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Announcing TLA’s Virtual and Hybrid Learning Strategy Lab

by Beth Rabbitt & Nate Kellogg on November 17 2021

The Learning Accelerator is excited to announce a new cohort-based learning opportunity for districts across the country to explore how virtual and hybrid capabilities can advance equitable, personalized, and accelerated learning for students.

As brick-and-mortar schools reopen across the country, many school systems are exploring how – and if – they will build upon and sustain new pandemic-era virtual and hybrid school models. Highlighted in our recent Hop, Skip, Leapfrog research, we found that leaders are actively acknowledging the opportunity to tap into virtual flexibilities, access, and expanded resources to respond effectively to the needs and interests of students and families. Leaders are wondering, “How might we unlock resources, create access to experiences and expertise beyond school walls, offer enrichment and career exploration, and use hybrid approaches to reallocate learning time to the most critical, in-person tasks – all while creating more equitable learning environments?”

Today, we’re excited to share that TLA is launching Strategy Lab: Virtual and Hybrid Learning, a new cohort learning experience to explore exactly this question. We’re building two philanthropically funded cohorts of school systems – one launching this January and another in May 2022 – with the aim of supporting up to 20 school systems in turning their virtual or hybrid schools into exemplars of change while creating open tools, resources, and evidence of improvement for the field along the way. Together with a network of service providers and experts, we’ll be guiding districts through an inclusive process to explore and iterate on improvements to experience and instruction, capturing best practices, surfacing common challenges, and leveraging data, examples, coaching, and experts to help school systems plan for a sustainable future.

Are you interested in exploring with us? Learn more about the opportunities for school systems below.

Are you a support provider, researcher, or other partner interested in learning with us? TLA is excited to bring together other partners to participate in learning events, help us make sense of emerging data and learning, and provide coaching to cohorts. To learn about participation in this broader learning network, email Nate.Kellogg@learningaccelerator.org.

TLA’s Virtual and Hybrid Learning Strategy Lab: Information for Potential School System Participants

Why join Strategy Lab? School systems exploring virtual structures for learning need access to expert resources, peers, and a supportive, inclusive learning process to build upon momentum and identify meaningful, “doable” opportunities for improvement. This initiative is intended to be a highly supportive, action-oriented, and authentically inclusive learning experience for school system teams to come together around a common challenge and create demonstrable change for others to learn from.

How will it work? TLA is assembling two cohorts of 10-12 school system teams, bringing them together over a period of 18 months. Systems will:

  • Work with TLA individually to identify specific, measurable goals for learning and improvement, getting direct coaching from experts;

  • Collaborate with cohort districts through cohort-wide monthly programming and periodic small-group partnership;

  • Receive direct research support to gather and analyze data to help leaders make data-driven decisions about pilots and interventions as well as assess success; and

  • Leave the program with a clear action plan for next steps.

Who is eligible to apply? This is a program for public K-12 school systems in the United States (districts or charter management organizations). We are seeking districts and systems that meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate interest in sustaining a permanent virtual/hybrid school in their system – beyond the pandemic (through the use of CARES/ESSER funding or other means);

  • Serve a majority of students with greatest opportunity to benefit from systemic change, as defined as a majority of the student body including emerging multilinguists learning English, global majority students, students experiencing poverty, and/or students with exceptionalities; and

  • Demonstrate an orientation towards innovative, student-centered learning models (e.g., mastery-based, personalized, whole-child, among others), and a commitment to tackling concrete challenges of equity.

Which cohort is right for me? TLA is launching two separate year-long cohorts, both of which will explore virtual and hybrid learning strategies for improving outcomes for students using our Real-Time Redesign process – but with a slightly different entry point:

  • Cohort 1- Launching January 2022: Increasing student engagement and ownership. This cohort will explore how virtual and hybrid schools can tackle issues of engagement by piloting new online and in-person approaches that deepen connections to and between students, offer authentic “hands-on” learning experiences, and create greater personalization and choice to demonstrably improve student outcomes.

  • Cohort 2- Launching May 2022: Improving instructional equity. This cohort will explore how virtual and hybrid schools can tackle concrete instructional challenges that have arisen in remote and distance learning. Anchoring in specific content areas or demographic challenges identified in learning data, teams will explore ways to improve student outcomes through the adoption of new practices and supports for learners.

What is the cost? This program has been made possible through grant funding, so there is no fee for participation from selected district teams. In addition, TLA will be providing grants of $5,000 to each team to support the cost of gathering data as well as travel stipends for up to three participants per system to an “all-Lab” convening in summer 2022. However, school systems will need to commit to the following:

  • Identifying a project lead with 5-10 hours per week of dedicated time to communicate with TLA and manage the project internally;

  • Establishing a Strategy Lab project team of 3-5 members, including senior district leadership and virtual/hybrid school-level leadership;

  • Participating in biweekly 1:1 planning meetings with TLA and monthly cohort-wide consultancies and learning sessions;

  • Engaging consistently throughout the process with students, families, community members, and staff through surveys, focus groups, and interviews;

  • Collecting and sharing academic and non-academic data privately with the TLA research team to support planning, evaluation and improvement; and

  • Attending an in-person convening with both cohorts in July 2022.

How can I apply? Please send an email of interest to Nate.Kellogg@learningaccelerator.org. Our team will follow up to provide additional information, ask questions, and assess fit.

Access and share a Google Doc of the above information here.

About the Author

Beth Rabbitt is CEO of The Learning Accelerator and a nationally recognized expert in education innovation and blended and personalized learning. Nate Kellogg is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. With a decade of experience in schools, Nate leverages his expertise with educational technology and innovation to support school- and systems-level change.