State Policy Network
Announcing the Winners of SPN’s 2023 Ed-Prize

State Policy Network is pleased to announce Canary Academy, Let Grow, and Red Bridge Education are the winners of the 2023 Ed-Prize.

Ed-Prize inspires and accelerates new solutions through grant-making so that education outcomes are improved across the country. Since 2020, State Policy Network has invested in ambitious, innovative projects. Thanks to the generosity of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, the Challenge Foundation, Stand Together Trust, and the Walton Family Foundation, winners of Ed-Prize advance flexible learning models, drive accountability through transparency, empower education entrepreneurs, and improve performance in K-12 education programs and finances.

Sponsored by Stand Together Trust in 2023, Ed-Prize received more than 200 applications from nonprofits that are improving education for students. Learn more about the winners’ projects below.

Canary Academy Launches Initiative to Support Homeschoolers and Promote Home Education

Nasiyah Isra Ul, a 15-year-old homeschooled girl from Virginia, noticed her brother was not catching on to his homeschooling lessons. Nasiyah realized he was not a book learner, or someone that learns by reading. He learns by doing. Nasiyah decided to create a learning program specifically for him. Her brother loved it, and he started to grasp the concepts he was previously struggling with.

Seeing the impact she had on her brother sparked an idea for Nasiyah: Why not make the learning programs she created available to all homeschoolers? Nasiyah got to work. She built Canary Academy Online in 2020, a one-stop shop where homeschoolers can go to get the best content, instructional materials, customizable courses, and advice.

With the support from Ed-Prize, Nasiyah will enhance Canary’s Representation Matters in Home Education Initiative, a grassroots effort led primarily by youth to empower and support homeschoolers in underserved, underrepresented, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. The project will consist of three things.

First, the initiative will showcase and highlight the stories and narratives of these families, their experiences, and the possible solutions to support and serve them. Homeschooling can be and is a great alternative to public education for those in underserved communities, but the financial burden and lack of access to information can inhibit or repel families from exploring this route.

Second, as alternative education options like homeschooling can be expensive, this initiative provides financial support and technology to those in need to encourage further exploration of home education.

And finally, the Canary’s homeschooling initiative will connect supporters, advocates, mentors, and leaders in homeschooling to build a support base while linking homeschoolers with opportunities they don’t normally have access to.

Nasiyah added:

“As a homeschool graduate myself, I understand just how important it is to have the freedom to choose what form of education works best for you. But many families do not have this luxury due to socioeconomic barriers. We hope to change this through our initiative supporting homeschoolers—one day at a time.”

Let Grow Will Continue to Lead the Movement for Childhood Independence

Think back to your childhood. If you’re over 30, your childhood was full of unstructured play, autonomy, mobility, and lots of free time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for younger generations. Childhood today is full of structured time—lessons, tutoring, organized sports, and hours in the car.

Parents have been conditioned to think their children are in constant danger of physical harm, emotional distress, and falling behind their peers. Because of this conditioning, parents rarely let their children do things independently—an essential activity that builds character and independence. 

Let Grow is an organization working to change how children experience childhood and growing up. Let Grow makes it easy, normal, and legal to give kids the independence they need to become capable, confident, and happy adults. The organization provides an experience for kids to do something new—on their own, without adult supervision.

Ed-Prize will enable Let Grow to expand “The Let Grow Experience” to nontraditional schools, including charters, microschools, and even homeschoolers. The Let Grow Experience is a simple homework assignment that directs students to do something they’ve never done before without adult assistance or supervision.

As Andrea Keith, Executive Director at Let Grow, explains: “Kids need to experience agency to develop executive functioning and social-emotional skills, and this ‘assignment’ brings families, students, and teachers together in supporting that. The Experience will include everything a school needs to start and sustain the program, which mainly takes place at home, packaged as a robust ‘curriculum’ but extremely flexible in the process.”

Andrea added:

“The greatest impact happens when students complete multiple Projects throughout the year, gradually building and celebrating autonomy and confidence. Parents learn to step back and trust their kids more, and schools benefit from students who are better able to be self-directed learners.”

Let Grow will initially implement the program in several schools in New York and Massachusetts and hopes to expand in the coming years.

Red Bridge Creates New Evaluation System to Support Student Agency

Kids in traditional schools often learn they can scrape by with a “C”; that it’s more important to stay out of trouble instead of going through the trouble of learning; and that the surest way to get an “A” is to playback whatever the teacher wants to hear. In other words, the lesson in a lot of traditional schools is compliance. Compliance, however, won’t get them very far in life.

Red Bridge is a different approach to schooling that helps children develop agency—or the ability to set meaningful goals and have the will and skill to achieve them. Red Bridge doesn’t just teach students what to learn, they teach them how to learn. How to master subjects and skills—not just go through the paces. How to self-evaluate, not just go for the grade. How to learn from other students, and not just compete with them. Red Bridge’s mission is for all students to graduate with a sense of ownership over their learning and their lives—so that no matter what the future looks like, they have the capacity to adapt and flourish.

With the 2023 Ed-Prize in hand, Red Bridge will create and test a competency-based evaluation system called “Learning Credits.” Learning Credits are a system of assessment that puts students in control of what they achieve and when they achieve it. At its core, this system works the same way scout badging works. Students have a bank of credits to select from and sign up to be assessed when they feel they have mastered the material. Traditionally, assessment has been solely the job of the teacher, which leaves students to face evaluation whether they’re ready or not, interested in the subject or not, and moved forward regardless of how they do.

Red Bridge has implemented the Learning Credits system with 30 students at their school and will use Ed-Prize to expand the system to other schools. Orly Friedman, the founder and Head of School at Red Bridge added:

“Ultimately, we aspire to build an index similar to a book of merit badges, filled with the credits students can work to earn (some they’ve designed themselves), which motivate them each day to pursue the concepts that intrigue them and to realize the agency they have in their own learning journey.”

This project will give students more control over their education while helping them develop essential skills they need to succeed in school and life.

Ed-Prize winners will be recognized at SPN’s 31st Annual Meeting in Chicago. Congrats to Canary Academy, Let Grow, and Red Bridge! Your stories are inspiring and we look forward to hearing about the positive impact you will have on children across the country.

Categories: News
Organization: State Policy Network