Blended learning isn't just handing kids a laptop, it's new school models that incorporate differentiated and distributed staffing strategies--educators of different levels and in different locations--to boost learning productivity


Local philanthropic partnerships can leverage resources to attack big problems but they are challenging to create. Between us, we've created hundreds of local and initiative-based funding alliances, so we've seen our share of good and bad marriages.


Over the summer we interviewed two dozen school and network leaders producing strong academic results and developing powerful young people. Considering their leadership stories, we found ten things in common:


Having read a few thousand grant applications I can tell you that most suck. John Bailey, a former grant maker and current policy advocate, said something similar noting that most policy proposals were also weak and wandering. In contrast, he noted, the venture pitches at accelerators like Y Combinator and ImagineK12 are uniformly good--and often great.


Stories of innovative classrooms and schools may be dismissed as irrelevant or unscalable because they are powered by superstar teachers. But districts and networks are making it increasingly possible for all of their teachers to achieve great results with common frameworks, big goals and good plans, strong development systems for adult learners, and learning platforms


Eva Moskowitz opened Harlem Success Academy opened in 2006. With nine new schools opening in the next few weeks, Success Academy Charter Schools will have 22 New York City locations and will serve 7,000 students. It is clearly one of the three best K-8 school networks in the country and with plans to open 6 new elementaries, 3 new middle schools and their first high school in 2014.


Turning around low performing schools is tough--particularly high schools. There's only one difference between a struggling school and a good school--everything. Good schools have good goals; they use a variety of strategies to personalize learning supported by aligned supports, staffing, and schedule.


A 2012 bill created Louisiana Course Choice and expanded online options. Louisiana already had a virtual school with more than 6,000 enrollments but like Kentucky and Utah, saw multiple provider landscape as a more affordable way to boost access and quality


Underlying the shift to blended and student-centered environments is the transition from marking seat time to tracking learning. In competency-based environments, students show what they know and they progress when they've demonstrated mastery.


Ask a teacher in a high-poverty school to name their challenges and near the top of the list will be disruptive kids and students not ready to learn.


The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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