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ACE Blended-Learning Team Wins $1.8 Million Grant


The University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education is excited to announce its partnership with the GHR Foundation to implement blended-learning programs in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The GHR Foundation is a Minneapolis-based philanthropic organization committed to cultivating meaningful change in the areas of global development, education, and health. More specifically, the GHR Foundation's Catholic Schools funding works to ensure the Twin Cities' urban Catholic schools are faith-filled, academically excellent educational communities that prepare children to be college-ready, productive citizens.

To this end, GHR Foundation has awarded a grant of $1.8 million over three-and-a-half years to implement blended-learning programs in up to five schools in the Twin Cities. ACE will use $645,000 of this grant to launch its Higher-Powered Learning Program – a three-year professional development program guiding leaders and teachers through the implementation of sustainable and exceptional technology-enhanced educational programs – in the Twin Cities in 2018. The remaining $1.2 million of the grant will directly support the majority of the schools' costs to participate in the program, including infrastructure upgrades and technology implementation.

The Higher-Powered Learning Program builds on the success of ACE's blended-learning implementations in Notre Dame ACE Academies. Since 2016, Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C., Ph.D., and Elizabeth Anthony have led three schools in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis through similar programs that have resulted in outstanding academic and personal growth for many of the archdiocese's most underserved students.

ACE has implemented blended-learning programs in ten elementary schools since 2013. Blended learning is a model of education in which students use adaptive, online software in classrooms to master material at levels that match their skills, while teachers use the rich data from these programs to personalize their instruction and make targeted interventions. The "blend" in "blended learning" is the combination of the benefits of learning through technology – such as personalized learning activities that target students' learning gaps – with the most valuable aspects of traditional schools – such as peer-to-peer interaction and guidance from a teacher – to create an authentically new form of education.

The schools in the Higher-Powered Learning Program will form teams to lead their schools' implementation of blended learning. Training will include onsite and virtual instruction, and the teams will pilot the model in their classrooms before leading implementation school wide. The program is intentionally designed to develop the internal capacity at each school by empowering teachers and school leaders to make these significant changes while also ensuring that they receive appropriate ongoing support to successfully improve teaching and learning with technology.

"GHR's gift is an investment not only in ACE and the strengthening of Catholic education, but also in the expansion of a transformative way of teaching and learning," said Fr. Wills, a faculty member for ACE and the director of this program. "We are thrilled to partner with an organization that believes as we do that every child is created in God's image and likeness and deserves an education befitting that dignity."