Oct 30, 2018 · 8 min read

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces Support to Advance Student Development and Success


The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) today announces its support for four education and youth organizations that are expanding scientific understanding of how students develop critical life skills like agency, self-direction and decision-making, and how best to support that development through teaching and mentoring approaches. In addition, these organizations are focused on how to support educators to structure and resource schools focused on addressing the needs of the whole child. CZI is investing $3.3 million in this innovative work across four unique organizations: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, GripTape, Peer Health Exchange, and Roses In Concrete Community School.

The Chan Zuckerberg Education Initiative is working to ensure every child enters adulthood with the knowledge, skills, habits, and agency they need to realize their full potential.  CZI believes this requires creating a tailored teaching and learning experience that supports holistic student and teacher needs, across academic, cognitive, social emotional, identity, physical health, and mental health needs.

“Together with partners who work directly with students and educators each day ―  our team is aiming to expand student success along dimensions that go beyond academic development,”  said K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, a Director of CZI’s Education Initiative. “The common thread that connects the diverse and vibrant community of partners is their shared commitment to capturing and validating the research and examples of practice that best support the needs of the whole child.”  

Advancing Social and Emotional Learning Resources for Schools.  Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has a mission to make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. CASEL’s work extends across the research, practice and policy realms.

As part of the partnership, CZI is providing $750,000 to support CASEL’s engagement of leading scholars and practitioners to ensure SEL reflects the latest science and best practices and policies in the field.  Findings will inform the continued development and refinement of CASEL’s suite of practical resources to support schools and school  districts in promoting social and emotional learning.

“Social emotional learning plays a critical role in creating supportive and equitable learning environments and promoting the positive development of all students. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s investment is helping to advance critical research on social emotional learning and to ensure the scale of high-quality social emotional learning implementation,” said Karen Niemi, CASEL President & CEO

Empowering Young People to Drive Their Own Learning. GripTape is a youth-designed and youth-led organization that grew out of a problem identified by students themselves: a lack of opportunities to pursue their own learning passions and interests, and to drive their education. GripTape Youth Leaders created the Learning Challenge, which supports participants with up to $500, a peer network and a  Champion for encouragement. Since it launched in 2015, more than 250 youth-led Learning Challenges have enabled young people to pursue a diverse array of self-selected learning topics including music, hardware and software design, medicine, engineering, social ventures and entrepreneurship.

CZI will provide $1.2 million in grant support over three years to help GripTape identify conditions and variables, such as interest, authority, and purpose, that facilitate the development of agency and self-direction as young people pursue their passions and interests.  The team at GripTape will also pursue the outcomes of young people developing agency, such as changes in confidence, skills and learning behaviors.

“Our program and research approach allows us to learn effectively ― and quickly ― how best to help young people drive their learning passions forward.  Through rapid learning cycles, we can create and pilot different variations and program approaches and continually evolve based on what data is showing,” said Youth Leadership Board member Femi Adebogun.

Nathan Simpson, another board member added, “Because we operate outside of formal learning environments and at the boundary of what people perceive possible, we have the opportunity to pilot transformative ideas and approaches directly with ― and led by ― youth.”

Empowering Students to Make Healthy Decisions. Peer Health Exchange partners with under-resourced high schools to supplement existing ― or in most cases, to provide ― health education. Their vision is that, with their partners, Peer Health Exchange will advance health equity and improve health outcomes for young people. Peer Health Exchange recruits and rigorously trains college student volunteers to serve as health educators in the classroom; as slightly older peers, Peer Health Exchange volunteers are well-positioned to lead honest conversations about high school students’ choices and health.

With $700,000 in grant support from CZI, Peer Health Exchange will collaborate with experts in adolescent development, including adolescent psychiatrists and cognitive scientists, to build evidence for skills-based, preventative health education, develop more rigorous, scientifically-grounded definitions and standards in the area of adolescent decision-making (skills that overlap across health education and social emotional development), and through this evidence-building, encourage greater investment in effective health education by both health and education systems.

“Our hope is this work will demonstrate how to impact adolescents’ decision-making skills and help-seeking behavior, both of which contribute to better physical and mental health outcomes and correlate to both academic success and positive outcomes in life beyond school,” said Louise Langheier, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Peer Health Exchange.

Supporting Teacher and Student Wellness. Roses in Concrete Community School (grades K-8) in  East Oakland, California is a community responsive lab school whose primary goal is to develop youth committed to lives characterized by self-discipline, integrity, love and hope in the pursuit of justice and equity for all communities. With the $685,000 grant from CZI,  Roses in Concrete will partner with the Teaching Excellence Network (TEN) to expand a pilot project aimed at equipping teachers with trauma-informed practices to address the exposure to toxic stress, poverty, and violence faced by children in under resourced communities. Focused on trauma-informed practices related to relationships, relevance, and responsibility, this project was piloted in the most recent school year with two teachers and with an emphasis on addressing the secondary trauma teachers face in this work. At the heart of the partnership between Roses and Concrete and TEN  is research and continuous improvement. They will use data to drive actions, and regularly monitor and modify approaches to best support teacher and student wellness, as well as student academic achievement.

“Research shows that trauma leads to toxic stress that negatively impacts a child’s ability to cope, thrive and succeed in life. Creating trauma-informed, equipped and supported teachers is critical to addressing the rampant toxic stressors children in Oakland, and other communities, face regularly,” said Dr. Jeff Duncan Andrade, Roses in Concrete Board Chair and Founder. “Without teachers being supported and prepared to address these sources of trauma, a child’s ― and a community’s ― cycle of vulnerability is perpetuated.”

The grants announced today build on four earlier grants aimed at supporting teachers in their focus on whole child development.  In February, CZI announced more than  $5 million in combined support for the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, Dr. Matthew Biel of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Dr. Stephanie Jones of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, San Mateo County’s Ravenswood City School District for a variety of programs designed to support teachers in their personal development, mentorship, and self-care.


Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan in December 2015, is a new kind of philanthropic organization that brings together world-class engineering, grant-making, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work. Our initial areas of focus include supporting science through basic biomedical research and education through personalized learning. We are also exploring other issues tied to the promotion of equal opportunity including access to affordable housing and criminal justice reform. For more information, go to chanzuckerberg.com.

GripTape gives young people the traction they need to seize control of their own learning, choose their purposes, and achieve their full potential. At GripTape, we offer radically different learning experiences for young people to pursue their own learning passions, while supporting them with resources, respect, and authority.  We believe that the most valuable learning happens when youth have the opportunity to explore their own interests, in their own way, outside the constraints of traditional learning environments. We envision a future in which youth-driven learning is a powerful force, playing a greater role for young people than that of formal learning environments.

Peer Health Exchange
Peer Health Exchange’s mission is to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions. We do this by training college students to teach a skills-based health curriculum in under-resourced high schools across the country.

Roses in Concrete Community School
Roses in Concrete Community School is a K-8 school in East Oakland, CA functioning as a center of health within the neighborhoods surrounding it, providing wrap-around services in education, health, housing, and job training. Our primary goal is to develop youth committed to lives characterized by self-discipline, integrity, love and hope in the pursuit of justice and equity for all communities. The long-term goal is to create a model for urban education that prioritizes the needs of youth and families as the pathway to building healthy and sustainable communities across the U.S. and around the world.

TEN (Teaching Excellence Network)
TEN brings together teachers, school leaders, students, and families to build community responsive schools and classroom cultures that lead to engagement and success. TEN is designed by nationally acclaimed teachers and education researchers to find, develop and share the qualities that make schools exceptionally effective in equitably serving their students and community.

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