Partners in School Innovation is Expanding Its Networks for School Improvement

A grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support the work

Partners is proud to announce that we will expand our network approach to school improvement with a $13.66 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We are one of ten organizations nationwide to be awarded a grant in this funding cycle. 

Our Recent History of Funding from the Gates Foundation

This exciting news follows on from the foundation’s initial $910,000 investment in our network approach in 2018-19. In that first round of funding under the foundation’s Networks for School Improvement (NSI) initiative, we were one of 21 organizations to receive funding. The foundation defines an NSI as an intermediary organization such as a school district, non-profit, for-profit, or university partnered with secondary schools to use a continuous improvement process to significantly increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who are on track to earn a credential with labor-market value from a post-secondary institution.

 

We used the resources from the first round of funding to begin implementing a middle grades math network in ten Philadelphia schools in low-income communities of color in 2018-19. That network brings together teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders to strengthen their skills in intervening with middle grades students who are working below grade level in mathematics while still providing effective standards-aligned instruction. This network is in year two of its work right now.

 

Our Plan for the Newly Announced Grant

With the new grant, which is called a validation grant because it calls upon us to demonstrate our effectiveness in running networks for school improvement in different contexts, we will continue our network in Philadelphia and create additional ones in other regions.

In Philadelphia, we will broaden the scope of the network from improving math instruction to creating, over the next several years, a cadre of change agents who will transform their schools into higher-performing organizations. (In other words, we will transition from implementing a Problem of Practice Network to implementing a Transformation Network.)

In 2020-21, we will begin creating networks in two additional districts in regions where we currently work. The following year, we will create another network in a new region. The additional networks will be similar to the one in Philadelphia — each with ten schools focused for two years on middle grades math and then focused for two to three years on building capacity among a greater group of educators to transform their schools.

 

To help educators become change agents, we work with them to develop their strength in five areas:

  • Mindsets: Rooting oneself in equity and social justice while focusing on results and continuous improvement
  • Leadership: Setting a positive example, inspiring others, and sharing leadership
  • Adult Learning: Creating the conditions for others to learn
  • Partners’ Transformation Approach: Implementing a research-based approach to school-transformation, in which schools establish systems and practices that help them become continuously improving organizations that do not depend on a single leader to sustain success.
  • Change Management: Understanding how to catalyze change in complex systems

After educators spend a few years integrating their knowledge of their subject and school community with Partners’ continuous-improvement methods, they are able to lead efforts to sustain improvement in their schools and districts.

Application Process for Interested Districts

In early 2020, we will announce a process in which districts interested in implementing a network for school improvement with us can complete a brief application. For a set of schools to be eligible, at least half of its students must be African American, Latino, or living in poverty. An advisory committee with strong knowledge of our work will rate applications and advise us on selecting district partners. More information on the process will be available in early 2020.

Changing Students’ Lives

Implementing networks in four locations throughout the country over the next five years and building adults’ capacity in a total of 40 schools will mean enhancing the life opportunities of thousands of African American, Latino, and low-income students. This work is our reason for being; we are excited that the foundation sees such promise in the network approach and in Partners in School Innovation.