The Great Schools Partnership works with educational leaders, organizations, and schools to develop grant proposals, secure funding, and oversee the implementation of systemic school-improvement initiatives. In addition to being part of the technical-assistance team for U.S. Department of Education programs, the Great Schools Partnership has coordinated several multiyear grant initiatives, including projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, among others.
NextGen Personalized Learning Initiative
Lead Coordinator and Technical Assistance Provider, 2015–present
The Great Schools Partnership, as lead coordinator of the New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC), is one of seven regional community-based education organizations across the United States participating in a $25 million initiative launched by the nonprofit Next Generation Learning Challenges.
A total of 21 schools across our NESSC states are part of a grant funded initiative and receive coaching support from the Great Schools Partnership to develop personalized learning experiences that address the distinct learning needs, interests, and aspirations of individual students. The initiative’s goal is to help the schools remodel their academic programs to ensure that every graduate is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, modern workplaces, and adult life.
While each school will pursue its own improvement plan, all 21 will work to ensure that every student achieves challenging learning standards by utilizing instructional strategies such as proficiency-based learning, exhibitions, capstone projects, portfolios, and personal learning plans. The schools will also create new opportunities for students to pursue a variety of real-world learning experiences—including collegiate courses, on-the-job internships, and student-designed projects—that connect what they are learning in school to the practical issues, problems, and applications that impact their communities and society.
The improvement strategies being pursued by members of the selected schools are also directly connected to a variety of policies passed in recent years by state legislatures, state boards of education, and state education agencies that require or encourage schools to offer more personalized learning opportunities to students.
Regional School-Community Engagement Initiative
Lead Coordinator and Technical Assistance Provider, 2013–present
With support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and in collaboration with Everyday Democracy, the Great Schools Partnership is coordinating a regional initiative to support school-community engagement in New England. The goal of this multiyear project is to build stronger public understanding of and support for the region’s public schools and for more innovative approaches to teaching and learning that will meet the needs of all students. We believe that stronger public engagement and school-community partnerships are essential to improving schools and better preparing our students to be successful learners, workers, and leaders. Participating districts receive coaching support as they plan and lead activities designed to authentically engage their students, families, and communities. These activities include school-board orientations, student-voice initiatives, and community-wide dialogues. There are currently 16 communities representing all six New England states participating in this initiative.
High School Graduation Initiative
Technical Assistance Provider, 2013–present
In collaboration with the Millennium Group International, John Hopkins University, and Jobs for the Future, the Great Schools Partnership provides a variety of technical-assistance services to the U.S. Department of Education’s High School Graduation Initiative and its grantees. The national program supports twenty-nine school districts working to improve graduation rates, reduce dropouts, develop early warning systems to identify at-risk students, and provide support for students returning to complete their secondary education. Most of the participating districts have large populations of minority students and English-language learners. To support this challenging work, the four partnering organizations create professional-development events, provide personalized technical assistance to district leaders, and develop tools and guides designed to build the districts’ capacity to continuously improve even after the funding period ends. Through site visits, webinars, and other events, the program strives to create sustainable communities of practice among grantees.
League of Innovative Schools
Lead Coordinator, 2011–present
In collaboration with the New England Secondary School Consortium and support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the League of Innovative Schools has become a regional professional learning community for schools. Membership is open to any New England secondary school—including charter schools, private schools, and career-and-technical education centers—committed to educational equity, student-centered learning, and ongoing improvement. All participating schools will become part of a growing network of learning institutions working to strengthen their programs, exchange professional expertise, and create better learning opportunities for their students.
The League of Innovative Schools is founded on three core beliefs:
- Educators create great schools. Skilled teachers and strong leaders matter far more than funding levels or facilities. Schools are only as effective as the educators who lead them.
- Every school can improve. Learning is a lifelong process—for students and educators. The highest performing schools are continually learning, improving, and seeking out what works.
- Collaboration drives success. In the world’s most effective schools, teachers work together and develop a sense of collective responsibility. They are committed to their students, to their community, and to one another.
