Credit: Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource Today
A student holds a welcoming sign at Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland.

Six Oakland schools will split $2.1 million in grants over the next two years to expand programs that allow students to work at their own pace using technology.

The grants are being awarded by the Next Generation Learning Challenge, a network of seven regional programs that aims to transform schools through the use of technology to better prepare students for college and careers.

The Oakland-based Rogers Family Foundation is the lead funder for the Oakland region and provided major funding for the grants, which will include $350,000 each to ASCEND K-­8, Redwood Heights Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, Urban Montessori, Urban Promise Academy and Lodestar, which is opening in the fall. These schools were part of a 10-­school cohort of Oakland campuses that received Next Generation Learning Challenge planning grants and support in 2015.

The new grants will help the six schools implement their plans as they create school models that will include more “personalized learning” for students, through the use of computers, projects and individual choices about what to work on. Roosevelt Middle School plans to allow students in its math and humanities courses to work individually on computers, as well as in small groups or in classwide, teacher-led activities .

Schools have flexibility in how they use the money, said Greg Klein, the foundation’s senior director of innovation and learning. Some are using it for furniture, technology, or for professional development.

“We want our schools to be showcase schools where lessons can be learned,” Klein said. “Starting this fall, we’d like them to take opportunities to visit one another and to visit other innovative schools.”

The schools worked with the Mastery Design Collaborative nonprofit to create three-­year plans for improvement, especially for low-­income students.

Support from the network is expected to “facilitate Oakland’s breaking out of the factory system of education and evolving toward a world where every student grows and thrives,”said Roosevelt Middle School Principal Cliff Hong.

Man with glasses smiling

Credit: Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource Today

Cliff Hong, principal of Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland

This spring, the school is sharing its plan with students, parents and the community, while offering training to staff before it launches its redesign in the fall, which will include a block schedule with four core classes and an elective. The core classes are math, physical education, humanities and Science, Technology, Engineering and Design, according to the school’s website.

In math classes, students will be required to show individual mastery of concepts before moving onto new curriculum areas.

“I’m excited to have choices in what we are going to learn about,” said 7th-­grader Khamilah Wright, in a news release. “Some of the choices I’m excited about are electives like music, and also being able to pick what projects we will work on.”

The six schools are expected to serve a total of more than 3,000 students in traditional and charter schools, including more than 70 percent who are low-­income. The schools were selected from among a dozen applications from Oakland campuses, including the four others that received planning grants, as well as two charter schools that were not part of the 10-school cohort.

Klein said he anticipates awarding grants to some of the schools that didn’t receive funding this winter, as their plans develop.

“I fully expect we’ll grow the number of ‘launch level’ schools in the coming months and years,” he said, “so stay tuned!”

Next Generation Learning Challenges nationwide are managed by the nonprofit EDUCAUSE, which receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

EdSource receives funding from the Gates Foundation and other foundations. EdSource maintains sole editorial control over the content of its coverage.

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