The foundation’s K-12 Education program is guided by this fundamental belief. We embrace efforts to ensure all families can access high-quality school options, so that a great education — and the opportunities that enables — isn’t just for the lucky few.
Sometimes the headwinds we face in this work are strong. But when we look broadly at the issues we are confronting, we see progress and cause for optimism.
Across the country, we are forging relationships with innovative education leaders to open new schools that prepare students for college and career success.
Charter schools are an important element of our work: Last year, a Stanford CREDO report revealed that students in high-performing charter networks are gaining four additional months of learning in math and three additional months of learning in reading per year, compared to similar students in traditional district schools.
At the same time, we are also seeing district, charter and private schools collaborate with a shared goal of improving education for all students.
The idea that families deserve good, accessible schools is fast becoming the ‘new normal’ and taking root across entire cities.
We are excited about efforts to improve persistently struggling schools in Atlanta. The foundation worked with the local district and leading charter operators to establish in-district schools – like Thomasville Elementary – with greater autonomy and improved outcomes.
Last year also saw momentum toward equitable funding for all public schools. In Colorado, a broad coalition helped secure bipartisan passage of legislation to equalize funding for charter and traditional district schools. This means more dollars into classrooms, more strong teachers and more quality school options.
To encourage innovation and identify new school models, the foundation is seeking school entrepreneurs with plans that would embody a fundamentally different experience for students or teachers. While we are starting small, the innovative schools in the pilot will have the potential to help foster learning and catalyze change across the country.
We are expanding support for teachers and communities and creating new school models and visions that are responsive to demands from different communities.
We’re investing in innovators like Aaron Walker, CEO of Camelback Ventures. Camelback helps education leaders from underrepresented communities – primarily women and people of color – turn great ideas for students and schools into reality. In Houston, a foundation grant will help Teaching Excellence, a training program run by YES Prep Public Schools, train at least 620 educators, 70% of whom will identify as people of color, between 2018 and 2020.
In the K-12 education field, we too are experiencing the polarization and division being felt across the country. We are eager to see a recentering of politics that creates better conditions for policies that benefit students, schools and communities.
New schools, new school models, good measures of progress and a highly-qualified, diverse teaching workforce are not in themselves an objective.
The end we all seek is improved possibilities, better opportunities and a better tomorrow for the next generation of young people.