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Nicholas Donohue
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As president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF
-- the largest charitable organization in New England focused
exclusively on education), Nick Donohue is leading efforts to reshape
New England’s public education systems to be more equitable and more
effective for all learners. Previously, Nick was a Special Master at
Hope High School in Providence, where he oversaw implementation of the
Rhode Island Commissioner of Education’s Order to reconstitute the
school. Before Hope High School, Mr. Donohue was Commissioner of
Education in New Hampshire.

Entries by Nicholas Donohue

Overcoming Achievement Gaps Defined by Zip Codes

(0) Comments | Posted April 11, 2014 | 5:32 PM

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education recently released a set of comprehensive recommendations for the future of education in Massachusetts. The report, "A New Opportunity to Lead," recommends the steps necessary for Massachusetts' education system to lead the world in the coming decades.

It revealed that while Massachusetts...

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Studies Highlight Importance of Successful Student-Centered Learning Implementation

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2014 | 3:03 PM

For years at Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we've known how important and impactful student-centered learning is because we've seen it in action in the districts we fund. Last year, we were so proud to fund a series of four case studies that show the importance of successful student-centered learning implementation...

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Gov. Hassan Sees Impact of Student-Centered Learning

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2014 | 11:36 AM

Nellie Mae Education Foundation is a proud supporter of student-centered learning in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and throughout New England. Recently, New Hampshire Governor, Maggie Hassan, visited Pittsfield to experience how student-centered learning is transforming the district's classrooms and leading to students, teachers, and parents who are engaged and excited to...

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High Test Scores Reflect Shallow Learning Experience for Boston Public School Students

(0) Comments | Posted January 9, 2014 | 2:28 PM

The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT released a study last month that found that while some Boston public schools are doing well at increasing student scores on high-stakes assessment tests, they are failing to teach students how to perform on tests of "fluid intelligence" akin to what our...

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Reshaping Education: Learning 2030

(0) Comments | Posted December 17, 2013 | 1:49 PM

At our Learning 2013 conference earlier this year, we sat down with some of New England's education leaders to talk about their vision for the future of education:

  • Tim Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, talks about how changes in technology reflect the need for continuous learning, and why...
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The Importance of Education Reform

(0) Comments | Posted October 16, 2013 | 10:09 AM

How can we ensure that more learners learn at higher levels? Are we moving students forward the wrong way? How can student-centered approaches help to achieve learning at these higher levels?

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The Importance of Student-Centered Learning (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted September 5, 2013 | 3:48 PM

With school back in session across the country, focus is renewed on initiatives like student-centered learning and closing the achievement gap. How are the two related, and how can changes, to both, improve education for learners everywhere?

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How to Improve Boston Schools

(1) Comments | Posted August 9, 2013 | 2:06 PM

In Boston, we have the chance of a lifetime. As we laud Mayor Tom Menino and retired School Superintendent Carol Johnson for the progress they've made for Boston students, we have the opportunity, with new leadership and a strong foundation, to renovate our school system into one that builds on...

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Mobilizing Community Conversations in Vermont

(1) Comments | Posted June 25, 2013 | 5:49 PM

High school can be a time of great challenge, transition and triumph for teenagers. Social groups are formed and disbanded, students are challenged in new ways by their teachers and by their peers, and there is a great deal of pressure to think about the future. And in order to successfully finish this high school journey, students must complete a standard curriculum that has no regard for their style or pace of learning in order to graduate.

In our current K-12 system, too often students move to the next grade after showing only a minimal grasp of subject matter. Their promotion is driven not by their knowledge, but instead by semesters in a school calendar. Decades of scientific research and our common experiences tell us that people grow, develop and learn at different paces. Despite this evidence, we move students ahead regardless of their true skill level, and then ask them to build more advanced learning on these shaky foundations.

A one-size-fits-all school model shouldn't add to the challenges and pressures students feel at such a critical time in their lives. At Nellie Mae, we believe strongly that education should be student-centered and driven not by the calendar but instead by a student's competency level in a particular subject. To implement this systemic change to education, we've supported communities across New England who hold the same philosophy. One of these groups, Partnership for Change, has enlisted broad community support to remodel public education in their communities of Burlington and Winooski, Vermont.

The multi-stakeholder group was founded last year with a grant from NMEF's $16.4 million District Level Systems Change (DLSC) initiative to implement, sustain and build demand for student-centered approaches to learning.

The district knew that to effect true change, they would first need the support of the Burlington and Winooksi communities, so their focus during the first stage of their project has been on a widespread effort to get the word out about their goals, and why changing the system is so important.

To support a transparent district transformation process, school officials in Burlington and Winooski invited students and families to join the Partnership's core decision-making body. It was only the beginning of a productive engagement with the community to redefine -- by consensus -- what it means to be a proficient high school graduate in Burlington and Winooski, prepared for the next phase in life.

For the past several months, Partnership for Change has hosted a series of neighborhood-based 'Learning Conversations' to introduce the core concepts behind student-centered learning and to solicit input. From living rooms to community spaces, all participants are asked one question -- "What do our graduates need to know and be able to do in order to be successful in today's rapidly changing and complex world?"

This winter, the Partnership posed the same question to 300 parents, educators, and business leaders who turned out for the first community-wide event. This diverse group of stakeholders dedicated a full Saturday afternoon to discussing the skills and knowledge our young people need to thrive, and how their schools can better help them succeed. The feedback from these events will inform the work that is already underway to develop graduation expectations and proficiencies to help assess student progress more accurately.

As the Partnership continues to gather feedback and circulate plans, the community effort under way in Burlington and Winooski serves one example of how systemic change can benefit an entire community. Students graduate better prepared for college, career and life, which strengthens the community, building more engaged and prepared...

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Graduation Rates

(0) Comments | Posted June 13, 2013 | 11:44 AM

It's that time of year again...pools are opening, lawns are being freshly mowed, and students are graduating from high school. But why is there still a disconnect between rising graduation rates and post-secondary success?

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Parents Lead the Way in Maine

(0) Comments | Posted June 7, 2013 | 3:12 PM

Most parents spend their week nights in a flurry of activity - pick-ups, dinner, homework and bedtime rituals leave little time for anything else.

However, in one New England town, a group of parents has been spending three hours every Wednesday night for five months learning how to become...

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Remodeling Education: It Takes a Community

(10) Comments | Posted April 30, 2012 | 5:04 PM

Every Friday, a group of students from Deering High School in Portland, Maine volunteers through their local Habitat for Humanity affiliate for credit toward graduation. While helping to build houses for people in need, these students are learning important math and geometry skills. They are also learning valuable skills outside...

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