U.S. Department of Education Awards NewSchools Venture Fund Grant To Increase Quality and Scale of Charter Schools

San Francisco – October 13, 2003 – NewSchools Venture Fund announced that it has been awarded a $1.99 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of high-quality charter schools by creating and growing nonprofit systems of charter schools. NewSchools will use this grant to support the growth of these “charter management organizations,” as well as to help build the field of effective charter school systems.

“Charter schools are an important source of new, high-quality schools for underserved children,” said Nina Rees, Deputy Under Secretary and head of the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. “With this grant, NewSchools Venture Fund will help ensure that the charter school movement continues to grow and serve more of the students who need – and deserve – a great public school.”

Today, nearly 3,000 charter schools serve some of our nation’s most disadvantaged students. But while most people have thought of charter schools as site-level “innovation labs,” NewSchools believes that their greatest impact is yet to come: as a systems-level innovation [HF1] . In particular, we believe that charter management organizations – nonprofit ventures that start and run multiple charter schools with a common brand – can have a dramatic collective impact on improving the $400 billion public education system.

“Charter management organizations demonstrate something truly powerful: a place where boards, school leaders, teachers, students and parents are all aligned toward a common vision for improved student achievement,” said Kim Smith, co-founder and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund.

Most importantly, charter management organizations (CMOs) are designed to give more students access to a high-quality public education. For example, Aspire Public Schools – a charter management organization incubated by NewSchools and based in Northern California – has launched ten small, innovative charter schools in the last five years, which now serve more than 3,000 students in high-need urban and rural areas. Its schools are showing significant student performance gains: in 2002, University Public School in Stockton ranked in the top 3 percent of all California schools in two-year academic improvement; Monarch Academy in Oakland placed in the top 1 percent for one-year growth.

“We are thrilled to have this financial support from the U.S. Department of Education for this important work,” said Lauren Dutton, partner at NewSchools, who oversees its Charter Accelerator Fund. “Now, the challenge will be finding the exceptional teams who can combine education and business management expertise to create and run these new high-performing systems in high-need areas.”

This grant brings NewSchools’ Charter Accelerator Fund to more than $40 million, including grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Foundation.

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The Office of Innovation and Improvement is a nimble, entrepreneurial arm of the U.S. Department of Education. It makes strategic investments in promising educational practices through grants to states, schools, and community organizations. It also leads the movement for greater parental options and information in education. This Office houses two dozen discretionary grant programs, and coordinates the public school choice and supplemental educational services provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Office of Innovation and Improvement is headed by Deputy Under Secretary Nina S. Rees.

NewSchools Venture Fund is a venture philanthropy fund founded in 1998 that is working to transform public education by investing in education entrepreneurs who create high-quality ventures focused on results-oriented, systemic change. Through its first fund, NewSchools invested over $20 million in 10 ventures, all of which are making a measurable difference in the lives of students across the country. Its current fund consists of both the Charter Accelerator Fund – accelerating the growth of nonprofit charter school systems – and the Performance Accelerator Fund– enhancing the capacity of school districts to produce high levels of student achievement.

Media contact:
Julie Landry
Communications Manager, NewSchools Venture Fund
Phone: 415.615.6863
E-mail: jlandry@newschools.org