchools: Brooke Charter Schools, Excel Academy Charter Schools, KIPP Massachusetts, Match Education, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, and UP Education Network.

These STEM scholars are impressive.  They regularly demonstrate curiosity, initiative, and hard work. Their love of learning and exploration is inspiring. Among the group are scholars who have taken independent courses to learn coding, are science fair winners, and are leaders in their schools. In the future, they aspire to be doctors, lawyers, and business owners. What a pleasure it was for NewSchools to spend the day with these scholars and celebrate their successes.

The day started at the MIT Museum, where the scholars enjoyed a robotics workshop.  Soon the scholars progressed from simple commands – like programming the robots to go forward – to whole sequences of actions, including turns. When a robot didn’t perform as planned, the scholars exhibited their scientific skills, assessing what went wrong and adjusting their code to address the problem. 

Scholars from Excel Academy Charter Schools and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School program a robot at the MIT Museum.
Scholars from Excel Academy Charter Schools and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School program a robot at the MIT Museum.

Next, we headed to Akamai’s Cambridge headquarters, where the scholars had an in-depth conversation with Ron Chaney, VP of Engineering. The scholars were especially interested in hearing about Ron’s path and about what qualifications would prepare them to work at Akamai. They were also interested in cyber security and how Akamai helps keep clients secure online.  The scholars’ great questions made for a lively discussion!

To finish the day, the group toured Akamai’s Network Operations Center, which gave scholars a good sense of the immense nature of Akamai’s operations, and the role that math plays in optimizing the company’s performance.

We were all grateful to Akamai for hosting our visit and spending so much time with us. Founded in 1998, Akamai is the leading provider of cloud services for helping enterprises provide secure, high-performing user experiences on any device, anywhere. Akamai believes in the wonderful possibilities for the future and supports math education and excellence in the next generation of technology innovators.

In honor of these scholars’ accomplishments, NewSchools presented each scholar with an iPad Air, which the students will use to help further their academic exploration and learning. NewSchools plans to follow these scholars through their bright futures – we can’t wait to see what they each accomplish as they head off to high school and beyond!

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Summit 2015: Brené Brown Delves Deeper in Q&A http://www.newschools.org/blog/summit-2015-brene-brown-delves-deeper-in-qa http://www.newschools.org/blog/summit-2015-brene-brown-delves-deeper-in-qa#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 05:13:28 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13792 […]]]> In Brené Brown’s opening plenary talk at Summit 2015, she explained how the findings from her research into vulnerability, courage, and worthiness present an opportunity for educators to help students experience emotion fully and acquire the strength of character they need to address challenges. In the hour-long Q&A session following her talk, Brené delved deeper into questions of how teachers, administrators and school designers can build a culture of vulnerability in schools.

Brene-plenaryThe session was standing room only, and attendees were abuzz with the emotional charge of Brené’s opening talk. Many of the people who asked questions probed for advice about how to apply the lessons from Brené’s research.

One participant discussed the tension between vulnerability and the accountability inherent in K-12 education.  In some schools, he observed, practices that shame students for bad behavior or poor performance are built into the culture. He bravely asked how to get the high scores his schools needed to report success to funders and government agencies, saying, “What alternatives do I have that will still get results?” 

Brown advocated for new teaching methodologies: “We have to develop a new pedagogy that is both metrics-focused and whole-hearted,” she said. Furthermore, she challenged our sector to build new ways of thinking about school performance, saying, “the very public shaming of teachers, students, administrators and school systems is unholy.  It’s the opposite of how we should be talking about education, and it filters down to the kids.”  The solution to the problem we are facing in education, said Brown, “doesn’t exist yet. And it will only come from people like you,” she told the audience, “people who have lived it.”

Brené suggested a few ways of thinking about the problem in order to yield some solutions. First and foremost, she encouraged us to embody a sense of kindness in our interactions with others – and in our own thoughts. She suggested that when we communicate with the people around us – and when we “self-talk,” or engage in our inner dialogue, we should communicate the same way we would talk to a best friend. That kindness, said Brown, can enable the reflection people need in order to catalyze changes in behavior. “In shame we are hustling to self-protect; in feeling guilt, we can be vulnerable to change.” 

Secondly, to create vulnerability in our relationships and in our school cultures, she advised that we begin with a shared language – and train everyone, especially senior leaders, in that language, embedding the language of vulnerability, and by extension, a new way of understanding our world and our interactions into the culture.

Another approach to addressing shame may seem counterintuitive: storytelling. “The storytelling needs to happen at every level. You can’t talk about vulnerability without being authentically vulnerable yourself. If you can’t own your privilege you can’t have those conversations.The leaders of our schools often don’t reflect the experiences of the student body. We need that to change. We need those experiences in the room.”

Another participant asked, “When you are the perpetrator of shame, how do you walk it back? How do you correct that?”

Brené referenced a Maya Angelou quote: “When we know better, we do better.” While it might not be possible to take it back, you can move it forward. And in terms of changing the culture in our school systems, Brown said, “The only people who think it is not possible are those who don’t want to do it.”

 

Thanks again to our Platinum sponsor Target Corporation, for helping bring Brené to Summit 2015.  

For more about Brené Brown and her work, go to www.brenebrown.com

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OneGoal: Taking intentional steps to strengthen our approach to staff diversity + inclusion http://www.newschools.org/blog/onegoal-taking-intentional-steps-to-strengthen-our-approach-to-staff-diversity-inclusion http://www.newschools.org/blog/onegoal-taking-intentional-steps-to-strengthen-our-approach-to-staff-diversity-inclusion#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 18:12:07 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13774 […]]]> Since 2012, we increased staff diversity from 13% to 38%. By the end of 2015 we will broaden our pipeline to increase diversity in our candidate pool, and establish org-wide diversity and inclusiveness strategies.

We seek to ensure that every student, regardless of background, has a legitimate opportunity to be successful. OneGoal’s focus on inclusion will allow us to authentically and strategically leverage differences in order to model what is possible for our students.

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