New Tech Network, a nonprofit organization whose project-based learning approach is used in more than 160 public schools, will be spun off from its parent, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a social enterprise focused on creating sustainable improvement in student readiness for college and careers, the organization announced Wednesday.
Barry Schuler, the former chairman and CEO of America Online Inc. and now managing director of DFJ Growth Fund, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm, is leading the transition. He has been a board member of Cincinnati, Ohio-based KnowledgeWorks for nearly five years, and the Schuler Family Fund will seed New Tech as an independent nonprofit with an initial $10 million grant. In addition, KnowledgeWorks will contribute $1.5 million, according to a KnowledgeWorks release.
“Barry has the venture capital growth experience that he felt he could take [New Tech Network] to the next level,” said KnowledgeWorks’ CEO Judy Peppler in a phone interview. “We thought it was a real win-win for both of us,” said Peppler, whose organization will continue to partner with the network.
Schuler, in a phone interview, said New Tech Network is at the stage where the fundamental building blocks for replicating its model are in place. “There’s a methodology for standing up a New Tech high school,” he said. “We know how to train teachers and administrators. We know the support and software tools they need. We have district-wide pilots underway.”
For 2014-15, the network is currently scheduled to add another 30 schools, bringing the total number of schools operating with its blueprint close to 200. New Technology High School, the first New Tech Network school, opened in 1996 in Napa, Calif. Five years later, the organization began to replicate its school model and was acquired by KnowledgeWorks in 2009, allowing the network to further expand its reach. Under KnowledgeWorks’ guidance, the network has quadrupled in size, and currently operates in schools in 27 states.
“We’ve touched 40,000 or more students” in total, said Schuler, who said the organization now has the data to support its impact. “We’re a community-enabling organization. We’re not divisive.” Schuler said the organization is not actively selling its approach, but rather responding to inquiries from interested communities.
Schuler’s goal is to make New Tech a “self-scaling” organization, where the systems and policies are in place to help a community that wants a New Tech high school to make that transition. Once the school is thriving, the idea is for that school to become a center of excellence with its educators and administrators leading other schools in the district through a similar transformation.
KnowledgeWorks, which is focused on providing innovative education approaches and advancing aligned education policy, includes EDWorks and StriveTogether in its portfolio. Peppler said there is room for KnowledgeWorks to add to its offerings. A team within the organization will be “exploring the landscape for what the next innovations are,” she said.
This blog post was updated on July 6 to include comments from an interview with Barry Schuler.