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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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Each year thousands of youth in America are uprooted from their schools and communities and sent to a juvenile justice detention center. The majority of these confined youth are there for nonviolent offenses, including technical violations, such as failing to complete treatment or violating probation. Even youth awaiting foster care placement can be placed in a detention center. Over the course of a year, we estimate between 90,000 and 170,000 youth spend at least one day in a short-term detention center, and over 40% are detained for more than a month.

While in these facilities, young people are entitled to the same educational opportunities that they would have in the outside world. However, there is little research or data about this population. In “Educating Youth in Short-Term Detention,” we found that youth’s educational experiences in these facilities often compound, rather than alleviate, the challenges they face.

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In response to financial pressures, the New York State Assembly has created new, less-generous retirement plans for teachers and other educators. Employees are assigned to a benefit tier depending on their hire date. There are now six tiers, and each one offers workers less-generous benefits than the prior version.

How far have the benefits fallen, and does the current tier structure provide sufficient retirement benefits?

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Title image for Bellwether 2020 Annual Report

As we reflect on our impact during the last decade, we're proud to have worked with the most diverse cross-section of organizations in the field, attracted or developed deep expertise on a range of issues, and built a talented team to deliver the nuanced and stress-tested results we're known for.

In Bellwether's 2019 annual report, we celebrate some of the projects, publications, and commentary that best highlight our past year — and our decade of diverse, nuanced takes on education's thorniest questions.

Title image for Bellwether 2020 Annual Report

Learn more about our impact in 2019 and over the last 10 years at 2019.bellwethereducation.org.

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"Staking Out the Middle Ground: Policy Design for Autonomous Schools" provides state and local leaders with key insights into the various contours of autonomous school policies. Two research briefs drawing from the full report provide specific summaries of Recommendations for State Leaders and Recommendations for Local Leaders. The report also surfaces lessons and recommendations from in-depth Profiles of Autonomous School Policies in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, and Massachusetts.

Cover image for Bellwether publication Staking Out the Middle Ground: Policy Design for Autonomous Schools February 2020

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"Wide-Open Spaces: Schooling in Rural America Today” provides education policymakers with a factbase on America’s rural schools and communities: the economic and academic challenges they face, their unique assets, and opportunities for improvement.

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In "Social Security, Teacher Pensions, and the ‘Qualified’ Retirement Plan Test," Aldeman outlines the history of Social Security benefits in the public sector, describes the current rule and how it is intended to work, and then shows its limitations.

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Autonomous District Schools: Lessons From the Field on a Promising Strategy" summarizes Bellwether’s work with San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) over the past 18 months. The district has authorized three networks of autonomous district schools using a law that supports and incentivizes the creation of these schools. Bellwether provided program design support, strategic advice, and capacity building to SAISD’s Network Principal Initiative, and this deck offers an overview of the initiative and the lessons we learned about the launch of autonomous district schools.

This slide deck is accompanied by a tool kit, “Autonomous District Schools: Tools for Planning and Launching," which offers concrete resources for leaders interested in planning an autonomous school or network.

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School Performance Frameworks: Lessons, Cases, and Purposeful Design is a deep dive into how local education leaders can create, implement, and sustain effective SPFs. The report details established, locally focused SPFs in New York City, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C., and draws on research and interviews with SPF experts across the country.

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SchoolPerformanceFrameworks.org is a new website from Bellwether Education Partners designed to help local education leaders design, use, and sustain an effective school performance framework (SPF).

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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.

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