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Broad Foundation Invests in Blended Learning Initiatives

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has released a list of grants it has awarded over the past year to support blended learning in schools—$20 million in all—in areas ranging from charter school management to seed funding for new, tech-friendly schools.

Those grants have followed about $3 million in earlier blended learning investments, the foundation said. The new awards have flowed over the past year to a range of nonprofit organizations experimenting or implementing blended learning—generally defined as efforts that combine in-person teacher-to-student instruction with online learning.

The grants have included $1 million to the Silicon Schools Fund, a "venture philanthropy" that gives seed money for new blended-learning schools. A $500,000 award went to 4.0 Schools, a nonprofit which describes itself as a "design lab for curious people committed to unprecedented innovation in education."

The Michigan Education Excellence Foundation, which was given $10 million, funds an achievement authority that created a statewide school system that uses a blended learning system to track students' progress in real time. Khan Academy, a nonprofit offering online learners free academic materials, got $4 million. The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, received $1 million. The foundation has promoted digital learning in various forms across the country, efforts that have recently drawn criticism from those who say the group, and tech companies that support it financially, are wielding too much influence among state policymakers.

If anything, the awards are a reminder of how many organizations and interests are putting money and labor into blended learning, how the concept continues to evolve, and how it's playing out in very different forms in school districts.

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