What projects are you currently working on?
As CHIP’s inaugural Postdoctoral Research Fellow, I’m updating CHIP’s first-ever guidance from 2008, “Pathways to Student Success,” which will be released in mid-2017. The Pathways project is broad—it covers age 0 to 24—and is divided into 4 phases, each representing a step along the education pathway: early childhood, primary school, secondary school, and postsecondary, which includes college, work, or whatever else people under 24 are doing (or not doing). Within each phase, we’re focusing on several issues that can either help a student down the path to success, or create roadblocks for them. We then look at opportunities for donors to build up whatever is helping children succeed and tear down the roadblocks.
I’m also working on a project about disconnected youth/opportunity youth, generally defined as individuals age 16-24 who are neither working nor in school. We are looking at ways donors can help this population reconnect, whether through schooling or work.
What are common misperceptions that funders have about U.S. education?
- Education is too political, too massive, too costly, or too bureaucratic for a donor to have any effect. There are many great opportunities for donors to impact students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities directly. Every individual counts—changing just one life is an amazing thing, and should not be discounted. Also, much of the work in education is on a state-wide or local level, offering a more manageable way to get involved. You may be overwhelmed by trying to overhaul the US education system, but working with leaders, superintendents, or school boards in your community isn’t quite as daunting, and is generally more effective.
- Everybody needs to go to college. For many people, college is not worth the investment, and that won’t change until how we finance college changes. Evidence suggests that middle-skill jobs—jobs that require credentials but not a bachelor’s degree—are going to be in high demand in the coming years. Unfortunately, claims like “college isn’t for everyone” are sometimes used to keep minorities and underprivileged individuals out of college. That’s not what I’m saying. Instead of pushing people to college who may graduate (or drop out) with no job and crippling debt, we can work on providing alternatives for those who don’t want (or aren’t ready) to go to college while providing funding and support for those who do.
- Charter schools are the silver bullet. In terms of impact, charter schools are just like public schools: the good ones have the same effects as good public schools, the lower-quality ones have the same impact as lower-quality public schools, and the proportions of each are about the same. But charter schools provide an opportunity to implement proven practices, so in that sense they can be a nice on-ramp.
What are some current resources for donors interested in education in the U.S.?
There are actually quite a lot of resources, depending on areas of interest. The Arnold Foundation has a lot of information on evidence-based policy which it obtained from housing the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. What Works Clearinghouse has a database of programs that work. Root Cause also has some interesting publications, as do The Future of Children and Philanthropy Roundtable. I also like Social Impact Exchange for quicker overviews. And don’t forget to check out our Early Childhood Donor Toolkit!
What advice would you give to donors interested in this area?
- Start small. Get your feet wet by investing in high-quality, proven programs. As you learn more about the field, you can work more effectively on school reform and policy.
- As you learn more, get involved with more than money. You can serve on boards or volunteer. Additionally, businesses, for instance, may offer co-ops, internships, or apprenticeships to at-risk students. Or, politically connected individuals can help with advocacy and getting education initiatives on the agenda.
- Create partnerships. You can do more if you work with other funders, especially government funders, and if you partner with schools or districts.
- Follow a passion. Education overlaps with a lot of other areas, so branch out! As you look into education, you may find that you can better impact education by working in child welfare, public health, or criminal/juvenile justice. Follow your interests and, of course, the evidence.
- Read our Pathways to Student Success update when it comes out! Sign up for our listserv and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on the release of guidance.
For more of CHIP’s education guidance, click here.