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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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’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.
Grants will be awarded in two phases, an initial Phase 1 that will provide up to $100,000 for the design or development of new solutions and Phase 2 that will provide up to $300,000 for the implementation of the new solution.
Phase 1: Design or Development
- July 11, 2023: Bellwether releases the Call for Applications.
- August 22, 2023: Phase 1 applications due.
- Late September 2023: Applicants are notified of whether their application will be funded.
- Mid-October 2023: Grantees receive up to $100,000 in funding.
- October 2023 through January 2024: Grantees design or develop new solutions.
- Late January 2024: Grantees report Phase 1 outputs of their work.
Phase 2: Implementation
- February 2024: Select grantees are invited to apply for additional funding up to $300,000 to support the implementation of new solutions.
- March 2024: Phase 2 applications due.
- April 2024: Applicants are notified of whether their application will be funded and receive up to $300,000 in funding.
- April through September 2024: Grantees implement their new solutions.
- September 2024: Grantees report outcomes of their work.
Entities eligible to apply for funding include family-serving organizations, technology companies or providers, and state agencies or state program administrators. All applicants and partners must be registered or incorporated in accordance with applicable state and local laws, as well as maintain a primary place of business in the United States. An eligible entity may not be the lead on more than one application.
For-profit entities are eligible to apply if they intend to use the grant for charitable purposes and agree to comply with procedures for assuring that grant funds are spent solely for the charitable purposes intended.
Bellwether will give special consideration to applications that propose:
- Partnerships between two or more eligible entities that enable coordinated solutions for families and students furthest from opportunity.
- Solutions that have leveraged or will leverage user research, human-centered design, and/or stakeholder engagement to ensure solutions are responsive to the experiences, needs, and perspectives of families and students furthest from opportunity.
- Solutions that facilitate or will facilitate participation in and satisfaction with publicly funded programs, such as state education savings account programs or microgrant programs, in which
- Families have direct control over funding,
- Families can use funding for a variety of learning options that supplement or supplant a traditional school experience, or
- Families can use funding for expenses that may include but are not limited to school tuition.
Applications will first be reviewed by Bellwether staff and technical judges for responsiveness to the aims of the Assembly Grant Program and the soundness of the proposed new solution. Bellwether staff and external advisers will then review the top applications for their ingenuity and potential impact. Final funding decisions will be made by the Bellwether team.
About the Advisers
Cara Candal, Ed.D.
Oscar E. Cruz
Director, K12 Education, Stand Together Trust
Chief of Staff, EL Education
Analyst, Watershed Advisors
Program Officer, Education Program, Walton Family Foundation
Director – SEO Leadership Institute, SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity)
Maya Martin Cadogan
Executive Director, PAVE (Parents Amplifying Voices in Education)
CEO, GO Public Schools and GO Public Schools Advocates
Felicia C. Smith, Ed.D.
President, National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)
Nonprofit Management Consultant, Still Make Good