An update on WG’s public education learning agenda
by Carmen James Lane (Meyer Foundation, PEWG chair) and Lee Christian Parker (Community Foundation, PEWG vice chair)
WG’s Public Education Working Group (PEWG) is collecting information about WG members’ current investments in education, paying special attention to human capital investments – a common priority area for Chancellor Rhee and PEWG. The goal is to determine how funding is currently aligned (or not aligned), and how our community can work collaboratively with Rhee to maximize the results of everyone’s investments to benefit the District’s youth. The survey results will help us to craft an action agenda for moving forward, and to respond once the Chancellor’s request of local foundations is known.
To be effective advocates for change, PEWG is in the midst of an accelerated, comprehensive learning agenda about the shifting landscape of public schools in the District. Over the last year, funders have met with key players in both the District government and nonprofit sector. State Superintendent for Education Deborah Gist and Chancellor Michelle Rhee shared their visions for the future and discussed how the enormous amount of reform work is divided between the different agencies. Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools, Teaching for Change, Center for Inspired Teaching, Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative provided updates about their work in District schools. PEWG members also heard from Special Assistant to the Chancellor Dan Gohl from the Office of Secondary School Transformation, Deputy Chief of the Office of Professional Development Cheryl Krehbiel, and Executive Director of the DCPS Extended Education Program Esther Monclova-Johnson.
PEWG has partnered with The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region to support the launch and on-going work of the Collaborative for Education Organizing (CEO), with several members investing in the effort. CEO seeks to build the public will needed to improve educational opportunities for District of Columbia public school students. PEWG and CEO share a commitment to strengthening local nonprofits that work strategically with the schools, and to building the capacity of District of Columbia public schools to reform.
The Working Group reconvened in February, 2007 to take advantage of the momentum created by the election of DC’s Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose top priority is public education reform. At that time, the group identified the achievement of academic excellence as its primary goal. Aligning investments around the professional development of teachers and principals (or “human capital”) and building public will for the reform effort are two key strategies in accomplishing this goal.