Saturday, December 05, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Newsletter archives - updated!
Just go here to review the 2009 issues, and remember to sign up to receive this free resource here.
(And please note that this free e-newsletter is a different animal than our subscription-based newsletter, the K-12 Partnership Report. KPR contains original content such as case studies of successful partnerships, how-to articles, and much more. Go here to learn more and download sample articles.)
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Is this right?
Take a look at the following graphic and brief description below:
In this graphic, there are four types of partnerships:
- The outer ring is made up of Impersonal Support - the many ways that people help the schools without any significant interaction with students or staff. Examples of this would be people donating food or door prizes for events, volunteering to clean up school grounds on a weekend, giving free meeting space, and the like. There's no relationship, and the work these people do has no effect on school operations.
- Next up is Peripheral Support. This category includes more hands-on partnership activities, but that do not affect the way the school or district goes about its business. Examples include mentoring, career days, internships, career/college preparedness programs, reading sessions and the like.
- Substantial Partnerships is next. In these partnerships, the school or district alters the way it operates as a result of the partner intervention. Examples include Operation Excellence, in which business leaders in Montgomery County (MD) worked with district leaders to analyze and improve district operations; the work of the Simon Foundation, which provides free space in malls so that districts can open alternative learning centers; or the Gowan Project, where an ag-tech company invested in new technology, teachers, and extra support (field trips, etc.) for advanced students in a school.
- True Integration is last, and represents situations where schools and their stakeholders become true partners, having a say in defining the purpose of education and collaboratively determining how to achieve their commonly-set goals. An example would be the academies of the National Academy Foundation, which use customized career-specific curricula and rely on local businesspeople for significant portions of the learning process.
I'm still playing around with this; if nothing else, the clunky category headers have got to be zazzed up some. But I'd certainly welcome feedback on this line of thought...
Thursday, November 05, 2009
The power of personal relationships
As one example, I spoke yesterday with two partnership leaders about a strong and growing chamber-led mentoring program. The program was based on sound thinking – mentoring has a strong body of research proving its value – but without a strong community network, the program would never have grown beyond a single mentoring relationship.
The program was created after a local business leader, one with a long history of supporting local schools, began mentoring a few high school students. Convinced of the many benefits of mentoring, both for students and for businesspeople/mentors, this banker approached the chamber about spearheading a larger-scale program. His standing in the community put weight behind his proposal, and they got behind it. Over the past few years the program has taken root and grown, with many area businesspeople signing on for a three-year mentoring commitment, and many others offering to host tours and mentoring sessions at their businesses.
This program succeeded thanks to the willingness of a handful of people to tap their personal relationships. After the chamber adopted this program, the founding businessperson went to his Rolodex and enlisted his personal contacts – other area business leaders – to participate. The district’s partnership office supported this outside program by promoting it through their channels and by encouraging school-level officials to identify students and make it easy for them to participate. Interestingly, one of the district’s partnership staff members ended up joining the chamber to run the program, further strengthening the ties between the chamber and district in ways that will undoubtedly help in the program’s growth.
Over the course of writing several case studies and talking with many more people, it’s become ever clearer that establishing and leveraging personal and professional relationships is a critical success factor in program development. They may not be a key component in the success of every partnership, but it’s evident that they can make your work significantly easier, and that the prospects for the success and growth of your program are much greater if you have internal and external supporters willing to commit to your work.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Getting better soon?
Consider the Reuters article US States suffer unbelievable revenue shortages:
Tax revenues used to pay teachers and fuel police cars continue to trail even the most pessimistic expectations, despite the cash from the economic stimulus plan pouring into state coffers.
"It's crazy. It's really just unbelievable," said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, and called the states' revenue situations "close to unprecedented."
Most states had been pessimistic in forecasting their tax revenues for the 2010 fiscal year, Pattison said. So far, collections have fallen below even those low targets.
