Our History – Digital Promise

Our History

Digital Promise is a global nonprofit working to expand opportunity for every learner. Working with a wide range of partners and practitioners in the U.S. and around the world, our initiatives have impacted over 4.4 million students and 180,000 teachers across 173 districts and in 27 countries to date.

Digital Promise was authorized by Congress in 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush, and formally launched by President Barack Obama in September 2011. Startup support came from the U.S. Department of Education, Carnegie Corporation of New York, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since then, Digital Promise has grown rapidly with support from both original and new funders.

Scroll through the timeline below for highlights of our history. This speech by Lawrence K. Grossman at the National Coalition of Independent Scholars in 2015 also offers more insight.


Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of NBC News and PBS, and Newton N. Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and PBS, along with several colleagues, had an idea. They wanted to convene leaders from schools, universities, libraries, museums and public broadcasting companies across the United States to figure out how to harness the power of breakthrough technologies to serve the public interest in education.


A Digital Gift to the Nation: Fulfilling the Promise of the Digital and Internet Age, a book by Grossman and Minow, was released. It included recommendations based on 6 years of research into how new and interactive technologies for teaching and learning could be used. (Explore more in this episode of PBS’s “The Open Mind.”)


A proposal to create the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT), a forerunner to Digital Promise, was submitted to Congress.


Digital Promise was authorized by Congress as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through Section 802 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush.


The Carnegie Foundation produced a report highlighting the creation of Digital Promise.


  • Digital Promise was launched at the White House under President Barack Obama with $500K in start-up capital from the U.S. Department of Education and $300K in startup funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  • The inaugural Board of Directors was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, with names provided by Congress.
  • The League of Innovative Schools (League) was established with 24 public school district leaders.

Expanded membership in the League to 32 districts in 21 states, serving 2.5M students


  • Expanded the League to 44 districts
  • Introduced micro-credentials to support continuous educator development
  • Tripled our staff and became bi-coastal, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley

  • Launched Verizon Innovative Learning Schools supporting 9 schools in 3 districts
  • Launched Adult Learning Beacons engaging 6 organizations supporting adults with basic literacy and workforce development
  • Created the Research@Work initiative to connect education research findings with the work of  practitioners and product developers
  • Developed 40 educator micro-credentials in support of Deeper Learning
  • Convened 14 Education Innovation Clusters in Pittsburgh, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education
  • Added 11 districts to the League, totalling 55


  • Grew Verizon Innovative Learning Schools to 46 schools in 15 states
  • Grew the League to 86 districts
  • Conducted 15 Marketplace pilots of eight edtech products in 21 schools
  • Hosted a Design Challenge Summit including participants in 5 cities to support the adoption of technology for adult learners
  • Launched the Maker Promise campaign with Maker Ed, advocating for powerful maker learning experiences for learners everywhere
  • Launched Learning Studios in 11 countries expanding our global engagement
  • Published 250 micro-credentials with more than 30 partner organizations

  • Welcomed prominent researchers and launched our learning sciences research team
  • Launched the Learner Variability Navigator
  • Received our first federal award with an Education Innovation and Research grant for United2Read, an early literacy research project
  • Collaborated with hundreds of school districts and supported nearly 10,000 educators through high-impact digital learning coaching and professional learning across our Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, the Dynamic Learning Project pilot, and our Educator Micro-credentials platform
  • Launched our computational thinking work with a new report, “Computational Thinking for a Computational World”
  • Grew Verizon Innovative Learning Schools to 74 schools in 17 states
  • Grew the League to 93 districts

  • Expanded Verizon Innovative Learning Schools to 100 schools, reaching more than 5,600 teachers and 87,000 students
  • Created the Challenge Map, an interactive tool featuring more than 30 specific challenges identified as relevant by educators
  • Launched MY World 360° to support youth worldwide to create 360° media as a way to advance positive action toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Co-designed 2 early learning curricular programs and 9 early learning apps, with educators and families
  • Expanded the League to 102 districts
  • Worked with partners to recruit 39 organizations in 15 metro areas to provide digital marketing skills training and micro-credentials to job seekers, career changers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners



Jean-Claude Brizard headshot

  • Celebrated Digital Promise’s 10th anniversary
  • Supported inaugural Students for Equitable Education (SEE) Summit
  • Announced Jean-Claude Brizard as the new President and CEO of Digital Promise, succeeding Karen Cator
  • Welcomed largest VILS Cohort ever, bringing total schools impacted to more than 500
  • Named new co-lead for National Science Foundation AI Institute for Engaged Learning
  • Marked 10 years of powerful networks by welcoming 37 diverse districts to the League of Innovative Schools
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