NewSchools Venture Fund http://www.newschools.org A non-profit venture philanthropy firm working to transform public education for low-income children Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:46:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 What NewSchools Has Taught Me http://www.newschools.org/blog/what-newschools-has-taught-me http://www.newschools.org/blog/what-newschools-has-taught-me#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 23:26:37 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13181 […]]]> by Derrick Spencer, UNCF-Walton Ed. Reform Fellow and DCSF Intern
 

1e9f446About this time last year I decided to apply to the UNCF-Walton Ed. Reform Fellowship, which consequently landed me an interview with NewSchools Venture Fund. I thought the fellowship would be the perfect opportunity not only to learn, but also to actively participate in education reform.  Prior to my experience with NewSchools, I was knowledgeable of some basic pedagogical theories and classroom management skills, but I had yet to truly explore the sector beyond the classroom.

Needless to say, my experience with NewSchools has been enlightening. I have become more familiar with the language associated with education reform and major ideological frameworks. My experience has also allowed me to compare what I have learned through this fellowship to the traditional concepts I have been introduced to in my education courses at Howard University. As a result, I have been able to build my knowledge base and apply these varied perspectives and theories to education reform issues. I was also able to more thoroughly understand and appreciate the plethora of roles  in addition to instructional professional positions. Taking into consideration what I experienced at NewSchools, here are my four biggest take-aways, which as it happens are all transferable to any industry.

1. Hybrid experiences are an asset, not a hindrance.

I grew up being told to find something I was interested in and “stick with it.”  Until this past summer, I thought the fact that my college experience didn’t have a one-track career theme was a liability to my future. Despite the fact that I chose English as my major prior to college and “stuck with it,” unlike some of my peers who interned at law firms each summer or volunteered at schools every year, I was always exploring my options. My activities and interests revealed my passion for social equity in an array of arenas. I feel compelled to be an aide in the pursuit of freedom from the systematic setbacks people who are disenfranchised encounter, and I do not believe I can choose a specific path until I have explored various options.

My professional experience while in college is pretty diverse: I have worked on political campaigns, social justice initiatives, and a small business. I have also dealt with issues regarding intellectual property, allied health, and student housing. So when I interviewed at NewSchools, I was nervous I would appear unfocused, despite the fact that I had completed each program and stayed with the small business for nearly two years. However, after meeting the team at NewSchools, I realized my four-year career trajectory didn’t represent uncertainty; it showcased my willingness to try new things and explore interests above and beyond my coursework.

NewSchools taught me that people who have diverse experiences, be it work experiences or different backgrounds, inspire diverse thought partnership. The NewSchools team consists of people with backgrounds in education, business, politics, and even architecture: each individual comes from a different walk of life. My favorite thing about NewSchools is they value people’s varied experiences. And while, for example we have to use the organization’s standardized approach for many tasks, our different ways of thinking and doing are welcome and make the organization the transformative force that it is.

2. Entrepreneurship is not always about capital gain.

Prior to joining the NewSchools’ team, my idea of an entrepreneur was limited to people who created innovative inventions for profit. It had never occurred to me that those individuals who created enterprises for the betterment of society were also entrepreneurs—that is, it never occurred to me until helping with the due diligence process for a NewSchools’ investment.

Over the summer, I helped research and create an investment proposal that resulted in a $200K investment. The investment was from NewSchools’ EDge Fund, a fund specifically created to look around the corner at up and coming ideas and to help social entrepreneurs achieve them. The social entrepreneur NewSchools was considering making an investment in was Michelle Molitor. Michelle is an education entrepreneur who is based in Washington, DC, and a founding member of E.L. Haynes, a high-performing public charter management organization. Her dedication to high-quality education for all children is evident in over a decade of experience as a traditionally-trained teacher and as the elementary school principal of Haynes. It was at Haynes where she began to respond to the drastic need for change in education as it relates to racial equity. Initiating an uncomfortable—but necessary—dialogue around racial equity in education, Michelle launched the Fellowship for Race and Educational Equity (FREE).

