GG4L Safer Schools Initiative Update

safer schools initiative updateIn November 2018, in partnership with McRel International, Global Grid for Learning announced the launch of our first initiative, the Safer Schools in America Impact Grant.  The grant program provides support to selected schools for the implementation and usage of select EdTech products from leading education providers who are focused on school safety solutions for K-12. These solutions will be implemented and studied for a period of 3 years – at no cost to the school grant recipients.

Since announcing the launch in November 2018, we are pleased to report on the progress of our efforts.

Phase I Complete

Phase I of the initiative is now well underway, and we are pleased to announce that 85 schools in 15 states have been awarded grants. Read the full release here.

Phase II Launch

Additional grants will be awarded to more than 400 US schools in more than 200 school districts during Phase II. Applications for Phase II are available through April 15th. U.S. schools are encouraged to apply soon.

EdTech Vendor Partnerships 

From our initial EdTech partnerships with Amazon AWS, LightSpeed Systems, and Instructure, we have continued to grow our EdTech network. Our partnerships with EdTech vendors continue to grow, with new vendors being added each week. Learn more about our EdTech partners.

Safer Schools Resource Page

For the benefit of all schools, vendors, and corporate partners, we are developing a comprehensive list of Safe Schools Resources. If you know of an organization, publication, or institution that should be included, please let us know.

What’s Next?

Global Grid for Learning is continuing to make edtech easier to deploy, more effective for teachers and students, and more affordable for districts and vendors. Our next initiative, the Future-Proofing Learning with STEAM Credentials, available to member schools worldwide, will be announced later in 2019.

Join Us

Schools around the globe can join GG4L free for life. Learn more.

EdTech Vendors can join GG4L for a small membership fee that delivers enormous benefits. Learn more.

Businesses help us make a sustainable impact by becoming a sponsor. No matter what size your business is, from a small mom-and-pop retailer to a Fortune 100 global corporation, GG4L Catalyst will match you with an impact opportunity at any level: global, national, regional, or local. Learn more.

GG4L Announces $9M in Phase I Grants

GG4L Announces $9M in Phase 1 Grants

54 School Districts Awarded $9M in Phase I of GG4L’s Safer Schools in America Impact Grant Program

Safer Schools In America Grant Distributions Phase IFebruary 14, 2019 | Bay Area, California  Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) is pleased to announce an estimated $9 million in EdTech grants have been awarded to 85 schools from 54 US school districts across 15 states in Phase I of the Safer Schools in America Impact Grant Program.

Additional grants will be awarded to 400+ US schools across more than 200 school districts in Phase II, which is open for applications until April 15th. Safer Schools in America is jointly operated by GG4L and McREL, a Tier 1 educational research institute, and will run through 2022.  

The Safer Schools in America Impact Grant Program will support the implementation and usage of select EdTech products from leading education providers who are focused on school safety solutions for K-12. These solutions will be implemented and studied for a period of 3 years at no cost to the school grant recipients. The grants will also address an industry wide need to capture data-driven validation research around a significant range of activities believed to foster safer teaching and learning environments. These include emotional, physical and digital safety as well as emergency preparedness, school facilities, culture, and community engagement.

“Montgomery Public Schools has become involved with the Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) on multiple initiatives that are aimed toward school improvement,” commented Dr. Ann R. Moore, Superintendent of Montgomery Public Schools, Alabama. “We are so grateful that GG4L has brought together solution providers and the funding to accomplish these important goals. School safety is our number one priority. Every parent must know his or her child is safe. Our children flourish in learning environments that are not only welcoming but secure. The teaming of GG4L and our staff should be a comfort to our employees and our parents. To my knowledge, this partnership is a first of its kind to fill this critical need in America’s public education system.”

“We want to thank all of the school districts who submitted their applications,” said Dr. Sandra Elliott, GG4L Chief Academic Officer. “We were truly impressed with the quality and quantity of these applications that validate the need for a comprehensive data-driven framework for school safety, along with an integrated suite of validated, innovative EdTech solutions. So far, we have over 25 EdTech vendors partnering with us in this program, with more expected to join us over the next 90 days. We are proud to have Amazon AWS, LightSpeed Systems, and Instructure as our initial Sponsors. We are looking forward to welcoming Fortune 500 companies participate as Corporate Sponsors.”  