New England Secondary School Consortium
Lead Coordinator, 2008–present
The New England Secondary School Consortium (newenglandssc.org) is a five-state partnership working to promote forward-thinking innovations in secondary education across the New England region. The partner states—Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have made a shared commitment to support proficiency-based graduation decisions, personalized learning pathways, and student-centered accountability systems, among other strategies. The Consortium’s ultimate goal is to ensure that every public high school student receives an education that prepares them for success in the colleges, careers, and communities of the 21st century. As the initiative’s lead coordinator, the Great Schools Partnership provides technical assistance, logistical support, and school-improvement expertise to the initiative’s state agencies and partners. The Consortium is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the largest philanthropy in New England focused exclusively on education, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Rhode Island Foundation and the Davis Family Foundation in Maine have provided grants to the Consortium to support school-improvement work in their states, including school participation in the League of Innovative Schools.
Smaller Learning Communities Program Contract
Technical Assistance Provider, 2010–2013
In collaboration with the Millennium Group International and the Center for Secondary School Redesign, the Great Schools Partnership provided a variety of technical-assistance services to the U.S. Department of Education’s Smaller Learning Communities Program. The three organizations developed events, professional development opportunities, and support resources for the 214 project directors and more than 600 high schools involved in the federal program. The products included guides and tools designed to help schools develop effective goals and objectives for systemic reform, implement high-impact professional learning communities, strengthen ninth-grade transitions, design and execute school visits, deliver effective classroom-based interventions, and increase postsecondary aspirations and preparation for all students. The three organizations also coordinate major conferences for districts and schools, producing and facilitating webinars on a variety of professional development topics, and conduct site visits to schools throughout the country to identify and investigate promising practices in all areas of high school improvement.
Smaller Learning Communities Program Grant
Maine Smaller Learning Communities Consortium, 2006–2009
In September 2006, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a large grant to Maine School Administrative District #6 on behalf of a consortium of five Maine schools: Bonny Eagle High School, Lewiston High School, Noble High School, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, and South Portland High School. For three years, the five schools received annual grants of approximately $160,000 to help them achieve several ambitious goals aimed at improving the aspirations and achievement of all students. The Great Schools Partnership provided school coaching, technical assistance, and project-management services for the grant. The Maine Smaller Learning Communities Consortium, as the partnership was known, had one overarching goal: graduate all students prepared for college, work, and citizenship in the 21st century. Although each member of the Consortium pursued customized strategies for improving teaching, learning, and leadership, the five schools also adopted a variety of common strategies to achieve their individual and shared goals, including the creation of smaller learning communities that group students and teachers on interdisciplinary teams at the 9th- and 10th-grade levels; the development of a more rigorous, equitable, personalized, and relevant academic program designed to ensure that all students graduate prepared for postsecondary learning without the need for remediation; and the implementation of job-embedded professional development strategies such as classroom observations and professional learning groups.
Mathematics and Science Partnership Program Grant
Southern Aroostook Math and Science Partnership, 2008–2011
In July 2008, the Maine Department of Education awarded the Great Schools Partnership a $199,000 grant to coordinate the Southern Aroostook Math and Science Partnership. The Partnership was a collaborative effort to increase mathematics and science achievement in four Maine public schools: East Grand School, Katahdin Middle/High School, Southern Aroostook Community School, and the Region II School of Applied Technology. To help ensure student preparation for higher education, the mathematics and science faculty of Northern Maine Community College were enlisted to be partners in the grant. The grant is an extension of the U.S. Department of Education’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships program, which aims to improve the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the content areas of mathematics and science through higher-quality instruction. As the lead coordinator and technical-assistance provider, the Great Schools Partnership worked closely with the four public schools to increase student achievement, improve the content knowledge of teachers, strengthen and align curricula across schools, and enrich collegial and institutional relationships across the math and science programs in the Southern Aroostook region.
Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Grant
iWalkthrough Training and Professional Development, 2008–2010
In March 2009, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, a $250 million philanthropy that supports “innovative professional development programs that strengthen teachers and their teaching in grades 9–12,” awarded the Great Schools Partnership a $150,000 grant to support the ongoing development of iWalkthrough (iwalkthrough.org), a cutting-edge classroom-observation and reporting tool that is helping revolutionize instructional-improvement efforts in Maine and around the country. The Partnership will use the funding to strengthen its iWalkthrough training program and build new interactive, Web-based resources that can deliver low-cost, high-quality support to high-need schools and districts working to strengthen academic instruction. As a mission-driven nonprofit organization committed to redesigning educational policies, programs, and practices to enhance educational opportunity and classroom learning for all students, the Partnership has three ambitious goals for the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations grant: (1) increase the quality of daily classroom teaching experienced by tens of thousands of students across the country; (2) provide cost-effective, data-driven tools and processes for instructional improvement to thousands of educators; and (3) develop an array of support resources that will ensure effective implementation of iWalkthrough in hundreds of schools across Maine and the country.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant
Great Maine Schools Project, 2001–2008
In September 2002, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the state of Maine a $10 million grant to implement recommendations from Promising Futures: A Call to Improve Learning for Maine’s Secondary Students—a seminal report outlining principles, practices, and strategies for strengthening Maine high schools to prepare every student for success in the 21st century. The Gates Foundation grant established the Great Maine Schools Project, an ambitious statewide initiative that worked to increase the achievement and aspirations of Maine’s high school students. In June 2003, the Great Maine Schools Project announced its Promising Futures High School grant program, an initiative that provided annual grant funding, coaching, and technical support to several Maine high schools undertaking comprehensive school-redesign efforts. These programs raised the number of grant-supported high schools in Maine to twenty-two, and they laid the foundation for a statewide network of schools and educators that would be united in their efforts to prepare every student for college, work, and citizenship. Over the next five years, the Great Maine Schools Project evolved from a grant-making organization into a statewide leader of high school redesign, while funding and supporting a variety of innovative programs designed to strengthen Maine’s educational system and improve the quality of teaching and learning for all students. Below is a selected overview of a few Great Maine Schools Project accomplishments:
- More than 120 of Maine’s 130 publicly funded high schools (or approximately 95%) participated in at least one of the many events, initiatives, or professional-development opportunities sponsored by the Great Maine Schools Project.
- One hundred and eleven high schools (85%) attended one or more events.
- One hundred and seven high schools (82%) participated in one or more professional-development programs.
- Approximately 55% of Maine’s publicly funded high schools—serving more than 30,000 students—participated in at least five events, initiatives, and professional-development opportunities.
- Annual funding and coaching was provided to 20 public high schools, which served approximately 12,500 students—or roughly 18% of Maine’s 68,500 public secondary school students.
- The Project’s ten regional Principals Partnerships offered leadership development to more than 70% of Maine’s public secondary school principals.
- Beginning in 2004, the Project held seven high school summits in every region of the state. Approximately 72% of Maine’s publicly funded high schools, serving more than 50,000 students, participated in these professional-development events. In addition, three multi-day Summer Institutes were held from 2003–2005 that attracted hundreds educators for three days of intensive professional development.
- Beginning in 2003, the Great Maine Schools Project helped design, fund, or support several early college programs across Maine. In addition to increasing the college aspirations and degree attainment of Maine’s low-aspirations, first-generation, low-income, and at-risk students, the Project developed early college opportunities that encouraged and reinforced broader school-improvement efforts at the secondary level.
Cohort IV, 2005–2007
Beginning in 1999, Maine’s Comprehensive School Reform Program (CSR), which was funded by the United States Department of Education and administered by the Maine Department of Education, provided grant funding and support services to middle and high schools across the state. The goal of the program was to help high-need schools ensure that all students achieved Maine’s statewide learning standards, the State of Maine Learning Results. The Southern Maine Partnership served as the external support provider for eight middle schools in the fourth cohort. Beginning in July 2007, the Great Schools Partnership became the service provider for five of these middle schools. The CSR grants were intended to raise the aspirations and achievement of all students in participating schools by addressing postsecondary preparation and literacy. This funding was made available to Title I schools that were deemed not to be making Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. The Comprehensive School Reform Program required that all schools establish a variety of organizational structures designed to enhance student learning. These structures included a leadership team to coordinate all instructional initiatives; a smaller learning communities strategy; a professional learning communities model for staff development; and a process for eliminating tracking to ensure that all students are enrolled in a rigorous academic curriculum. The schools also implemented research-based instructional strategies, such as differentiated instruction, student intervention and acceleration support, and literacy instruction in all content areas.