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Publications & Media

Learn more about Bellwether’s work by reading our publications, news articles, press releases, and case studies.

  • Publication
    Juliet Squire
    Melissa Steel King
    Justin Trinidad

    In recent decades, tuition increases in independent schools have outpaced inflation and wage growth, while thousands of Catholic parochial schools — which historically have provided private education at a much lower cost — have closed, leaving middle- and low-income families with fewer affordable options.

    Meanwhile, families across socioeconomic groups express interest in private schooling. While private schools consistently serve about 10% of U.S. students, 40% of parents say they would prefer private schools. These trends suggest a need to look more closely at efforts to increase affordability in private schools and ensure that all families have equitable access to the schools of their choice.

    In "Toward Equitable Access and Affordability: How Private Schools and Microschools Seek to Serve Middle- and Low-Income Students," 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.

    One category of private schools, the microschool, merited a closer look due to its profoundly different operational and financial profile. Through surveys and interviews with microschool leaders and experts around the country, this report seeks to further define this emerging sector of intentionally small, educationally innovative schools and to explore their potential as an affordable independent school option.

    Ultimately, this overview of low-cost private schools and microschools surfaced questions about improving equity in private education. The profiles of schools aiming to serve middle- and low-income families highlight unsolved puzzles about how to balance that mission with financial sustainability. The analysis also raises questions about the role of private schools in serving families with more limited means, and about the potential of low-cost models to scale and innovate. Further exploration of these questions is essential to ensuring that in the private sector as well as the public sector, all families have equal access to high-quality options.

    Title image for Bellwether publication

  • Publication
    Bonnie O'Keefe
    Melissa Steel King
    Chad Aldeman

    "An Uneven Path: Student Achievement in Boston Public Schools 2007-2017" finds that Boston students outperform their peers in other cities on performance tests, but that a decade of tight budgets, aging facilities, and persistent achievement gaps in the city have narrowed Boston’s lead over its peers.

  • Publication
    Ashley LiBetti
    Melissa Steel King

    Every year, new teachers collectively spend about $4.8 billion on their training requirements, nearly all of which goes to teacher preparation programs. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether that is money well-spent.

    In "A New Agenda: Research to Build a Better Teacher Preparation Program," we argue that a new approach — focused on rigorous, actionable research — is critical to driving improvement in teacher preparation. To create that body of research, the field needs:

    • systems that link completer performance data to preparation programs, make those data publicly accessible, and maintain individual privacy;
    • research methods that use those data to produce actionable strategies and effective practices to improve program design; and
    • policies that incentivize programs to evaluate the effectiveness of their model and adopt new, evidence-based practices.



    The end result should be a body of rigorous research that explores a multitude of possible improvement strategies, testing which components of program design are effective, for whom, and under what circumstances. Until those pieces are in place, the quality of teacher preparation will remain stagnant. America’s teachers and students deserve better.

  • Publication
    Melissa Steel King
    Leslie Kan
    Chad Aldeman

    Nationwide, concerns about teacher shortages and the retention of experienced teachers, particularly in certain subject areas and states, have been growing in recent years. Moreover, in most states, teachers entering the profession are not as racially diverse as the student population; nationally, 44 percent of all public school students are students of color, while only 17 percent of all public school teachers are educators of color.

    Given that the contributing factors to and severity of these issues vary widely across the country, it is critical for policymakers to have state-specific data about their teaching workforce in order to design effective solutions. This longitudinal analysis of Illinois educator data can help inform local stakeholders’ conversations about key aspects of state education policy, particularly related to diversity and supply and demand.

    In this study, Bellwether Education Partners compiles a portrait of the Illinois school workforce from 2002 to 2012 and explores changing trends over the past decade for policymakers and researchers.

    Read more...

  • Media

    Washington Post -- Children living in poverty often are exposed to high levels of constant stress that can be debilitating, not only in terms of their physical health but also their ability to learn. So what are schools to do?