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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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The Parent Perception Barometer brings clarity and context to conversations about what parents think about K-12 education. From parents’ high-level perceptions about their kids’ schools to concerns about academic progress and mental health, multiple data sources provide insight into these trends. Some of the data highlight topics about which parent opinion is more divided. There is no substitute for directly engaging with parents and families to understand what educational opportunities and support they need, but this tool serves as a starting point for those working to better understand aggregated parents’ views on K-12 education, the broader landscape, and how both are evolving as the pandemic progresses.

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In Massachusetts, state leaders created the Horace Mann charter school model as a hybrid between the charter and district sectors: These schools have much of the same flexibility as charter schools but are approved by, and remain part of, their local school districts.

Horace Mann Charter Schools: Their Past, Present, and Promise analyzes the extent to which the Horace Mann school model lives up to its founding legislation, and outlines a set of recommendations to better support its success as well as incorporate the model into strategies for district improvement.

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Nationwide, English learners (ELs) are a fast-growing and diverse student population in the K-12 public school system. Today, the Southeast region of the U.S. is home to more than 710,000 EL students, who speak about 400 different languages and account for 15% of EL students in the country. This number is quickly increasing as certain states in the region see unprecedented growth in EL enrollment. Despite the trends, state education finance systems in the Southeast have not adapted to support the unique learning needs of EL students.

Bellwether Education Partners’ report, Improving Education Finance Equity for English Learners in the Southeast, examines state funding policy structures and data in nine Southeastern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee — and shares a set of policy recommendations based on promising, equitable funding practices.

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To understand the needs and opportunities for supporting rural schools, Bellwether Education Partners interviewed 30 educators, nonprofit leaders, and funders and surveyed more than 80 rural district and charter school leaders in Colorado.

Bellwether’s case study, Support for Rural Colorado Schools: How Philanthropy and Districts Came Together to Serve Students in 2020, and report, Support for Rural Colorado Schools Survey: Opportunities for Philanthropy to Address District Needs identify promising practices from funders’ early responses to the pandemic and pinpoint the most urgent needs of rural districts today, nearly two years after schools first closed their doors.

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Cover page for Expanding Educational Options: Emergent Policy Trends.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way that families and policymakers view K-12 education. Learning loss is having an outsized impact on students who were furthest from opportunity before the pandemic. And families are increasingly looking for new educational options for their children.

Expanding Educational Options: Emergent Policy Trends examines some of the most important trends in the realm of option-expanding state policies, along with recommendations to ensure that all families have equitable access to these educational opportunities.

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Banner image for Splitting the Bill education finance inequity series

Education finance sets the foundation for what is possible in every school in the country. Education finance equity is critical to leveling the playing field for underserved students in under-resourced schools. But in too many states, the education funding system remains inequitable, inadequate, and opaque to all but a few. How can advocates make these systems work more effectively in order to provide the necessary resources for all students?

Bellwether Education Partners’ series Splitting the Bill: Understanding Education Finance Equity gives advocates a crash course in the fundamentals of education finance and in key questions to ask in their states and communities.

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In October 2020, “Missing in the Margins: Estimating the Scale of the COVID-19 Attendance Crisis” estimated that as many as 3 million K-12 students were at high risk of experiencing minimal or no educational access from spring through fall 2020 as a result of the pandemic. That number became a shorthand for understanding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on America’s students, particularly those furthest from opportunity.

Fast-forward one year later, and available data on 2020-21 enrollment, attendance, and engagement suggest massive missed learning opportunities, especially among the most marginalized students.

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Cover page for Priced Out of Public Schools Report.

Public schools are designed to provide every student with an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. In reality, that ideal is removed from the lives of millions of K-12 schoolchildren. Geographic school district boundaries and the rental housing market limit options for students with the highest needs while benefiting more affluent families in far too many communities across the country.

Priced Out of Public Schools: District Lines, Housing Access, and Inequitable Educational Options, a new report by Bellwether Education Partners, examines the relationships among rental housing access, per-pupil funding, and school district boundaries in the 200 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

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In too many conversations about how to meet young people’s educational, housing, health, and other needs, one voice is critically missing: those most impacted. If communities want to equitably serve young people, problem solving must start with the young people and families who are experiencing the issue. Designing From the Margins is a new Bellwether Education Partners toolkit for practitioners in schools, districts, community non-profits, and other child-serving agencies. The toolkit shares design strategies for problem solving that start by engaging those who are most directly affected by a problem to create an effective, equitable, and sustainable solution.

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Millions of young people in the U.S. face overwhelming challenges to living long, happy, and healthy lives. When young people experience life events that disrupt their education pathways — like homelessness, incarceration, or a placement in foster care — they often struggle to meet the demands of the very systems that are designed to help them.

Lost by Design is a new resource from Bellwether Education Partners that outlines how to address this critical, solvable problem. On the site, you’ll meet young people and their families, read about promising progress across the country, access research and resources, and learn more about Bellwether's approach.

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