September 5, 2017

A new school year, another chance to reimagine the student experience

How the nonprofit NewSchools Venture Fund supports educators and social entrepreneurs who are transforming public education

The nonprofit venture philanthropy firm NewSchools announced a $4 million investment in nine new, innovative schools across the country. Photo courtesy of NewSchools

When I started third grade, my mom enrolled me in a new school. Her decision to change my school, I believe, fundamentally changed how I viewed myself as a student and set me on a path to envision my life beyond the underserved community where I grew up. The school opened up a whole new world for me. It was the first time I felt known by my principal and that I mattered to my teachers–that I felt seen and heard. For the first time I had access to a library of books to read and learn from. I had science class each day and access to art, music, and computer technology classes. The school was definitely innovative for the time and is one of the reasons I have been able to achieve many of my goals.

At NewSchools, we want all students to achieve their most ambitious dreams. We believe that every student should attend a school led by diverse, mission-driven, and caring educators who ensure they not only make strong academic progress, but also learn important mindsets, skills, and habits like self-awareness, intellectual curiosity, and growth mindset—which emerging research shows are correlated with long-term success. We believe that environments like these will be places where students feel they belong and deepen their understanding of themselves and others different from them.

That’s why today, we’re thrilled to announce that we are supporting nine new, innovative schools that are opening their doors to students this fall. These investments totaling nearly $4 million and will support more than 4,000 new seats at full capacity.

In addition to these schools, hundreds of innovative schools like these have launched in the last few years and early results are encouraging–especially the degree to which they support higher achievement for students who start the furthest behind. Each year about 1,500 new public schools are launched, 67 percent charter and 33 percent district, giving all governance structures a chance to design schools that are built for student needs today and designed to prepare them for the future.

Since 2015, through our NewSchools Invent program, we have supported 60 teams that are creating more than 30,000 seats across 24 states. In addition to our funding, we support our ventures over multiple years through management assistance and a community of practice. And through research partners, we help them measure student progress in a variety of ways. All of this is designed to help schools launch successfully so that they can expand their impact to more students over time, while also inspiring other educators to follow in their footsteps.

I cannot help but be excited about these new schools and what they will do for students, their families, and their communities. My hope is that the thousands of students arriving at these nine schools, and others like them, are full of the same hope and amazement that I had as a seven-year-old in a new school back in 1995. Years from now, I am confident these schools will set their students up to achieve in college, career, and life.

Derrick Johnson

NewSchools Venture Fund

Derrick Johnson is an associate partner with NewSchools Venture Fund on the Innovative Schools team. In this role, Derrick identifies and evaluates new, innovative public school models across the country. Before joining NewSchools, Derrick served as an assistant principal at Success Academy Charter Schools, where he began as an elementary school teacher and Teach For America Corps Member. He began his career at Goldman Sachs in their Human Capital Management division, supporting programming, strategy, and analysis across talent management with a focus on diversity. Derrick earned a master’s degree in education from Stanford University, where he was a Rathbun Fellow and was awarded a tuition fellowship and the 2016 Master’s Student of the Year Award. He received his bachelor’s in business administration from Morehouse College, where he was a Gates Millennium Scholar and an Oprah Winfrey Scholar.