Giving Compass' Take:

· Larry Cuban shares his concerns about private donors out-sized impact in pursuing school improvements.

· How are donors reforming education in the U.S.? What can be done to ensure that this funding and support is used in the best way possible?

· Read crash course for donors interested in education and education reform

As a teacher, superintendent, and professor I have been fortunate in receiving grants from donors over the decades. Small, middle-sized, and large grants came to support and expand my efforts in classrooms (e.g., Teacher Innovation Fund in Washington, D.C.), district (e.g., helping non-English speaking immigrants in Arlington, VA) and research I and colleagues did in schools and districts near Stanford University (e.g., Spencer Foundation, Hewlett and Packard Foundations). I enjoyed the benefits that flowed from having funds that I could use for classroom, school, and district innovations and classroom research with no strings attached.

Over the past decade, I have also been involved in researching the awards that donors have made (and continue to do so) to improve schools in the U.S. I and others have written extensively and critically about philanthropy and occasional over-reaching in prodding schools to improve (see here, here, here, and here).

I have experienced mixed feelings about these small and large grants to schools to try out different approaches to helping both teachers and students improve their performance. When, for example, the Gates Foundation stopped funding small high schools in 2008, gave large amounts to propagate Common Core Standards in 2010, and underwrote IPET (see parts 1, 2, and 3), my initial reaction was, hey, these foundation officers had not thought through carefully the complexity of schooling or the familiar perverse consequences that accrue to “innovations” that do belly-flops. Sure, foundation officials consulted with smart people before giving away money to schools and districts but they seldom consulted with people who do the daily work or experienced practitioners who know the system from the inside (see for example the history of the Annenberg Challenge in the 1990s and Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million dollar gift to Newark (NJ).

Read the full article about educational philanthropy by Larry Cuban at Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.