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Knowledge From the Field

Closing the Achievement Gap: The Anatomy of Influence

Published: January 2008

Publisher(s): Annie E. Casey Foundation

Author(s): Read, Tory

Funder(s): Annie E. Casey Foundation

View Report (8 pages; 109KB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Low-performing Schools

Abstract: In an effort to maximize return on its investments, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s education program strives to influence education policy and practice on a national level. The Foundation supports activities in three major choice arenas: district schools, charter schools, and vouchers. The report looks at the various “influence investment” activities Casey’s education program has supported in the past seven years and explains the motivation behind them. It also presents case studies of influence investments that have led to concrete outcomes. Casey invests in organizations that document evidence about promising policy and practice and shares this information with audiences that can play a role in improving outcomes for children. Evidence is derived from strategic research, policy analysis, and program evaluation.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+ Recommendations made in reports that examine special education policy and practice have been incorporated into legislation.

+ Education Trust, a Casey grantee, trains parents to understand and use federal laws and student achievement data to advocate for quality public schools at the local level.

+ Four cities have improved teachers’ union contracts.

+ With funding from Casey and others, a grantee has directly influenced charter law revisions in multiple states and has also developed recommendations to improve the charter provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

= Building public will (e.g., mobilizing citizens to learn about and urge policymakers to take action on an issue) is an effective way to create pressure on public officials for change.

= Getting people together to network, brainstorm, and share best practices via conferences, meetings, workshops, and trainings is another effective way to spread the message.

= Face-to-face meetings are an essential component of any influence strategy. Serving on boards is one way to spread the message in person.

= In politics, immediate imperatives shape decision-making. Give policymakers actionable ideas because they want to know what they can do right now.

= Collaborate with other groups with overlapping interests.

Geographic Focus : New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA

Subjects/Keywords : Low-performing schools; accountability; charter schools; vouchers; school reform; policy; legislation; charter schools; community involvement

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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