Over the past two years, we've been engaged in an inspiring and deep R&D project with Achievement First (AF), one of the most successful school operators in the country. Achievement First's leaders asked us to join them to answer the question: "If you could build any school, what would you build"? We've worked together to answer this question through a Dream and Discover phase (in partnership with IDEO) and through a year of prototyping, piloting, and building out every component of the model including curriculum, staff training, facilities design, expeditions and technology. The elementary and middle school programs are being piloted this year, and we continue to derive vital learnings and iterate every day. Read more about this school redesign process in this recent article by Richard Whitmire or this recent case study by Dr. Deborah Sawch.


Despite phenomenal breakthroughs in our understanding of children's needs and how to meet them, the costs and risks of adopting new models are too high for most schools to accept. ABL is working to change that through software that unlocks their ability to innovate and iterate into the future.


Valor Collegiate is a high-performing network of charter schools in Nashville, TN that has developed a comprehensive social emotional learning (SEL) program that is among the most robust in the sector (you can read more about in this article from Alex Hernandez). This program, called Compass, focuses on 1) relationship-building using a therapy-based approach (teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, student-to-student); and 2) personal SEL plans where students work through a series of projects and exercises over eight years to develop across five key disciplines. This approach has also led to successful academic results, with Valor’s inaugural class of 5th graders performing in the top 1% of Tennessee schools for both achievement and growth in 2015. Valor and Transcend have partnered to codify and share Valor’s Compass program and the supporting SEL-integrated academics and professional development.


NewSchools and Transcend have partnered to create the Transcend + NewSchools Collaborative, a cohort designed to accelerate the exploration, learning, and transition of strong school districts and charter networks towards new school models. The Collaborative is designed as an opportunity to explore the frontiers of learning science, provocative new models of education, and the demands of the 21st century. Participating design teams will emerge having stoked their conviction, generated clarity of vision, strengthened their capacity to innovate, and built a coalition readied to pursue breakthroughs in learning.

Participating districts and CMOs in 2016-2017 include:

  • Citizens of the World Charter Schools – Multiple Cities
  • DC Public Schools – Washington, D.C.
  • Gestalt Community Schools – Memphis, TN
  • KIPP Houston Public Schools – Houston, TX
  • Spring Branch Independent School District – Houston, TX
  • Tulsa Public Schools – Tulsa, OK
  • Camino Nuevo Charter Academy – Los Angeles, CA
  • Excel Academy Charter Schools – Boston, MA
  • Hiawatha Academies – Minneapolis, MN
  • YES Prep Public Schools – Houston, TX

Read More about the Collaborative



Montessori For All (MFA) is a charter network leading high-performing, authentic Montessori schools in Austin, TX, and San Antonio, TX. MFA partners with families to help children in diverse communities reach their extraordinary potential intellectually, emotionally, socially, creatively, and physically, so that they can pursue lives full of meaning and joy. The Montessori method focuses on skill-building through personalized learning and embedded social and emotional instruction, and it has been educating leaders and innovators for more than 100 years. Many members of the “creative elite” attribute their success to their Montessori education, including Beyoncé, Yo Yo Ma, and the founders of Google and Amazon. Montessori schools are known for fostering the development of self-direction, executive functioning skills, innovation, and collaboration. Traditionally in the United States, Montessori schools have been mostly private institutions serving affluent families, but recently a growing number of charter and district schools are using the method to reach diverse groups of students. Transcend is partnering with MFA over multiple years to take MFA’s emerging set of tools, develop and codify them, and prepare them to be used by a growing set of partners, including public Montessori schools, high-performing charters, and traditional public districts.


Leaders from Transcend, Relay Graduate School of Education, KIPP, and Riverdale Country School are collaborating to design and launch nXu, a lab school and a scalable platform, all centered around a new set of standards that prepare students for success throughout the 21st century. The lab school will create immersive, real-world educational experiences for students, powered by a network of unconventional learning experience partners, in order to empower young people to prepare for and engage in life. Transcending the conventional boundaries of the “school building” and the “school day”, students of nXu will capitalize on four summers, afternoons, and weekends during 9th-11th grades, a fully immersive 12th grade year, and a post-12th grade "challenge year." nXu’s digital platform and suite of apps will interconnect students and learning experiences throughout their community and enable students to drive and reflect on their learning and to learn with diverse peers in spaces and contexts not typically available to them. nXu students will drive their own real-world learning, broadening the definition and requirements of readiness—beyond college and career—and nurturing the perennial ideals of Agile Minds, Applied Skills, Authentic Character, and Active Citizenship.