Wednesday, March 24, 2010

QUINCY, MA – March 24, 2010 – In an effort to prepare all of New England’s learners with the skills and capacities they need for full participation in postsecondary education, work and life, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation announced today that it will shift its strategic focus to promote the integration of student-centered learning approaches at the middle and high school levels across the region.

Student-centered approaches – sometimes referred to as “personalized” learning approaches - are based on the science of how people learn and are frequently characterized by:
  • Innovative uses of time
  • Inclusion of a wider variety of adults - to complement teachers - in all aspects of learning
  • Measurement of skills and mastery of content using a combination of demonstration and traditional testing
  • Learning that takes place both in and out of the classroom
  • A persistent focus on the needs and interests of learners
“We feel that student-centered learning approaches can serve as a catalyst for significant change in education and, ultimately, the greater well-being of our region,” said Nellie Mae Education Foundation President and CEO Nicholas Donohue. “The promise of Education is about more than mandatory classroom hours and narrowly defined ways of measuring knowledge. It is about closing the opportunity and performance gaps among different populations and increasing the performance of all students in order to improve our collective prospects for the future.”

The Foundation will promote student-centered learning through four initiatives:
  • District Level Systems Change, which includes the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches, as well as policy and advocacy work at the district level;
  • State Level Systems Change, which focuses on promoting state and federal education policies that support student-centered learning at scale;
  • Research and Development, which not only informs our work, but also that of practitioners in the fields of education and philanthropy; and
  • Public Understanding, which aims to increase both awareness of student-centered learning approaches and the public will to implement them.
The Foundation will attempt to elevate student-centered learning so that it is eventually a core facet of our education system and not just an alternative option. In an effort to achieve this goal, the Foundation will concentrate its efforts in three important areas: the Foundation will work with grantees to develop and enhance effective student-centered learning models; it will attempt to reshape the policies that define schooling; and it will promote increased public demand for high quality educational experiences.

Added Mary Sylvia Harrison, Vice President of Programs at the Foundation, “We believe that if we are to address issues of equity and meet the economic, social, and educational challenges we face as a society, we must make student-centered learning approaches available to all students.”

While the new grantmaking strategy takes effect immediately, the Foundation will continue to fund existing long-term grant commitments.

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-pronged strategy that focuses on: developing and enhancing models of practice; reshaping educational policies; and increasing public demand for high quality educational experiences. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $110 million in grants. For information on the Foundation’s grantmaking initiatives, visit