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Da Vinci Schools Awarded Coveted Next Generation Learning Challenges Grant to Open a School with an Optional 5th Year of High School Providing Students with the Opportunity to Complete UC/CSU Transfer Requirements or an AA Degree


(LOS ANGELES, CA) – Da Vinci Schools is proud to announce that our innovative work in real-world and project-based learning has been recognized nationally with a Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. With an initial grant of $150,000, and the opportunity to raise another $300,000 that is eligible for a match from NGLC, Da Vinci is one of only 8 projects selected nationwide so far under NGLC’s Wave IIIa: Breakthrough School Models for College Readiness.

The NGLC grant will help fund the start-up of a new Da Vinci charter high school-college pathway slated to open in 2013. The new school will incorporate many of Da Vinci Schools' signature programs and practices including real world and project-based learning, a technology-rich environment, industry and educational partnerships, a small and personalized learning community, and much more. Students who opt in to the program would attend public high school and college simultaneously. Many details of the new school, including location and staffing, are still in the planning stages.

[To learn more, please read "Hawthorne charter plans one-stop campus:  Da Vinci sees merging high school, community college, university," Daily Breeze, July 30, 2012].

The idea behind this new educational model is to tackle a festering problem in education that has largely gone unnoticed: While more and more under-served students are getting into college, they rarely complete college. According to the Early College High School Initiative, about 55 percent of all college students never graduate. For low income students, about 90% do not complete college.

"Da Vinci Schools is enormously honored to be the recipient of a Next Generation Learning Challenges grant and to work alongside a community of innovators and educators committed to creating transformative, cost-effective change in public education and to dramatically improving college readiness and completion,” said Dr. Matthew Wunder, Executive Director of Da Vinci Schools. “By leveraging technology and the expertise and resources of our external partners, our teachers will have the time, resources and skills to ensure all students succeed in secondary school, college and beyond.”

Serving racially and socio-economically diverse high school students from across Los Angeles, the new high school-university will integrate components based on highly successful signature programs and practices at Da Vinci’s existing schools:

Blended Learning: In a “flipped” model, students are introduced to new content and practice skills online, either at home or in a school lab. Then, students are able to apply their learning and develop deeper understanding through hands-on, inquiry based explorations in the classrooms via dynamic project-based learning with high-quality educators.

Early College: In partnership with Antioch University Los Angeles, Marymount College, Foothill-De Anza Community College District, El Camino College, West L.A. College and others, Da Vinci students will be able to earn college credits for free while they are still in high school and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a degree after high school.

Real World Experiences: Students enrolled in the new school will benefit from Da Vinci’s extensive relationships with corporate partners, including Northrop Grumman, Belkin International, Chevron, Raytheon, Boeing, DIRECTV, and many others. Internships, tinkering labs that enable students to work directly with engineers, mathematicians, scientists and designers on real-life case studies and projects, guest lecturers, job shadowing and more will enable Da Vinci students to authentically experience real-world applications of learning. “The power of these kinds of activities on our kids is amazing – you can see them literally making the connection and realizing that something they’ve learned in math or science class really does have relevance to the world outside of school,” said Dr. Nicole Tempel Assisi, who has helped found all three of Da Vinci’s current schools and serves as Principal of Da Vinci Innovation Academy, a K-8 blended learning model. “Nothing is better than seeing a student who has really struggled suddenly become inspired, and to start talking about his future in a really ambitious way.”

The new high school-university, as-yet unnamed, will allow Da Vinci to expand its reach beyond the 1,300 students it already serves at its two existing high schools, Da Vinci Design and Da Vinci Science, and its K-8 model, the Da Vinci Innovation Academy.

The latest announcement of grant winners represent the second of three cycles of funding in NGLC’s $12 million third investment wave focused on identifying and supporting new secondary school and college models that use technology to reach targets for affordability and student success, especially for low-income students. Despite millions of dollars invested in education and high-level policy and legislative support, the U.S. continues to fall behind in college readiness and completion.

“It’s not enough to prepare kids to get into college,” said Dr. Wunder. “We must remove the roadblocks to college completion so all students can complete their degree in less time and for less money.”


Updated:  September 8, 2012

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