And, according to a new paper by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities titled New fiscal year brings no relief from unprecedented state budget problems:
- At least 48 states have addressed or still face shortfalls in their budgets for fiscal year 2010 totaling $168 billion or 24 percent of state budget.
- An unusual number of these states are still struggling to balance their 2010 budgets two months after the start of the fiscal year. Three states — Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — have not yet adopted budgets for 2010. In addition, new shortfalls have opened up in at least 15 of the states that have adopted budgets — California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming — plus the District of Columbia . These additional gaps — some of which have already been addressed — totaled $28 billion.
- The states’ fiscal problems will continue into the next fiscal year and likely beyond. At least 36 states have looked ahead and anticipate deficits for fiscal year 2011. These shortfalls total $74 billion — 15 percent of budgets — for the 30 states that have estimated the size of these gaps by comparing expected spending with estimated revenues, and are likely to grow as more states prepare projections and revenues continue to deteriorate.
- Combined budget gaps for the next two fiscal years — those already mostly closed for 2010 and those projected for 2011 — are estimated to total at least $350 billion.
These numbers are better than they otherwise would have been, thanks to the stimulus funds. As Scott Pattison noted in the Reuters article, "The states are very, very concerned about that cliff -- they're concerned about when this recovery money stops."
But the reality is that the stimulus money will stop after next year. Even if there is a second stimulus package passed, it will almost certainly not include a large package of funds dedicated to education spending. And assuming that major stimulus funds for education will dry up in the near future, that the state budget conditions noted above are accurate, and that long-term trends work against funding for K-12 education...should districts limit their thinking solely to cost-cutting? Or is it time to look for alternate sources of support?
Monday, October 05, 2009
Bad now, or worse to come?
According to BusinessWeek’s reporting on the latest BLS employment report, we’ve lost 0.9% of our education jobs – 121,000 positions – between September 2008 and September 2009. A big caveat: this number includes all types of education jobs, including private education, higher education, and technical schools, so it’s impossible to suss out the K-12 losses specifically.
But assume our losses are consistent with the larger category – that K-12 education has lost around 1% of its workforce in the past year. According to BusinessWeek, there have only been three other years since the 50s that education has seen employment drops, and none approaching a 1% drop. Sounds pretty bad on the surface.
But then there’s this, from the US Department of Education:
- A projected 3.7 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary school teachers were engaged in classroom instruction in fall 2008. This number has risen 15 percent since 1998. The 2008 projected number of FTE teachers includes 3.2 million public school teachers and 0.5 million private school teachers.
- The number of public school teachers has risen faster than the number of public school students over the past 10 years, resulting in declines in the pupil/teacher ratio. In the fall of 2008, there were a projected 15.3 public school pupils per teacher, compared with 16.4 public school pupils per teacher 10 years earlier.
To sum up, we’ve had a 1% drop in employment over the past year – but that’s after a tremendous run-up of 15% growth over the 10 years prior, a growth rate that so exceeded the growth of the student population that we actually saw the teacher/student ratio drop significantly.
So it looks like things aren’t nearly as bad as advertised, right? I think that’s true for the moment, but that things are turning for the worse for two reasons.
- Enrollment in public K-12 education is projected to hit record numbers through 2017, seeing 8% growth from 2009 (50 million students) through 2017 (54 million students).
- It looks like we’re just at the beginning of job cuts in education. Revenue trends, and therefore employment trends, for state and local governments tend to lag behind the private sector, and there are countless reports out about continued freefalls in state revenues. Couple that with the loss of support from the stimulus package after next year, and state/local finance are going to look terrible – with public employment reflecting those numbers.
It’s pretty easy to see bigger problems coming down the pike, right? But from what I have seen and heard over the past few months, there are many in K-12 leadership roles who either don’t see these problems, or just assume that someone will take care of them (likely through a re-up of the stimulus plan).
