EdWeek Market Brief | Emma Kate Fittes
One of the largest digital curriculum providers in the country is launching a foundation with the goal of supporting social and emotional learning efforts happening outside of classrooms.
Imagine Learning announced today it will initially commit $5 million to launch the Imagine Learning Foundation, with the aim of “fostering the well-being of learners and the people who support them.”
The foundation will begin by offering grant funding to community-based groups that offer SEL services to students outside of the school day. Those services could include anything from support groups to peer monitoring to after-school activities, said Imagine Learning Chairman and CEO Jonathan Grayer.
The mission is a direct response to the social and emotional impact of the pandemic, Grayer said, and the reality that schools are spread thin trying to address students’ non-academic needs. Long term, he said, expanding community supports could take some of the burden off of educators.
“Our goal was to find something that we could do, that we could have an immediate impact on, that wasn’t in curriculum,” Grayer said. “A big part of what we’re doing here is to enable local initiatives to have the resources they need to work.”
Separation & Oversight
Imagine Learning, formerly known as Weld North Education, reports serving more than 10 million students in 7,500 districts across all of its products and services, which include Edgenuity, Learn Zillion, and it’s namesake, Imagine Learning.
In the last eight months, the online curriculum provider, which started as the investment group in 2010, added science, coding, and robotics to its product offerings by purchasing Twig Education and Robotify.
The foundation’s work will be completely separate from the company’s commercial business, Grayer said. The foundation is controlled by a separate board, whose chairman and president is the company’s general counsel, Chris Graham — a choice Grayer said was purposeful to ensure strict oversight.
Imagine Learning employees, who will in some cases choose grant recipients, are working as volunteers, he said.
While Imagine Learning does sell some online SEL curriculum to its district clients, it’s not a large part of the company’s business.
“This is not about our commercial well being, it’s about creating a healthier learning environment with healthier students and teachers,” Grayer said.
Over the past few years, social-emotional learning has emerged as a huge area of need in the nation’s schools, and the appetite for programs and service has increased as students, families, and teachers have coped with stresses heaped on them by the pandemic.
Districts have collectively received billions of dollars in federal stimulus aid during the pandemic, and EdWeek Market Brief’s research has shown that spending on SEL strategies has been their number-one priority with that funding.
“We’re just very excited about creating and enabling a laboratory of ideas and spreading it out across the country,” said Grayer, “and then being able to see what works.”