FREE is a nonprofit that aims to create equitable educational spaces by building communal will to ignite collective anti-racist action. In her own experience as one of only a few African American founding members of an organization that serves a largely black and Hispanic population, Michelle was able to conceptualize the benefits of conversations about race. She realized remaining silent about the “elephant in the room” only reinforced tension and ultimately was a disservice to the students. So Michelle created and implemented a series of Race and Educational Equity Seminars (REES) to have conversations addressing differences about race and equity. Michelle has played a vital role in creating structures to continue conversations beyond the seminar and embed race and equity work in the school community for multiple organizations, even outside of the metropolitan area. 

Michelle’s story inspired me. It helped me realize I can be an entrepreneur—AND I don’t have to give up my passion for social justice. I can remain true to myself and my core values, all while leading an enterprise.

3. Race is a hard topic to talk about, but a necessary one—even at work.

Where there is a diverse pool of people, there will be a need for discussions about diversity and inclusion. More specifically, given our nation’s history, race is a contributing factor in our perceptions of others. The discomfort that far too often accompanies talking about diversity makes race a taboo topic for the workplace, especially for minorities. In fact, research shows women and minorities are more likely to be perceived as self-serving when promoting diversity. However, I could not avoid the topic, no matter how uncomfortable.

My primary project at NewSchools was to research diversity and inclusion strategies. From solutions like covering the names on resumes to alleviate bias against ethnic names, to the use of a Presidential Executive Order as a template for organizational documents, my job was to explore race in education reform and help find salient solutions for NewSchools. I also had to make sure I followed news and collected data on race and educational mistreatment in Silicon Valley in the IT sector, especially since NewSchools makes investments in education technology. 

The most difficult part of researching diversity and inclusion was processing facts that were disturbing to me as an educated black man. However, being able to provide my input during critical moments in the organization’s steps toward greater equity and remembering the ideals stated in the NewSchools’ Statement of Diversity helped keep the bigger picture in mind.

4. Mentors make life easier, much easier.

This is a pretty self-explanatory lesson. If I did not have Deborah “Debbie” McGriff as a mentor, my experience, especially upon my arrival over the summer, would have been completely different. Debbie played an integral role in making my experience at New Schools a positive one.  Her constructive criticism and nods of approval helped me enhance my knowledge and professionalism. If not for my mentor, my experience working with education reformers may have even been overshadowed by some of the sector’s hiccups.

My experience with NewSchools has been a great one! I have traveled places I had never been, learned to play (and dominate in) foosball, and gained vital life skills. However, the most valuable lessons NewSchools has taught me include the necessity of hybrid experiences, social entrepreneurship, talking about race in the workplace, and the importance of mentorship. Thank you, NewSchools. I am exceedingly grateful.

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EdFuel and BAEO Launch Leaders of Color Peer Learning Community (PLC) http://www.newschools.org/blog/spotlight-9 http://www.newschools.org/blog/spotlight-9#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:01:35 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13177 […]]]> In partnership with BAEO, EdFuel is piloting a PLC to address the unique needs of leaders of color in education reform. Over a 9-month period, leaders from schools in DC meet monthly to strengthen their skills and address issues of race and equity. We share best practices, unpack personal stories and identify strategies to improve leadership.  The result is a cadre of leaders who feel capable, competent and confident to invoke change in education reform.

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ReimaginED 2015: Trends in K12 Education http://www.newschools.org/blog/reimagined2015 http://www.newschools.org/blog/reimagined2015#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:27:58 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13154 […]]]>

 

We’re living in a time of tremendous technological change. In the next five years, another billion people will gain access to the internet. By 2020, 80% of the adults on Earth will have a smartphone, double what it is today. [1]

We started the Seed Fund to seek out those places where technological change might be leveraged to improve education, and there is much to improve about our current system. One of the most troubling trends of the last decade is the decrease in educational mobility. As a country, we are doing worse than most at educating our neediest kids which now account for just over half of public school children. [2]

For our neediest children, the problems are cumulative. A series of school failures and missed opportunities add up to an education of accumulated disadvantage, a reverse Matthew Effect of sorts. Our team is focused on how technology can be used to reduce and even eliminate these obstacles so that our school system is an escalator to opportunity for all.

We’ve invested in over 40 teams scaling ideas to improve our education system by empowering students, educators and families with the best tools technology has to offer. Through this lens, we share our second ReImaginED deck. Inspired by KPCB’s Mary Meeker’s widely shared Internet Trends deck, we set out to expose data about our K-12 education system and highlight some of the innovations in education technology. The goal of this deck is to draw out high level trends so it doesn’t include the human stories on the other side of these numbers and charts, see here for some of those. [3]

In ReimaginED 2015 (building off the original published over a year ago), we review the latest systemic challenges, landscape shifts, and emerging innovations that are helping to solve these problems.