I’ve talked about this several times already (here as one example) and have heard similar things from others anecdotally (often off the record). I just came across a blog post by a publisher of classroom resourced named Lee Wilson, who reported the following from a panel of superintendents at EdNet 2009:
The panelists were discussing what will change in the next 5-10 years in education. They were looking globally at the overall system (teacher evaluation, bell schedule, technology, instructional materials, funding flows, etc.). In this context the Superintendent of one of the largest districts in the country (LACOE), in a state (CA) that is experiencing a state of extreme financial distress, stated that she didn't think anything significant would change until we had a "major crisis."
If what we are experiencing right now isn't a major crisis I shudder to think what the hell would fit the definition? National bankruptcy? Nuclear Holocaust?
The Superintendents do expect to see change, but it will be small bore. They believe meaningful reforms will happen on a pioneer basis in a few schools and districts. But the larger issue of systemic education reform will require an even greater crisis than we currently have.
The system is so large and has so much inertia that even those with the will and positions to drive change don't hold out much hope for progress.
Think about that.
It’s pretty clear what we can expect in the next several years in terms of school funding (and, correspondingly, employment); I hope that school and district leaders find an opportunity to take a look at the situation with fresh eyes, realize that business as usual is impossible going forward, and look at some fresh solutions for dealing with the reality of the situation.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Announcing our Fall 2009 webinar series!
Last year's webinar series had a great response, so we're doing another series this fall. Each webinar is 75 minutes long, which includes time for Q&A; participants will receive an audio archive of the session along with materials from the presenter. Each webinar is just $59, and includes one phone and one computer connection, which allows several people in an office to participate.
There are special perks for those purchasing all six webinars: a 10% discount and a free one-year subscription to the K-12 Partnership Report, a $149 value.
Sessions include the following:
Webinar 1: Business/Education Partnerships 101 - Essential steps to building great programs
Tuesday, October 13, 2pm EST
Brett Pawlowski, president of DeHavilland Associates, will take participants step by step through the process of building a strong and sustainable partnership-driven education program. Topics include getting started: partnership principles; the asset inventory; program design; measurement and evaluation; and sustainability.
Webinar 2: Using social media to build community support for education
Tuesday, October 20, 2pm EST
The new media landscape can be intimidating. How can your organization keep up with blogs, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter ... and are all these social sites even relevant to your organization? Michele Schwartz, executive director of Texas Association of Partners in Education, will take participants step by step through the new conversation prism and how each new communication tool can be used to build community and effect strong partnerships.
Webinar 3: The seven key benchmarks of successful education foundations
Tuesday, October 27, 2pm EST
Jim Collogan, executive director of the National School Foundation Association (NSFA), offers an examination of seven characteristics of the most successful K-12 foundations in the US today. The benchmarks originate from the results of a national survey given to the leaders and school superintendents of K-12 foundations conducted by the NSFA in February 2008.
Webinar 4: Essential steps in recruiting, developing, managing and sustaining strong business Advisory Boards
Tuesday, November 3, 2pm EST
Charlie Katz, president of Katz Consulting, will take participants step by step through the process of recruiting, developing, managing and sustaining a strong and sustainable business Advisory Board made up of business leaders from the local community. Topics include what is an Advisory Board?: what are the hurdles to overcome?; a “proper” 3-step process; the role of the Advisory Board; growth and sustainability of your Advisory Board.
Webinar 5: Preparing school leaders for community engagement
Tuesday, November 10, 2pm EST
Nina Randall, coordinator of the Broward County (FL) Partners In Education, program, will present a nuts-and-bolts training that leaders can deliver to their local school-based partnership liaisons. Training will cover the profile of a School Partnership Liaison, steps to take to get started, Broward County’s policies and guidelines on advertising, fliers and security screening as well as partnership activities and aligning partnerships to curriculum standards, information on recruitment, retention and recognition.
Webinar 6: How to find and attract strategic volunteers for key positions
Tuesday, November 17, 2pm EST
Barbara Frank, former partnership director for Lincoln (NE) public schools and board member of NAPE, will lead this webinar on finding the right volunteers to fill key positions such as board members, fundraising leaders, and more.
