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This fund is hosted by Bright Funds Foundation (BF Fdn) and managed by Alexa Cortes Culwell, the co-founder of Open Impact, a strategic advisory firm partnering with philanthropic leaders to envision, design and accelerate their social impact. She is the co-author of the The Giving Code: Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Philanthropy (2016). For nearly two decades, Alexa built and managed foundations, philanthropic initiatives and strategic grants for successful entrepreneurs. From 1992-2005, Alexa served as the founding CEO of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and from 2006-2010 as CEO of the Stupski Foundation. In both these roles, she managed substantial investments working toward improving the quality of education of students in the Unites States. In her role guiding philanthropic investments, Alexa has created initiatives with dozens of human service and education-reform nonprofits and incubated and scaled several social change start-ups in the areas of education and youth development. Her work has been cited in Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review and by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. From 2010-2015 Alexa served as a visiting practitioner at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. Alexa is an active partner of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2), a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley, and a two-term trustee and longtime advisory board member of the Center for Effective Philanthropy based in Cambridge, MA. For the past 20 years, she has also played an active role developing New Door Ventures, a nationally recognized nonprofit in San Francisco that creates educational and economic opportunities for marginalized youth through job training and internships.
About the Issue:
In the U.S., a student’s zip code and skin color often determine if they will complete high school and be prepared for college entrance and completion, which in turn, is a key determinant for later life success as an adult. To make matters worse, the United States is facing its worse teacher shortage since the 1990s, and low-income schools are often disproportionately impacted. As a result, our public high schools are failing these students and need evidence-informed practices to more effectively educate their students. To effectively support improvements in U.S. education, we focus on the following areas:
Support for Strong Teachers: The quality of our public school teachers, and the support and mentorship they receive, dramatically impacts a student’s educational experience, academic achievement, and level of self-esteem. Yet teachers enter teaching with little relevant training and development and typically no mentorship. When teachers have high quality support and mentorship, research and evaluations show these teachers are more effective in facilitating student success and also stay in their jobs longer. Teachers who teach more effectively and stay in their jobs increase student achievement and success and save taxpayer money. The ability to be trained and serve as a mentor also elevates great teachers and gives them further reason to serve in public schools.
Support for Extended Learning Time and Enrichment: Research shows that a lack of learning opportunities outside of school – and in particular, a lack of summer learning opportunities – causes up to 2/3 of the academic achievement gap between children from low-income communities and their higher-income peers. When students participate in evidenced based programs that provide increased quality learning opportunities, they do better in school.
Support for Strong School Leaders: Leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success. Principals are often a first line of support and mentorship for teachers, and have a dramatic impact on the quality of their experience. Yet principals are woefully unprepared to serve and set the conditions for teacher success. Just like other professions, a poor boss can undermine productivity and success and contribute to making an employee want to leave their job. Improving the preparation of principals is an added and important lever for ensuring quality teachers and teaching that results in greater student achievement, especially for low income students.
The goal of this Fund is to create pathways for all children to thrive as productive and civically literate adults.