Let us know about other innovation trends you are seeing in the comments below or by sharing this on twitter, #Reimagined2015.

Footnotes:

  1. http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2014/10/28/presentation-mobile-is-eating-the-world
  2. Children eligible for free and reduced lunch, a proxy for poverty, peaked this year at 51% according to the National Center on Education Statistics. 
  3. Last month we sent a crew out to Texas and PA to capture a couple of these stories here.

 

 

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Redesigning Schools for Today’s Students and Beyond http://www.newschools.org/blog/redesigning-schools-for-todays-students-and-beyond http://www.newschools.org/blog/redesigning-schools-for-todays-students-and-beyond#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 18:38:12 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13091 […]]]> Stacey_Childress_Headshot_0017Over the last few years, the education community has heard plenty of buzz about the growth in education technology and digital learning. For instance, as New Schools’ Seed Fund team highlighted in a December blog, overall investment in ed tech companies once again rose significantly in 2014. And since last October when the White House launched Future Ready, an effort to support school districts and charter networks as they incorporate more digital learning, more than 1000 superintendents have taken the Future Ready pledge.

Even with all of this activity, we are still in the very early stages of the creation of new school designs that fundamentally rethink time, talent, and technology to create learning experiences that work better for students. Some have emerged over the last few years – schools that do much more than simply add tablets and apps into traditional classroom environments. Rather than trying to squeeze even more out of schools built for the last century, teams of educators are redesigning schools to work now and well into the future.

A key difference between these next generation models and traditional schools is that they put more power in students’ hands and tailor learning to their individual needs. Students can move at a pace that works for them and connect what they’re working on at school to their own personal interests and aspirations. Teachers are able to spend more time with individual students and small groups, and have the tools and supports they need to be successful in these new environments.

Many of these schools are also committed to helping students build habits and skills that lead to long-term success – both academic and personal – not just high scores on state tests or college entrance exams. High scores are important, but students need so much more.  Some of the most innovative teams are expanding the definition of success to help their students:

  • set ambitious personal goals and create plans to reach them
  • take responsibility for their paths and learn how to navigate an uncertain world
  • have the flexibility and support to identify a passion and experience what it means to pursue it
  • develop the skills, mindsets, and perspective to take their futures into their own hands
  • engage effectively in their communities

A number of studies emerged in 2014 with promising early evidence that new school designs can accelerate learning gains for all students, especially those who are furthest behind. (RAND, Teachers College, SRI.) We are beginning to see academic results, but there’s a long way to go to figure out which design choices and practices matter most, as well as how to gauge progress in other dimensions of student success.

At NewSchools, we’re also at the beginning of our journey as an investor in these kinds of schools. We were early supporters of Rocketship and New Classrooms and more recently have invested in Summit Public Schools, Matchbook Learning and Ingenuity Prep. We’ve learned a great deal from these pioneers and are ready to increase our support for teams who are building on and extending the initial design principles from the first wave of innovators. We will find and fund high-potential teams with innovative school designs, support their planning and implementation, and connect them to each other and to experts so they can get better faster.

Throughout our 15-year history, we’ve supported entrepreneurs working to improve public education so that all students, especially those who are underserved, receive an excellent education. We’re proud that the vast majority of our investment dollars have gone to create new schools all over the country that work better for kids. We are excited to build on this legacy as we ramp up our investments in innovative schools that aim to prepare and inspire every student to reach their most ambitious dreams and plans.

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Crossing the Classroom Chasm: Breaking into the Ed sector http://www.newschools.org/blog/crossing-the-classroom-chasm-breaking-into-the-ed-sector http://www.newschools.org/blog/crossing-the-classroom-chasm-breaking-into-the-ed-sector#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 22:24:01 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13086 […]]]> “What would you say is the greatest challenge the education sector is facing today?” he asked. I paused for a moment before winding up for what I thought was the interview equivalent of a softball lob, and then answered with, “the lack of financial resources dedicated to education.”

