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The Gates Foundation-funded Next Generation Learning Challenges program has just issued its latest round of RFPs. This initiative, aimed at boosting college preparedness among middle-schoolers, will fund up to $10 million in new grants.

The Gates Foundation announced the first part of this ed-tech initiative in October last year when it, along with EDUCAUSE, launched the initial round of grants -- $20 million for higher education programs. Along with today's new round of RFPs, the Next Generation Learning Challenges program announced a $1.4 million investment from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation While the last round of funding was aimed at post-secondary programs and college completion, today's addresses college preparedness. Proposals must outline ways to help 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students with content and competencies aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Applicants for today's RFPs should meet the following criteria:

  • Target seventh- to ninth-grade math or literacy content and deeper learning competencies as defined by the Common Core State Standards; programs may focus on all ages of learners
  • Use modular content that can be mixed and matched easily by learners and teachers
  • Use embedded assessment that can capture and assess student performance and provide performance feedback that students and teachers can use to improve the learning process and results
  • Exemplify contemporary research in cognitive and learning science, including interactive and contextualized learning, multiple learning paths, and scaffolded learning that results in deeper disciplinary understanding of concepts, as well as opportunities for students to practice skills and competencies
  • Focus on student progression and mastery of concepts and skills, rather than seat time.

Notably absent from this list -- something I really liked in the higher education initiative -- is a call for the development of open educational resources.

Proposals are due March 4 and winners be be announced in June. The finalists from the October funding round will be announced within the next several weeks.

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Audrey Watters


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