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John S. and James L. Knight Foundation;
Communities across our nation are experimenting with new ways to engage citizens in the decisions made by civic leaders from the public, private and non-pro!t sectors, working sometimes together and sometimes at cross purposes. Ultimately, success at making democracy work and sustaining healthy communities requires engaged individuals, organizations, and institutions.
Across our country, community engagement bright spots are emerging. These initiatives foster a sense of attachment, expand access to information and resources, and create opportunities for citizens to play more active roles in setting priorities, addressing issues, and planning the longer-term sustainability of their communities.
The National League of Cities, working with The John S. and James L Knight Foundation, selected 14 communities that the two institutions are engaged with to explore how well or poorly some of these experiments are faring today. This analysis then focused more closely on four communities -- Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Austin -- to document the lessons learned and the challenges ahead.
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy;
School choice is a highly controversial topic in Massachusetts' educational policy circles these days. In recent years, the Commonwealth has offered students and their families a variety of school choice options, but very little funding has been dedicated to studying the impact, availability and enrollment trends of school choice. As a result, policymakers are forced to shape a policy agenda based upon conjecture rather than evidence.
The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, with the support of the Boston Foundation, commissioned this school choice mapping research to fill the informational gap. With this study, prepared by the researchers at the University of Massachusetts' Center for Education Policy, we seek to provide independently gathered evidence to better inform policymakers and researchers and to draw attention to policy issues that require further attention and investigation. We believe that school choice will continue to play a central role in the education reform debate and that this initial mapping is essential to display and benchmark current school choice phenomena while providing a basis for future trend analysis.
This report describes the various school choice options in Massachusetts and details the extent to which each school choice option is available and exercised. School choice options that were examined include:
Charter schoolsPrivate and parochial schoolsInter-district school choiceHome-schoolingMETCOVocational optionsIntra-district school choiceSpecial education programs
To the extent possible using current data, the report includes:
Information on the national context;Statewide information on utilization of each of the options; andIn-depth look at school choice dynamics in the metropolitan Boston area.
This report is intended to provide baseline data, rather than in-depth analysis of the status of school choice in Massachusetts. In addition, this report contains a policy brief that highlights the impact of trends in student enrollment and the availability of school choice in the Commonwealth.
Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative;
Unequal Exposure to Ecological Hazards 2005 documents Massachusetts residents' unequal exposure to environmental hazards. More specifically, the report analyzes both income based
and racially-based disparities in the geographic distribution of some 17 different types of
environmentally hazardous sites and industrial facilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This report provides evidence that working class communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by toxic waste disposal, incinerators, landfills, trash transfer stations, power plants, and polluting industrial facilities. In some cases, not only are new toxic facilities and dump sites located in poorer neighborhoods and communities of color, but as in the case of the public housing development and playgrounds near the Alewife station in Cambridge, housing for people of color and low income populations is sometimes located on top of preexisting hazardous waste sites and/or nearby polluting facilities. We conclude that striking inequities in the distribution of these environmentally hazardous sites and facilities are placing working class families and people of color at substantially greater risk of exposure to human health risks. We advocate the adoption of a number of measures, including a comprehensive environmental justice act, to reduce pollution and address unequal exposure to ecological threats.
Funders and program planners want to know: What does it cost to operate a high-quality after-school or summer program? This study answers that question, discovering that there is no "right" number. Cost varies substantially, depending on the characteristics of the participants, the goals of the program, who operates it and where it is located. Based on detailed cost data collected from 111 out-of-school-time programs in six cities, this report, along with an online calculator (www.wallacefoundation.org/cost-of-quality), provides cost averages and ranges for many common types of programs.
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy;
This School on the Move Best Practices Case Study was produced by EdVestors in conjunction with the Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize, a $100,000 award presented to one of the most improving Boston Public Schools each fall. The inaugural prize was awarded to the Sarah Greenwood K-8 School in Dorchester. The case study was commissioned by EdVestors and researched and written by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. The themes that emerge from the case study include: instructional leadership, instructional improvement; and supporting students. The case study is designed to be used by current and aspiring school leaders in the Boston Public Schools and other urban school districts throughout the country.
