Two Rivers PCS wins $200,000 Assessment for Learning Project Grant

Today it has been announced that Two Rivers PCS, the academically high performing charter that opened a new campus this school year, has won a $202,500 Next Generation Learning Challenges award. The grant will greatly enhance the school’s effort to develop an in-house assessment to measure the deeper learning skills of their students. In 2015, Two Rivers was selected for a two year $200,000 Cycle 1 Planning Grant with Breakthrough Schools: DC as part of their initial effort to create this assessment.

As I have written about in the past, the Next Generation Learning Challenges program supports over 150 new or revised blended learning schools since 2010 serving grades Kindergarten through twelve and higher education across the United States with a budget of over $21 million. Breakthrough Schools: D.C. is a $2 million grant completion partnered through NGLC and run by the CityBridge Foundation. At the end of 2013 I spent a day at the organization’s Education Innovation Summit to observe firsthand the presentations by schools seeking a Breakthrough Schools award.

Chantele Martin, the director of development at Two Rivers PCS explained to me that deeper learning, or 21st Century skills, are abilities such as complex communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Ms. Martin revealed that the assessment is currently in draft form, and is not tied to knowledge around specific content areas or subjects but instead looks at student abilities around the behavioral traits being measured.

It was not an easy feat to win this grant. Approximately 150 applications were submitted and 12 were approved. Two Rivers is by far the smallest of the groups provided with the NGLC grant and is the fine company of:

  • The Colorado Education Initiative
  • WestEd
  • The Center for Collaborative Education
  • Summit Public Schools
  • New Hampshire Department of Education
  • Virginia Beach City Public Schools
  • Henry County Schools
  • Hawai’i Department of Education
  • Learning Policy Institute & the California Performance Assessment Consortium
  • Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Del Lago Academy – Campus of Applied Science

The money, among other goals, will allow Two Rivers to partner with experts in the field, such as SCALE, the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity at Stanford University, to validate the assessment. After this has phase has been completed, Two Rivers PCS plans to make the tool available to the public.

Jeff Heyck-Williams, a founder of Two Rivers who is its director of curriculum and instruction and who will be one of the leaders of this project, commented on the selection of his school:

“To be successful you need academic rigor. In addition, you need two sets of social skills: interpersonal skills of collaboration and teamwork, and the intrapersonal skills of perseverance and grit. With the ALP grant, we will test deeper learning mastery through hour long, formative assessments that are not tied to any specific subject area or interdisciplinary projects. Through the transfer of concepts and skills as measured through evaluation rubrics, we can gauge mastery for each grade level. Through formative assessments, staff has a source of rich, never before available data to inform classroom instruction.”

The award represents another great milestone for this fine charter school.

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