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Gates Ed-Tech Program Announces Second Wave

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new ed-tech grant program, Next Generation Learning Challenges, announced its second wave of grant funding today and its first geared toward K-12 education, as well as an investment in the program from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The wave of challenge grants, worth up to $10 million, will be awarded to promising technology tools and applications that help students master math and literacy skills. Proposals, which are due on March 4, must outline approaches that align to the grade 7-9 competency standards of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, but that can be focused toward students below or above those grade levels. The proposals must also meet several other criteria, including:

•containing modular content that can be easily mixed and matched by teachers and students;
• using embedded assessment to measure student performance and provide feedback that can be used to improve processes and results;
• building ideas based on contemporary research in cognitive and learning science, including various methods of branching learning paths to result in deeper understanding of concepts; and
• a focus on student progression through concepts rather than seat time or course hours.

The Hewlett Foundation, which was already announced as a partner when the first round of grants geared toward postsecondary programs was announced last October, officially unveiled a $1.4 million investment in conjunction with this second wave of grants. (Both the Gates Foundation and Hewlett Foundation contribute grant funding to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.)

The first wave announced last fall was worth up to $20 million, and subsequent grants from the program could put the total price tag in the $60-80 million range, said Bill Gates, who co-founded the Gates Foundation with his wife on capital derived from his Microsoft technology fortune. Finalists from the first round are expected to be announced soon, according to a Gates Foundation spokesperson.

The announcement of the program drew attention from ed-tech experts, since it was the first direct investment into education technology by the Gates Foundation in nearly a decade.

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