Mergers and acquisitions

NYC-based education reform group folds into Stand For Children

John Legend Talks About Stand for Children from Stand for Children on Vimeo.

With both of its founders off the education stage, the Education Equality Project gracefully closed its doors this week when its remaining board members joined Stand for Children, a national school reform advocacy group.

Board members announced the news in a press release today, although insiders said the partnership was considered a done deal for several months. EEP has been without a staff since December and has been looking for suitors to meet its lofty national ambitions ever since.

By tapping into EEP, Stand For Children will gain three board members — including Grammy Award-winning R&B singer John Legend — and access to a powerful and diverse Rolodex of influential people who could help it establish beachheads in more states.

Unlike some reform groups that frequently challenge teachers unions, Stand For Children, founded in 1996 in Oregon, has prided itself on generating local support and collaborating with unions as it promotes legislative change. That reputation was challenged this summer after the group was revealed to have lobbied aggressively against Illinois teacher unions to get a reform bill passed.

Jonah Edelman, Stand For Children’s founder and CEO, said today that the new partnership with EEP would help the groups extend their influence in more states, particularly southern states where the influence of reform groups has been less strong.

“Together, we’re positioned to shape the national debate on public education while building powerful statewide organizations across the country that will make a profound impact for students, from the state capitol to the classroom,” Edelman said in a statement.

EEP had national ambitions when former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein and the Rev. Al Sharpton forged a partnership in 2008 to close the racial gap in student achievement. The group immediately assembled a powerful advisory board and quickly collected hundreds of signatures of support from education officials and advocates from around the country.

But the field of states-based national organizations — such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, and 50 Can —was growing crowded, and EEP failed to gain traction. Last year, the Klein-Sharpton partnership dissolved when Sharpton left the board. After that, the coalition’s spirit as a bridge-builder also dissipated.

Two EEP board members who run their own national advocacy groups — StudentsFirst’s Michelle Rhee and DFER’s Joe Williams — did not join Stand For Children’s board. Nor did Klein, who now runs an education division at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. A person who works in the education advocacy field said he thought Klein “wanted to throw his eggs in a new basket.”

In an interview, Edelman said that too often education advocacy organizations “work in silos.”

“This is the opposite,” Edelman said. “These are two organizations with a similar mission deciding to come together and work together.”

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.