Philanthropedia Blog

Bay Area Education (x2)

March 16th, 2010 by Erinn Andrews Leave a reply »

In these recent blog posts, we’re sharing our thoughts about each social cause as we begin new research. The purpose of sharing this additional information is to explain why we think these are interesting or relevant areas to research, what we learned about the nuances of the cause, and the difficulties we faced in narrowing the scope of the research, so you, the reader, can understand what we considered as we refined our thinking about the research.

If you are an expert on any of these topics, you should be receiving an email from us soon and we hope you will be compelled to participate! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact me at erinn.andrews@myphilanthropedia.org.

Additionally, I’m sure I haven’t been able to capture every nuance in these sectors, so I invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might think about this work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, I hope you will learn something new and tune in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!

Background

Proposition 49 (2002) in California led to the creation of 4,000 new after-school programs. These programs were meant to tie academic standards to after school activities, were run by the district or community based organizations, included elements of youth development, and were mostly for students K-8 from 3-6pm. As awareness of the summer learning loss among disadvantaged students increased, new programming was created for students in the summer in the hopes of closing the achievement gap.

The San Francisco Bay Area is notable for the enormous number of nonprofits working in the education space. And while efforts have been made to collaborate among these groups, the coordination mechanisms to link the nonprofit are just not there. This problem may also be exacerbated by the regional divisions: Alameda County (Oakland), South Bay, San Francisco, West Contra Costa where nonprofits often work but only in their region.

The Education Landscape

After-school or out-of-school programming is not the only relevant distinction in education, however. As I interviewed education experts, I discovered there are many different ways to look at the “pieces” of education. One could divide up education via school levels: preK-K, grades 1-5, grades 6-12, and higher education. One could conduct research based on content expertise: literacy, math, science, etc. One could consider the distinction in-school versus out-of-school education. One could look at the level of involvement: school level, district level, or policy at the state level. Or, one could look topically across “problems” in education and try to identify nonprofits addressing those problems: human capital, turnarounds of low-performing schools, data, standards, and assessments, instructional improvement, etc.

In fact, the more I thought about these many divisions, the more I realized how large of a social cause education really is. Therefore, we decided it was best to conduct two “causes” around education in order to capture as much of the sector as possible. I tried to think about the two topics among the many from which to choose that would allow us to reach as many education nonprofits as possible, but also keep two distinct groups of experts for the survey purposes.

I first considered the in-school versus out-of-school distinction. I thought these two buckets would be distinct enough because in-school nonprofits would focus on things like school reform, the achievement gap, human capital, instructional improvement, curricular content development, low-performing schools turnarounds, and data, standards and assessments. While out-of-school nonprofits would focus on youth development, summer programming, and after school programming. However, as I talked to more experts, I learned that while this division was “real” so-to-speak, it was becoming more and more blurred as the K-12 system and out-of-school programs made a more concerted effort to work together. Traditionally these entities operated without much coordination. Therefore, I felt that if we also conducted research along these lines we would be exacerbating these long-standing divisions which the sector is trying so hard to eliminate.

When thinking about the other possible divisions that could capture experts in two distinct buckets, I decided that early childhood education and middle/secondary education could work. Those who specialize on early childhood education primarily focus on things like school readiness, literacy, math, and other early developmental processes. Further, elementary school teachers mostly teach all subjects to their students rather than specialize. However, once students arrive at the middle and secondary levels, this focus shifts both for the student and the teacher. Of course, after school programs don’t necessarily organize around the preK-5th grade and 6-12th grade divisions, however, I felt there was enough specialization along these dimensions to justify two separate research groups.

Who cares? Problem Statements

To learn more, I asked the experts what the main problems related to education are in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • There are a larger and larger number of students leaving the K-12 school system unprepared for what happens next. Connected to this problem is that among these large numbers of unprepared students, there are a disproportionate number of low income, African American, Latino, English Language Learners, and special needs students. The outcome is problematic: inequitable distribution of success.
  • Public schools are failing 50% of students and students are falling off-track earlier and earlier. There must be more of an effort focused on middle school students to catch students where they fall off.
  • We need more and better prepared teachers.  Our teachers are not prepared to serve the needs of low-income, underrepresented students. We must build the capacity of our teachers.
  • Districts need the capacity to build and develop their core workforce.
  • Equity. We need to increase access and have higher performance and higher quality learning experiences for all students, in particular, underserved and underperforming students. There is an achievement gap and an opportunity gap.
  • The biggest challenge in education: how to measure teacher impact.

Scope of the Research (x2)

Education Bay Area – Early Childhood Education: Public pre-K-5th grade

We are interested in learning more about education nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area that are having an impact on early childhood education: public pre-K-5th grade, in- or out-of-school education. This could be nonprofits working on literacy, school readiness, school reform, the achievement gap, human capital, instructional improvement, curricular content development, low-performing schools turnarounds, data, standards and assessments, after school programming (ie. youth development kind of work), summer programming, parental involvement, etc. Types of nonprofits could include research, policy, advocacy, training, traditional nonprofits or community based organizations, the traditional after-school kind of nonprofits/CBOs, or even the public schools themselves.

Education Bay Area – Middle-Secondary Education: Public 6-12th grade

We are interested in learning more about education nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area that are having an impact on public 6-12th grade, in- or out-of-school education. This could be nonprofits working on school reform, the achievement gap, human capital, instructional improvement, curricular content development, low-performing schools turnarounds, data, standards and assessments, after school programming (ie. youth development kind of work), summer programming, parental involvement, etc. Types of nonprofits could include research, policy, advocacy, training, traditional nonprofits or community based organizations, the traditional after-school kind of nonprofits/CBOs, or even the public schools themselves.

We’re excited to see the results of this research and share it with donors to help direct more funding to some of the highest impact education nonprofits in the Bay Area. As we begin this process, I’d love to hear what you think about these ideas. How might you have divided this social cause? What other major problems are facing education in the Bay Area? I invite you to share your thoughts and look forward to hearing from you.

9 comments

  1. Bob Kirkwood says:

    Re the achievement gap. Your analysis does not go far enough. The gap is evident at least at K entry and probably would be evident at age 3 if we had systematic data. Check the SCC Partnership for School readiness site and for assessments in SMC and SF-F5.

    The federal and State identification of a supposed ethnic or income gap is a function of the demographic data available to analize skills and education results. The SCC Partnership data where it has been broken down by ethnicity and income does show that 75-80% of Asian and White children are well skilled, while about 50% of Black and Hispanic children are well skilled. So the proportions are different but that does not makeit an ethnic gap if 50% of the Hispanic kids are well skilled then half the Hispanic kids are stronger than a smaller subset of White kids. The interesting analysis is within the Hispanic Community, Black, white or Asian communities. Why are so many kids coming to school underskilled whil and equal or greater proportion of that population group are well skilled? There is no definitive study providing the answer that I know of. However there are a lot of studies that the family emotional strength and the amount of toxic stress to which the children are exposed lead to the kind of underperformance we are measuring.

    That is why I and the Bella Vist Foundation are directing our resources at the emotional health of low income families with children 0-3. We see that as the most effective way to help social services and education delivered to the child later be much more effective in enhancing the child’s development.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your ideas, Bob and for elaborating on the research you’re looking at re: the achievement gap. That’s helpful context to understand the approach you’re taking at the Bella Vista Foundation with early childhood education and emotional health!

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