For a full list of participating EdTech Members, Corporate Sponsors and the Phase II Grant Application, please refer to: https://gg4l.com/initiatives/safer-schools/

About Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) – A Public Benefit Corporation seeking to democratize access to and sustained implementations of digital learning solutions for K12 schools. GG4L’s  platform as a service solution, which helps manage critical data co-dependencies between schools and digital learning providers, is offered at no-cost-to-schools as a platform that is combined with a set of impact initiatives. GG4L is supported by a unique membership-based corporate, philanthropic and community-based funding model. For more information please visit us at www.gg4l.com or contact us at info@gg4l.com.

About McREL International – A nonprofit research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world. McREL provides schools, districts, and other education organizations with high-quality research and evaluation, professional development and coaching, strategic planning, and assistance with improvement and innovation projects.

GG4L Media contact:
Mark Middendorp, VP Marketing
markm@gg4l.com
815.980.6026

Lightspeed Systems Sponsors Groundbreaking Research Into School Safety

The leading edtech company partners with Global Grid for Learning and McREL International, sponsoring research into school safety solutions and providing software grants to participating schools.

AUSTIN, TX. — Today, Lightspeed Systems made another critical step toward school safety by announcing its sponsorship of the Safer Schools in America Impact Grant Program, an initiative jointly operated by Global Grid for Learning and the Tier 1 educational research institute McREL International. Through the program, eligible schools will receive $25 million of grants in education technology products and services — from Lightspeed Systems and other corporate sponsors — for the purpose of protecting students against school violence and self-harm.

As a provider of K-12 filtering, mobile device management and monitoring solutions for 20 years, Lightspeed Systems has helped tens of thousands of school customers intervene to prevent student harm, saving countless lives. By participating in Safer Schools in America, Lightspeed will not only grant essential software solutions to participating schools — creating a safer, more easily managed learning experience for students — the company will also contribute meaningfully to research supporting school safety.

Safer Schools in America will study the impact of sponsor products and services across 500 American schools in 250 school districts over the next three years. The results of this groundbreaking national research study will be published quarterly, starting in spring 2019.

“Lightspeed Systems is a major player in edtech with more than 28,000 school customers and a key partner in our expanding ecosystem; we are very pleased to count them as a sponsor of Safer Schools in America and hope that their commitment paves the way for other corporate sponsors,” said GG4L Founder and CEO Robert Iskander.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of this strategic initiative toward the improved safety of our schools and the lives of children,” said Lightspeed Systems President & CEO Brian Thomas. “By teaming up with GG4L and other corporations, we can help even more schools and save even more lives.”

To learn more about Lightspeed Systems, visit https://www.lightspeedsystems.com. To learn more about GG4L’s Safer Schools in America Impact Grant, visit https://gg4l.com/initiatives/safer-schools.

About Lightspeed Systems

Lightspeed Systems partners with schools to make learning safe, mobile and easily managed. Partnered with 6,500 districts in the United States and more than 28,000 schools around the world, Lightspeed Systems offers integrated solutions for smarter K-12 school networks: Relay, Relay Classroom, Mobile Manager, and Web Filter. To learn more, visit http://www.lightspeedsystems.com.

About Global Grid for Learning (GG4L)

Embracing the belief that a nation’s education system directly impacts its future, GG4L is building innovative public and private partnerships mindfully structured to harness the power of data to solve big school challenges such as school safety, literacy, college and career readiness. With privacy and security top of mind, GG4L’s 3-way partnership, among schools, industry and philanthropy, actively champions continuous cycles of improvement informed by data. By facilitating affordable access to proven solutions and efficacy data, GG4L fuels rapid innovation in education. As a membership-based Public Benefit Corporation, GG4L is committed to voluntarily meeting higher standards of corporate purpose, accountability and transparency. To learn more, visit http://www.GG4L.com.

About McREL International

McREL International is a nonprofit research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world. Using a collaborative approach and research-based insights, McREL provides schools, districts, and other education organizations with high-quality research and evaluation, professional development and coaching, strategic planning, and assistance with improvement and innovation projects.  To learn more, visit http://www.mcrel.org.

T|H|E Journal Highlights Safer Schools in America Grant

The education technology publication T|H|E Journal reported on the Safer Schools in America Impact Grant to disburse $25 million worth of safety solutions to as many as 500 schools, and then study the effectiveness of the technologies deployed. The participating vendors focus on a wide variety of safety-related issues, from emotional well-being to managing sports injuries to keeping in touch with parents. “Parents, students, teachers and administrators expect schools to be safe, secure, and supportive for teaching and learning, but little research has been done to date to measure the effectiveness of the solutions that we purchase to address safety and well-being,” said Sandra Elliott, chief academic officer at Global Grid, in a statement.

Read the full article.

