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Ford Foundation Targets H.S. Reform

By Catherine Gewertz — November 10, 2009 1 min read
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The Ford Foundation has committed $100 million to improving high school education in seven cities over the next seven years.

The initiative, announced Nov. 4, will focus on four areas: encouraging high-quality, collaborative teaching; ensuring “robust” state funding for education; designing accountability systems based on “more meaningful” methods of assessment than standardized tests; and making good use of an extended school day or year, according to the New York City-based philanthropy. The targeted cities are Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Newark, N.J., New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

Jeannie Oakes, who oversees the initiative as the director of the foundation’s education and scholarship unit, said the foundation chose its four areas of focus because it sees money, teachers, and time as key resources that must be well managed to improve high schools. In addition, a good accountability system can “pull those resources in a direction that produces very high quality,” she said.

The foundation is interested in supporting assessments of student learning that are more comprehensive and performance-based than standardized tests, she said. It is also interested in helping develop measures of the “alterable” school conditions under which students are learning, such as whether their teachers are well trained and whether their science labs are well outfitted, so that those examining a school’s performance can not only see its students’ outcomes, but also understand the conditions under which they were studying.

Some grants under the initiative have already been made. The American Institutes for Research won a grant to develop equitable new finance models. Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond is using one grant to write a series of papers on new assessments. Generation Schools, a New York City-based nonprofit organization, won money to refine and test its extended-day high school model, the foundation said.

One of the grants also helps support the American Federation of Teachers’ Innovation Fund as it scales up new methods of teacher bargaining, recruitment, evaluation, and compensation.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 2009 edition of Education Week as Ford Foundation Targets H.S. Reform


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