Scott W. Hamilton
Managing Director, Pisces Foundation
Lewis C. Solmon
Senior Vice President, Milken Family Foundation
Managing Director, Broad Foundation
Mr. Hamilton: For all of us involved with school reform, the goal is to give every student the best education possible. To do this we have to ask, “How do we alter the power that controls education so that we get the best teachers in our classrooms and the best principals running our schools?”
As any parent will tell you, the quality of a child’s education all comes down to the day-to-day relationship between a teacher and a student in a classroom. Nothing is going to improve education unless it affects the quality of the teacher in the classroom with any student on any given day.
Similarly, the quality of a school comes down to the quality of the principal who oversees it. Those of us in education are finally recognizing that each school is an organization, not simply a unit of government or satellite of the district office. Schools are no different than for-profit companies and not-for-profit organizations-they require leadership and management to be successful.
Lewis Solmon and Dan Katzir believe that philanthropy can in fact be marshaled to improve the quality of teachers and school leaders. Solmon is senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation, which has done two of the biggest, most visible things of late to improve teacher quality: establishing and running both the Milken teaching awards and the Teacher Advancement Program. Katzir is the managing director of the Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, which is involved both with creating new training for school leaders in San Diego, and recruiting and training school leaders through a program called New Leaders for New Schools.
Mr. Solmon: We need more good teachers, but today the best and the brightest do not choose teaching for a lot of reasons: the lack of respect a teacher receives, the negative environment found in so many schools, the lack of career advancement opportunities, and a rigid compensation system that doesn’t reward success. When schools do manage to hire the best teachers, many will leave soon after entering.
We believe that private philanthropy can, and indeed must, help restructure the way the United States recruits, selects, trains, and rewards teachers. At the Milken Family Foundation we’ve adopted a two-pronged strategy. (1) Reward and draw attention to excellent teaching, and (2) reform the whole system of recruitment and employment of teachers.
The foundation works to reward and draw attention to excellent teachers through the Milken Educator Awards, which recognize and reward outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers, as well as other educators. We started giving these awards in California in 1987; twelve people received it that first year. To date, we’ve given 1,800 awards in 46 states. The winners each receive a check for $25,000 for their own personal use. It’s very important to reward these people commensurate with the kinds of rewards in other fields, because the size of the award does matter.
We initially hoped that these award-winners would become a cadre of education reform leaders. But we soon learned that although these winners were excellent classroom teachers and principals, they were not very knowledgeable about today’s education reform debates. So we decided to bring the award-winners together to various kinds of conferences to learn about early childhood education and technology, and standards and assessment, and other aspects of school reform.
Our second strategy has been to work nationwide to develop a high-quality, incentivized teaching force. You can put in all the technology and wire all the schools and do all the professional development you want. But if teachers are incapable of adapting to technology, or if they have no incentive to do so-and incentive is a word rarely heard in traditional public education-very little is going to change.
This realization led us to the second prong in our strategy-reforming the system whereby teachers are recruited and employed. To do this, we started the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP. The program is based upon five principles:
Multiple career paths-Allow good teachers to pursue a variety of career options (career teacher, mentor teacher, master teacher), each with a different salary based upon qualifications and responsibilities, so they don’t have to become administrators in order to significantly increase their incomes.
Market-driven compensation-Reward teachers based upon their performance and the performance of their students.
Performance-based accountability-Establish comprehensive system for evaluating teachers, with rewards attached for excellent performance.
Ongoing applied professional growth-Change school schedules so teachers have time during the day to learn, plan, mentor, and share with other teachers.
Expanded supply of high-quality teachers-Change the certification rules to allow people to be certified sooner and to work under a mentor’s direction for the early years of their career; allow for multi-state credentialing so teachers can move to states that need them.
One reason some pay-for-performance plans have not worked is because the bonuses were too small. Rewards of $500 aren’t enough to motivate teachers. Why do all the work to prepare to be evaluated for such a small potential reward? In our system, the best-performing teacher can make an additional $4,000. Add to that up to $15,000 a teacher gets for becoming a master teacher, and you’re talking about some significant money.