I hope you'll just us for this series; you can find information on registering by credit card, check, or purchase order here.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The shift to partnership thinking
Two newspaper items I saw just this weekend:
The first, “Cashapped California schools seek commercial sponsors to raise funds,” describes how some schools are making it a priority to secure new sources of revenue. Beverly Hills schools are considering launching an apparel line; Chino Valley schools are interested in selling ads in their football stadiums and securing sponsorships for school assemblies; San Diego wants to sell naming rights for their science camps. While California is in a particularly bad place in terms of funding, I would expect to see more of this elsewhere starting in the very near future.
(And I want to be clear – I understand that selling sponsorships, or an apparel line for that matter, is not the same as building partnerships. I point to the article as evidence that schools are beginning to feel an urgent need to solicit support from the community, and that partnerships will inevitably be a part of that mix. After all, there are only so many ads that can be placed in the football stadium, and the economic environment is not conducive to getting top dollar for ads or sponsorships.)
The next is unprecedented: a school board candidate running with a focus on boosting revenue through private support and education partnerships. Part of a Q&A with school board candidate Carol Kaufmann, running for a seat on the Gravette (Arkansas) school board:
Q: What are your goals if elected?
A: The first goal would be to sustain and/or improve the existing curriculum and instruction. The second goal would be to research and exhaust all avenues of revenue prior to a millage increase.
Q: What challenges do you think need to be addressed?
A: I believe acquiring revenue for maintenance, upgrade, replacement and/or additional facilities is an ongoing challenge for all districts.
Q: How would you solve the district's problems?
A: I would look for alternative sources of revenue such as federal, state and working grant monies, Partners in Education, public and private industry and philanthropy.
It stands to reason that we’ll see more of this as the school year goes on, and that we’ll see more next year, and much more the year after (when the stimulus money is gone).
Friday, August 28, 2009
Back from hiatus
I’ve spent a lot of time keeping tabs on developments in the K-12 market over the past few months. A few thoughts as I get back up to speed after the slow summer days:
The USDE has fundamentally missed the boat.
The US Department of Education is in the process of completely squandering $100 billion. They see what’s happening to K-12 revenues at the state and local levels, and they’re smart enough to realize that the picture only looks worse once we get a couple of years out. So how do they want schools and districts to spend their stimulus money? Retaining teachers and boosting academic achievement – and that’s it. Both are noble goals in principle, to be sure; but they’re both akin to buying better paddles as you’re rafting towards a waterfall.
What happens when the stimulus money runs out? By then, state and local budgets will almost certainly have deteriorated further. Therefore many of the teachers we’ve retained, and spent money training, will be let go; the academic gains we’ve made with the immediate batch of students may benefit them, but they’ll be reversed after a year or two in the new learning environment, and the students coming up behind them will only face a bleak learning landscape.
USDE’s approach has been to seek instructional solutions to a financial crisis. Why not use this two-year funding buffer to mandate that schools streamline operations and find operating efficiencies? Why not give them an opportunity to cut expenses by 10-20% so that they’re prepared for lower levels of funding? As it stands, that $100 billion will wash through the system with no systemic change (specifically, no change on the operations/financial side) and we’ll have wasted an opportunity to prepare to live in the new funding environment.
Short-term thinking rules the day.
The public voices in education, made up of players ranging from publications to associations to education leaders to wonks to blogs, are ignoring the long-term realities of some fundamental changes in school funding. Yes, there are stories in Education Week about tight budgets, and about the mechanics of ARRA. But there’s been virtually no analysis of the fundamental economic challenges we’re facing, and what those will mean to the K-12 system once stimulus money runs out. Why has no one looked at the implications of a drop of 30-40% in home prices on public education? Property taxes make up 30% of K-12 funding, and some say that it’s going to take decades for home prices to reach their recent highs. What about how rapidly-growing entitlement systems like Medicare are going to increasingly compete for funding with schools? There are dramatic long-term implications to be addressed, but I have yet to see any coverage of the issue beyond what we’re dealing with at this exact moment. Yes, we need to know about the mechanics of ARRA, and we need to be told how districts are responding to the immediate situation. But shouldn’t we also look down the road a bit?
