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Outschool.org empowers communities to design liberating learning experiences

Nonprofit arm transitions from emergency assistance to lasting programs for marginalized communities.

Families and learners are halfway through the fourth school year impacted by COVID-19.

Learners in majority-Black schools are now 12 months behind their peers in majority-White schools when it comes to reading and math. 

Meanwhile, during the height of the pandemic, Black learners and families fed up with the traditional school system left it entirely. They became homeschoolers, leading to a growth in homeschooling from 3% of black students to 16%. 

For the remaining 84% of black students in traditional schools, teachers and families need support to address interrupted learning. They need extra academic support, such as tutoring and enrichment opportunities. Likewise, marginalized families opting for homeschooling deserve financial support, opportunities to build community with one another, and guidance in navigating local and virtual educational resources.

In this context, Outschool.org continues to play a vital role in addressing the needs of BIPOC (black, Indigenous, and people of color) and marginalized learners both within and outside of the traditional K-12 school system. 

In 2022, Outschool.org served 700 learners, 94% of whom identify as BIPOC. 

Outschool.org partners with homeschooling co-ops, community-based organizations, and charter and public schools across the country to provide access to high-quality, engaging learning opportunities for Black and Latine learners. 

Learners served by Outschool.org have been failed by the existing model of learning. Our work connects those learners with an ecosystem of online learning experiences that align with their objectives, motivations, and identities. By partnering with communities and enabling learners to build intrinsic motivation and develop a love of learning, we elevate learners to reach their fullest, most actualized potential. - Justin Dent, Executive Director at Outschool.org.

Virtual tutoring for learners like Cameron 

Cameron is an energetic third grader receiving tutoring through a partnership between Charleston County School District (CCSD) in South Carolina and Outschool.org. Last spring, Cameron received small group tutoring twice a week in English Language Arts on the Outschool.com platform during his school’s after-school program, Kaleidoscopes.

After 11 weeks, he and 70% of the other learners in the program made double-digit gains on a nationally-normed assessment.

Thirty-two other learners at Cameron’s school received 250 hours of additional tutoring this fall, focused on reading comprehension and vocabulary at 90 minutes a week. The program will continue after the holidays. 

Outschool.org carefully designs the program in partnership with Kaleidoscopes staff, coordinating curriculum design, Outschool.com teacher selection, and materials. Peyton Fotos, a Kaleidoscopes teacher, is impressed with the level of engagement and relationship-building between Outschool.com teachers and CCSD learners. 

“The students love Ms. Rachel’s class because of the way she teaches and the way she approaches them,” Peyton says, “I see them glued to their computer screens every time.”

Thanks to the success of the program, CCSD has expanded its partnership with Outschool.org to another elementary school in the district.

Leveraging the power of community for learners like Skye

Outschool.org empowers communities to design liberating learning experiences - Outschool - Skye

In March 2022, Justin Dent, Executive Director of Outschool.org, participated in a panel at SXSW EDU to discuss "Applying the Lessons Learned of Pandemic Education." He was joined by the dynamic and passionate founder of Engaged Detroit, Bernita Bradley. 

Bernita was excited to meet Justin because Engaged Detroit was already using Outschool through the Family Financial Assistance Program, which ran from March 2020 through August 2022. In fact, she was so excited she called her daughter, Victoria, while on stage with him. 

Throughout the panel conversation and discussions between Bernita and Justin that followed, it became clear that both Engaged Detroit and Outschool.org have a shared mission to empower communities to design liberatory learning experiences for marginalized youth who are dissatisfied with, and disenfranchised by, the traditional K-12 education system. 

Since then, Outschool.org has forged a partnership with Engaged Detroit through a new program called Outbridge.

Outbridge provides the 116 learners in Engaged Detroit with access to funds for classes on Outschool.com and access to local and national partners. The goal of Outbridge is to educate, empower, and support families who are navigating a fractured non-traditional learning ecosystem. 

The most popular Outschool.com classes so far are in English and math, taught by certified special education or ESL teachers

Learners can also use funds to access approved partners like Michigan State University Community Music School, which provides in-person music classes for all ages, and national partners like Grip Tape, which provides financial support for pursuing learner-driven passions such as building a computer.

“Outschool.org is creating pathways for learners and bridging a gap,” Bradley says. “Learners can go back and forth across those bridges and can take different paths.” 

For 16-year-old Skye, the Outschool.org partnership has helped her build community and pursue her passion for cooking. 

Skye and her mother, Jeanetta, started their homeschooling experience during COVID. They were extremely dissatisfied with the district’s response of providing whole-school Zoom classes, which launched a month after the building closed. Skye overheard illicit exchanges between her peers, and was given no real guidance from adults. Needless to say, her family found the whole experience utterly devoid of teaching and learning. 

Skye and Jeannetta are extremely resourceful, and the partnership with Outschool.org has supercharged their ability to drive Skye’s learning themselves. When Jeannetta first suggested homeschooling, Skye said, “You’re going to kill my social life.” While she still craves more friends, she has enrolled in a homeschooling group through Outschool.com that meets twice a week. 

Skye works at a Thai restaurant in Detroit. She used a scholarship from GripTape made available through Outbridge to travel to Chicago to visit a Michelin-star restaurant and tour a culinary school. 

Jeannetta says homeschooling has brought them closer and has inspired her to be more like her daughter. “She encourages me to be bolder every day. If it weren’t for homeschooling, I would never know how bold Skye is. 

Rather than just hearing from her about her day at school, I get to see her take risks and try new things,” Jeannetta says. 

Learn more about Outschool.org 

Outschool.org served more than 32,000 learners through our Family Financial Assistance Program, which provided more than $3M in free classes from March 2020 through August 2022. At this time, as the world has returned to a state of cautious practicality with schools back in session and typical activities resuming, Outschool.org has brought this pandemic program to a close.

Outschool.org has also partnered with more than 20 Community Partners since April 2020 and donated more than $2M in grants through a competitive application. 

Outschool.org provides both funding and capacity-building support to co-design and implement academic and enrichment programs with traditional schools, community-based organizations, and homeschooling co-ops. Our 10 current community partners serve 700 students, 94% of whom identify as BIPOC.

Outschool.org is managed as a separate charitable initiative through the Edward Charles Foundation (ECF). The organization receives funding from diverse philanthropic institutions, individuals, and companies—including Outschool. 

Outschool.org’s relationship with ECF allows them to ensure that they are in compliance with all 501(c)3 standards and financial oversight independent of Outschool.com. Join us to expand our impact with a tax-exempt donation

Stacey WilliamsStacey Williams is Head of Development at Outschool.org. Stacy has fifteen years of strategy, fundraising, change management, and talent experience in both start-up and growth-stage nonprofit organizations.

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