Cover: Continuing Challenges and Potential for Collaborative Approaches to Education Reform

Continuing Challenges and Potential for Collaborative Approaches to Education Reform

Published Mar 3, 2011

by Susan J. Bodilly, Rita T. Karam, Nathan Orr


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The Ford Foundation began the Collaborating for Education Reform Initiative (CERI) in 1997-1998 by issuing grants and providing grantees with funds, guidance, and technical assistance to develop collaboratives and carry out activities to improve teaching and learning. CERI's collaborative activities were directed at three possible community groups: the district, a feeder pattern or cluster of schools in a district, and the larger community, such as parents and voters. After restructuring, the foundation ceased giving technical assistance and laid down a new set of goals for grantees: Develop interorganizational linkages to become a well-functioning collaborative and achieve financial independence; develop and implement plans for improving the quality of teaching and learning; develop and implement plans for systemic changes in policy to support improved teaching and learning; and develop a unique voice for underserved communities to air concerns about educational services. RAND Corporation researchers assessed (1) whether grantees showed progress toward the desired outcomes, (2) what lessons came out of the grantees' experiences, and (3) whether the foundation created financially sustainable collaboratives to promote education improvement. The researchers found that the restructured effort yielded functioning collaboratives with varying abilities to meet their goals and that those abilities were influenced by such factors as strong leadership and a positive funding environment. They also found that collaboratives can grow out of deliberate foundation efforts, though the process is not straightforward and their financial sustainability in a bad economy is uncertain.

The research in this report was produced within RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation. The research was sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

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