Nellie Mae Education Foundation Awards $16.4 Million for Student-Centered Learning

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation has announced grants totaling $16.4 million to four New England school districts and their community partners in support of student-centered approaches to learning.

Three-year grants were awarded to the Burlington-Winooski School District ($3.7 million) in Vermont; the Pittsfield School District ($2 million) in New Hampshire; the Sanford School Department ($3.7 million) in Maine; and Portland-based Jobs for Maine Graduates ($5.1 million). Four additional Lead Community Partner grants of $130,000 were made to organizations in each district. They are Voices for Vermont's Children, the Pittsfield Youth Workshop, the Safe and Healthy Sanford Coalition, and the Refugee Services Program in Portland.

The funds will be used to implement long-term plans to redesign district systems to better accommodate and support student-centered approaches to learning. Among other things, student-centered education systems feature flexible learning opportunities outside the traditional school calendar; the use of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to promote the skills and knowledge needed for success in college, careers, and life; and an approach to advancement based on the demonstration of proficiency.

The grants were awarded through NMEF's District-Level Systems Change initiative, one of the foundation's four long-term strategic initiatives.

"The combined challenges of more learners needing to succeed, and succeed at a higher level, led us to these partners," said NMEF president and CEO Nicholas C. Donohue. "We believe that these grantees are most aligned with our theory of change. They each had a three-year plan that was developed collaboratively by the district and its key stakeholders, and have displayed strong collaborations with community partners."