Safer Schools in America Impact Initiative Update

It has been an exciting start to the 2019-2020 school year. The SSIA Grant is now underway with 48 unique EdTech solutions addressing the various domains of school safety that are a focus of districts and schools across the US.

87 schools in 50 districts across the US will be testing solutions in the Safer Schools Framework, consisting of campus security, physical health and wellness, emotional and behavioral health, emergency preparedness and management, digital safety, community engagement, and healthy school and district culture. This represents nearly 194,429 students who are directly and indirectly impacted by this initiative.  We extend a huge welcome to our grantees and thank you for being part of this important look at how EdTech is working to make schools safer and more supportive of teaching and learning.

The research this grant enables will seek to provide information on a number of topics around the intersection of EdTech and school safety, such as:

  • What are districts are seeing as the most important safety issues?
  • What solutions they are currently using to address those issues?
  • Where does an EdTech solution seem like a good fit?

Another important question being explored is to determine how many new EdTech solutions a district feel it can reasonably implement without crossing into initiative fatigue or compromising implementation fidelity.

Look for those answers in upcoming newsletters. A tidbit you may find interesting is that early indicators are that campus security and emotional and behavioral health are the top domains of school safety that districts are focused on for this school year.

GG4L’s platform enables each school to track usage and outcomes data for each solution. The generated data will be aggregated, anonymized, and analyzed by both McREL and GG4L, who in turn provide quarterly reports to all stakeholders. This information can then be used to make decisions about the overall product impact and effectiveness of the initiative.  

GG4L Launches a Monthly Newsletter

Welcome to our first monthly GG4L newsletter.

You can read the full newsletter here.

We are pleased to share the latest news and success stories across our rapidly-growing membership base. As of the end of September 2019, our first anniversary since merging with EduTone, we are now in approximately 500 US school districts serving approximately 9,000 schools, and have attracted in excess of 75 EdTech company members to our platform. This is a validation of the value that both our Platform and impact initiatives deliver to the members of our Public Benefit Collaborative (PBC).

Most of our GG4L EdTech members have been aligned with the Safer Schools Framework and are participating in our $25-million grant for Safer Schools in America, which is now transitioning to an on-demand grant program open for all member schools to apply with a guarantee of a same-day approval. Once a school district joins as a GG4L Member, free of cost, any of its schools become eligible for a one-year, in-kind grant for any of the solutions listed in our Catalyst Catalog that participate in our On-Demand Grant Program.

We are also very proud of our Future-Proof Skills Program that is currently in the process of identifying and signing up 25 high schools that will be recognized as Centers of Excellence (CoE) across the United States. Each of these CoE’s will be our launchpad in various geographic regions to engage with local employers, higher education institutions, government agencies, and many other stakeholders to focus on showcasing several implementation models and deliver new certificated courses and programs that are aligned with a specific set of Technology, Business, and Personal Skills development and mastery. There is also a focus on Academic STEAM Skills courses that are included in the Catalyst Catalog. This program is expected to grow from 25 CoE’s to approximately 500 secondary schools by the end of 2020. We have several corporate sponsors and global technology partners in the pipeline that we plan to  announce in the coming months.

I am very proud of our experienced, hard-working GG4L team that is focused on our rapid growth and our mission to positively impact education at scale, through the frictionless adoption of our GG4L Platform to enable our member schools to deploy, validate, and sustain innovative EdTech solutions.


Read the full newsletter

New On-Demand Grants Now Available from GG4L

GG4L on-demand safe school grants

GG4L is thrilled to announce that although the 3-year grant is closed, we have launched a similar but shorter-term grant. On-Demand Safer Schools Grants enable a school or district to apply for and immediately be approved for an in-kind grant that lasts for one school year and can be used to place any EdTech solution from the Safer Schools Initiative into a school in that district. For details please go to

GG4L will be inviting schools to participate in grants that provide school safety EdTech solutions for a full school year. Each school grantee will be the recipient of an integrated suite of EdTech solutions that address school safety.  These solutions will be deployed, and measured for efficacy where appropriate, over a 12-month project period at no cost to the schools, excluding wholesale hardware costs were required to implement the SaaS solution.

Data-driven, evidence-informed decision making is essential for those charged with school safety and student wellness. In line with ESSA requirements, the Safer Schools Impact Initiative will use proven and independent measures of efficacy under an institutional quality research framework to establish best practices toward successful outcomes that can be shared nationally.

GG4L’s platform will enable each school to track usage and outcomes data for each solution. The generated data will be aggregated, anonymized, and analyzed by both McREL and GG4L, who in turn provide quarterly reports to all stakeholders. This information can then be used to make decisions about the overall product impact and effectiveness.

ScholarChip Enhances Student Safety at Bay Shore High School

ScholarChip, a GG4L Safer Schools Initiative EdTech partner, helps create a safe, secure school environment in an efficient and cost-effective way; it’s an automated, easily implemented solution.

Clayton Moore is the Security Surveillance Technician at Bay Shore High School in Long Island. He’s in charge of maintaining their security systems, technology, cameras, and ID card management for the 2,000 students in attendance.

