NewSchools Venture Fund A non-profit venture philanthropy firm working to transform public education for low-income children Fri, 17 Apr 2015 03:56:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tell Us Your Big Idea! Launching Pre-Application Surveys to Gather Info on Innovative Schools Fri, 17 Apr 2015 03:56:31 +0000 […]]]> Earlier this year we shared our strategy for 2015 and beyond.  A major pillar of our strategy is to invest in teams of educators across the U.S. who are designing schools that prepare and inspire each and every student to reach his or her most ambitious dreams and plans.  We aim to support schools that set bold goals for their students and embrace an expanded definition of student success that includes high academic outcomes as well as mastery of other critical life skills that students need to succeed. 

Now we want to hear from you!  

What is your audacious school vision?  Perhaps you have a dream of launching 100 diverse, student-centered STEM charter schools in the next 15 years. Or you are a leadership team in an existing school with strong results, but you feel compelled to provide students greater ownership over their learning path and pace via digital content and project-based learning. Whether you fit in these categories or another, if you are innovating on the student experience in ways that you believe will personalize their learning and significantly improve their life outcomes, we want learn about your plans for the future. 

BIG Idea

Our team – myself, Liz Arney, Arielle Rittvo, and Alex Caram – are launching Pre-Application Surveys to gather more information from you. Currently, we are primarily targeting two types of applicants: (1) entrepreneurial individuals or teams with plans to start new charter networks in the next 3 years and (2) existing, high-performing charter networks (CMOs) with plans to pilot new designs in existing schools and/or launch innovative new schools. If neither of these apply to you, that’s okay too – you are still welcome to share your ideas with us.

Our Innovative Schools page has more information and links to our Pre-Application Surveys.  We encourage you to complete a survey so we can learn more about your model.  We will review survey responses on a rolling basis and will respond to all applicants within three weeks of submission.

]]> 0
Summit Presenter Q&A with Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:18:57 +0000 […]]]> Jaime CasapOur annual NewSchools Summit is coming up on May 6, 2015. In the coming weeks, we will feature posts on some of our exciting presenters.

Next up is Jaime Casap, a leader at Google for Education. One of Jaime’s passions is to challenge the education technology field to diversify its ranks. Our Summit session “Race, technology and education: Opportunities and challenges” will build on this theme. I sat down with Jaime to ask him a few questions:

Jaime, we’re thrilled to have you speak at Summit. What is the focus of your session?

My session will focus on opportunities and challenges related to the lack of diversity in technology throughout the pipeline — from early childhood through high school and college as well as in the technology industry more broadly. The need for diversity in edtech is even more important — these products cannot be created in a vacuum; they should reflect the populations they serve.

You have the unusual title of Chief Evangelist at Google. What, exactly, does that entail?

It means I’ve been on the Google for Education team the longest!  My job is to think about teaching and learning and the role technology can play. Externally, I help grow awareness of ways to use technology in education — making sure people understand the power of technology and the web to revolutionize learning models. Internally, I work across teams to make sure we’re building tools that are necessary for the future of education.

The topic of diversity in education technology, as well as technology in general, is one close to both our hearts.  Why so for you?

The people who create technology should represent the people technology is helping. As the minority population in our K-12 education system increases, these students’ points of view become even more important to consider. In addition, the practical reason to get minority students involved in technology is that there will be a million jobs in computer science that otherwise will go unfilled. Proficiency in technology and computer science are much needed skills in the new economy. I don’t like to say that education is broken — the reality is, education is better than it’s ever been. But we need to reimagine the education system to reflect a new world where technology and the web are central to enabling and supporting learning.

As the face and voice for Google for Education, what do you see as the company’s role – on both an  immediate and long-term basis – in increasing the diversity of educational leaders and decision-makers?

Google was one of the first technology companies to announce our diversity numbers publicly, and we are working to build a more diverse and inclusive culture. We also have a number of efforts in the education space to try and fill the pipeline as early as possible!  These programs include Made with Code, Google RISE Awards, Google Science Fair, Google Summer of Code, Computer Science Summer Institute, Computer Science for High School, and CS First.  

You’ve previously noted that only 1 in 14 technology workers in Silicon Valley is Black or Latino; and less than 5% of the teams at Google, Facebook and Yahoo are Black or Latino. To what do you attribute those numbers and how can we collectively change that?

As we both know, it’s an issue of pipeline. There are a number of issues across the entire pipeline that we need to address. We need to look for opportunities to help students of color develop an understanding of technology and computer science from an early age, then continue to offer them relevant content and curricula in middle and high school. This will help prepare more of these students to study computer science in college. In addition, there is work to be done to help students, parents and communities understand the importance of technology and computer science, to help drive demand for content and programs that help students develop these skills. And of course, there is still more work to be done building organizational cultures that are more inclusive and non-biased.

Check out for the latest updates on our agenda.

]]> 0
DC Education Innovation Fellowship: Teachers as Innovators Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:50:18 +0000 […]]]> Together with the CityBridge Foundation in Washington, DC, NewSchools launched the Education Innovation Fellowship program in 2013.  This yearlong program introduces teacher leaders to the most promising innovations in personalized learning and offers them opportunities to pilot personalized learning models in their schools.  The Fellowship program includes local and national school visits, workshops, seminars, guest speakers, and technology demonstrations.  Fellows design and lead personalized learning pilot programs during the summer and expand them in their classrooms and schools over the following school year. 


