Building relevant, resilient, and equitable schools

A little more than a year ago, St. Louis families and educators rushed to prepare for one of the most significant disruptions to our way of life and our education system in recent history.  In the face of immense challenges, we saw remarkable ingenuity. Still, the pandemic presented unimaginable challenges for other students and their families – lack of childcare, loss of motivation, and food and housing insecurity.

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, with vaccines more readily available and more schools “reopening,” St. Louisans are standing at the gateway between one world and the next. We are uncertain about what the future may hold and anxious about snapping back to old routines that did not serve students, families, or educators well.

After all, the systems we live within are still broken. Before the pandemic began, St. Louis was home to growing disparities between Black and White students, and conditions for educators were already declining. We don’t want to return to that “normal.” We’re also human—craving connection, reprieve, and a little more certainty.

As our community prepares for this new chapter, The Opportunity Trust commits to supporting and shining a light on educators’ efforts to ensure that we do more than return to normal.


How are grant decisions made?

The Opportunity Trust is invested in exploring and forging new models of philanthropy that redistribute power.  Historically, those most directly impacted by racial and education inequity in decision-making have no voice.  The Reinvention by Community Fund is an initial pilot fund of $100,000 designed to give voice directly to these individuals in St Louis.

For the first time, The Opportunity Trust will redistribute decision-making around grant funding directly to an Advisory Committee.  The Opportunity Trust will act as a facilitator to the Advisory Committee, which will have full decision-making power.

Redistributing Power to Community – The Advisory Committee

The Reinvention by Community Fund Advisory Committee is a voting body that will be made up of 7-9 Black and Brown educators, students, and student families.  The committee will determine how to allocate grants of $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000 to individuals and teams who are launching ideas to address the full range of student and educator needs – from academics and content development to social-emotional learning and wellness.

We expect to have more interest than space in this initial round.  Our focus with the initial committee is to ensure a diversity of perspectives.  If you or your nominee are not accepted in this round, we will keep you posted about future opportunities to engage in the grantmaking processes.

Advisory Committee Selection Criteria

Advisory Committee members do not need to have previous grantmaking experience or experience on boards to participate. 

Must be at least 14-years-old

Live in St. Louis City or St. Louis County

Identify as Black or Brown

Can devote 10-15 hours in June-July to the process (financial compensation of $50 per hour provided)

Share the belief that all children can learn and succeed at the highest levels

Share the belief that systems change is necessary to put our students and schools on a better trajectory

Grant Criteria

EQUITABLE

The transformation seeks to advance equity by focusing on students’ furthest from opportunity and/or BIPOC educators.

ALIGNED

Your proposed idea aligns with at least one of Transcend Education’s Leaps for Extraordinary, 21st Century Learning.

ACHIEVABLE

Your proposal is clear on the outcomes it seeks to achieve, there is a path for it to be implemented in the near term, and you have a plan to execute it well and measure impact.

SYSTEMIC

Represents a transformation or practice that will endure and evolve beyond the fall and be incorporated into the fundamental approach of the school or district.

SCALABLE

It’s an idea that the others can learn from and potentially replicate— i.e., it's scalable, and the resources will be shared openly.

What are the Leaps for 21st Century Learning?

The Leaps for 21st Century Learning provide a framework for making the changes that are needed to move from inequitable, industrial-era learning to learning that is equitable and responsive to the demands and opportunities of today. They were developed by Transcend, a national nonprofit organization focused on innovation in school design.

High Expectations with Unlimited Opportunities

All learners experience high expectations and have equitable access to many opportunities, enabling them to progress toward their aspirations for themselves, their families, and the community—regardless of the time and support needed.

Whole-Child Focus

Learners engage in experiences that nurture the totality of cognitive, emotional, social, and physical factors that impact their learning, development, character, and overall health and well-being.

Rigorous Learning

Learners use critical thinking skills to make deep meaning of diverse, complex ideas and are assessed on their ability to apply, analyze, and use their knowledge in creative ways across contexts.

Relevance

Learning explores young peoples’ interests and goals, is connected to their communities, and enables them to understand and tackle real-world problems in authentic contexts. 

Affirmation of Self & Others

Each learner develops a unique, positive sense of self and purpose as well as a deep respect for the identities of others; these diverse identities are celebrated, nurtured, and leveraged in meaningful and anti-oppressive ways to support everyone’s learning.

Social Consciousness & Action

Learners critically examine social problems and work toward a more just world; they develop the knowledge, skills, and mindsets needed to continue taking anti-oppressive actions that disrupt and dismantle racism and other inequities.

Connection & Community

The environment is relationship-rich: learners are deeply known and respected by a variety of adults and peers; collaborate closely; and form meaningful relationships across lines of difference that nurture empathy, foster belonging, support well-being, and build social capital.

Customization

The focus, pace, and sequence of learning, as well as the resources and supports provided, are tailored to each learner’s identity, prior knowledge, development, way of learning, and
life experiences, ensuring that all learners have what they need to be successful and those who need more receive more.

Active Self-Direction

Young people are active drivers of their learning; they grapple directly with concepts while receiving adult and peer guidance and support; they have a voice in decisions about how and what they learn, so that the process grows agency and meaningfully builds on their interests and prior knowledge.

Anytime, Anywhere Learning

Learning can happen anywhere and at any time for all learners with teachers, families, community members, and other important figures in a young person’s life all playing important educational roles.


What are some ways schools are making leaps towards more equitable, 21st century learning?

Impact Schools launched a rigorous distance learning program with a holistic focus that engages K-2 students in social-emotional learning (SEL) routines, math and literacy practice, decolonized project-based learning, and robust enrichment programs.

Magnolia Montessori for All created a distance learning plan with the explicit goals of academic growth, supporting strong family systems, sustaining social-emotional growth, and facilitating community well-being.

Lindsay Unified School District in central California strengthened their learner-centered model through the disruption of the pandemic by making the leap to anywhere, anytime learning.

You can find more examples of how schools have redesigned learning and how they correspond with The Leaps here.

 

Key Dates

Application for the Advisory Committee Opens

Application for Advisory Committee Closes

Application for the Reinvention by Community Grant Opens

Apply for the Advisory Committee

  1. Review Advisory Committee Requirements

  2. Apply or nominate someone for the Advisory Committee

The Opportunity Trust invests in educators and school systems eager to build the capacity required to make significant and measurable change.

If that's you, check out our opportunities