“I’m the Key Master,” Moore joked. “No one can get past me!” In spite of his quip, Moore takes student safety very seriously and has been working with ScholarChip since 2008.

Tapping into Security

“All of our students hold a smart ID card badge from ScholarChip. They tap in at one of five kiosks at our school entrances, and because it’s an electronic process, I can tell who is in the building in real time, which is vital information from a security standpoint,” said Moore. Moore added, “We use the kiosks at the cafeteria entrances too, so only kids who belong there, for that period, can get in.”

Bay Shore uses stand-alone kiosks for building attendance so they can be moved and used for other things, too. Kids can tap in with their ScholarChip smart ID cards at events that take place after school like a sporting event, dance, concert, or any other school-sponsored program. These cards strengthening accountability, safety and control, and provide event administrators real-time attendee counts.

ScholarChip’s smart ID cards carry a chip that is encoded with a unique ID number assigned to one individual. It is the back-end computer that maintains detailed information on the student to whom the ID is issued, so administering the program is simple and straightforward, and cards can be activated and deactivated on demand.

“The ScholarChip system is very good,” added Moore. “It gives us a lot of control over knowing where students are, when they come in, and when they leave. That’s important in today’s school climate.”

Locking It Down

In the old days, schools used to practice fire drills. Now they practice lock-down drills, too. And sometimes it isn’t a drill. “We’ve had a few lock-downs where things happened in our community, close to the school. Recently the Suffolk County Police Department had a wanted suspect about a mile away from us, which triggered a lock down. Thankfully, nothing came of it, but we knew who was in school that day, and who wasn’t.

An accurate attendance report is available on a tablet or computer that shows which students used their card to get into the building, which can help first responders react fast.

Expanding the System

Bay Shore High School recently implemented ScholarChip’s SALA (Student Ad-hoc Location App) in the library. With SALA, students tap their ID cards outside of the classrooms in locations like the nurse’s or a guidance counselor’s on­ce. Moore said, “Previously, we built a program that the librarian used to register kids into the room. It wasn’t as good as SALA. Now you can view a photo, match it to the student, see who belongs there, and you know that’s where they’re supposed to be.”

Staying Safe

In this day and age, schools are faced with the threat of active shooters, drug dealers lurking on the grounds, sex o‑enders trolling events, and parental abductors waiting for an opportunity to strike. Real threats are reported all the time. But dedicated security professionals like Clayton Moore are on the job, using advanced tools like ScholarChip, to make sure that his students are safe, every day.

Alachua County Public Schools Deploys GG4L School Passport and Compass

The Alachua County Public Schools located in Gainesville, Florida serves about 29,000 students in 41 schools and centers. It is among the top performing school districts in Florida.

The Challenge

Alachua County was looking for an enterprise Single Sign On (SSO) solution to manage application deployment and access to their 41 locations district wide. They wanted a solution that would protect the privacy of their students and staff while verifying identity and reducing the costs to deploy new applications.

The Solution

Alachua County Public Schools chose the Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) Enterprise Passport to manage access to K-12 educational applications for students and staff. GG4L School Passport provides users with Single Sign On (SSO) access to a wide variety of educational resources and content.  These applications are accessed using a number of supported Internet browsers.  Users are granted access to the Passport Launchpad by providing credentials that are authenticated outside Passport, by Active Directory, Google Classroom, and others.  The Passport Launchpad then presents the user with icons that connect to the resources to which he or she is allowed access, based on role, group membership, and location.

The word “Connector” is an important term in this discussion, as the icons that provide access to resources and content do more than just link to these applications.  They “connect” into the application through an available number of industry standard interfaces and pass user login credentials to the target application, thus eliminating a secondary sign on.

The Results                                                       

With over 22,000 active users during the 2018-19 school year, it is easy to see that the acceptance of Passport has been widespread in Alachua County.  Jeannie Fox, Alachua County’s IT system support analyst said, “The broad use of educational technology in our classrooms would not be possible without the help from School Passport.”

Of course, tracking and using digital content and resources is a must in order to insure that the school system is getting value from its investment in educational technology.  Along with Passport comes an analytics dashboard that allows key staff members to look into the “who, what, where and when” of SSO access from browser based applications. 

With the nearly 1.5 million times that these digital content and resources were used in the 2018-19 school year, having the ability to drill into this usage from a variety of perspectives becomes increasingly critical.  This dashboard allows the user analyze a very broad or specific data report. It can be filtered by a variety of combinations of options including school(s), application(s), date range and time of day.

“The GG4L dashboard allows us to gauge the level of usage for each application by location over differing periods of time. This provides relevant data for decision making as we consider purchasing and renewal of online resources,” added Jeannie Fox.

Learn more about GG4L’s School Passport.

CrisisGo Improves School Safety at Goreville Every Day

CrisisGo enahnces safety Goreville High School

Goreville Community Unit School District (CUSD) previously experienced safety-related communication issues because they did not have a discreet and efficient way to simultaneously communicate with their staff during an emergency. The school district is also located in a rural area, which made them susceptible to a communication overload if an emergency occurred and the 911 system got tied up. With numerous technology solutions in the market to help school safety initiatives, Goreville CUSD was interested in a platform for improving their communication capabilities, increasing the speed of their safety communication and response times, and sharing critical information with local law enforcement. The district became primarily interested in CrisisGo as a way to provide secure and reliable safety communication that could grant all staff members access to safety communication that would not go down in an emergency due to an influx of calls.