The orbit of the status quo is exceptionally strong.
As a corollary to the second point, those with public voices have so far failed to break out of a status quo viewpoint: looking at the current model of public education as sole reality, and refusing to envision alternate models that may be more compatible with a reduced funding environment. People are talking quite a bit about how they’re cutting back in certain areas – reduced bus routes, trimming staff around the periphery, and in some cases cutting a handful of school days. But these are only examples of their being reluctantly forced to tinker around the edges, within the context of the current system as the only possible model of schooling.
Why are we not questioning the current model and looking at ways of doing more with less? One example is the relentless call to minimize class size, a prohibitively expensive approach (and one without a supporting evidence base). Why not consider alternate ways of boosting performance, in light of research that shows rapid formative assessment is 124 times more cost-effective than class size reduction? Why not look at year-round schooling, better utilizing online instruction, eliminating sports (gasp!) and the like? Or actually incorporating community involvement in ways that reduce costs and improve outcomes, both in terms of instruction and operations? There’s no commandment that dictates schools have to function the way they do – let’s get under the hood and see how we can soup this baby up.
Anecdotally, I have heard that some district leaders are pushing their principals to build partnerships, but there’s no training or accountability behind the mandate. While it’s a start, it will severely limit the potential and duration of any relationships they build. And I fully expect that it amounts to more tinkering around the edges: find people to give us money to keep things going the way they are, not bring in people as partners to jointly plan initiatives that can improve or replace current ways of doing things.
But again, it’s a start. And, I expect, as budgets continue to shrink (and they will), hopefully community/school engagement will become enough of a priority that people will be willing to take the time to understand its potential and invest in doing it right.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
A failure of imagination
At the risk of oversimplifying things, consider that systems generally have three components: inputs, processes, and outputs. And we’re experiencing a failure of imagination on the first two points to the detriment of the third.
- Inputs – The K-12 education system receives almost all of its income (~99%) from government sources, and the discussion to date has centered entirely on the status of funding from those sources. As any private or nonprofit leader can tell you, however, it’s exceedingly dangerous to rely on a single source of revenue, whether it’s a customer or donor: it’s much safer and smarter to develop a broad and diverse base of support. While K-12 education will likely always rely on government funds for the majority of its support, there are great gains to be had by soliciting support from community stakeholders. There are any number of ways that they can contribute, and for systems feeling the pinch of reduced government spending (a pinch that will go on for years, perhaps decades), community support represents a tremendous and relatively untapped opportunity.
- Processes – Despite a vague call for reform, all of the talk I’ve heard has involved doing the same things we’ve always done. We may have to cut some teachers due to cutbacks, and we may do some more work on teacher training and data systems thanks to ARRA funds. But there’s been no talk at all about real change to accommodate a very different environment. Thanks to ARRA, we have a two-year buffer before funding really drops off a cliff: shouldn’t we be looking at developing more efficient operations? What about academically – is the current model of 12 grades, summers off, paid-employees-only, sitting-in-a-classroom-working-from-textbooks model still the right one? Community stakeholders, with expertise in various areas, could be a tremendous help here in setting priorities (and generating community buy-in), coming up with alternate models, and assisting in shouldering the load on reform and new operations. But they have to be asked, and that hasn’t even been brought up as an option.
