Based in the Bay Area, Innovate Public Schools is demonstrating how to create system-level change on the demand and the supply side in multiple districts by building its skills across three complementary strategies:
1) Parent organizing that empowers parents to set and drive an agenda and ‘vote with their collective voice’ to influence changes in district policies that create high-quality schools;
2) Research and data on education inequality that can: (a) be used in the ‘air war’ to influence a broad set of stakeholders; and (b) in the ‘ground war’ to first empower parents and then be used by empowered parents in driving a change agenda; and
3) A Start-Up Schools Fellowship that supports the creation and success of new public charter schools, the redesign of existing underperforming district schools, and the creation and success of new district schools.
Innovate has worked with parents in five districts to engage their school boards to vote to allow charters to enter their districts. Innovate parents are also expanding the scope of issues they are organizing around. For example, Innovate parents are organizing in San Jose around addressing inadequacies in special education services in the district. Innovate parent leaders just successfully supported a recent campaign to vote to provide immigrants voting rights on school board elections in San Francisco.
In addition to going ‘deeper’ into the Bay Area (and driving more system-wide changes within those districts), Innovate has also come to recognize that it is in a strong position to go ‘wider’ and have national impact by training and supporting locally-led organizations to replicate its model of parent empowerment in other geographies (both organizing nonprofits and school operators). It is piloting a 2nd year of its year-long Community Organizing Training Program with 40 participants, including organizations from LA, Denver, CT and DC (as well as the Bay Area). Innovate also runs a national Parent Leadership Institute focused on building the skills of local parent leaders to drive change in their communities.
Match Education is a network of four high-performing PreK-12 charter schools in Boston that is in the process of growing from 800 to 1,250 students. Match graduates more African-American high school students with AP Calculus credit than any other school in Massachusetts while having one of the lowest student attrition rates across all schools in Boston. Match also operates its own degree-granting graduate school of education and recently launched a new alternative competency-based college and career-ready program named Match Beyond.
To amplify its impact, Match has created a platform – Match Export– through which it captures and freely shares all of its best content, trainings and knowledge via open education resources. The platform shares curriculum and assessment through Match Fishtank, and lessons on developing excellent educators as instructional leaders and classroom managers through Match Minis.
GO Public Schools has become a political force for education change in Oakland over the last 8 years through both organizing and electoral activism (including identifying and supporting 10 candidates for school board elections since 2012, 8 of whom won). It is a constructive advocate for change in areas including superintendent selection, teacher effectiveness, school funding, and removing political barriers to new charter approval. In 2015, GO expanded geographically for the first time to West Contra Costa (north of Oakland). RSS has funded a Resident Executive Director to develop a plan to expand into Fresno and California’s Central Valley in 2017.
New Politics Leadership Academy is committed to disrupting the status quo by training a new generation of leaders to get involved in politics. In many communities, the composition of the school board does not reflect the community of parents and students being educated. And even local empowered parent leaders don’t usually see holding office as an option for themselves. RSS funded a pilot by NPLA to work with 20 Boston-area parent leaders in education to explore their potential to seek public office. One participant noted, “My mother says if you're not part of the huddle, you're not in the game. Parents are not in the game. We're on the sidelines and we want to know how to get in." The training had strong resonance and received very positive feedback from the participants, with an outstanding net promoter score of 90. Based on this success, RSS is funding a similar training in Aurora, CO in partnership with New Profit’s Proximity Accelerator investee, Rise Colorado.
Education Cities is a convener and capacity-builder of organizations that drive the education reform agenda in 24 cities. RSS funded them in 2016 to build their membership’s capacity in parent organizing and political activism through a year-long set of working sessions exposing them to best practices and coaching between sessions to develop and execute plans in this work.
Polis Politics is the start-up that has created a mobile canvassing app which builds optimized individual door-knocking engagement routes at the touch of a button and gives staffers real-time analytics while their canvassers are out in the field. Polis empowers campaigns and organizations to spend more time in front of voters and community members and less time behind spreadsheets. Polis just finished a pilot in local MA elections in which 7 of 7 of its campaigns won.