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy;
The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy convened a meeting on June 19-20, 2006 at which a series of research reports on reform in the Boston Public Schools were released. To summarize the papers and the proceedings of this event, the Center produced this executive summary, entitled A Decade of Boston School Reform: Reflections and Aspirations. The publication is entitled to promote a conversation about school improvement in Boston, the key issues facing the systemand the reform agenda for the future. This project was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
After nearly eleven years leading the district, Superintendent Thomas Payzant was preparing to retire. As superintendent, Payzant developed and implemented a coherent set of strategies designed to boost school performance and student learning. His departure presented a unique opportunity to examine the progress of these reform strategies and distill lessons to inform future improvement efforts in Boston and in other urban districts throughout the nation. To capitalize on this opportunity, the Rennie Center commissioned a team of leading researchers, each with a national reputation as well as ties to the Boston Public Schools, to write a series of papers on key reform strategies that marked Payzant's tenure. Those papers were the centerpiece of the meeting. Research papers included:
Human Capital Development:
* Building a Human Resource System in the Boston Public Schools by Susan Moore Johnson and Morgaen L. Donaldson, Harvard Graduate School of Education
* Leadership Development at the Boston Public Schools by Karen Mapp and Jennifer Suesse, Harvard Graduate School of Education
* Instructional Improvement in the BPS: 1996-2006, Barbara Neufeld, Education Matters
* Using Data to Inform Decision-making in the Boston Public Schools: Progress and New Challenges, Richard Murnane, Elizabeth City and Kristan Singleton, Harvard Graduate School of Education
High School Reform and Special Populations:
* The Road to Reform: Building a System of Excellent and Equitable High Schools in Boston, Adria Steinberg with Lili Allen, Jobs for the Future
* Escaping from Old Ideas: Educating Students with Disabilities in the Boston Public Schools, Ellen Guiney, Mary Ann Cohen and Erica Moldow, Boston Plan for Excellence
This executive summary represents a compilation of the highlights of the research and the meeting discussions. Each of the research papers is summarized, and followed by a synopsis of the dialogue that it sparked. We highlight several additional reform topics that event participants identified as important before concluding with overarching themes for the new superintendent to consider.
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy;
With public education in the nation's urban centers consistently lagging behind that of other districts, and the stakes for students steadily rising, Boston presents hope for those engaged in the fight for system-wide improvement in urban districts.
Ten years of steady leadership from Superintendent Thomas Payzant together with the consistent support of the mayor and school committee created a fertile environment for considerable gains in student achievement throughout the Boston Public Schools. These achievements were recognized in September 2006 with the selection of Boston for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, an annual award presented to the most improved urban school district in the country.
This critical era in the Boston Public Schools is the focus of a new book by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy entitled, A Decade of Urban School Reform: Persistence and Progress in the Boston Public Schools, which distills valuable insights and lessons for school leaders and reformers everywhere. With chapters that explore questions pertaining to governance, leadership development, instruction, data collection, students with disabilities, community engagement, and other topics, the book offers a detailed, comprehensive portrait of a school system managing the complex and daunting tasks of system-wide reform.
Rennie Center President Paul Reville comments, "This research validates Boston's strategic direction on education reform, but it also highlights key areas where reforms must go further and be equitably implemented at an accelerated pace. Both the successes of the past decade and Boston's ongoing challenges offer critical 'lessons-learned' for others engaged in school reform.
Edited by Paul Reville with Celine Coggins, this volume is published by the Harvard Education Press and includes chapters authored by nationally recognized educational experts. Research for the book was made possible by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as through support from the Noyce Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Irene B. and George A. Davis Foundation.
"The Boston story reminds us that there are no quick fixes or silver bullets in the battle for dramatically improved urban school districts and instead proves that steady focus on instructional improvement and strong commitment to system-wide reform can produce results," Reville stated. "All those fighting the good fight to ensure that urban children are provided with a high quality education will benefit from the lessons of the past decade in Boston."
Praise for the book:
"In its comprehensive account of school reform efforts in Boston, this book offers insights into the immense and necessary project that is contemporary urban school reform. It should be of interest to all who have a stake in urban school reform throughout the country." -- Richard Riley, Former U.S. Secretary of Education
"A Decade of Urban School Reform should be required reading for every educator and policymaker in this country. Success is possible, but as Boston demonstrates, it requires leadership, a unified partnership among all stakeholders, and an unwavering focus on student achievement." -- Eli Broad, The Broad Foundation
This report presents case studies of 12 nonprofit housing and community development organizations working to stabilize communities. It explains how the "five C's" of community stabilization help define and identify effective local community stabilization.
