Trends in the News

Alternative Education Models and Funding Mechanisms

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Education Dive, 8/8/19

Federal programs, partnerships can defray CTE costs

High school career and technical education (CTE) courses use computers, simulators and other forms of high-tech equipment and digital learning that can be overwhelmingly expensive for districts. To help offset the cost of these programs, the U.S. Department of Education provides about $1.3 billion per year for CTE courses at the elementary, secondary and adult levels. Recently, the Pathways to STEM Apprenticeship program provided $3 million to six states to help CTE students acquire post-secondary education and link them to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Other models for states short on labor include New Jersey’s efforts to use county-run, work-based programs to train high school students to enter the workforce. School leaders are developing relationships with businesses, industries and community colleges to better understand employers’ needs.

Hechinger Report, 8/7/19

Anatomy of a failure: How an XQ Super School flopped

Alec Resnick and Shaunalynn Duffy won the $10 million grant in September 2016 as an “XQ Super School,”…The two had spent nearly seven years designing a new kind of high school, Powderhouse Studios. Finances became an insurmountable sticking point for Superintendent Mary Skipper and school committee members, even with $10 million pledged from XQ. State law mandates that Innovation Schools must receive the same amount per pupil as the district’s average, which in Somerville was roughly $17,000 per student. It didn’t seem like Somerville’s comprehensive high school, which enrolls about 1,250 students, could afford to lose 160 students to the new school. Costs for building maintenance, teachers and counselors would change very little, but the school would have millions less to cover them. Justifying the financial toll of a new school is a universal challenge for school designers.

The 74 Million, 8/5/19

Report: As tuition rises, how private schools and microschools are working to increase access for low- and middle-income families

A new report from Bellwether Education Partners…seeks to offer a fresh look at how private K-12 schools are keeping their costs down, even as the share of students from middle-income families attending private schools has dropped by nearly 50 percent since the 1960s. “There are a number of private schools that are out there that are trying to serve middle- and low-income students,” said Juliet Squire, a partner at Bellwether and co-author of the report. “That’s not an easy proposition to do without” public funding, she said. About 500,000 private-school students in 29 states receive public dollars through some combination of vouchers, education savings accounts and tax-credit scholarships. But the public support that students do receive for their private educations isn’t enough to cover full tuition costs except in a few states. Some private schools that enroll a large number of low-income students rely on a mix of philanthropy, public funds and novel approaches to work-study or cost savings to reduce the tuition burden parents face.

PBS, 5/27/19

How Wyoming manages to keep its rural schools open

The one-room schoolhouse may seem like a distant memory from U.S. history, but about 200 of them still exist today, including Wyoming’s tiny Valley Elementary School. It has only six students, but in Wyoming, education funding is redistributed so that students can have access to similar resources, no matter how small or remote their location. Many small schools across the country have closed in recent years due to state funding issues and population shifts. But in rural Wyoming, one school with just six students has so far survived. Wyoming spends between $15,000 to $18,000 per student per year in K-12 education. Among the top in the nation and maybe unique to Wyoming is the funding model that recaptures money from wealthy districts and redistributes those to school districts that are called entitlement districts.

Institute of Education Sciences, 5/9/19

Weighted student funding is on the rise. Here’s what we are learning.

Weighted student funding (WSF) is a funding method that aims to allocate funding based on individual student needs. While large districts are increasingly using WSF systems, little research exists to assess their effectiveness. In this guest blog, Dr. Marguerite Roza, Georgetown University, discusses her team’s ongoing…research study that seeks to document and understand WSF designs and features as implemented in the field, and to gauge the extent to which WSF designs are associated with reducing achievement gaps.

Chalkbeat, 4/1/19

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has made over $100 million in education grants since 2018, new disclosure shows

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has issued $110 million in grants to education causes since January 2018, according to new details posted to the organization’s website. The list of grants represents CZI’s first thorough accounting of its own education giving, and the total indicates that the organization remains one of the largest players in education philanthropy. The information, which also includes a list of investments in for-profit companies, sheds new light on the strategy of CZI. CZI says it donated to more than 80 organizations over the last 15 months, but other gifts were dwarfed by grants to the Summit charter network and New Schools Venture Fund, which together took in more than $40 million.

Education Week, 3/4/19

Ex-Microsoft CEO (no, not that one) giving big to K-12

The Ballmer Group, created by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie, has quietly committed more than a quarter-billion dollars to K-12-related organizations and projects over the last two years. The flow of money includes more than $100 million granted to organizations working to improve opportunities for children and families in poverty, as well as a $59 million investment in a for-profit software company seeking to ease the flow of student data between K-12 school districts and nonprofits. The Ballmer Group’s known activity to date primarily reflects a “wraparound approach” to education, said Sarah Reckhow, an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University. It emphasizes the community context in which children grow up, and it relies heavily on people with extensive experience in the social-services field and deep roots in the communities where grants are being awarded.

New York Times, 2/28/19

Betsy DeVos backs $5 billion in tax credits for school choice

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday pitched a $5 billion federal tax credit that would fund scholarships to private schools and other educational programs, throwing her weight behind what will be a difficult legislative undertaking to fund the Trump administration’s signature education initiative. Ms. DeVos will join Republican lawmakers in championing legislation that would allow states to opt into a program that provides individual and corporate donors dollar-for-dollar tax credits for contributing to scholarship programs that help families pay private-school tuition and other educational expenses. The program would also allow states the flexibility to fund other programs, like apprenticeship, dual enrollment, after-school and remedial programs.

EdSurge, 2/20/19

How to make district-wide innovation personal—and collaborative

A new case study by Entangled Solutions at Arcadia Unified School District highlights the following five takeaways which show that keeping people front, center and involved is key to scaling personalized learning effectively across any school community. 1. Build a culture of agency and risk-taking: “To get to a point where a teacher is vulnerable in a classroom in front of kids, we had to highlight ways you can fail and talk about it in a positive way,” said Greg Gazanian, Arcadia’s chief strategy and innovation officer. 2. Engage the community early and often: Arcadia has engaged its community in a multi-year effort to not just explain what it is doing, but also give community members a seat at the table to help define its goals. 3. Seek a partnership rather than a product: How teachers and students interact with each other and with the curriculum often is more important than the actual software they use. 4. Plan big, but start small: Arcadia has been intentional about who pilots the AltSchool platform first and the sequence of teachers with which it will grow its innovation efforts over time. 5. Set clear goals you can measure.

Chicago Tribune, 2/9/19

Time to say goodbye to 5-hour school days? Naperville school district officials say yes

In the past, a school day was mandated by Illinois to be five hours of direct supervision by a teacher, and how the state funded schools was based on student attendance during those days. In August 2017, the evidence-based funding formula was signed in to law, shifting the way state money is allocated to school enrollment figures and the number of students in need of extra supports. Because funding was no longer tied to attendance, the law also opened the door to more flexibility in terms of where and how students received instruction. Naperville District 203 has already taken great steps at the high school level toward making e-Learning days a reality by offering more blended classes, which combines direct-teaching days with days for independent online instruction.