Monday, November 16, 2009

Ford Foundation Commits $100 Million to Transform Secondary Education in the Nation's Most Disadvantaged Schools

Ford Foundation
November, 2009

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

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

"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
-- 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

-- 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

"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.

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