A North Carolina non-profit that received about $35 million in competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Education through the Obama administration’s Investing in Innovation program announced last week that it had closed. The news was first reported by WRAL, an NBC affiliate in the Tarheel State.
North Carolina New Schools—which had recently changed its name to Breakthrough Learning—partnered with more than 100 public schools to help high school students take advantage of college coursework.
The 13-year old non-profit was the first i3 grantee to go from the “validation” level—for programs with some evidence to back them up, to the Scale Up, for proven approaches ready to go big. It received its $15 million “validation” grant in 2011, and its $20 million “Scale Up” grant in 2014. New Schools also received a congratulatory visit from then-U.S. Secretary of Education in 2014. And we profiled the program, which was in the process of helping spread its success early college high school approach beyond North Carolina, to rural districts in Mississippi, South Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana.
So what happened to North Carolina New Schools?
Apparently, New Schools’ expansion happened too rapidly for sustainability. “We ran into cash flow problems that were directly related to growth and the speed of growth,” Jeffrey Corbett, the president of the organization’s board of directors told the Raleigh News & Observer. “It was very, very unfortunate.”
The Education Department is “closely monitoring this situation, and [has] taken immediate actions to limit North Carolina New Schools’ access to federal grant funds,” said Dorie Nolt, a spokeswoman, in an email. “As we learn more details about this matter, we will take additional steps as necessary to protect federal funds and the interests of students and families.”