“The United States actually spends more per student than any other country,” he said. (The National Center for Education Statistics last reported that the US spent $11,826 per public school student, which actually puts us fourth behind Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, but point taken.) “So,” my interviewer asked, “want to try again?”

And with that, I whiffed on that interview lob and a few others, had a nice lunch and a cordial thanks for the trip out.

I was bright-eyed, fresh from a top MBA program and ready to take on whatever management challenges the Ed sector could throw at me – or so I thought. The following week I heard back from that same organization: they extended a hearty thanks for my interest in their organization and an offer to continue learning about education.

And while it wasn’t the first, it was yet another in a string of opportunities in the education sector that didn’t work out. In fact, five charter management organizations, two pipeline programs and one education philanthropy (not NewSchools) later – I had interviewed and made it to the final round for all, yet found not one offer.

Fast forward three years, a recurring theme that I’ve noticed over my past few months at NewSchools and past few years working in Education is the chasm that private sector professionals face when seeking opportunities within Education Management and how challenging the process can feel.

I know that there is a healthy supply of business professionals interested and eager to take the leap into Education Management – some of them were my classmates; others I met through friends or colleagues; and the rest were my competition in the same interview processes. But in my own experience and in those of many others, there seems to be some unseen hurdle preventing otherwise dangerously competent professionals from entering the Education sector: I call it the ‘Classroom Chasm’.

For several of those final round interviews that didn’t materialize, I connected and kept in touch with my competition who did receive the offers. Consistently, what set me apart was my lack of experience in the K12 Education space and more often, the classroom. (Note: all of the roles that I had been applying to were non-instructional in nature.) So, as valuable as they may be, the arsenal of technical, strategic, financial and project management skills that private sector professionals bring to the table are often seen as insufficient to (fully) equip them with the firepower they need to take on the challenges that face K12 Education today. 

As I’ve come to understand the situation, there are five general paths to crossing the ‘Classroom Chasm’:

  1. Get classroom experience,
  2. Get school-based or other education management experience,
  3. Apply to an education management pipeline program,
  4. Get Board experience, and/or
  5. Apply directly to the organization/Cold Call

I see these five paths on a continuum from ‘nearest to’ to ‘farthest from’ the classroom (a ‘Classroom Continuum’, if you will). Also, these paths are not mutually exclusive. 

After my initial experience not finding a role in Education Management, I decided to venture on the first path that I mentioned and joined Achievement First as a high school Math teacher. At the time, I thought classroom experience would at the very least put me on par with other candidates who had previously received offers for Education Management roles that I hadn’t. And now after having served as a classroom teacher, I have a greater understanding of much of what goes into a high-performing classroom and school, many of the challenges that students and families face and what closing the achievement gap looks like from an instructional perspective. My years in the classroom were personally rewarding and have proven valuable in my new role as Associate Partner with NewSchools in relating to and building credibility with ventures, navigating the context of our work and magnifying the passion for what we do every day.

Gaining content and context knowledge in the sector has been critical for my transition into Education Management. That said, I’d like to address each of these paths on the continuum mentioned above in separate blog posts. The education sector needs and values the business skills that the private sector and its professionals can offer. And for those of you considering making the career-switch into Education Management and currently facing the ‘Classroom Chasm’: 1) you’re not alone, 2) we need you and 3) we want you!

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A closer look at K12 edtech funding in 2014 http://www.newschools.org/blog/a-closer-look-at-k12-edtech-funding-in-2014 http://www.newschools.org/blog/a-closer-look-at-k12-edtech-funding-in-2014#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 17:53:43 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=13024 […]]]> Bolstered by a strong Q1 and Q3, venture investment in K12 education technology was up 32% in 2014 totaling $642 million (data provided by EdSurge). The top ten investments accounted for over half the funding featuring large rounds in Desire2Learn, TeachersPayTeachers, Remind, and Clever. The NewSchools Seed Fund led and/or participated in twenty early-stage K12 edtech deals this year and reviewed over three hundred others.

Slide01

Here we share our annual analysis of K12 edtech venture funding with emphasis on several key trends in current funding dynamics and investment areas. Please note that in this analyses we do not include companies exclusively focused on higher education nor do we include corporate training, both of which represent areas of significant interest for venture capital. Our focus is on companies serving the preK-12 demographic- both inside and outside of schools.

