Four New England School Districts Continue to Receive Funds to Improve Education

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), the largest charitable organization in New England focused exclusively on education, announced today that it is continuing funding for Building New Models for Systems Change grantees: Burlington-Winooski, VT; Pittsfield, NH; Portland, ME; and Sanford, ME. Grants support these districts as they implement, sustain and build demand for student-centered approaches to learning that prepare students for success in the 21st century.

During the first 18 months of implementation, NMEF examined how the districts are building capacity, sharing power across stakeholders, changing teacher practice, and increasing student engagement.

“The steps these districts have already taken to reshape their systems to ensure an effective student-centered approach are truly impressive,” said Nicholas C. Donohue, President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “Student-centered learning prepares students to master both the academic knowledge and the critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills they need to thrive beyond high school. The Building New Models for Systems Change grants are helping local districts and communities effectively prepare all learners for success in work and life.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation,” said John Freeman, superintendent of the Pittsfield School District. “The Building New Models for Systems Change grant has been instrumental in helping us remodel our educational system to be more student-centered and is preparing our young people for a rapidly changing society.”

Each district has made significant progress towards implementing their long-term plans to support student-centered learning:

• Burlington and Winooski, under the guidance of Partnership for Change, have created an effective structure to engage the community in the school change progress. Both districts have been working to develop the high school graduation expectations necessary to guide proficiency-based learning progression, involve students in the change process through leadership experiences, and embrace technology by providing more students with laptops.

• Pittsfield, working with its Good to Great Committee, is focusing on inquiry and project-based learning that incorporates student leadership and voice. Students are voting members of the Pittsfield School Board. As lead voters on the schools site council, they have updated and changed school policies, such as replacing more punitive punishments with a system of restorative justice. Teachers worked with student to develop rubrics that assess student proficiency and that are aligned with state standards. All 9th and 10th grade students have received I Pads that they are using to participate in flipped classrooms, virtual and blended learning.

• Portland, led by its Leadership Committee, is engaging parents, community members, businesses, and universities to leverage opportunities and accomplish its goals. The district has identified and adopted two Pathways: the International Studies School Network (ISSN) and John Hopkins Talent Development Systems (TDS). Teachers from these schools are receiving intensive Professional Development as well as more time for teacher collaboration. The District is also expanding its third High school (Casco Bay and Expeditionary Learning School) by 50% making all three schools proficiency based.

• Sanford, under the direction of its Vision Implementation Steering Team, has spent the past two years investing considerable resources in training its entire teaching staff in the Reinventing School Coalition (RISC) proficiency-based model. Sanford is also making strides in technology, specifically with its purchases of iPads for 9th and 10th grades and a video conferencing system that allows students to participate in distance learning. They also adopted the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning (MCCL) measurements and learning topics, which are based on the Common Core, and authorized Enrichment Thursdays, which provide an opportunity for teacher collaboration and student involvement in enrichment activities.

To learn more about the District Level Systems Change initiative, please visit

About the Nellie Mae Education Foundation:

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest charitable organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the middle and high school levels across New England. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a three-part strategy that focuses on: developing and enhancing models of practice; reshaping education policies; and increasing public understanding and demand for high quality educational experiences. The Foundation’s initiative areas are: District Level Systems Change; State Level Systems Change; Research and Development; and Public Understanding and Demand. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $154 million in grants. For more information, visit


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