The Foundation is dedicated to reshaping public education to work more equitably and effectively, to ensure all learners–especially underserved students–are prepared for the future. We believe that placing all students more fully at the center of their educational experience fosters deeper learning that better prepares them for the future.  

The Foundation has awarded four grants for projects to help develop a research knowledge base. The projects will examine how student-centered approaches affect high school students, especially those who have been traditionally underserved by our educational system.  The key questions the projects will address are:

  • What are the effects of student-centered learning approaches on student achievement?
  • What specific student-centered practices and approaches lead to high student achievement?
  • In particular, how can student-centered learning promote positive educational outcomes for underserved students?

The organizations that have been awarded two year grants are: EDUCATON CONNECTION, Expeditionary Learning, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) at Stanford University, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). 

A Mixed Methods Evaluation of the Impact of a Blended Instruction Model on Underserved Student Engagement, 21st Century and Inquiry Skill Acquisition, and Academic Achievement

The Center for 21st Century Skills at EDUCATION CONNECTION, in collaboration with the Education Development Center, the Connecticut College of Technology, and the Connecticut Office of Workforce Competitiveness, has been awarded $470,000 over two years to conduct an evaluation of the impact of blended instruction on student achievement in four diverse high schools in Connecticut.  Blended instruction is an innovative and transformative student-centered approach that integrates blended learning, experiential learning, digital portfolio, and proficiency-based assessments. The proposed project will explore the impact on student engagement in science and mathematics, acquisition of 21st century learning skills, and the academic achievement of students in science.

Principal Investigators: Frank LaBanca, Ed.D., Director of the Center for 21st Century Skills and Youn Joo Oh Ed.D., Project Director, Leadership for Learning Innovation, Learning and Teaching Division, Education Development Center, Inc.

An Evaluation of Student-Centered Learning in an Expeditionary Learning School

Expeditionary Learning (EL), in partnership with Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), has been awarded $499,000 over two years to evaluate the impact of student-centered practices on student outcomes.  The project will compare achievement of students enrolled through a random lottery selection process at an EL Mentor School to those attending traditional schools in the same district.  The study will also include a comprehensive evaluation of student-centered practices in the EL school, compared to other district schools, in order to gain a deep understanding of how student-centered learning is fostered by the EL model. This study is an important step towards understanding the underlying practices of student-centered learning being implemented in highly successful learning environments.

Principal Investigators: Tedra Clark, Senior Researcher at McREL and Andrea Beesley, Senior Director at McREL

Documenting Successful Student-Centered Learning Models

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), an affiliate of the Stanford University School of Education and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, has been awarded $480,000 over two years to evaluate two models of student-centered approaches in California, Linked Pathways and Envision Schools, in order to help inform high school redesign efforts nationally.  The two models both have developed curriculum that connects classroom learning with real world experiences, with Linked Learning emphasizing collaboration between institutions and industry and Envision Schools focusing on applied learning in arts and technology.  This study will demonstrate how student-centered approaches are incorporated into the schools’ organization and practices; will relate these practices to student outcomes; and will investigate if and how student-centered approaches facilitate deep learning for students.

Principal Investigator: Linda Darling-Hammond, Co-Director, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education

Creating and Sustaining Student-Centered Learning Environments in Mathematics for Underserved Secondary Students

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has been awarded $499,000 over two years to evaluate factors that contribute to and sustain effective student-centered environments in high school mathematics. The mixed methods study will compare outcomes for teachers and students in student-centered classrooms and more traditional learning environments, including student work samples, student achievement data, and teachers’ instructional practices through an embedded case study. The project will provide concrete examples of what is required to teach student-centered mathematics in an era of high-stakes accountability; utilize innovative assessments that measure deep learning outcomes; and help policymakers devise new ways to energize and empower students to vigorously pursue paths that prepare them for the future.

Principal Investigator: Kirk Walters, Senior Research Analyst, American Institutes for Research

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


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