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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Ford Foundation to Support 'Student-Centered' Learning Systems

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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Ford Foundation are teaming up with three national organizations that promote whole-child initiatives for a new program that will award up to $150,000 each to 10 communities that propose new ideas for meeting the needs of diverse student populations.

"This approach emphasizes the needs and interests of students over institutions, combining quality educational opportunities with health and wellness services, mentoring, college readiness activities and work-based learning experiences," according to the joint release from the three organizations that are launching the award—the Coalition for Community Schools, Communities in Schools, and StriveTogether. 

The Students at the Center Challenge is open to entities such as school systems, nonprofit groups, and social services agencies where the three main partnering organizations already have a presence. The money will go toward organizations that commit "to changing how they align and expand their work to help students," especially students of color and students in low-income communities. Each community is limited to one proposal.

"Durable, equitable change will only happen if systems are organized and designed in ways that respond to the actual needs and lived experiences of young people, and recognize and tackle the entrenched structural forces that perpetuate inequality," said Sanjiv Rao, the director of Youth Opportunity and Learning at the Ford Foundation. "This approach holds promise because it brings a people-centered mindset to imagining and building the kinds of systems all kids deserve and that is more likely to produce the kinds of outcomes all communities should want for all their kids."

Interested parties can submit a "letter of intent" online and attend a webinar on how to further proceed on Nov. 1. Proposals are due in the spring. (More information is available here.)  

Education Week's Benjamin Herold wrote in June about the Chan Zuckerberg's move to "whole-child personalized learning," which is led by Jim Shelton, the president for education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative who was a top education official in the Obama administration. 

"We are excited about the opportunity to support communities in taking an integrated approach to learning, leveraging new strategies, science and tools that put students at the center of their education," Shelton said in the release Monday.  "When it comes to children, there isn't a real choice between supporting their academic development, health and well-being—they are interconnected. Our systems must work together to meet the needs of the whole child to help them reach their full potential."

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