Current Funding Dynamics

Increasing presence of Traditional Venture in K12 edtech:  In years past, venture capital investment in education technology has primarily focused on higher education (e.g. Coursera, Chegg) and consumer-facing companies (e.g. Duolingo, Lumosity). With its long sales cycles and entrenched incumbents, venture capital investors have avoided K12 considering it too challenging of a market to penetrate. In 2014, we saw several of Silicon Valley’s top-tier venture investors make their first K12 investment in over a decade in companies demonstrating strong user growth (e.g. Remind, Edmodo) or modern infrastructure platforms  (e.g. BrightBytes, Clever). Their increased and/or renewed participation has been a driving factor in the growth of Series A and B round sizes (relative to Seed).

Other top tier investors such as Benchmark Capital and Greylock Capital (not pictured) continued their investment in Edmodo’s Series D funding in 2014

Other top tier investors such as Benchmark Capital and Greylock Capital (not pictured) continued their investment in Edmodo’s Series D funding in 2014

Since 2012, median Series B rounds (n = 31) have increased in size by 49% compared to 27% and 9% respectively for median Series A (n = 79) and Seed (n = 124) rounds

Since 2012, median Series B rounds (n = 31) have increased in size by 49% compared to 27% and 9% respectively for median Series A (n = 79) and Seed (n = 124) rounds

Freemium is Moving Mainstream (or Rise of B-to-Any): The distinction between institutional (selling directly into schools) and consumer business models (selling directly to parents, teachers or students) in K12 edtech has become increasingly porous as more companies offer options for both free / low-cost teacher adoption and premium site / district-wide licenses. This freemium institutional model is not without its challenges, but several companies have found success by offering compelling, cost-effective premium features such as onsite professional development or by leveraging data on free usage to encourage the institutional sale. Umang Gupta author of Oracle’s first business plan, made a very compelling case for freemium SaaS path for edtech companies here and Jennifer Carolan explains the benefits of a freemium approach here.

Investment Areas

Home-to-School Communication Platforms: There is a revolution underway. Driven by smartphone growth, the way in which educators share information about a student’s progress with parents is changing. The wedge of this disruption is text-messaging and photo-sharing apps, enabling quick and easy ways for teachers to share snapshots of learning or logistical information. Parent engagement data coming from mobile-first apps like ClassDojo, Remind, Freshgrade, Zeal and Kaymbu is an order of magnitude greater than what we’ve seen previously in the parent communication space. These fast-growth platforms will give way to disruption in other areas such as assessment, social-emotional learning and homework support. We consider the unprecedented growth of mobile (mainly communication at this point) apps in K12 to be one of the most significant trends of 2014 and importantly, is helping to close the “other” education gap–the gap between parents and the classroom. Alex Hernandez put it best when he wrote, “design solutions for families. Help us become equal partners in supporting our children’s learning.” As of the writing of this article, home-to-school communication platforms have raised $92 million in venture funding in 2014.

Slide06

Venture funding for language learning tools is down substantially: In 2012 and 2013, venture funding in language learning tools accounted for a substantial portion of total funding in the space (21% and 18% respectively). In 2014, this figure is down 65% at $31 million and accounts for just 5% of the total funding in K12 edtech. While this remains a large and growing market, capital is remaining patient as popular free offerings such as Duolingo proves out the potential to tap into enterprise sales.

Slide04

Funding for data analytics tools remains strong at $65 million: Data products continue to perform strongly as schools demand more sophisticated tools to support decision-making around student achievement and resource allocation. This year, we observed two important trends in K12 data use: a) the expansion of data tools beyond the traditional LMS and into new areas such as helping schools better assess student performance/readiness (Equal Opportunity Schools, Ellevation), b) the use of data to un-silo schools by providing administrators with relevant benchmarks and expected return from school spending (Decision Science, BrightBytes). Moving forward, data will remain a relevant storyline as states rollout the first generation of Common Core assessments.

Slide05

Looking Ahead

While funding continues to grow in K12 edtech, many of the companies are relatively early-stage. Gaps in the market exist and attractive opportunities remain. In particular, we would like to see more innovative solutions in collaborative technology tools, special education and project-based learning curricula.

 

Special thanks to Jennifer Carolan, Shauntel Poulson and Vivian Wu for feedback and guidance.  Data made available from EdSurge Reports.

