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A Foundation Returns to School: Strategies for Improving Public Education

Published: March 2008

Publisher(s): Ford Foundation

Author(s): Petrovich, Janice

Funder(s): Ford Foundation

View Report (42 pages; 276KB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Low-Performing Schools

Abstract

The factors that improve school quality—well-qualified teachers, modern buildings, adequate funding, effective leadership, and comprehensive curriculums—are less prevalent in schools serving predominantly poor or minority students. Given these resource inequities, it is not surprising that achievement gaps persist between low-income, African American and Latino students and their higher-income and white counterparts. Constituency Building for Public School Reform (CBPSR) was founded to address these issues through the promotion of demo­cratic participation by an informed public to advance high-quality education for all students. The report reviews the activities and lessons from the Ford Foundation's 13 year initiative to help communities realize changes in schools through CBPSR, policy research and evaluation, strategic communication, and networking.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+ Organizations that were part of CBPSR were shown to benefit from strategic communications training and assistance, research and data analysis, and networking.

+ Collaborating with other donors improves the effectiveness of both organizations and donors.

= Public schools will not show lasting improvements unless low-income and minority populations understand the choices involved in school reform and acquire a strong voice in making decisions.

= Successful reform depends on well-informed and inclusive coalitions capable of mobilizing a broad cross sector of the community; only an engaged public can generate the political energy to initiate and sustain reform and hold public officials accountable.

= Donors seeking to build civic capacity on education issues should target organizations possessing capacities such as a committed leadership and dedicated staff and boards or help promising organizations to develop them.

Geographic Focus: National

Subjects/Keywords: Low-performing schools; educational standards; reform; community/parent involvement; achievement gap

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
Challenge

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