GG4L AND McREL LAUNCH “SAFER SCHOOLS IN AMERICA” $25M IMPACT GRANT

November 27, 2018 ​| Bay Area, CA, Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) and McREL International are pleased to announce the open application period for the Safer Schools in America Impact Grant with a total in-kind value of over $25 Million over three years.

Starting today, GG4L Member US districts may nominate up to three schools each to qualify for grants that fund several pre-integrated innovative solutions from over 25 global EdTech providers to be deployed and measured at no cost to the schools for a minimum of three years each. Any US school or school district could be a GG4L member at no cost and apply for the Grant Application. 100 US schools will be selected for the initial phase of the Grant by January 30, 2019, with 400 additional schools to be selected in later phases in 2019.  

Aligned to the US national ESSA-Title IV Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) framework for school safety, the Safer Schools in America Impact Grant will capture data-driven validation research around the expansive range of activities needed to foster safer school environments, including emotional, physical and digital safety, emergency preparedness, school facilities, culture, and community engagement.

“Parents, students, teachers and administrators expect schools to be safe, secure, and supportive for teaching and learning, but little research has been done to date to measure the effectiveness of the solutions that we purchase to address safety and well-being” explains Dr. Sandra Elliott, Chief Academic Officer at GG4L. Bryan Goodwin, CEO of McREL comments, “We hope that by joining this partnership, McREL can contribute to building a better evidence base that helps educators and parents make informed decisions about which approaches will work best for their students and schools.”

This Impact Grant is made possible through generous sponsorships from corporations and philanthropy.  For more information on the list of sponsors and participating GG4L Members please visit our website at https://gg4l.com/impact/safer-schools/


About Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) – Embracing the belief that our nation’s education system impacts our future, GG4L is building innovative public and private partnerships mindfully structured to harness the power of data to solve big school challenges such as school safety, literacy, college and career readiness and student wellness. With privacy and security top of mind, GG4L’s 3-way partnership between schools, industry and philanthropy, actively champions continuous cycles of improvement informed by data. By facilitating affordable access to proven solutions and efficacy data, GG4L fuels rapid innovation in education. As a membership-based Public Benefit Corporation, GG4L is committed to voluntarily meeting higher standards of corporate purpose, accountability and transparency.

About McREL International – A nonprofit research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world. McREL provides schools, districts, and other education organizations with high-quality research and evaluation, professional development and coaching, strategic planning, and assistance with improvement and innovation projects.

For more information please visit us at www.gg4l.com or contact us at saferschools@gg4l.com

Protecting Student Data Privacy – Everyone Plays a Role

Current legislation does not take into consideration the high-tech revolution that has occurred in EdTech. As beneficial as innovations like internet access, affordable devices, and e-learning tools can be for students, protecting the private information that schools possess can be challenging. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does protect families and their children to some extent; however, student data is often required to effectively provision cloud-hosted EdTech solutions.

Parents as Advocates

While there are certain bits of student data, such as directory information, that do not require a consent form to be shared by third-party vendors, parents do have the right to know what information is being used and why. A child’s education record can hold everything from their date of birth and home address to physical descriptors and school activities. When schools are managing multiple EdTech vendors, parents must have the ability to play a key advocacy role in ensuring privacy and data protection.

Schools as Trustees

It’s not uncommon for schools to contract with 25 or more different EdTech vendors, many requiring access to student information. Schools must develop and enforce strict data protection policies with their EdTech vendors as well as require an option for parents to opt-out of providing identifying information. Many programs, despite being school-related, do not fall under FERPA and are not automatically guaranteed the same data protections, so schools are forced to provide the additional necessary data security.

EdTech Community Working Together

Protecting student data is everyone’s responsibility, from the schools who store the data to the EdTech vendors who access it, to the corporations who demand highly-qualified candidates and drive the need for EdTech, to the communities that benefit from a well-educated population. Proper oversight is pivotal in the protection of sensitive student data, which has become more important as technology advances. Mobile portals and other third-party EdTech services are convenient, but they can pose a considerable privacy risk. We can all do more to help protect data.


Global Grid for Learning (GG4L) is committed to promoting data security in schools, and protecting the data of every user is a top priority. GG4L’s Connect platform makes integrating and deploying education technology safe, easy, and inexpensive. It’s free for schools to use, less expensive for EdTech vendors, and safer for students. As a Public Benefit Corporation, GG4L welcomes collaboration and support from corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropic foundations. Help us keep K-12 data interoperability costs low for schools, while maintaining the security and privacy of student data.  Contact us today to learn more about becoming a GG4L Corporate Sponsor.

