July 2023

Assembly Grant Program

New Solutions That Connect Families With Learning Options

About the Grant Program

The application deadline for the Assembly Grant Program has passed, and the program is no longer accepting applications for this or future rounds of funding. We announced the first round of grantees in January 2024.

The Assembly Grant Program will provide grants of up to $100,000 to organizations designing or developing new solutions to help families furthest from opportunity access flexible, personalized learning options. Select grantees will be invited to apply for a second round of up to $300,000 in funding to support implementation in early 2024.  

Seven in ten parents are interested in exploring new learning options for their children, whether changing schools or finding different out-of-school options. Many express interest in extracurricular activities, tutoring, or alternative learning formats like learning pods, microschools, and home-schooling. Declining enrollment in public schools suggests that many families are looking for something the traditional school experience doesn’t provide. The demand for flexible, personalized learning options is on the rise. 

Whether families are looking for learning options to supplement or replace the traditional school experience, however, their access to those options too often depends on their financial means and the time and energy they can devote to identifying the options that work best for them. The scale of family demand and the increasing complexity of the learning ecosystem demand new scalable and sustainable solutions to the challenges of navigation.  

The Assembly Grant Program is a partnership between Bellwether and the Walton Family Foundation.

The Grant Program Brief and Grant Program Rules, below, include important context and guidance for the Call for Applications. These documents provide information related to metrics, budget submission, intellectual property, conflicts of interest, and more, along with example solutions. 

Review the FAQs for more information.

Grant Purpose 

Grant funding may be used to support a wide variety of activities, including user research or stakeholder engagement to identify unmet needs; the design of new tools, resources, or approaches to providing support to families; or the piloting of advancements in new technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence) or services and their refinement in response to feedback. What applications must do is propose a new solution that will improve how families access one or more of the following: 

  • Funding: Streamline how families enroll in programs that provide public funding to defray the costs of learning options. 
  • Information: Provide the information families value most in searching for and selecting available learning options. 
  • Guidance: Support families in selecting learning options, including but not limited to the quality of options and how options align to students’ individual needs. 

About the Phase 1 Grantees

Bellwether is delighted to announce seven grantees for the Assembly Grant Program. All of the grantees stood out for their creativity, commitment to families furthest from opportunity, potential for impact, and robust partnerships with other organizations and their communities. These organizations have immense potential to address the barriers that prevent families from accessing flexible, personalized learning, and we are excited to support the design and development of their proposed solutions. 

Learn more about Assembly here, including our first cohort of Filling the Gap grantees.

Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire and Yes. Every Kid. 

The Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) empowers New Hampshire families, especially those furthest from opportunity, to find the K-12 learning experiences that best fit their needs. CSF administers the state’s Education Freedom Accounts and the Education Tax Credit scholarship program, both of which allow families to direct state funds toward learning experiences of their choice, including technology, sports, arts, curricular materials, virtual options, and tuition at a public, private, career, or hybrid school. As part of the Assembly Grant Program, CSF plans to work closely with families and education providers to improve CSF’s technology systems with the goal of removing barriers that prevent families from customizing their children’s learning experiences. 

Education Foundation of Sarasota County, ASALH Manasota, and the Gamma Xi Boulé Foundation 

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County has deep ties in Sarasota and is committed to serving the predominantly African American sixth- through 12th-graders in the Newtown community. The state’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options offers families financial support to select learning options for their children, but families in Newtown face other significant barriers that keep them from accessing these services. As part of the Assembly Grant Program, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County plans to develop a shared understanding of what quality navigation looks like in deep partnership with families in the Newtown community and co-create solutions that will empower families to make informed choices that align with their educational aspirations. 

GreatSchools 

For the past 25 years, GreatSchools has been a trusted source of information, offering families information and guidance to help them as they search for high-quality schools for their children. Unfortunately, barriers like cost and a lack of information too often keep families from pursuing school options, and they need even more support as the ecosystem of options becomes more complex. Through the Assembly Grant Program, GreatSchools will develop a system that leverages data on user characteristics and behavior to identify those furthest from opportunity and tailor outreach to connect families to both flexible, personalized, and high-quality learning providers, as well as information about local, publicly funded programs for which families may be eligible. 

Institute for Quality Education and Student First Technologies 

The Institute for Quality Education (IQE) empowers Indiana parents to choose the education that best fits their child’s needs by providing honest information, navigation services, and scholarship resources. While school choice has been part of Indiana’s landscape in one way or another for 20 years, IQE research consistently shows that roughly 60% of families are unaware of the options available and how to access them. Through the Assembly Grant Program, IQE will design an enhanced version of their My School Options platform that includes more personalized, flexible options (including but not limited to school choice); new features on the platform will also help families navigate learning options and identify those that are most aligned and relevant to their children’s needs and goals. 

NavigatEd Arizona and Families Empowered 

NavigatEd Arizona envisions a future in which all families have access to the learning environment that best serves their children. While myriad options allow families to customize their children’s learning experiences, they need neutral, accurate, and actionable information about how to access options and public funding, including the Empowerment Scholarship program. As part of the Assembly Grant program, NavigatEd Arizona will build an inventory of flexible, personalized learning options — including dual enrollment and part-time enrollment opportunities — that will allow them to improve the free, one-on-one guidance they offer to families who hope to create truly personalized learning experiences for their children. 

