Through our EDge fund, we invest in solutions beyond any single investment area, with a focus on innovations that empower students with learning differences as well as innovations to help schools recover and rebuild from the pandemic. In 2023, we will invest $5 million across these priorities.
EDge funding allows us to respond to emerging needs in the sector and quickly deploy resources to organizations working to address those needs. By investing in new areas, we can learn more about entrepreneurial activity, funder interest, management assistance needs and inform our future strategy. Both our Diverse Leaders and Racial Equity investment areas started as EDge-funded initiatives.
This year, we are interested in learning about and funding innovations focused on better serving students with learning differences, emergent technologies that support teaching and learning, college and career readiness, educator and student mental health and reimagining the role of teachers.
Scroll to learn more about our EDge investment priorities.
Empowering Students with Learning Differences
Learning differences are a critical facet of students’ identities and should be understood as assets that can create new opportunities for all students to learn and grow together. Nationwide, 1 in 5 students have a learning difference. Some students have a formal disability diagnosis, providing schools with a roadmap for how to best meet their needs. Other students do not have a formal diagnosis but can be better served when educators are trained to recognize, value, and support these students appropriately.
At NewSchools, our goal is to build a diverse portfolio of leaders developing early-stage, equity-centered solutions for the benefit of students with learning differences, especially those impacted by racism and poverty. That’s why from 2022 through 2023 we’re investing more than $4 million in innovations that empower students with learning differences with generous support from Oak Foundation. We seek to fund a broad range of ideas because we heard from community members that innovation is needed at all levels of the education system.
Organizations applying for funding should demonstrate a commitment to three design principles:
- Committed to asset-based approaches
- Center culturally responsive and inclusive practices
- Grounded in research-based, equity-centered instruction
Investment decisions are informed by a community review process to help ensure decisions are made with — and not for — young people and their families. We actively engage students with learning differences through a fellowship, as well as Advisory Board members who identify as caregivers, researchers, teachers, and education leaders who are personally and professionally invested in this work. Learn about our ventures supporting students with learning differences here.
As the use of artificial intelligence spreads rapidly to every sector, we see its potential for good in education when integrated in responsible and meaningful ways. We seek to fund emerging technologies that empower educators and support student learning. These ideas will range from making learning more personalized and engaging to making it easier for educators to do their jobs. These technologies should address and bridge inequities, creating better learning opportunities for students, no matter their background.
College and career readiness
Today’s students are growing up in a fast changing world. In order to equip them with the skills necessary for the jobs of the future and to be the leaders our world needs, K-12 schools need to better prepare young people for college and career. We seek to fund ideas that help middle school and high school students access better routes to opportunity, including approaches, models, and strategies that support students discover their talents, explore their career interests, develop post-secondary goals, and engage in high-quality experiences that prepare them for lifelong learning and economic opportunity.
Mental health support
Schools are a lifeline for students and educators with mental health needs, connecting them to counseling services and other critical support. But with demand for these services outpacing available resources and staff, schools are having trouble meeting these needs. We are interested in solutions that improve access to quality mental health care in schools so that students and educators can thrive. We are particularly interested in approaches that increase the number of licensed mental health professionals in schools, as well as provide direct counseling services and wraparound support.
Redesigning the role of teachers
Most schools are experiencing a shortage of teachers, especially in special education, math, and bilingual education. Finding and keeping effective teachers in these positions has become more difficult as the role of a teacher has expanded, especially during the pandemic. It’s time to rethink the educator role and develop new human capital designs for the future. We seek ideas that extend the reach and impact of great teachers, identify new roles that adults can play to support student learning and make the profession more sustainable.