New Education Advocacy Organizations in the U.S. States: National Snapshot and a Case Study of Advance Illinois

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New Education Advocacy Organizations in the U.S. States: National Snapshot and a Case Study of Advance Illinois

Two sets of implications emerge from the study. The first is directed towards the new education advocacy organizations themselves who are working across the country and the second addresses foundation leaders that see these groups as potentially valuable recipients for their giving.

We encourage NEW EDUCATION ADVOCACY ORGANISATIONS to attend to the following five issues as the develop their advocacy agendas:

  • the distinction between policy development and policy implementation, and the need to be attentive to both;
  • the potential virtues of working with traditional groups and institutions, such as state education agencies, union affiliates, or management groups;
  • the degree to which they might pursue elite-level strategies that focus on state leaders or mass-level strategies that mobilize local leaders or individuals;
  • the need to think through the timing of their proposals so that local districts are not overwhelmed with too many initiatives at once; and
  • the issue of constructing their own identities while still developing network partnerships with other new and traditional education advocacy groups.

We encourage FODUNATIONS considering supporting new education advocacy organizations to attend to the following five issues:

  • the methods and metrics used to measure performance of new education advocacy organizations;
  • the degree to which foundation grants should support narrow or broad objectives;
  • the virtues of considering grant strategies that simultaneously engage state-level policy development and local-level implementation so that useful models can eventually be brought to scale;
  • the degree to which state enabling conditions, including the political environment, should be used as criteria to evaluate the merits of supporting new education advocacy organizations; and
  • the implications for state capacity building that might unfold due to grant awards to new education advocacy organizations.

Our charge in conducting this analysis was to assess the work of new education advocacy organizations and to describe their basic features, examine how they have contributed to state policy discussions and agendas, attempt to discern the factors that help to explain their track records, and then to conclude by offering advice to new education advocates themselves and to their potential foundation supporters. The evidence shows that the new education advocacy organizations are making increasing contributions to state-level discussions and policy. An important issue beyond the scope of our study is the degree to which new education advocacy organizations have advanced agendas that are likely to best address the challenges facing the nation's education system, which broadly focus on promoting educational equity and excellence. This larger issue is vital for education observers, policymakers, and advocates to consider. New education advocacy organizations ultimately will prove their value not simply by offering something new or different, but by showing that their preferred policies produce more success than the alternatives.

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The Wallace foundation is a national philanthropy that seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding projects to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn't and to fill key knowledge gaps - and then communicating the results to help others.

Wallace has five major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
  • Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer and expanded learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children, and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students.
  • Audience development for the arts: Making the arts a part of many more people's lives by working with arts organizations to broaden, deepen and diversify audiences.

Find out more at

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