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Ideas matter. In addition to our work with clients, Bellwether Education Partners generates and gathers ideas and policy solutions, analyzes ongoing reform efforts, and writes about and discusses education and education reform. We believe that the work we do to improve education for all students benefits from thought leadership, analysis, and thoughtful discourse around emerging ideas, in order to help challenge leaders and leading organizations to think differently and improve, to coordinate efforts where possible, to inform policymakers and improve the political and policy context, and to share successful approaches with the public education field at large.

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With a historic pool of federal education funds now available to help address the effects of the pandemic, school districts and states have a unique window of opportunity to transform education — including by diversifying their workforce through recruiting, training, and retaining more Black and Hispanic teachers. Window of Opportunity: How States and Localities Can Use Federal Rescue Plan Dollars to Diversify Their Teacher Workforce offers a roadmap of recruitment and retention strategies that states and districts can begin implementing today to ensure America’s public school teaching workforce better reflects its students and meets their educational needs.

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The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on students from historically marginalized communities underscores the value of continuous improvement (CI) as a framework for understanding the depth of unfinished learning and responding to it in an urgent, data-driven, and adaptive manner. Working alongside school-based teams, Bellwether has developed a refined and balanced approach to the traditional CI process that is more attuned to realities in schools, particularly in the wake of the pandemic — and is now available for school leaders to download as a customizable, easy-to-use resource that can help them implement these techniques for students.

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Do employees at public colleges and universities have better retirement benefits than K-12 employees? This is the central question in the new report Choice and Quality Among Retirement Plans for Educators. The analysis shows that K-12 teachers are often offered different, worse retirement benefits than those offered to public higher education employees.

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Educators and students across the country are wrapping up one of the most challenging and exhausting years of their academic careers. The ongoing pandemic, 14 months and counting, has resulted in an erratic, inadequate, and inequitable experience for students, families, and educators. The compounded impact of months of interrupted schooling has been well documented. As educators look ahead, many are planning to implement strategies to help students make up lost ground and access rigorous on grade-level content. This is the right mindset. 

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Calls for schools to end long-standing approaches—such as police officers on campuses, expulsions, and zero-tolerance policies—are a part of a broader call to divest from punitive systems. However, while divesting is an important part of interrupting punitive systems, so is the effort to make investments. Investing in Healthy Transitions to Adulthood: The Role of Schools, a new release from Bellwether, identifies key opportunities for schools to take on broader and more influential roles in the evolving conversation about policing, mass incarceration, and the movement for racial justice.

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The path to and through college is not easy or guaranteed, and COVID-19 has only exposed the faultlines along the journey. Reimagining the Road to Graduation, a new resource from Bellwether Education Partners, tells the stories of five students whose postsecondary plans were affected by the pandemic, and their efforts to stay on track.

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The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) includes $123 billion to K-12 education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and $39 billion for higher education through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). What’s in the law? How can schools use the funding? And will it be enough to address the gaps that COVID-19 exposed and exacerbated? Despite variation in local context, in many places, ARPA will represent a windfall of funding for education. This brief provides a look at the K-12 and higher education-related provisions of ARPA, as well as an overview of other ARPA provisions related to families and children, including childcare, food, housing, and income supports.

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Title image for Bellwether 2020 Annual Report

Bellwether was founded on the idea that schools must do dramatically more for Black, Hispanic, low-income, and other students historically denied access to opportunity in America — and for more than 10 years, clients have looked to us to provide thoughtful, non-ideological analysis and strategies that prioritize serving disadvantaged children. In Bellwether's 2020 annual report, we share a sampling of the projects, publications, and commentary that best highlight how we maintained our commitment to ensuring underserved students receive the education they deserve, during a challenging year for education and the world.

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In alignment with national trends, public discourse about the role of charters in Texas’s public school system can be contentious – and one primary point of contention has been around differences in public funding for Texas school districts versus charter schools. In "On a Path to Parity: Equity and Impact of Texas School Funding Policy for School Districts and Charter Schools," we look at the differences in public funding between Texas school districts and charter schools, and offer three considerations for policymakers seeking to further level the funding playing field.

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Young people who experience disruptive and traumatic events rely on our nation’s child-serving agencies for support to navigate their circumstances, heal from trauma, and return to school, work, and life as healthy and productive citizens. Unfortunately, too often our existing service agencies fall short of meeting the needs of these youth. As a result, students who experience a disruptive event in youth are more likely to experience homelessness, to have unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, and to end up in jail throughout their lifetimes.

"The Value of Harms Avoided: Calculating the Cost of a Fragmented System of Social Services" attempts to calculate both the cost of the current system across multiple disruptions that young people might face and the cost of a hypothetical system in which the first intervention works—allowing the individual to leverage support systems in the future at the rate and cost of a person who did not experience a disruptive event as a child. Based on our calculation, such a system could free up more than $1.5 trillion over the lifetimes of the cohort of youth currently served by care agencies.

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