In September 2020, Governor Jared Polis announced a $32.7 million grant opportunity — the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Education Fund — to help Colorado address the myriad learning challenges that students are facing due to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19.

School districts, public schools, public institutions of higher education, and other education-related entities may pursue awards between $250,000 and $4 million during two rounds of review. The first round of RISE Education Fund grants was announced November 10; the second application deadline is December 19, 2020.

To ensure the RISE Education Fund grant opportunity reaches a diversity of geographies across the state, Gates Family Foundation partnered with the Governor’s Office and Gary Community Investments to provide resources and design support to those interested in applying for the second RISE Education Fund deadline. RISE Planning and Design Support was designed to support eligible applicants to develop their initiatives, build capacity through small planning grants, and work with strategic design partners to strengthen their applications to the $32.7 million RISE Education Fund.

Map of Grantees and Applicants for RISE Planning and Design Support

The Gates team managed the $300,000 RISE Planning and Design Support Fund internally, and a small committee of representatives from fund partners worked diligently to identify promising proposals and design support partners. The committee included members from Gates Family Foundation, Gary Community Investments, the Governor’s Office, the Beacon Fund, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

Nearly 60 teams from institutions of higher education, school districts, BOCES, charter schools, innovation zones, early childhood councils, and federally recognized Tribes applied to the RISE Planning and Design Support Fund. In total, the committee identified 15 projects across the state to receive grant awards.

Of the 15 projects selected by the RISE Planning and Design Support committee, five projects applied to the fund with pre-identified Design Support Partners to help them develop impactful applications with strong implementation plans to RISE. Ten projects expressed a desire to be matched to a Design Support Partner. The pool of awarded projects included:

  • Eleven education efforts in rural areas
  • Eight collaboratives or consortia of eligible entities
  • Both federally-recognized Tribes in Colorado

Below is a list of the projects and design support partner matches, as well as an overview of each proposal:

RISE Planning & Design Support: Grant Awards

Adams State University Collaborative is a collaboration of six PK-12 San Luis Valley school districts, the San Luis Valley Boys & Girls Club, ActionLab360, and additional community partners that are working to develop a model to transform learning systems in rural schools that ignites students’ motivation for learning via project and work-based learning experiences. Design Support Partner: Empower Schools

Buena Vista School District plans to establish a Practical Measurement Collaborative in partnership with the University of Colorado Denver and multiple schools districts to identify and share approaches for daily learning and student enrollment, provide measurement expertise as it regards to standardized assessments, rapidly adopt metrics for students outcomes that go beyond academic performance, and provide the opportunities and tools necessary to increase family engagement. Design Support Partner: Center for Practice Engaged Education Research, University of Colorado Denver

Cripple Creek-Victor School District seeks to address the exodus of young people, professionals, and unemployed citizens in the region. The collaborative school district partnership aims to create a Career and Vocational Program that connects education, vocational training, and job readiness to employment opportunities and career advancement. Design Support Partner: Trendlines

The Charter School Collaborative is launching a shared initiative that will support single site charter schools and charter networks with a statewide and Denver focus. The statewide initiative will support charter schools in the development and implementation of a Universal Design for Learning approach to address barriers for students with diverse learning needs. The Denver effort will encourage single site charter schools to share resources geared towards academic programming, mental health supports and increased parent engagement. Design Support Partner: Colorado League of Charter Schools and Maya Lagana

Denver Innovation Zones are committed to addressing racial injustice and threats to equitable learning opportunities. Their proposal directly addresses these problems through personalized, virtual, and in-person learning opportunities geared towards Black and Latinx students. Design Support Partner: Reilly Pharo-Carter and Empower Schools

The Early Childhood Council of Larimer County in partnership with United Way of Larimer County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County and the surrounding school districts will plan and implement a project designed to strengthen and formalize linkages between early childhood education centers, family child care homes, school districts, out of school program providers, early childhood mental health providers, and families most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Design Support Partner: Brenda Bausch Dickhoner

Estes Park School District R-3 is experiencing a declining district attendance rate and an achievement disparity within their student population (30% Latinx and 70% white). With a vision for excellent and equitable educational experiences for every student every day, the district seeks to build community partnerships to strengthen access to resources, better support the social and emotional health of students and families, and build a school within a school that provides innovative educational opportunities. Design Support Partner: Colorado Education Initiative

The Fremont Multidistrict Initiative was formed to reinvent the way a region can cooperatively utilize resources and sustainably provide an outstanding educational experience for rural students. The Initiative seeks to expand opportunities for all students in the county by providing access to robust college and career pathways regardless of the district they attend. Design Support Partner: Empower Schools

The Hayden and South Routt School Districts are two neighboring small rural districts who share the same goal of advancing agricultural education and career pathways for their students. Together, the districts will explore how they can collectively design a long-term partnership in order to prepare students for postsecondary success while reconnecting with the valley’s agricultural roots. Design Support Partner: Colorado Succeeds

The Mountain BOCES intends to strengthen and formalize linkages between P-12, higher education, and industry to support students in the Upper Arkansas Valley to become a contributing part of the ongoing growth and change the area is experiencing. Through the creation of structured opportunities for transitions, internships, and apprenticeships, Mountain BOCES will prepare students for in-demand and innovative careers. Design Support Partner: Trendlines

Northeastern Junior College plans to reduce and eliminate barriers to education while increasing equity and equality. Their replicable activities are designed to strengthen and add resiliency to any institution and include the creation of an Equity Basic Needs Task Force, implementation of the first bilingual Information Technology degree program with stackable certificates, and the removal of barriers to education for underrepresented students. Design Support Partner: Trendlines

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has experienced a considerable decrease in attendance and academic performance as a result of COVID-19 and plans to address these issues through a holistic approach to combating trauma. The proposal will incorporate four areas of focus centered around the family unit: an incentive program, Ute cultural programming, trauma healing using Southern Ute practices, and strategies to improve attendance. Design Support Partner: Colorado Education Initiative

The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe is developing plans to launch Kwiyagat Community Academy, a charter school in Towaoc, Colorado as well as developing more robust out of school educational programming for Ute Mountain Ute PK-12 students. The Academy represents the opportunity to reinvent education and reshape learning for students on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation and surrounding areas. Design Support Partner: Keystone Policy Center

Weld County School District RE-1 plans to renovate and transform two school buses to become mobile learning labs. The state-of-the-art STEAM mobile classrooms will travel to each of the District’s elementary and middle schools, ensuring equitable access to work with advanced technologies and participate in unique educational experiences regardless of gender, race, ability, or income level. Design Support Partner: Britt Erickson

West Grand School District recognizes the positive impact that high quality early education and childhood care has on learning outcomes, yet faces significant challenges with licensed childcare, early intervention, and family support and resources for working parents. To address their childcare desert and support the West Grand Early Childhood Education Center, the District will develop and enhance programming for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 8 years old to provide as much support as possible to families who need it most. Design Support Partner: Brenda Bausch Dickhoner