The first 3 cohorts have included 54 Fellows who are current teachers in DCPS and DC public charter schools.  Fellows in these cohorts cut across all subjects and grade levels – including ninth grade Physics, fifth grade Latin and middle school special education – proving that personalized learning is possible in every classroom. These teachers reflect on their learning in real-time through the Education Innovation D.C. blog

The Fellowship program has become a launching point for many DC teachers to drive innovation in their schools, and a proof point that teacher leaders are critical change agents in creating student-centered classrooms. Many of the current and former Fellows teach at schools that have won grants through Breakthrough Schools: DC, and are playing leadership roles in designing transformative whole-school models. Former Fellows have also become thought leaders in the space and continue to share what they learn through speaking engagements, including Shane Donovan and Tanesha Dixon, who recreated model classrooms at our 2014 Summit. We are inspired by the pioneering spirit of all Fellows, as they seek new ways to reinvent their classrooms in order to help each of their students achieve success.

In February, the 2015 Fellows kicked off their school visits with a week in California, visiting innovative schools in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to attend and learn alongside them as a program adviser.  I will join the Fellows on their second study trip this week, to Chicago.  You can track our journey on the blog or by following @CityBridgeFdn on Twitter. For more about the Fellowship itself, visit the CityBridge Foundation website.

]]> 0
Three Tips for Picking a Personalized Learning Framework Wed, 08 Apr 2015 18:28:02 +0000 […]]]> half_size_StaceyChildress2-1428423250

Teams of educators all over the country are launching new schools and redesigning existing ones, and they are eager to build on the early lessons of the pioneers who have been at it for a few years. This is great – if everyone treats designing and implementing personalized learning as an invention challenge, the state of knowledge and practice will move very slowly. In other words, not everyone has to start with a blank slate and create new designs from scratch. Learning from the failures and early wins of other teams and building on their lessons will help us move faster and with higher quality toward schools designed to meet the needs of every student, every day.

The good news: a number of frameworks that incorporate the wisdom of practice are available.

The complicating factors: you’ll probably need more than one, none are perfect and all were created by a person, team or organization with a specific point of view about what’s important and how to implement it.

See our post on EdSurge for three tips for selecting frameworks to help your team get started.


>> [EdSurge] Three Tips for Picking Personalized Learning Frameworks by Stacey Childress

]]> 0
Camelback Fellows Announces New Class of 2015 Thu, 02 Apr 2015 15:54:29 +0000 At Camelback Ventures, our mission is to diversify the social innovation ecosystem by leveraging the genius of all people. To close the opportunity gap we need all talent—including underrepresented entrepreneurs. It is not just a moral imperative, but a strategy for change.  In March 2015, Camelback launched its first “official” class of Camelback Fellows. These fellows are launching innovative schools, creating tech products, and building services to ensure improve education.

Camelback 2015 Fellows

]]> 0
Summit Presenter Q&A with Tom Chi, Google X Co-Founder Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:49:41 +0000 […]]]> Our annual NewSchools Summit is coming up soon, on May 6, 2015. Over the coming weeks, we will feature some of our exciting presenters.

Tom Chi headshotFirst up this week is Tom Chi, a Google X co-founder, entrepreneur, teacher, and rapid prototyping enthusiast. During Tom’s time as the head of Product Experience at Google X, the team created Google Glass, the Self-Driving Car, Project Loon, Google Brain, and more. Recently, Tom has been working with dozens of entrepreneurs in the developing world to create usable, cost-effective solutions that help people access clean water, nutritious food, electricity, and financing. Tom’s Summit session will explore how the process of rapid prototyping can be applied to education. I sat down with Tom to ask him a few questions:

Tom, tell us about your approach to rapid prototyping and how you think it can help reinvent school.

Rapid prototyping is ultimately all about learning. Specifically, it’s about maximizing the rate of learning in any new space. Rapid prototyping is a new tool in your toolkit that challenges some of the ways that we’ve traditionally learned – both in terms of practically using it to solve a problem that educators may face, but also more fundamentally, revisiting the way people learn how to learn in the programs they create. 

What most excites you about the potential of reinventing school?

We have the world that we have because we think the way that we do. You can try to fix the world superficially while still thinking the way that you do, but it may not stick. To the extent that you think the way that you do, then you’ll probably eventually recreate that old world no matter what short-term fixes you create. Education is in a unique position to change the way that we think and create a different world. 

Where else have others used your ideas about rapid prototyping?

We’ve done this work with top executives of corporations and folks that are on the forefront of science and engineering. It’s also being used all around the developing world. I’ve worked with 100 social entrepreneurs, including the largest micropayments provider in Zambia and the group that started a major water clean-up project to provide potable water to a large population in the Dominican Republic. It’s been applied to work on solar electrification in rural Guatemala and on changing public service and public information campaigns in Cambodia. 

In these situations, the improvements haven’t been 10% or 20% improvements – they’ve been much greater. In Kenya for example, we developed a way to deliver micronutrients to the 3 million people that need them 10,000 times more efficiently than the UN World Food Programme. The amount of money you need to help people there is four orders of magnitude less. 

What do you want people to take away from your Summit session?

Just how possible it is to learn new ways of doing things that might be dramatically better. The outcomes are not merely 10% better, the outcomes can really be 100 or even 10,000 times better. An inconceivable amount of improvement is possible if you have the tools and techniques – and the belief that it’s possible.

Curious to learn more? Watch Tom’s TED-Ed talk on Rapid Prototyping Google Glass.


Check out for the latest updates on our agenda.

]]> 0
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!

]]> 0
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.

]]> 0
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.


]]> 0
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!

]]> 0