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The Good, The Bad, and The Bold

This post marks the launch of FSG’s education and youth blog. As a nonprofit research and consulting firm, we are fortunate to work with foundations, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies on a broad range of education and youth focused issues ranging from early childhood to college graduation. Based on that breadth of experience, we thought it might be helpful to regularly share our perspectives on trends and approaches we see in the field. In each post we will share effective practices we hope will spread (The Good), challenges that need to be overcome (The Bad), and innovative or exciting ideas with transformative potential (The Bold). Please feel free to share with us your own perspective on the good, the bad, and the bold.

The Good: Hidalgo ISD: Early College High Schools as a District-wide Strategy
Jobs for the Future just released a fascinating case study of Hidalgo ISD, a south Texas district that serves a student body that is 99.5 percent Hispanic, 90 percent economically disadvantaged, and 53 percent limited English proficient. Starting in 2005, the district committed to having all of its students earn college credits in high school. Preliminary results are impressive. Ninety-five percent of the Class of 2010 graduated with college credits; two-thirds had a full semester of college under their belts. These students are college ready - not because their high schools say so, but because they’ve taken and passed college-level courses. Plus, those credits can significantly reduce college costs and time to degree. College ready + lower costs = more college graduates – now that’s an equation we can all understand.

The Bad: Private Giving to Universities Down
In 2009, giving to universities and colleges plummeted 11.9 percent, the greatest annual decline since the Depression. Even worse, those donations are becoming increasingly concentrated. In 2009, gifts to the 20 universities that raised the largest amounts of money, including Stanford, Harvard and Cornell, accounted for 26.2 percent of all giving. But Pell Grant recipients attend these colleges at rates well below the national average. Thus, universities become engines of inequality. This contraction comes at a time when state higher education funds are drying up. We’re not going to improve completion rates of underserved students by perpetuating a donor cycle rigged to favor rich institutions. Let the Ivy League fend for itself. Donors’ money would be better spent on colleges who actually need the cash.

The Bold: Target to Launch Read with Me Initiative
Target recently announced plans to donate more than $500 million over the next five years as part of its Read With Me initiative, aimed at helping children become proficient in reading by the end of third grade. It will be exciting to track how Target might apply its design and marketing expertise, leverage its relationship with millions of parents, and harness the input of an A+ list of content partners including Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone and IDEO to advance the national literacy movement.

Jeff Kutash

Executive Director Peter Kiewit Foundation