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Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Education Reform http://www.newschools.org/blog/michael-brown-tamir-rice-and-education-reform http://www.newschools.org/blog/michael-brown-tamir-rice-and-education-reform#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 03:51:57 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=12987 Great schools matter for kids. I believe they are the most powerful force we have for reducing economic and social inequality in the United States over the long run. But it’s a mistake to work on “fixing” schools while ignoring the conditions and beliefs that make it possible for chronically underperforming schools to persist in the first place. Or the crushing realities they perpetuate in communities across the country.

Our work to improve schools will be stronger if we acknowledge and speak up about the interdependencies with other issues that affect young people and their communities. Earlier this fall, a couple of weeks after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, our team at NewSchools used a standing all-staff meeting to talk in small groups about what had happened. Our team is not as diverse as it should be, or will be, but we tried to bring our differences to bear as we struggled to make sense of the story coming out of Ferguson. For some of us it was tough to find the right words. We tried in good faith to connect it to the work we do to support entrepreneurs working to improve schools.

I was struck again that day by something I’ve known intellectually for a long time. But it’s still emotionally jarring every time I hear Black friends and colleagues talk about it. I never worry about whether the teenagers in my family or their White friends are at risk of physical harm if they have an encounter with a police officer. Never.

On the contrary, my sisters and I still laugh warmly about the fact that when we were teenagers, our late grandma told us we each had one “get out of jail free” call if we ever ended up in the Galveston County jail. We could call her, she’d come get us, she wouldn’t tell our momma. If we were arrested a second time, she’d come get us, but she’d have to tell momma. It was a joke. A funny way of saying you crazy girls might end up in a jam running around the county with your friends, but you’ll be fine, it’s not the end of the world.

But I’m shaken every time I hear Black moms and dads share what they say to their sons, nephews, and grandsons in an effort to lower the risk that an encounter with a cop might go badly. It’s a persistent nagging fear for them, and it’s not abstract. It’s backed up by specific instances involving their brothers, fathers, uncles, and themselves. It reminds me every time of the great chasm between our experiences. In my family, the topic is a fond memory. In theirs, it’s a concrete, evidence-based concern.

I don’t think cops are dangerous. I think they are public servants who put their lives on the line to protect their communities. Like any profession, sure there are some bad ones, but I bet it’s a small fraction. This belief is reinforced by every interaction I’ve ever had with law enforcement. But I acknowledge my experience isn’t the only reality. And I know as human beings, we all have implicit biases that affect our interactions with each other in ways that can sometimes lead to tragic consequences.

We can’t pretend these realities aren’t at play as we grapple with situations like the shootings of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and the protests that followed. Or when we talk about how to “engage the community” in the work of improving schools. Or the growing conversation about aggressive school discipline policies and practices. In some instances these might be contributing to short run improvements in academic data, but might also be reinforcing implicit biases and stereotypes, shaping young people’s views of themselves, and perpetuating community mistrust of leaders and institutions.

We have to confront these issues with a courage mixed with compassion for kids and each other. We have to broaden our discourse about education reform to include factors that have made it possible for Black and Latino young people to be systemically failed not only by their schools but by other institutions and systems, and the devastating effects this has on them, their families and their neighborhoods.

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UTRU Prepares Teachers from Diverse Backgrounds http://www.newschools.org/blog/diversifyed-utru http://www.newschools.org/blog/diversifyed-utru#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 20:05:46 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=12976 School districts that serve children in high-need communities need well-prepared, effective, and diverse educators who are ready to teach on day one. Urban Teacher Residency United launches and supports programs that prepare new teachers who themselves come from diverse racial, economic and experience backgrounds. Our programs provide the practical learning, the hands-on experience and the support network teachers need to be effective right away. Through excellent teaching, students can experience academic success.

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The Power of Video in Education and Our Investment in Zaption http://www.newschools.org/blog/the-power-of-video-in-education-and-our-investment-in-zaption http://www.newschools.org/blog/the-power-of-video-in-education-and-our-investment-in-zaption#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 01:54:56 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=12923 […]]]> Online video is central to the way in which 21st century learners digest and share information with one another.  According to comScore, 188 million people in the United States will watch 49 billion videos in just a day.  Online video consumption from individuals ages 12 to 17 represents over 13% of total video hours and is amongst the most rapidly growing demographics.

