A great K-12 education and a college degree or job-training credential is a bridge to opportunity like no other when it comes to good jobs and career paths, and personal growth and fulfillment.
Thanks to the leadership of educators, policymakers, and others, tremendous gains have been made over the past decade. High school graduation rates have gone up in cities like Charlotte, Austin, and Fresno, and achievement is also on the rise—fourth-grade reading and math scores in large city schools increased at almost double the rate of public schools nationally, and 8th grade scores are even better.
Yet, graduation rates for low-income, Black, and Latino students lag behind the national average and are lower than for white students. And the percentage of high school graduates enrolled in postsecondary institutions has remained flat.
There is so much more that we can accomplish together for our students.
Our goal is to significantly increase the number of low-income, Black, and Latino students who earn a diploma, enroll in a postsecondary institution, and are on track in their first year to obtain a credential with labor-market value. Previous investments have helped us make tremendous gains over the past decade, and we have learned a vast amount from our partners and grantees. We look forward to applying those lessons—and learning new ones—as we continue our commitment to ensure all students receive a great public education so they have the skills and knowledge to succeed.
We have learned a lot over the years about the challenges of improving student outcomes.
From our work creating small schools to increase high school graduation and college-readiness rates, we saw how small schools could be responsive to their students’ needs. While the results in places like New York City, Los Angeles, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas were encouraging, we realized that districts were reluctant to scale small schools because of the financial and political costs of closing existing schools and starting new ones.
Our investments in the Measures of Effective Teaching provided important knowledge about how to observe teachers at their craft, rate their performance fairly, and give them actionable feedback. While these insights have been helpful to the field, we saw that differentiating teachers by performance, and in turn by pay scale, wasn’t enough to solve the problem alone.
We were also supportive of Common Core because we believed, and still believe, that all students—no matter where they go to school—should graduate with the skills and knowledge to succeed after high school. Educators and state leaders have spoken on the standards, but we continue to see that teachers need aligned curricula and professional development to fulfill the promise of the standards in their classrooms.
Our new chapter will be driven by a direct focus on schools, because that’s where the action of teaching and learning happens. Excellent schools—led by leaders who focus on continuous improvement grounded in data and evidence—are what help students succeed most.
We will focus our grantmaking on supporting schools in their work to improve student outcomes—particularly for low-income, Black, and Latino students—by partnering with middle and high schools and identifying new approaches that are effective and that could be replicated in other schools.
We will do this by investing in networks of schools to solve common problems schools face by using evidence-based interventions that best fit their needs, and data-driven continuous learning. We will also invest in ensuring that teachers and leaders have what they need to be successful—high-quality preparation, standards-aligned curriculum and tools, accompanied by professional learning opportunities. And we’ll keep our eyes on the horizon, advancing research and development in support of new innovations that will help our education system keep pace with our rapidly changing world.