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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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Despite some gains over the past 20 years, significant numbers of students are not meeting grade-level expectations as defined by performance on academic assessments. Meanwhile, few schools are able to support the sort of accelerated academic learning needed to catch students up to grade-level expectations.

Evidence indicates this is not for lack of educator commitment or dedication. Instead, many educators lack clarity about how to help students catch up. Common messages about holding a high bar for academic rigor and personalizing learning to meet students where they are can be perceived as being at odds with one another.

Unfinished: Insights From Ongoing Work to Accelerate Outcomes for Students With Learning Gaps,” synthesizes a broad body of research on the science of learning in order to inform efforts to help students close gaps and meet grade-level expectations. This deck argues that helping students catch up is not about rigor or personalization — classrooms need both.

Closing learning gaps requires students to be motivated and engaged to grapple with challenging, grade-level skills and knowledge — while also having their individual learning needs met.

The report identifies what must happen among educators, systems-level leaders, teacher developers, instructional materials providers, and technology experts to move beyond the dichotomy of “rigor versus personalization” and toward a future that effectively blends the two.

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When rural charter schools succeed, what conditions enable their results? “Local Roots Take the Lead: Lessons From Rural Charter Schools” is a new website from Bellwether Education Partners that offers school leaders, funders, and authorizers a starting point to answer this question.
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In “Intersection Ahead: School Transportation, School Integration, and School Choice,” we identify three school choice models that focus on creating integrated schools, provide case studies for each, and examine their implications for school transportation and offer key recommendations for policymakers and other education leaders include:

Cover of "Intersection Ahead: School Transportation, School Integration, and School Choice" by Bellwether Education Partners, August 2019

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In 1969, more than half of students walked or biked to school, a little more than a third rode on a school bus, and relatively few rode to school in a car. Today, approximately a third of students still rely on a yellow bus, but only one out of 10 walk or bike, and more than half ride in a car.

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America’s fleet of roughly 480,000 school buses drives nearly 3.5 billion miles every year transporting students to and from school. About a third of students ride the bus, and more than half of students travel to school in personal vehicles, contributing millions more miles for school transportation.

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In this publication, we found that juvenile justice facilities fail to provide adjudicated youth with sufficient access to the courses they need to graduate high school. For example, students in juvenile justice facilities are 25 percent less likely to have access to Algebra I, a foundational class required for graduation. Moreover, these facilities offer only limited access to credit recovery programs, which are critical to helping students recoup course credits that they missed or failed to complete earlier in their academic careers.

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In this publication, we sought to understand the landscape of private schools working to provide an affordable education by looking at the approaches they are taking and how they are revisiting traditional operating models. We profile a variety of strategies used by schools to improve access for middle- and low-income families. Some schools rely on reducing the costs to families (i.e., tuition) by providing significant financial aid or partnering with scholarship programs, some have found inventive new revenue streams, and some have streamlined operations and leveraged technology to reduce their per-pupil expenditures.

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In this slide deck, "The Challenges and Opportunities in School Transportation Today," we examine the scope and importance of the school transportation sector, analyze the challenges that districts and contractors face when providing transportation services, highlight the critical decisions system leaders must make in allocating limited resources, and identify opportunities for improving service and reducing costs.

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In this brief, we identify states actively working to improve their assessments and shift their role beyond end-of-year math and reading tests. We also identify trailblazing states that are making big, public reforms around innovation in assessment. These include states applying to federal innovative assessment pilot programs and committing significant resources to new assessment ideas and methods.

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In Bellwether’s new report, "Teacher Pension Reform: Lessons and Warnings From West Virginia" we modeled the wealth accumulation for teachers in the pension fund, before and after the reform, as well as the intervening DC plan. We found that all of the plans were poorly constructed from the outset and fail to provide a significant retirement benefit to a majority of West Virginia’s educators.

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