In U.S. K-12, video has become a common modality for delivering content inside and outside the classroom.  YouTube EDU, which was first conceived in 2009, now has over 20,000 channels dedicated to Primary & Secondary Education.  Teachers are using video in a myriad of ways: to flip their classrooms, extend content beyond the textbook, and enable differentiated instruction for students in need of acceleration or remediation.

But important questions persist: Are students actually watching the video?  If so, are they engaged, actively learning, and reflecting?  Zaption helps teachers answer these questions.

The NewSchools Seed Fund is proud to announce our investment in Zaption. Zaption is a video-learning company led by CEO Chris Walsh, also the co-founder of the Google Teacher Academy and creator of the Infinite Thinking Machine, Jim Stigler, a UCLA professor and former CEO of Lesson Lab, and Charlie Stigler, the CTO and one of Peter Thiel’s 2012 batch of 20 under 20.  The Zaption team has been a member of our edtech community for a little over a year now as a member of the Learning to Teach Fund.

Zaption amplifies a teacher’s ability to utilize video content to meet learning objectives.  For example, teachers can leverage existing content from sites such as YouTube and Vimeo and insert their own reflection or assessment questions.  Within the Zaption platform, teachers can create interactive video pit stops such as multiple choice or free response questions.  Zaption allows teachers to track student responses and the portion of video watched by a student, all helpful data for teachers to evaluate the efficacy of learning from a unit of video content. Zaption is unlocking the black box of online video for many educators.

-NSVF Tour Screenshot 1

Zaption supports deeper learning: A study from SRI Education that tracked the use of Khan Academy in schools found mixed results for student engagement – 62% of students were moderately engaged and 25% highly engaged when watching the videos during class time.  Further studies in the world of cognitive science have found the human brain responds differently when engaged in active problem-solving and reflection – exercises that require greater student attention and connectivity to various concepts, improving a student’s ability to retain knowledge in his or her long-term memory.  Zaption turns video viewing into an active learning experience.  “Teachers will find that students are really engaged — it’s great that they are not just watching videos passively”, says Jennifer Lee a teacher at Bulldog Tech Middle School.

Zaption fills a market need: Zaption’s product also fills a gap in the current K-12 instructional tools market.  Last April, the Gates Foundation released the results of an extensive study surveying over 3,100 U.S. teachers on their needs from digital instructional tools to help prepare their students to meet the more rigorous Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The results highlighted a lack of high-quality digital instruction tools in several areas: middle school social studies, grades 3-8 science, and content-agnostic platforms that host or aggregate content – all areas in which Zaption’s product has a strong use case.  For example, Zaption has formed a great partnership with Facing History and Ourselves to create custom interactive lessons with FHO’s video content for grades 9-12 social studies.

Zaption goes mobile:  According to a 2013 report by Nielsen, 70% of teenagers ages 13-17 have smartphones.  As John Doerr notes in his op-ed several months back, mobile phones are central to everyday life for students.  Last week, Zaption launched their iOS app on the App Store.  Mirroring broader industry trends with mobile video consumption growing at double-digit rates and the BYOD movement in K-12 well under way, we expect to see more of Zaption’s users access homework assignments and in-class activities on their phones.

-NSVF iPhone Screenshot

 Zaption’s iOS application

Since our investment, Zaption has continued their growth trajectory and are recent winners of the Digital Innovation in Learning award for Mindful Data, recognizing the ability of their tool to deliver meaningful, actionable data.  We believe the team at Zaption is bringing teachers the tools they need to flip the classroom and use engaging multimedia to deliver deep learning.

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Building Effective Teacher Residencies: Report from UTRU http://www.newschools.org/blog/building-effective-teacher-residencies-report-from-utru http://www.newschools.org/blog/building-effective-teacher-residencies-report-from-utru#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:49:38 +0000 http://www.newschools.org/?p=12915 We are excited to share a newly released white paper from Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU). “Building Effective Teacher Residencies,” examines two of the residency programs in its network, Aspire Teacher Residency, operated by the Aspire Public Schools charter network, and Denver Teacher Residency, part of the Denver Public Schools.

Executive Summary

View Executive Summary: PDF

Download Executive Summary (PDF)

Research Report

View Research Report: PDF

Download Research Report (PDF)

Pages from 14102-UTRU_Building_Effective_Residencies-Full-Single_Pgs

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