Most School Districts Lack Necessary Interoperability

In a recent article in Education Week, interoperability in schools was found to be severely lacking, even in those districts on the leading edge of EdTech. Interoperability, the “seamless exchange of information between different systems and devices [t]hat can include class rosters, student performance information, digital content, and more” is necessary in order to efficiently use data while also ensuring security, but there is a long way to go. Top EdTech leaders site a lack of agreed-upon technical standards as part of the problem.

Read the full article.


The members and sponsors of the Global Grid for Learning are democratizing access to K-12 data and applications. We’re making EdTech easier to deploy, more effective for teachers and students, and more affordable for districts and vendors. Connect to the Grid. Take part in an Impact Initiative. Be a sponsor. Let’s make EdTech better together! Learn more.

Eliminating the Data Exchange Tax with GG4L

Typically, when a school needs to deploy a newly purchased data-driven EdTech solution, the vendor will have a large team of data analysts who reach out to the school and request the data files. Their contacts at the school must then work with the school’s IT coordinator, whose time is often split among several schools and whose responsibilities are already overwhelming without adding EdTech to the mix. The school on-boarding process may take anywhere from two to ten weeks to complete, depending on the time of the year and the IT coordinator’s capacity.

Meanwhile, the vendor’s data analyst must make a few follow-up phone calls, be patient, and wait his or her turn. The EdTech vendor’s in-house data on-boarding process can be highly inefficient, time consuming, expensive, and prone to errors.  This usually adds to the cost of doing business with schools, and most vendors factor at least 20% of their price to schools as sunk costs, or cost-of-sales as they refer to it, in their accounting terms.

In the past few years, a new set of open standards has emerged to make it easier to format the data and simplify the data extraction and upload processes for most applications. IMS Global’s OneRoster® and A4L’s xPress Roster are two such standards. Also, more extensive standards-based data models have emerged, such as Ed-Fi and SIF, that promote an improved application-to-application interoperability and can assist schools in data reporting to their government agencies, to meet required reporting compliance. These emerging standards are very promising, yet it is still an operational nightmare for most schools because most SIS systems and many of the vendors will take time to embrace and perfect their data integration tools, and there will still be the need for manual labor to setup the data integration infrastructure across these systems.

The Cost of Intermediary Data Exchange Services

There are some commercial companies who have been successful in playing the middleman with the medium to large school districts and have created easy-to-share data exchange platforms in the cloud. However, these companies still charge each of the vendors on a per-school, per-year basis, upwards of $250 a year, to solve their data on-boarding problems. This means that a vendor will pay an additional annual fee for every one of their school customers, in most cases more than 20% of the price of their product, as a cost of sale. The solution vendors in some cases are obligated by some school districts to use such an expensive data intermediary because the districts do not have sufficient resources and have no other choice.

Typically, a district has a minimum of 20 solutions using such a third-party data exchange intermediary, and at a cost of $250 a year per school, the district may be indirectly paying upwards of $5,000 annually per campus to outsource this function. Some large districts in Florida, with as many as 100 schools, have mandated that their solution vendors use such intermediary companies, costing their district at least $500,000 annually through this indirect cost model that is unwillingly absorbed by their EdTech vendors as a cost of doing business. These same districts will profess that they never have enough money to afford new innovative solutions, which is true! But what if they were to get that $500,000 back every year? Would that help them afford more innovative solutions? We think so.

Secure Data Exchange for Schools

By offering every school the possibility of providing the data exchange infrastructure in a more secure, more controlled, and more affordable environment, it creates a high-impact and very scalable gift to the EdTech community. And if each school has its own data exchange platform under its own control as a managed service, where the solution is financially subsidized by an external source of funding and is absorbed by neither the vendors nor the schools themselves, it is game-changing. If we then also give back to each school the $5,000-$500,000 annually they indirectly spend today on data exchange, so they could spend it on new innovative solutions that could solve other critical needs, it becomes transformative for the entire community.


The members and sponsors of the Global Grid for Learning are democratizing access to K-12 data and applications. We’re making EdTech easier to deploy, more effective for teachers and students, and more affordable for districts and vendors. Connect to the Grid. Take part in an Impact Initiative. Be a sponsor. Let’s make EdTech better together! Learn more.

Eliminating Data Security Risks in EdTech

Data security in the school enterprise world is an enormous challenge. Typically, the basic data needed by any EdTech solution vendor will consist of what is referred to as the roster data, which consists of the names and course affiliations of students and teachers within every school building.  Without these names and corresponding data, the application vendors could not create accounts for the end users of their systems. This process usually requires a bulk upload of the data using an extracted report from a Student Information System (SIS) that the school or the district office uses. The roster data changes frequently, so it is important for these files to be updated and uploaded daily through an automated data extraction and upload process, which is labor intensive to set up and maintain.

