A Most Unusual Partnership – Celebrating the First Five Years of NapaLearns

What happens when you put a few retired Silicon Valley CEOs, the CFO of a major grocery chain, and a founder of the Internet together with several ground-breaking community activists, education innovators, and six visionary school superintendents? You get a powerhouse founding board of directors for NapaLearns, the Napa Valley Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

That’s exactly what happened in 2010 when this amazing nonprofit was formed to transform public schools in Napa County over the next ten years. It was a most unusual partnership because in this unique situation school leaders were enthusiastically collaborating with business and community thought-leaders who were not experts on education practices but who did know a lot about what our community needed from students graduating from our schools.

Based on the success of Napa New Tech High School, NapaLearns leaders were intent on bringing innovative tech-infused teaching and learning into every classroom in the county for 21,800 students and 1,000 teachers. With financial support from Auction Napa Valley and many generous founding donors, NapaLearns was equipped to provide thought-partnership and funding to achieve our mission to scout out tech-enabled innovations in teaching and learning, seed fund pilots with pioneer teachers, and measure effectiveness, with the expectation that districts would replicate, scale, and sustain the winning strategies.

With that focused mission, we have been 100% successful with every innovation we have introduced in the past five years!

The early days focused on three critical strategies:

  • Pilot Digital Early Learning in preschools and kindergartens with a goal to grow it throughout all primary schools
  • Prepare teachers to use student-centered Project-based Learning as a core method of instruction
  • Make digital devices and Internet access available to all students – in every grade, every classroom, and all 47 schools!

Today every Napa County state preschool and all public K- 2 classrooms have enough iPads loaded with digital curriculum to help teachers multiply their impact on kids by providing individualized engaging online literacy and math programs. Teachers are seeing improved literacy in primary students, especially English Language Learners. Over 7,000 K-12 students are learning core content through PBL, which means they are more engaged using critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity skills. And the Internet is available reliably in all schools, students have digital devices, with many schools almost 1:1, and 99% of curriculum is available ‘in the cloud.’ With exciting new initiatives in the works, NapaLearns will continue the great partnerships to enable every student to be college and career ready as well as amazing community members.

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