This report is the last in a series funded by The Wallace Foundation and developed by P/PV and The Finance Project to document the costs of out-of-school-time (OST) programs and the city-level systems that support them. The report examines the development of OST systems in six cities across the country and summarizes the strategies and activities commonly pursued, their associated investments and options for financing such system-building efforts. These findings can provide OST stakeholders with critical information to help guide their investments in system planning, start-up and ongoing operations.
The report serves as a companion to two previous resources: The Cost of Quality Out-of-School-Time Programs, which provides information on both the average out-of-pocket expenditures and the average full cost of a wide range of quality OST programs; and an online cost calculator that enables users to generate tailored cost estimates for many different types of OST programs.
Public funding for employment and training has dwindled over the past several decades. Yet in communities all over the United States, there has been considerable development of alternative approaches to help low-income people gain skills for particular industry sectors. In 2003, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, P/PV launched the Sectoral Employment Impact Study to test the efficacy of one such approach. Using a random-assignment design, P/PV researchers set out to answer the question: Can well-implemented, sector-focused training programs make a difference to the earnings of low-income disadvantaged workers and job seekers? Three organizations were selected to participate in the study: Jewish Vocational Service in Boston, Per Scholas in the Bronx and the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership in Milwaukee. This issue of P/PV In Brief summarizes impacts found for participants across the three sites, including increases in earnings and employment; a more detailed report on the study will be released in late 2009.
Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest);
This report presents information on the clients and agencies served by the Greater Boston
Food Bank. The information is drawn from a national study, Hunger in America 2006,
conducted for America's Second Harvest (A2H), the nation's largest organization of emergency food providers. The national study is based on completed in-person interviews with more than 52,000 clients served by the A2H food bank network, as well as on completed questionnaires from more than 30,000 A2H agencies. The study summarized below focuses mainly on emergency food providers and their clients who are supplied with food by food banks in the A2H network.
Key Findings: The A2H system served by the Greater Boston Food Bank provides food for an
estimated 321,500 different people annually.34% of the members of households served by the Greater Boston Food Bank are
children under 18 years old (Table 5.3.2).33% of client households include at least one employed adult (Table 5.7.1).Among households with children, 70% are food insecure and 29% are
experiencing hunger (Table 6.1.1).45% of clients served by the Greater Boston Food Bank report having to choose
between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel (Table 6.5.1).30% of clients had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical
care (Table 6.5.1).23% of households served by the Greater Boston Food Bank report having at least
one household member in poor health (Table 8.1.1)The Greater Boston Food Bank included approximately 623 agencies at the
administration of this survey, of which 405 have responded to the agency survey.
Of the responding agencies, 276 had at least one food pantry, soup kitchen, or
shelter.52% of pantries, 43% of kitchens, and 14% of shelters are run by faith-based
agencies affiliated with churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious
organizations (Table 10.6.1).80% of pantries, 60% of kitchens, and 50% of shelters of the Greater Boston Food
Bank reported that there had been an increase since 2001 in the number of clients
who come to their emergency food program sites (Table 10.8.1).Food banks are by far the single most important source of food for the agencies,
accounting for 64% of the food used by pantries, 44% of kitchens' food, and 51%
of shelters' food (Table 13.1.1).For the Greater Boston Food Bank, 90% of pantries, 95% of kitchens, and 73% of
shelters use volunteers (Table 13.2.1).
Workforce development practitioners and policymakers have come to recognize the importance of employers as customers. Too often, however, not enough time is devoted to considering (much less implementing) the organizational and programmatic changes necessary to truly engage employers. By Design describes strategies used by three organizations to effectively engage employers in workforce development efforts. Jewish Vocational Service, San Francisco; Training, Inc., Boston and WIRE-Net, Cleveland, have successfully involved employers in a variety of different waysfrom including them on the Board of Directors to having them teach training classes. By Design outlines employer-engagement strategies in detail to help other organizations substantively involve employers in daily activities and services.