Managing Multiple EdTech Vendors Is Costly and Time-Consuming

If we assume that a typical school uses a minimum of 25 enterprise applications from 25 different vendors, then the data upload process needs to be set up in 25 discrete instances. That is a lot of work for any school with limited resources, and all schools have limited resources.  Complicating the process further, many vendors require other forms of data that go beyond the roster data, which means that there may be more than one source of data that is needed by a vendor and needs to be extracted (e.g. food, transportation, and gradebooks, to name a few).  Imagine the challenge! Some vendors bypass this process and take shortcuts that involve using the teachers in the classroom as a source of data, yet we all know that this is not a good utilization of teachers’ time and skills, and in many cases, schools create policies forbidding teachers from providing student or parent personal data to vendors, to minimize risks of data and privacy breach.

Protecting End Users Must Be a Priority

Most innovative consumer-oriented solutions today are accessed and used by end users through mobile applications that run on one of many forms of web-connected devices. This means that each user, regardless of age or the role they serve in the school, will most likely have to set up a personal account, agree to the vendor’s data privacy terms, and provide their profile data to the third-party vendor, to be able to use the product effectively. Some vendors, not all, do a great job taking data security and consumer privacy seriously, protecting the personal data of their end users and being transparent about what they do with the data. But you’re still asking students to interact with third-party platforms and provide personal information that may or may not be adequately protected.

GG4L Connect is designed to address the issue of data security so that schools can take advantage of multiple EdTech solutions without worrying about data security. GG4L Connect is consent-based, requiring the school data administrator to be 100% in control of inviting or approving a vendor to access a data subset or all the school’s stored SIS data. GG4L Connect is a global infrastructure with the ability to on-board any school’s data from any location in the world. We offer our EdTech vendors the option to invite an unlimited number of their school customers to join GG4L for free.


The members and sponsors of the Global Grid for Learning are democratizing access to K-12 data and applications. We’re making EdTech easier to deploy, more effective for teachers and students, and more affordable for districts and vendors. Connect to the Grid. Take part in an Impact Initiative. Be a sponsor. Let’s make EdTech better together! Learn more.

Healthy Schools = Healthy Community

Schools are the heart of each community. One out of two families in any neighborhood has at least one child who attends school. We trust schools with our children’s safety and well-being, and count on our schools to assist us as parents in educating our children and preparing them for their lifelong journey. Accordingly, local schools are critical to all of us and can greatly influence the overall socio-economic well-being of our communities.

When Schools Flourish, the Whole Community Excels

A highly rated public-school district is an important factor in creating demand for people to live in nearby homes, thus creating an increased demand for real estate properties. The ensuing surge in the average selling price of homes can provide a nice economic gain to the home owners of such a fortunate community.  Businesses also flourish around great schools. The better the economic security of the families in the community, the higher their spending power on consumer goods and services. So why should we all care about the health of our local schools? Because there is enough evidence that proves healthy schools lead to healthy surrounding communities.

Improving School Health through EdTech

Having great technology infrastructure in schools is no longer a nice-to-have – it is a must-have. Without technology, schools are unable to leverage the innovation that offers a positive impact not just inside the classroom but also in other critical components that affect our children’s safety.  A well-architected, resourced, and executed technology roadmap is mission critical to embracing innovative solutions that will ultimately improve the prosperity of each school.  But that technology must be not only accessible and affordable for schools but also protect the data of every user.

So how do we deliver the innovation, technology, and data security that schools need? It is the mission of Global Grid for Learning (GG4L), a Public Benefit Corporation, to accomplish exactly that! GG4L will create a sustainable impact in the world by helping schools solve the problem of secure and private data interoperability while reducing direct and indirect costs, by leveraging impact investments made by philanthropic foundations, CSRs, and local school communities.

This is a new era of giving where the money will be directly invested to affect the bottom line of every school, making hundreds of thousands of schools around the globe healthier, ultimately improving the lives of every citizen. GG4L is an ambitious global endeavor.  It will take years to be able to benefit every school around the world, but we intend to stay focused on our mission of improving the life of every citizen by focusing on schools, and their well-being, one school at a time.


Whether you are a school district, an EdTech vendor, or a potential sponsor, joining GG4L’s collaborative is easy. For further details about GG4L, how to join GG4L, or how to participate in an upcoming Impact Initiative, simply visit: https://gg4l.com/ or contact us at info@gg4l.com.