- Outputs – It seems obvious, but if our inputs are declining, and we don’t change our processes, our outputs will inevitably decline as well. Given the need to improve K-12 outcomes on a number of metrics (graduation rates, academic preparedness, workforce preparedness, etc.), that doesn’t seem like a politically viable option. So clearly, either inputs or processes (or more realistically, both) are going to have to change if we want to see the improved results that the public demands.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Thought is also always rooted in values and motivations. We ordinarily think not for the sake of thinking but to achieve certain goals based on our system of values. Here possibilities for confusion arise: the conflict between treasured values and measures that are regarded as necessary can produce some curious contortions of thought - "Bombs for peace!" The original value is twisted into its opposite. Motivations provide equally ambiguous guidelines. There are those who would say that what counts are the intentions behind our thinking, that thought plays only a serving role, helping us achieve our goals but failing to go to the root of the evils in our world. In our political environment, it would seem, we are surrounded on all sides with good intentions. But the nurturing of good intentions is an utterly undemanding mental exercise, while drafting plans to realize those worthy goals is another matter. Moreover, it is far from clear whether "good intentions plus stupidity" or "evil intentions plus intelligence" have wrought more harm in the world. People with good intentions usually have few qualms about pursuing their goals. As a result, incompetence that would otherwise have remained harmless often becomes dangerous, especially as incompetent people with good intentions rarely suffer the qualms of conscience that sometimes inhibit the doings of competent people with bad intentions. The conviction that our intentions are unquestionably good may sanctify the most questionable means.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
More on property taxes
“Currently, we have national home prices bottoming in 2011,” they said. “However, prices for more expensive homes may not bottom out until 2012, and ultimately result in peak-to- trough declines in excess of 60 percent (compared to 40 percent nationally).”
is probably worse than other states, but higher-priced homes in general are going to be a problem,” [John] Sim said in a telephone interview today. California
I can understand people being skeptical of anything JP Morgan Chase has to say at the moment, but the demographics make sense: as empty-nesting Boomers look for smaller homes with less cost and less maintenance required, there's going to be an oversupply of large, and consequently more expensive, homes on the market. More supply and less demand are going to affect the values of these larger and more expensive properties disproportionately...
The perils of avoiding short-term pain
According to an Education Week review of the 31 applications approved as of late last week for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund—the largest piece of the education stimulus pie—nearly 90 percent of that money seems destined to backfill state cuts to education funding, with little left over.
More from the article:
The stabilization-fund applications that have already been approved confirm what school districts had feared: Much of this large infusion of money will be soaked up by states’ continued budget problems.
Overall, states on average are using about 87 percent of the stabilization funds to fill in K-12 and higher education cuts they already made in fiscal 2009, or cuts they would have had to make in 2010.
“We’re all disappointed,” Mr. Musso [Executive Director, Association of School Business Officials] said. “How are we supposed to make systemic change if the dollars are just buying the same thing we’ve been buying in the past?”
State and local government revenues have dropped markedly, and given the severity and causes of the current recession, it's clear that it will be a long time before they return to recent levels. (As an example, remember that much of of the revenue for local governments - and for schools - comes from property taxes, which still have a long way to fall, and will stay depressed for some time.) The $100 billion stimulus package for education was intended to give schools and districts a two-year reprieve so they could retool and be ready to operate in this very different funding landscape. And that doesn't seem to be happening.
Of course change is painful, and no one wants to let employees go; I understand that completely. But the reality is that by using all available funds to maintain the status quo, nothing is being done to prepare for a new funding reality that will inexorably hit in two years. The pain will be far worse then, since we weren't willing to feel a little pain now as we prepared.
Monday, June 15, 2009
New DHA white paper
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Tom Vander Ark is right
Q: Do you think that the federal stimulus is going to promote innovation and change?
A: I was hoping that we would see this financial crisis used more creatively to have fundamental conversations, but it's not really happening, not that I see. The downside to the federal bailout is that it puts a big Band-Aid on a system that's really obsolete.
Q: What happens if our schools don't make those dramatic changes?
A: The alternative will be a slow decline. We'll play this game for another 10 years while the world continues to pass us by.
Hat Tip: This Week in Education