At ERS we are in the business of helping districts think strategically about how to use their people, time, and money in the most effective ways. With less than 50 staff members, we can only serve a small percent of the thousands of districts that want to do that kind of strategic planning. Recently, we developed another way to support districts we can’t directly work with—by partnering with organizations that can.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is one such organization. CCER works to close the achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students in Connecticut. They do this by partnering with Connecticut’s lowest-performing districts (the “Alliance Districts”) and by advocating for state-level policies designed to narrow Connecticut’s widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.
For the past three years, ERS and CCER have worked together to conduct school system resource analyses for four low-performing Connecticut public school districts. As a result of this work, Bridgeport—a low-funded urban district—will receive $3.8 million more from city coffers next year. Another district is planning to provide full-day kindergarten and expand its successful tutoring program.
In addition, this work will continue to have impact. Katie Roy, the former Chief Operating Officer of CCER, is now working with a team to create the Connecticut School Finance Project. Together, the two Connecticut groups will use the insights from the ERS-CCER project to help the state and interested stakeholders understand how resources are used at the district level so they can create an effective and fair state funding formula. Katie Roy explains how urgent this work is: “Connecticut’s state funding formula is broken. It’s unfair…some schools have what they need to educate kids, and others don't have textbooks for every child.”
This was a unique project for both organizations. CCER performed the analysis and was the primary point of contact for districts, while ERS provided technical assistance and insight on the findings. The project was a win-win for each partner: we at ERS were able to extend our reach to districts we might not otherwise work with, and CCER learned the ERS approach to analyzing resource use and had access to our district comparison database.
Enabling other organizations or district-led teams to use our methodology is an exciting prospect for ERS. For the past decade ERS has been working hand in hand with the largest urban school districts in the country to help them strategically use their resources to create the conditions so that every school succeeds for every student. We have been fortunate to work with leading districts like Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Aldine, Denver, Washington DC and others. While our focus on large districts allows us to reach the greatest numbers of students, we recognize many other districts could benefit from our services. For these districts, partnering with an organization like CCER allows us to reach this goal.
If you are an organization like CCER that seeks to support high-need school districts, we want to talk about partnership opportunities. Contact Randi Feinberg, ERS Manager.