- The nonprofit Detroit Children’s Fund launched its School Collaboration Collective Program this spring with a pilot program that will provide $3.5 million to four promising, nonprofit charter schools, the Detroit News reports.
- The program will focus on addressing systemic issues at the school level with the goal of turning "good" schools into "great" schools, said Jack Elsey, executive director of the nonprofit. Using a customized approach, the funds will provide teacher coaching, technology for students, leadership training, Common Core-aligned curriculum and, in some cases, teacher retention bonuses.
- The four schools are also collaborating for monthly cohort training sessions designed to not only improve teaching skills, but also allow teachers and administrators to feel less isolated at their schools as they explore data and new ideas.
Nonprofit agencies and non-government organizations can help meet the needs of schools and boost their opportunities for success. While many schools, districts, and charters struggle to make ends meet on the income they receive through normal government channels, an infusion of cash and resources from outside sources can provide the extra boost needed to improve academics and school culture.
While creating partnerships with nonprofits or other community agencies can help provide welcome resources, it can also create valuable community partnerships. These partnerships can provide support for schools in less tangible ways, as well, providing opportunities to encourage students and teachers while generating positive media attention.
These partnerships can also be used to address specific issues that are affecting schools, such as teacher retention. While some level of turnover is to be expected because of life events, retaining teachers is generally important because experienced, high-quality teachers have a positive impact on student success.
Teacher turnover is also a drain on school finances. A 2017 Washington Post article estimated that the cost of turnover — including separation expenses, recruitment efforts, hiring and training — exceeds $8 billion a year, costing an average of $9,000 per teacher in rural districts and more than $20,000 in urban districts.
While teacher retention bonuses are known to help, many schools cannot afford to offer them without outside help. In some cases, as with Detroit, other community efforts have created programs that offer additional perks to teachers as a recruitment and retention strategy.
The efforts by the Detroit Children’s Fund to improve four charter schools also shows the value in helping current schools succeed rather than creating news ones to replace those that fail.
Based on the results of a 2013 Stanford University study, U.S. News and World Report noted that “as a group urban charters in particular outperformed other urban public schools as well as charter schools overall….And charter schools seem to disproportionately benefit minority students and low-income students.” Charter schools such as the Eagle Academy in Washington, D.C., are working to prove that this is true.