Odyssey 

Odyssey supports families seeking to customize their children’s education by offering a marketplace of learning options available through state education savings accounts and microgrant programs. Although these choice programs address cost barriers for families, other barriers remain. Identity verification processes can burden families by requiring multistep document uploads. Families also need better support, including the ability to ask questions at any hour of the day and communicate in their primary or native language. As part of the Assembly Grant Program, Odyssey will design and improve its technology solutions, such as real-time identity verification and artificial intelligence-powered customer support, to address challenges that disproportionately affect families furthest from opportunity. 

Outschool.org and the Virginia Department of Education

Outschool.org’s Outbridge program curates information and fosters supportive communities to help racially and economically marginalized families navigate learning options. Virginia’s Learning Acceleration Grants offer families up to $3,000 to access tutoring, assistive technologies, and specialized educational therapy services and supports. Unfortunately, the families who need these services the most face a range of barriers that keep them from effectively leveraging these funds to support their children’s learning. As part of the Assembly Grant program, Outbridge will develop new features of its platform that provide personalized information and strengthen community networks so that more Virginia families can identify and select in-person and virtual learning opportunities for their children. 

About the Phase 2 Grantees

Bellwether is thrilled to announce that the nonprofit organizations Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire and Outschool.org have been selected to receive $300,000 each in Phase 2 funding from the Assembly Grant Program. The funding will enable both grantees to implement the solutions they designed in Phase 1 of the program. 

 Both grantees stood out because of their commitment to families furthest from opportunity and the potential to grow and sustain their solutions. We are excited to support these grantees as they work to empower families and expand access to flexible, high-quality learning options. 

 Learn more about the Assembly Grant Program here, including the Phase 1 grantees.   

Children’s Scholarship Fund NH: New Technology to Address Barriers for Families 

Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) empowers New Hampshire families, especially those furthest from opportunity, to find the K-12 learning experiences that best fit their needs. CSF administers the state’s Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) and the Education Tax Credit scholarship program, both of which provide funding to families for learning experiences of their choice, including technology, sports, arts, curricular materials, virtual options, and school tuition. 

Currently, families looking to access the EFA and Education Tax Credit Scholarship programs need to use three online platforms to submit applications, verify their eligibility, and pay for their chosen learning options. In Phase 1, CSF conducted a needs assessment to better understand the challenges that families face while using these platforms. CSF used the results from that needs assessment to design the new NH Education Freedom Platform.  

The New Hampshire Education Freedom Platform is an all-in-one portal with mobile optimization, a user-friendly interface, and a single login for families. In Phase 2, CSF will launch the platform during the 2024-25 school year. The platform will allow families to apply for funding, verify their eligibility, shop online, and pay or request reimbursement in one place. CSF also plans to train and integrate an AI-powered tool to streamline and improve their support for families. Finally, they will add a searchable map of education providers so families can explore and compare various learning options. 

Outschool: Expanding Access to Personalized Navigation 

Outschool.org acts as a trusted guide for families furthest from opportunity so they can effectively participate in public direct-to-family scholarship programs through its Outbridge services. By identifying the biggest obstacles for families, designing communications to address those barriers, and providing one-on-one coaching, Outbridge navigators give families guidance and information to find K-12 learning options eligible for public funds that fit their students’ needs, interests, and goals.

In Phase 1 of the Assembly Grant Program, Outschool.org worked to address the barriers that many families faced in accessing Virginia’s Learning Acceleration Grants. Outschool.org developed new online platform content and features and tailored services that reached 12,000 learners from low-income families. Through their work, Outschool.org saw an increase of nearly $3 million in family spending, helping the Learning Acceleration Grant program flourish.

In Phase 2, the Outbridge program will expand its support to Ohio and South Carolina. In Ohio, the Assembly Grant will enable Outschool.org to provide navigation support for 75,000 learners enrolled in the Afterschool Child Enrichment grant program. Outbridge will also partner with the South Carolina Department of Education and ClassWallet to support up to 5,000 learners and families enrolled in year one of the Education Scholarship Trust Fund program. 

About the Advisers

Alex Spurrier

Cara Candal, Ed.D.

Vice President, Policy, ExcelinEd
Alex Spurrier

Oscar E. Cruz

Nonprofit Leader
Alex Spurrier

Raphael Gang

Director, K12 Education, Stand Together Trust

Alex Spurrier

Derrick Johnson

Chief of Staff, EL Education

Alex Spurrier

Hannah Jolibois

Analyst, Watershed Advisors

Alex Spurrier

Jamie Jutila

Program Officer, Education Program, Walton Family Foundation

Alex Spurrier

Daree Lewis

Director – SEO Leadership Institute, SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity)

Alex Spurrier

Maya Martin Cadogan

Executive Director, PAVE (Parents Amplifying Voices in Education)

Alex Spurrier

Darcel Sanders

CEO, GO Public Schools and GO Public Schools Advocates

Linea Koehler

Elizabeth Schmidt

Founder and CEO, Uppercase
Linea Koehler

Felicia C. Smith, Ed.D.

President, National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)

Alex Spurrier

Juliet Squire

Senior Partner, Bellwether
Alex Spurrier

Gene Wade

Venture Advisor, AI Fund
Alex Spurrier

Kate Watts

Nonprofit Management Consultant, Still Make Good

Bellwether
Bellwether is a national nonprofit that exists to transform education to ensure systemically marginalized young people achieve outcomes that lead to fulfilling lives and flourishing communities. Founded in 2010, we work hand in hand with education leaders and organizations to accelerate their impact, inform and influence policy and program design, and share what we learn along the way. For more, visit bellwether.org.
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