Goreville CUSD not only found value in utilizing CrisisGo to improve communication during an emergency and make their staff more prepared for emergencies, the district also found that CrisisGo helped strengthen their daily safety communication. Goreville Community Unit School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Webb stated, “CrisisGo is not just about communication in an event, it’s a communication tool that can help you every single day.”

Webb said that he enjoys the ability to use CrisisGo to turn the smartboards in their classrooms into a big panic button for the teachers. He noted that if an event occurs, the teachers are most likely to be by their smartboard. According to Webb, CrisisGo has not only impacted their daily safety communication, it has also helped improve the safety culture of their school.

“There’s been a great improvement on staff members joining in the culture and talking about better ways to utilize CrisisGo,” Stated Webb. He added, “You know you’ve changed the culture whenever you have teachers talking about it in the teacher’s lounge and bringing you suggestions because of their conversations. It’s not a top-down school safety mechanism, and CrisisGo goes a long way with that because it allows us to test it and it allows them to respond back to it with things they are seeing and any issues.”

Webb also said that CrisisGo has helped them share information with local law enforcement to provide better situational awareness. He stated, “This year we started sharing the perpetrator location so those responding will know exactly where to go. That was a key event because we found some holes in that process that we were able to close by using CrisisGo and having responding Sheriffs know where to attack.”

According to Dr. Webb, the district has been using CrisisGo for safety drills to practice their safety protocols and help staff become more familiar using their safety platform for the best possible emergency preparation. He concluded, “We are always looking for a zero response time, and whenever you have immediate notification where it can go out to so many people at once while you’re mobile, that’s a tremendous asset to have in an event.”

Solving the Trillion-Dollar Skills Gap

For the last several years in the United States and around the world, organizations have identified a skills gap – a gap between what skills they need their new hires to have and what skills are being taught in school to prepare future workers. The skills gap is so severe that there is already a talent shortage in several industries, including manufacturing, IT, engineering, and leadership. Many of the skills needed to fill this gap – and many of the 7 million unfilled jobs – are STEAM skills: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Many of the skills missing include those necessary for strong leaders – things like critical thinking skills and creativity.

The Solution to the Skills Gap

It is because of this skills gap that GG4L will be launching the Future-Proof Skills Impact Initiative. Future-Proof Skills will focus on purposefully attracting a unique ecosystem of innovative EdTech vendors, content publishers, corporate sponsors, education foundations, and research organizations, all focusing on STEAM and Business Skills, pathways to higher education and specialized careers, and solving the anticipated future shortage in various skill sets required by hundreds of career choices, many of which are yet to be identified.

The Cost of the Skills Gap

It is predicted that this skills gap will cost the economy $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. All you have to do is type “skills gap” into a Google search and you’ll discover that there is a sense of desperation in a number of industries regarding the skills gap, to the point where Amazon is investing $700 million to retrain a third of their workforce. We can all do more to shorten the gap between the skills needed in the workplace and the skills brought by the up-and-coming workforce.

The Education Gap Begins in K-12

It’s not just employers seeking people with college degrees, although according to the American Action Forum (AAF), all 50 states will have a shortage of talent with bachelor’s degrees by 2029. (California will face a deficit of over one million workers, while New York will have a shortage of 868,000 workers. For Illinois, the shortfall will reach 522,000). The gap is just as significant for workers with associate degrees or some college, with the gap measuring in the thousands in smaller states and close to 200,000 in larger states. That is a lot of unfilled positions, which could potentially be catastrophic for the economy.

How to We Narrow the Gap?

Future-Proof Skills aims to create a validated framework for a continuous improvement process that needs to be adopted by schools worldwide. Future-Proof Skills will ensure that schools are preparing a future workforce that is ready to tackle new and emerging opportunities in various new fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Robotics, and Cybersecurity as well as have access to the STEAM skills needed for becoming tomorrow’s leaders and innovators.

Future-Proof Skills will help each school individually and uniquely bridge the gap between the knowledge and skills it currently teaches, with those that are identified locally and globally as needed for success, including  those that are just emerging and those that we have not even dreamed of yet. This will require a data-informed framework that connects the ecosystem of learners, educators, employers, social systems, and technology solutions, enabling individuals to find the best match for their knowledge, skills, and abilities and the needs of the workforce and society.

Final Thoughts about the Skills Gap

In London, when you’re about to step on or off the “tube” they say, “mind the gap.” It’s a way to make sure people don’t make a misstep and trip or fall on their way in and out of the trains, as there is a small gap between the train and the station platform. It’s worthy advice to heed, minding the gap. And it’s something all of us – schools, teachers, students, professionals, corporations, edtech vendors, and all of the non-profit and public benefit corporations who support them – should keep in mind as we approach the future of education.