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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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"Leading by Exemplar: Lessons from Head Start Programs" is a synthesis of findings drawn from an in-depth analysis of five high-performing Head Start programs from across the country.

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"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.

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Bellwether pairs policy and practice to deliver durable solutions for our clients and bold ideas for the education field.

In our 2018 annual report, we look back at our best analysis, commentary, and projects during the last year and reflect on the impact our team has made in the education sector on a wide range of issues.

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National dialogue about teacher shortages is skewed by a flawed view that the issue is one generic problem. Reports in the 1980s and ’90s predicted a national teacher shortage crisis, but since then, teacher supply has actually kept up with student enrollment, creating a much less dire situation across subject areas. Today, shortages are a more localized issue.
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"The State of the Charter Sector" provides the latest available information on charter schools across the country, including updated data on growth, performance, and geographic trends. It also includes analyses of the challenges that charter schools face and how the sector is trying to address them.
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"Fairness in Facilities" takes a look at recent district and charter school construction projects in three Idaho communities and finds that charter schools are building facilities at a similar cost per square foot as district schools, but at a much lower cost per seat. Moreover, the facilities funding that public schools have access to is not equal across the sector.
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"Let the Research Show" digs into the research on how an early educator’s preparation affects their effectiveness in the classroom — and ultimately finds that there are no clear answers about what high-quality teacher preparation looks like.
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How do you build a continuously improving system of schools? Eight Cities is a new website from Bellwether Education Partners that provides stories from education leaders in eight cities who have moved more students into better schools.

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What effect does spending on educator benefits, such as pensions and healthcare, have on district and state K-12 education budgets? In a new report, “Benefits Take Larger Bite out of District K-12 Education Budgets,” we track ten years of spending data in nearly 14,000 districts across the country. The results are alarming.

Our analysis shows that nationally benefit spending consumes a greater share of K-12 spending overall in 2014 than it did in 2005. Nationally, 19 percent of K-12 spending goes toward benefits, an increase of more than 3 percentage points. At the low end, some states devote as little as 8 percent of their spending toward employee benefits, whereas at the high end, some states devote more than 30 percent of their K-12 budgets toward benefits. All but three states saw the share of their spending dedicated to benefits increase in the window of our analysis.

Overall, state education budgets increased only 1.6 percent from 2005 to 2014, after adjusting for inflation. In contrast, over the same period benefit spending increased 22 percent. This pattern holds in many states. In fact, 23 states effectively sent less money to the classrooms in 2014 than they did in 2005 due to the combination of stagnant or decreasing investments in K-12 education and burgeoning benefit costs.

This should worry teachers and legislators alike. Indeed, a considerable amount of benefit spending goes to pay down debt rather than for current employee benefits. That is, the higher spending is not translating into more valuable pensions or more generous healthcare benefits. And legislators may be frustrated that their investments in K-12 education are not reaching classrooms.

The problem of rising benefit costs will continue and likely grow for the foreseeable future. There are no easy fixes to these problems, but it will be critical for legislators to find solutions that balance paying down past obligations with contributing to the education of current students.
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