Ford Foundation Commits $100 Million to Transform Secondary Education in the Nation's Most Disadvantaged Schools
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Ford Foundation Commits $100 Million to Transform Secondary Education in the Nation's Most Disadvantaged Schools NEW YORK, Nov. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Ford Foundation today announced a new $100 million initiative to transform secondary education in urban schools across the country, saying it wants to help build the conditions and resources required to provide a great education to public school students. The seven-year, seven-city initiative will fund projects that address four basic elements of school infrastructure that have a decisive impact on the quality of education offered to the nation's most vulnerable student populations: sufficient and equitable school financing, quality teaching, additional and more useful learning time, and meaningful accountability. Driven by widening gaps in educational opportunities as well as persistent gaps in achievement, the Ford initiative will invest in reforms and reformers whose visions of a just and fair public schooling system can galvanize all the players--parents, students, teachers, and community leaders, as well as scholars and policy experts. "Improving our schools, and giving the most vulnerable young people real educational opportunities, benefits all of us," said Ford Foundation President Luis Ubinas. "With this initiative we want to shake up the conversations surrounding school reform and help spur some truly imaginative thinking and partnerships." Dr. Jeannie Oakes, director of the Educational Opportunity and Scholarship unit at Ford, said the foundation does not presume to have the answers, but believes that effective solutions are far more likely when all the stakeholders come together rather than competing to push narrow special interests. "The four areas of reform on which Oakes and her team are focusing are widely recognized as having the potential to make a significant difference in the education of all students, particularly those who are the least well served by the current school system," noted Alison Bernstein, vice president of Ford's Education, Creativity and Free Expression program. -- Teaching quality: In addition to having a well-prepared teacher, high-quality instruction is the product of teachers and other school staff working together to create a robust learning environment. Ford said it would support efforts that approach instruction and learning as a collaborative process and a shared responsibility--where a culture of excellence is cultivated and best practices are exchanged across the school. -- More learning time: There is broad agreement that extending the school day and year are key to improving academic outcomes for students. How that time is filled is essential. Ford will promote initiatives that show how poorer school districts can offer high-quality learning opportunities over a lengthened day and year. -- Stronger accountability: The foundation argues that standardized tests are a blunt and inadequate tool by which to gauge student learning and school effectiveness, focusing accountability on only a small slice of what parents and the public expects. The initiative will support reformers advancing more meaningful methods of assessment and accountability. -- Robust school funding: Many state finance systems fail to allocate enough resources to provide quality schooling for all students. Others perpetuate inequality by relying on property taxes to fund school districts, leaving poorer communities without adequate school resources. Ford's initiative will advance policies that address these vexing issues. "The importance of each of these areas to the future success of our young people can't be underestimated," said Mr. Ubinas. "We can't expect young people from disadvantaged communities to be ready for 21st century life without giving them significantly more hours and days at school to benefit from innovative teaching and learning." "Not only are these four areas essential, we must address them in ways that cut through the atmosphere of recrimination and dysfunction that often characterizes urban school reform efforts," said Jeannie Oakes. "Only then will we build a real movement for change that enables every public school in this country, and particularly those in the poorest districts, to offer an outstanding education to every student." Oakes said the foundation's initiative would focus on New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Denver. The foundation is working with a wide range of local partners in these cities--parents, teachers, students, community organizations, and local funders--all of whom are working hard to bring about sustainable change in their public schools. Early Grants from the Initiative -- The American Institutes for Research in Behavioral Sciences to develop new finance models to ensure that funds are allocated and dispensed in fair and equitable ways that reflect the individual needs of school districts and their students. -- The Urban Residency United to establish program standards for teacher residencies and to develop a new national teacher education model for cohorts of teachers in their first year of teaching. -- Generation Schools to refine and test their extended day model to allow for greater learning opportunities and encourage teacher collaboration. -- Stanford University to write and distribute a series of papers highlighting state-of-the-art assessments that measure a student's critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving across a wide array of subject areas. -- To the new AFT Innovation Fund, a foundation-funded but union-led initiative to make grants to AFT affiliates nationwide for innovative efforts established jointly by teachers, administrators, and parents. -- Public Interest Projects to support Communities for Public Education Reform, a large-scale public engagement collaborative that seeks to build grassroots support for improvements in teacher quality, fair and adequate finance, and stronger accountability. SOURCE Ford Foundation Fiona Guthrie, +1-212-573-4825, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Joe Voeller, +1-212-573-4821, email@example.com, both of Ford Foundation
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