K-12 Education Session Recaps

The Philanthropy Roundtable's K-12 Education Program is the leading producer of events, strategy sessions, and informational resources for a national network of donors who are dedicated to boosting underserved student outcomes and transforming America’s education system. Here is the full recap of K-12 education sessions from our 2018 Annual Meeting:

Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Gerard Robinson of the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO) and Ed Smith-Lewis of the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) College Pathways Initiative, spoke of exciting new research and career access partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). HBCUs have rich histories, often serving generations of African-American students dating back to Reconstruction in the American South. However, many HBCUs are not research-based and as a result, federal and philanthropic funding tends to bypass these same institutions that are dedicated to elevating African-American graduates, 70 percent of whom are first-generation college students. 

Through a $50 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, Smith-Lewis is actively working with dozens of institutions nationwide to boost career readiness of HBCU graduates, maximizing the organizational rapport and transparency between UNCF and HBCUs nationwide. The grants are supporting pedagogy, faculty preparation, experiential learning, and bridging the gap between curriculum and careers. CAO was established by the Thurgood Marshall Fund with $26 million in support from the Charles Koch Foundation, headed by Robinson. Three focus areas for CAO will include research on K-12 education, economic opportunity, and criminal justice. The grants are helping to establish research centers at HBCUs, while also building the capacity and reach of emerging researchers who are not yet tenured.

Many potential funders have balked at supporting HBCUs due to wariness of institutional strength. These grants are only the beginning and will go a long way towards capacity-building at HBCUs and restoring investor confidence. Listen to the full session here.


Left to right: Katherine Haley, Gerard Robinson, Edward Smith-Lewis
Photography by: LILA PHOTO

One Size Does Not Fit All: How Educational Pluralism Strengthens Democracy 

How could American students potentially benefit from a pluralistic public education system? How do Americans currently conceptualize education as a public good? If the public education system in the United States is intended to exist as monotonous and uniform, then why are we so divided as a country? The panel of Ashley Berner of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; Derrell Bradford of 50CAN; Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; and Roberto Gutierrez of LEEP Academy fielded all of these questions and more during a discussion on educational pluralism. 

Educational pluralism characterizes a public education system whereby school leaders autonomously determine educational delivery but receive public funding and are subject to state regulation. Without being overly prescriptive, the state provides a curricular framework and assessments with which schools determine specifics around learning material and pedagogy. Ideally, a pluralistic system leads to diversity of both school models and cultures united by a shared American ethos. 

One such school model will be LEEP Dual Language Academy in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, home to the fastest-growing Mexican population in the United States. LEEP will be a public school that places a premium on a curriculum that builds up the cultural and social capital of Latino students and families. Schools similar to LEEP and North Star in Newark — a charter aptly named after the newspaper started by Frederick Douglass — seek out to provide an educational experience that is culturally-affirming, civically-engaging, and serves as an on-ramp into American society.

As it stands now, school districts rarely spell out in their mission statements any reference to citizenship and producing students. More curricular versatility and school missions that convey to students that they are part of an American tradition bigger than themselves would go a long way towards mitigating political division and preserving a democratic society. Donors have a multi-faceted role in fostering pluralism. Levers to effect change include unique school design funds, investing in the types of curricular research for schools to break the mold with diverse course offerings, and coalition-building across political battle lines in support of policies that advance pluralism and preserve education as a public good. 


Left to right: Ashley Berner, Derrell Bradford, Roberto Gutierrez, Robert Pondiscio
Photography by: LILA PHOTO

New Pathways for Preparing the Teachers of Tomorrow

A panel of Tara Scarlett of the Scarlett Family Foundation; Patrick Riccards of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation; Liesel Anthony of Success Academy’s Education Institute; and Kenith Britt of Klipsch Educator’s College at Marian University, discussed new programs that represent a complete pivot from teacher preparation conventionally found at colleges and universities nationwide.

The Wilson Fellowship housed at MIT offers a personalized learning experience to teacher residents. Instead of courses, residents take part in “challenges” and situational teaching that test their competencies and don’t rely on credit hours. The hope is to not function as a large-scale institution that enrolls 50,000 students but rather an accredited institution in Massachusetts that functions as an open-source clearinghouse to other colleges and universities around the country. Success Academy’s Education Institute is a free online portal through which educators nationwide can access Success Academy’s open-sourced curricular and teacher training resources. The Education Institute houses Success Academy’s professional development playbook administered year-round to Success Academy teachers, particularly during the month prior to the start of the school year. 


Left to right: Tara Scarlett, Liesel Anthony, Patrick Riccards, Kenith Britt
Photography by: LILA PHOTO

How Much is Too Much Screen Time in Today’s Classrooms? 

As more schools begin to incorporate technology into the learning process, educators and policymakers are beginning to question the merits of increased screen time in classrooms. How can educators and funders ensure the responsible use of screen time that promotes and doesn’t hinder student learning? Is there still something to be said for school models that do not emphasize the regular use of technology?

A debate moderated by Martin West, editor-in-chief of Education Next covered the pros and cons of technology both inside and outside the classroom, and its effects on students at all grade levels. Debaters included Seton Education Partners' Stephanie Saroki de Garcia, Naomi Schaefer Riley of the American Enterprise Institute, Daniel Scoggin of Great Hearts Academies, and Getting Smart's Tom Vander Ark. The debate covered many of the points originally laid out in Education Next’s Winter 2018 issue.

Themes included:

  • Quality vs. quantity: Wariness around the use of technology in the classroom stems from shoddy implementation and an over-reliance on technology throughout the school day as opposed to the use of screens themselves. Skeptics of screen time in classrooms instead opt for methods such as Socratic-style teaching and exploratory learning that builds up agency and interpersonal skills within students. 
  • If someone says, ‘iPad for every student,’ walk away. Funders should proceed with caution upon hearing any variation of that sentence from educators who emphasize technology for its own sake as opposed to technology as a tool for high-quality teaching and curriculum. It’s essential for funders to seek out an implementation plan beforehand. 
  • Policy changes that promote alternative forms of education such as badging and competency-based learning must advance in tandem with the pace of technological progress.


Left to right: Daniel Scoggin, Naomi Schaefer Riley, Martin West, Stephanie Saroki de Garci, Tom Vander Ark
Photography by: LILA PHOTO