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Grant aims to improve outcomes for all students at 20 charter schools across the country

Thursday, May 07, 2020

LAWRENCE — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced it is investing over $10 million to launch the Charter Students with Disabilities Pilot Community — a cohort of 10 charter management organizations (CMO) that will work together with a common aim of improving the systems, learning experiences, and outcomes for their middle and high school students with disabilities.

The grantees will be joined by additional partners, including the SWIFT Education Center at the KU Life Span Institute, which will receive $1.2 million in funding.

The project will focus on students with disabilities within the overall student population. Ninety-one percent of the students served in the pilot community of 10 CMOs are black or Latino, and 83% live in low-income households.

“We are incredibly honored to be in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand our work to charter schools who serve black, Latino and low-income students with disabilities across the country,” said Amy McCart, SWIFT Education Center co-director.

The charter management organizations that will be involved are Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago; STRIVE Prep in Denver; Ednovate, Green Dot Public Schools and STEM Prep Schools in Los Angeles; Collegiate Academies in New Orleans; Uncommon Schools in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey; KIPP Bay Area Public Schools in California; Mastery Schools in Philadelphia; and Summit Public Schools in Redwood, California.

“We are working with the CMOs and principals to foster a collective mindset focused on data-based decision making nested within a continuous improvement process and to cultivate their growth as team leaders.  If we do this well, students with disabilities will experience increased engagement in school, improved academic outcomes and better transitions into their adult lives,” McCart said.

Each of the CMOs in the pilot community will identify a goal and create an action plan to improve leading indicators in math, English language arts, student engagement including attendance and discipline, or transition to postsecondary life. Each CMO will start by piloting two schools within their networks with the intention to learn what it takes to expand over time. Grantees will be supported with technical assistance on research-based key conditions needed to successfully implement best practices: continuous improvement, data-driven decisions and engaged leadership.

To that end, SWIFT will offer intensive leadership training and coaching for CMO leaders and school principals aimed at implementing educational systems and practices that better meet the full array of student needs.