NewSchools Venture Fund

The NewSchools Venture Fund is a non-profit venture philanthropy fund that invests in educational entrepreneurship projects at the K-12 levels in United States public schools. NewSchools offers expertise and administrative support as well funding, both through Charter Accelerator Fund, which helps establish charter school systems, and through its Performance Accelerator Fund, which supports entrepreneurial projects in established school systems. The organization invests in both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, focusing its portfolio on projects that have the potential to benefit underserved children.


NewSchools states that: “Our mission is to transform public education so that all children – especially those underserved – have the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century." []

Public education is in a crisis. Far too few of our nation’s students are receiving a high-quality public education, let alone mastering the advanced content and skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century. This problem is particularly acute in urban areas, where educators struggle to improve achievement for a large, diverse student population – and within the constraints of a bureaucratic system designed for an earlier era.

Since our founding in 1998, NewSchools has worked to transform public education, particularly for low-income and minority children in historically underserved urban communities. To achieve this goal, we support education entrepreneurs, help them grow their organizations to scale, and help connect their work to broader systems change.

These entrepreneurs increase the supply of new high-quality schools, tools, leaders, and teachers that serve students. They also contribute to the momentum toward more significant improvement within the existing system. By redefining our sense of what is possible in public education, we believe these entrepreneurs have the potential to spark dramatic change in public education so that all our nation’s students are successfully prepared for college, career and citizenship.

The organization follows a venture philanthropy approach to addressing these issues.

What is Venture Philanthropy?

Venture philanthropy takes concepts and techniques from venture capital finance and high technology business management and applies them to achieving philanthropic goals. Venture philanthropy is generally characterized by:

:*Willingness to experiment and try new approaches. :*Focus on measurable results: donors and grantees assess progress based on mutually determined benchmarks. :*Readiness to shift funds between organizations and goals based on tracking those measurable results. :*Giving financial, intellectual, and human capital. :*Funding on a multi-year basis - typically a minimum of 3 years, on average 5-7 years. :*Focus on capacity building, instead of programs or general operating expenses. :*High involvement by donors with their grantees. For example, some donors will take positions on the boards of the nonprofits they fund.

There are three models for engaging in venture philanthropy. The first is traditional foundations practicing high-engagement grantmaking. The second is organizations which are funded by individuals, but all engagement is done by professional staff. An example of this type of venture philanthropy is the Robin Hood Foundation in New York. The third is the partnership model, in which partner investors both donate the financial capital and engage with the grantees. Most of these are pass-through funds (i.e. they do not have an endowment, but rather grant out all the money they are given annually). An example of this model is the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund in San Jose, California.

NewSchools Founding and Current Leadership

New Schools was founded in 1998 by social entrepreneur Kim Smith and venture capitalists John Doerr and Brook Byers, with the intention of taking the entrepreneurial energy they had seen in the technology sector and unleashing it in education. It is now led by CEO Ted Mitchell, a veteran educational reformer [] .

The Board of Directors of NewSchools is comprised of nine individuals [] :

:*Ted Mitchell, CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund [] :*Brook Byers, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers [] :*John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers [] :*Chris Gabrieli, Co-Founder and Chairman, Massachusetts 2020 [] :*Laurene Powell, Co-Founder and President of the Board, College Track [] :*Joanna Rees, Founder and Managing Partner, VSP Capital [] :*Kim Smith, Co-Founder and Senior Advisor, NewSchools Venture Fund [] :*Isaac Vaughn, Managing Director, SC Investments Consulting, LLC [] :*Dave Whorton, Managing Director, Tugboat Ventures []

Additionally, there are six Partners and C-level executives who manage the day-to-day operations of the organization [] :

:*Ted Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer [] :*Jordan Meranus, Partner [] :*Julie Mikuta, Partner [] :*Jim Peyser, Partner [] :*Jonathan Schorr, Partner [] :*Joanne S. Weiss, Partner and Chief Operating Officer []

Fundraising Efforts

Since its founding in 1998, NewSchools has raised over $125 million from grants and donations from private individuals, corporations, and philanthropic foundations. NewSchools’ major fundraising milestones have included:

May 2007: $5 million grant from The Broad Foundation to invest in public charter school management organizations and other entrepreneurial ventures working to increase the number and quality of public charter schools nationwide [] .

June 2006: $22 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help develop additional charter schools [] .

December 2002: $4.74 million grant from The Broad Foundation to support Aspire Public Schools in creating seven new charter schools by 2007 [] .

September 2002: $2 million from venture capitalist and entrepreneur Jim Clark and his wife Nancy Rutter Clark [] .

These donations have been dispersed to a large number of educational organizations through three funds. NewSchools Fund I lasted from 1998 to 2002, NewSchools Fund II lasted from 2002 to 2006, and NewSchools Fund III is currently in the works.

NewSchools Fund I (1998 – 2002)

The first fund was a $20 million fund that supported nine organizations, primarily addressing key leverage areas within the context of standards, accountability and choice. As NewSchools noted, “Some of these organizations started systems of public charter schools, while others focused on preparing and supporting teachers and leaders, developing research-based curricula, or providing school performance information that parents and community members need to make effective decisions about education.” The organizations supported were [] :

:*Aspire Public Schools:*Carnegie Learning:*GreatSchools:*High Tech High:*LearnNow:*New Leaders for New Schools:*Success For All:*Teach for America:*Teachscape

NewSchools Fund II (2002 – 2006)

Fund II was larger and more ambitious, with nearly $50 million raised. According to the fund website, the second fund was organized and executed around the goal of “ [helping] create dozens of new public charter schools and to develop organizations with the capacity to provide thousands of underserved students with an excellent education.” To that end, NewSchools provided funding to [] :

:*Achievement First:*Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools:*Aspire Public Schools:*Civic Builders:*Education for Change:*Friendship Public Charter Schools:*Green Dot Public Schools:*Inner City Educational Foundation:*Leadership Public Schools:*Lighthouse Academies:*Mastery Charter Schools:*New Leaders for New Schools:*Notable Network of Charter Schools:*Pacific Charter School Development:*Partnerships to Uplift Communities:*Perspectives Charter Schools

NewSchools Fund III (2006 – Current)

NewSchools is currently raising money for their third fund, with the aim of continuing the work of the previous two. They have noted that their investments will focus in four primary areas [] :

:*Charter Management Organizations (CMOs): aligned nonprofit systems of charter schools :*School Support Organizations: organizations that provide additional infrastructure to schools to bolster their operational, academic and administrative functions :*Accountability and Performance Tools: organizations that provide technology tools, formative assessments, and professional development needed to dramatically improve the quality of instruction :*Human Capital: ventures that promote outstanding teaching, leadership, and entrepreneurial management in our public school systems

External links

* [ NewSchools Venture Fund site]
* [ An interview with founder Kim Smith on the Charlie Rose show]
* [ Practices From The Portfolio, Volume 1]

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