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Publications & Resources

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 coronavirus pandemic will have a profound, lasting impact on students, particularly those who are already marginalized. This includes students in foster care, those in juvenile detention facilities, or those experiencing homelessness. Schools, districts, nonprofit organizations, and other partners play a critical role in ensuring that systems of care support young people who need our help the most.

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With school opening just weeks away in many parts of the country, leaders need a detailed level of support — and a plan — to start the school year in the midst of a global pandemic.

Our complementary new resource, “Completing Your 2020-2021 Reopening Plan: A Practical Workbook for School Leaders,” includes all of the components of a reopening plan, offers questions school leaders should address, and links to concrete resources and examples of completed plans as guides.

We hope this new workbook provides helpful structure to an incredibly complex challenge and helps school leaders make more progress, faster.

Download the tool here to access templates to use or modify.

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More than 400,000 youth are currently in foster care in the United States, many of whom experience significant obstacles in their lives, ranging from frequent transitions between homecare placements and schools to unmet physical and mental health needs. Youth in foster care experience a number of common obstacles in accessing school choice: lack of transportation to remain in their school of origin, narrow definitions of sibling preference that leave out children in foster care, and insufficient information available to adults in their lives.

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Many charter schools and networks have demonstrated game-changing results for low-income students and students of color. And many are eager to extend their impact to benefit more students. Typically, schools and networks have extended their impact by expanding enrollment to serve more students or replicating their model and opening new schools. 

However, expansion and replication are not the only ways to reach more students. 

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For nearly two decades, state and federal policymakers have built standards-based accountability systems as a way to improve educational outcomes and to ensure that all students are held to the same rigorous standards. While the standards-based reform era has not fully lived up to the lofty goals of its early proponents, it has demonstrated some successes. Achievement scores and graduation rates have risen since the implementation of standards-based accountability systems, particularly for the most disadvantaged students, and we have much more information on school performance than we did prior to adoption of these policies, particularly for traditionally underserved students.

Yet those results have come with trade-offs. Imposing state standards limits teacher autonomy. Testing all students every year takes time out of the school day and costs money. And criticisms of standardized tests and their limitations as measures of quality, as well as pushback against how the data is used to drive decisions that affect schools, educators, and students have mounted over time. As federal accountability requirements have placed more pressure on states and schools, support for accountability has eroded on both the left and right ends of the political spectrum.

As a global pandemic interrupted purposefully designed systems of testing and accountability, we are left with critical questions: How does the underlying theory of standards-based accountability and its foundational goals of equity and transparency hold up decades later? What do key stakeholders need from these systems now? Given what we’ve learned from decades of successes and failures, how should these systems continue to evolve in the face of mounting political opposition?

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Schools and education organizations need good information about their programs to understand what works, for whom, and why. Obtaining and acting on that information, through program evaluation, is what transforms good organizations into great ones.

But when organizations support underserved students, it is especially important to design and implement evaluations with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in mind.

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Postsecondary education dramatically increases the likelihood of employment and economic success. But many young people, especially those furthest from opportunity and from underserved communities, are not accessing postsecondary pathways or realizing the benefits that come with a degree. To disrupt this inequity, we must better support students to identify, pursue, and complete college.

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The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black people, often by law enforcement, have added momentum and renewed urgency to longstanding efforts to rethink and perhaps eliminate the relationship between police and schools. This two-page resource is designed to aggregate and amplify the existing work of advocates, researchers, community organizers, and students in order to offer practical questions and next steps for school and district leaders considering a reevaluation of schools’ relationship with law enforcement.

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Business leaders play a critical role in ensuring that our education systems enable young people to gain the skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to be successful in the current and future economy. Business voices can be powerful tools to help shape policy, champion programs, and advocate for greater coordination and alignment among the early childhood, K-12, higher education, and workforce systems. Yet despite the long history of interaction between the education and business sectors, relatively little research has examined how business organizations successfully advocate on behalf of education policy priorities.

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As leaders consider reopening schools in the fall, there are numerous versions of what schooling could look like in different communities. But leaders can begin planning right away even amid uncertainty. This new resource zeroes in on the three most strategically and operationally distinct scenarios: all in-person learning, all distance learning, or a hybrid. Given the virus’ unpredictability and the high possibility of “rolling closures,” leaders will be in a strong position if they have plans that cover these core scenarios and are ready to move between them.

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