The most popular component of our program is what we call “ongoing applied professional development.” Instead of having teachers take short summer courses to maintain their credentials, we build professional development into the daily schedule. We rearrange the teaching schedule to find between two to five hours a week during which teachers can meet together in cluster groups to work with master and mentor teachers on the problems that they have to deal with in their classrooms-why Johnnie is not learning, how to teach a unit on gravity, and how to prepare to be evaluated according to the rubrics we’ve developed. By doing this during the day, it gives the teachers an opportunity to develop some collegiality, as opposed to a teacher not talking to another adult from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
TAP is a program of systemic change. We’re currently operating demonstration sites in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, South Carolina, and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The unions actually are beginning to accept this, because the reform is not top-down, it’s bottom-up. We also don’t force this program on people. Before TAP is started in a school, a 75 percent vote of approval by the faculty is required.
Mr. Katzir: The Broad Foundation has only been around for four years, focusing exclusively on K-12 urban education. The foundation is committed to improving governance, management, and labor relations in the nation’s largest urban districts.
When the Broads started the foundation in 1999, funding principal development and training was not even part of our portfolio. Our original thought was to focus solely on superintendents and school boards. At a strategic planning retreat in 1999, however, we invited a number of nontraditional superintendents to the table, one of whom was Joseph Olchefske, now the superintendent in Seattle and a former investment banker, and Alan Bersin, a former U.S. attorney who’s now the superintendent of schools in San Diego.
Both these men said that improving principalship was the most important piece of work that our foundation could do, because these people are the front-line managers in the battle to improve large-district schools.
We took that advice very seriously and began researching the suggestion. As a result, we added principals to our portfolio, with the goal of finding, preparing, and supporting leaders who can lead and manage schools to consistently higher academic performances.
One of our first ventures in funding principal training came in 1999, when the foundation agreed to support a partnership between San Diego Schools and the University of San Diego to develop a training program for aspiring principals. Our initial investment was for $325,000, or one-third the program’s cost. San Diego City Schools and Bank of America each supplied a third.
Bersin, the superintendent of San Diego City Schools, wanted a considerable voice over how this partnership was structured. He wanted applied curriculum, not one that is theory-based; he wanted the business school as a partner in the program as well as the education school; he wanted to draw resources and faculty from six different universities across the county, not just the one that was hosting the academy; he wanted at least half the courses led by practitioners, not academics. And he wanted the participants to have year-long residencies in schools where principals were doing a great job.
At the University of San Diego, a small private Catholic school, Bersin found a willing partner in the then-new dean of the education school. The dean overhauled the program that was in place in education administration and revamped it to match Bersin’s vision. The results have been amazing. Over 90 percent of the program’s participants have been placed as principals or assistant principals in the district, and student achievement results in their schools are ahead of those that other first-year principals have had in the San Diego school system.
Our foundation has also invested in New Leaders for New Schools. We provided start-up capital and now provide a one-to-one matching fellowship. New Leaders for New Schools is something like a Teach for America for principals. The program offers an intensive summer boot camp that is a cross between a MBA curriculum and the best in applied instructional leadership. It also has a very rigorous recruitment and selection process. Currently, regional recruiters fan out across the country to find applicants. Last year there were about 400 applications for 40 positions. The success of the first graduates is self-evident. Some 90 percent of those who just completed the program in June 2002 are now working as principals in charter schools in the San Francisco Bay area and in school districts and charter schools in New York and Chicago.
Most people have not thought about how necessary the preparation, recruitment, training, placement, and continued support of school leaders is to improving education. In four years, we’ve gone from not even considering funding principal training to having principal training make up the largest part of our funding portfolio. Over that time, we at the Broad Foundation have learned that principals matter-dramatically. Investing in principal training is critical because human capital is the business of education.