US Public Education Policy: Missing Voices

Education and Literacy

US Public Education Policy: Missing Voices

Public education is a cornerstone of democracy. In the U.S., however, a growing number of families are withdrawing from the public school system, by choice or because that is their only option. Many of these families did try public school, but found it did not meet the needs of their children at at that time and place. Dismissing all homeschoolers as anti-school would be an unfortunate mischaracterization.

May 2017

Geographic Focus: North America / United States

Funding Futures: Scholarships as Agents of Social Change - Donor Resource Guide

Education and Literacy

Funding Futures: Scholarships as Agents of Social Change - Donor Resource Guide

At the Ford Foundation, we know that young people are a formidable force for positive social change in the world. Yet we have also seen how unequal access to economic and social resources limits many talented young people, and keeps them from reaching their full potential.

This resource guide is intended to illustrate how scholarship programs can make higher education more open and inclusive to all—and how they can fuel social change. The impact of well-designed scholarships can extend far beyond individual scholars. These scholarships help recognize and cultivate untapped talent, and address the inequality that too often thrives both in higher education institutions and in communities around the world.

This donor resource guide will be helpful to anyone who wants to start or improve a scholarship or fellowship program and we hope the guide—with its resources and examples from past programs like the foundation's International Fellowships Program—inspires donors and institutions alike to take risks and initiate transformational programs.

September 2016

Geographic Focus:

Schools as Organizations: Examining School Climate, Teacher Turnover, and Student Achievement in NYC

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy;Employment and Labor

Schools as Organizations: Examining School Climate, Teacher Turnover, and Student Achievement in NYC

During the last decade, education research and policy have generated considerable momentum behind efforts to remake teacher evaluation systems and place an effective teacher in every classroom. But schools are not simply collections of individual teachers; they are also organizations, with structures, practices, and norms that may impede or support good teaching. Could strengthening schools -- as organizations -- lead to better outcomes for teachers and students?

This study begins to address that question by examining how changes in school climate were related to changes in teacher turnover and student achievement in 278 NYC middle schools between 2008 and 2012. Drawing on teacher responses to NYC's annual School Survey, as well as student test scores, human resources data, and school administrative records, we identified four distinct and potentially malleable dimensions of middle schools' organizational environments:

  1. Leadership and professional development;
  2. High academic expectations for students;
  3. Teacher relationships and collaboration; and
  4. School safety and order.

We then examined how changes in these four dimensions over time were linked to corresponding changes in teacher turnover and student achievement. We found robust relationships between increases in all four dimensions of school climate and decreases in teacher turnover, suggesting that improving the environment in which teachers work could play an important role in reducing turnover. (The annual turnover in NYC middle schools is about 15 percent.)

We also discovered that improvements in two dimensions of school climate -- safety and academic expectations -- predicted small, but meaningful gains in students' performance on standardized math tests.

Taken together with other emerging evidence, these findings suggest that closing achievement gaps and turning around struggling schools will demand a focus on not only individual teacher effectiveness, but also the organizational effectiveness of schools. The policy brief outlines several potential areas of focus for districts that want to help schools in building healthy well-functioning organizations.

March 2016

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (New York Metropolitan Area)

Connecting Teachers and Ed-Tech Developers: Lessons from NYC's Gap App Program

Computers and Technology;Education and Literacy

Connecting Teachers and Ed-Tech Developers: Lessons from NYC's Gap App Program

In 2011, with support from a federal Investing in Innovation grant, the NYC Department of Education launched Innovate NYC Schools. The initiative was designed to address two related challenges to effectively integrating education technology (ed-tech) into classrooms: First, procurement of ed-tech tools is often hampered by a disconnect between teaching and learning demands on one hand, and developers' supply of tools and services on the other. Educators are not always informed about the tools and interventions that are available, while developers may not fully understand students' and teachers' needs. Second, because the DOE's traditional procurement process via formal Requests for Proposals is lengthy, it may be prevent some developers from bidding, and technology that was brand new when an RFP was released may be outdated by the time it reaches schools.

This report focuses on Innovate NYC's Gap App challenge and pilot program, which invited developers to submit an app aimed at solving a specific learning challenge. A number of the apps were then piloted in NYC public schools. During the pilot period, the apps were used in classrooms, and teachers had opportunities to provide feedback directly to developers, in an effort to help make the apps more useful.

The report describes the design of the Gap App challenge and the implementation of the pilot program in schools. It then considers whether using a Gap App influenced the way participating teachers and students approached technology in the classroom and provides a set of lessons that may inform future Innovate NYC Schools projects or similar initiatives in other districts.

January 2016

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Pathways to an Elite Education: Application, Admission, and Matriculation to New York City's Specialized High Schools (Working Paper)

Education and Literacy

Pathways to an Elite Education: Application, Admission, and Matriculation to New York City's Specialized High Schools (Working Paper)

New York City's elite public specialized high schools have a long history of offering a rigorous college preparatory education to the City's most academically talented students. Though immensely popular and highly selective, their policy of admitting students on the basis of a single entrance exam has been heavily criticized. Many argue, for example, that the policy inhibits diversity at the schools, which are predominately Asian, White, and male. In this paper, we provide a descriptive analysis of the "pipeline" from middle school to matriculation at a specialized high school, identifying group-level differences in rates of application, admission, and enrollment unexplained by measures of prior achievement. These differences serve to highlight points of intervention to improve access for under-represented groups. We also look at the role of middle schools in the pipeline, examining the distribution of offers across middle schools and testing for middle school effects on application and admission. Finally, we simulate the effects of alternative admissions rules on the composition of students at the specialized high schools.

March 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Degrees of Freedom: Expanding College Opportunities - for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Californians

Education and Literacy;Prison and Judicial Reform

Degrees of Freedom: Expanding College Opportunities - for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Californians

This report begins with a background on the higher education and criminal justice systems in California. This background section highlights the vocabulary and common pathways for each system, and provides a primer on California community colleges. Part II explains why California needs this initiative. Part III presents the landscape of existing college programs dedicated to criminal justice-involved populations in the community and in jails and prisons. This landscape identifies promising strategies and sites of innovation across the state, as well as current challenges to sustaining and expanding these programs. Part IV lays out concrete recommendations California should take to realize the vision of expanding high-quality college opportunities for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. It includes guidelines for developing high-quality, sustainable programs, building and strengthening partnerships, and shaping the policy landscape, both by using existing opportunities and by advocating for specific legislative and policy changes. Profiles of current college students and graduates with criminal records divide the sections and offer first-hand accounts of the joys and challenges of a college experience.

March 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Western)-California

Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males

Education and Literacy;Men;Race and Ethnicity

Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males

This Schott Foundation report details four-year graduation rates during the 2012-13 school year of black, white, and Latino males nationally, by state, and in major urban districts, finding that a systemic lack of equity in the quality of educational supports and resources for black and Latino students creates an "opportunity gap."

February 2015

Geographic Focus: National

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 45 Year Trend Report 2015

Education and Literacy

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 45 Year Trend Report 2015

This publication brings together in partnership, the Pell Institute with the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) of University of Pennsylvania. Both organizations have a core mission to promote a more open, equitable, and democratic higher education system within the United States. The Pell Institute has a special mission to promote more equitable opportunity for low-income, first generation, and students with disabilities.

The purpose of the Indicators of Higher Education Equity report is to report the status of higher education equity in the United States and to identify policies and practices that promote and hinder progress and illustrate the need for increased support of policies, programs and practices that not only improve overall attainment in higher education but also create greater equity in higher education attainment.

February 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

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