In 2012, Public Education Network (PEN) closed its doors after 21 years. PEN was a network of local education funds (LEFs) -- community based organizations in high poverty school districts across the United States -- that continue to work with their school districts and communities to improve public education for the nation's most disadvantaged children.

At the national level, PEN raised the importance of public engagement as an essential component of education reform. It brought the voice of LEFs and the communities they represent into the national education debate. Finally, PEN gave voice to the essential nature of the connection between quality public education and a healthy and thriving democracy.

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Crafting a Civic Stage for Public Education: Understanding the Work and Accomplishments of Local Education Funds

November 7, 2005

The Education Fund in Miami and other local education funds (LEFs) across the country have toiled for more than two decades -- often behind the scenes -- to strengthen public schooling and raise the academic achievement of students in lowincome communities. With support and leadership from Public Education Network (PEN), local education funds have educated citizens in almost 90 communities across the United States about important public education issues and mobilized community coalitions to bring much-needed resources and give input to public schooling policy discussions. LEFs have also worked directly with districts, schools, students, and parents to bring robust innovation to public education and institutionalize high-quality programs and practices that strengthen children's learning. Like Miami's Education Fund, LEFs throughout the country have made education a civic enterprise in their communities. In this report, we argue that local education funds are uniquely positioned to create a supportive civic environment for improving public education. Historically underappreciated, a civic environment that supports school reform has more recently been recognized by researchers and public education advocates as a necessity. This report identi?es key elements of such an environment and shows how LEFs contribute to its existence. We also argue that local education funds are highly adaptive organizations that customize their change strategies to particular communities. While the individual nature of each LEF may obscure the overarching values, purposes, and goals that these organizations share -- thus masking their collective identity -- customization is at the heart of why LEFs are such effective change agents. They apply deep knowledge of local contexts and strong commitment to core values in order to make strategic decisions about how to position themselves and their work in the local reform landscape. After more than 20 years of work in public education, LEF leaders and PEN continue to be forward-looking in their insistence on research that examines the role and accomplishments of LEFs. In August 2003, at PEN's request, Research for Action (RFA) began to lay a foundation for understanding and assessing how LEFs carry out their missions and how they demonstrate success. In this report we offer stories of LEF work and suggest a conceptual model for understanding the decisions LEFs make as they shape their organizational identity and an approach to their work.

Once & For All: Placing a Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Philadelphia Classroom

September 11, 2003

Quality teaching matters - particularly for low-income, inner-city students who perform below grade level. But these students are often taught by the least-qualified and least-experienced teachers. Philadelphia schools will not be able to improve student performance dramatically without more teachers who have the skills, experience, and rich content knowledge needed to help every student achieve high standards.Once & For All: Placing a Highly Qualified Teacher in Every Philadelphia Classroom examines the current status of teacher quality in the city and what the School District of Philadelphia is now doing to ensure that all classrooms have highly trained, motivated, and knowledgeable teachers ready to boost the achievement of the district's 188,000 students.For the first time, thanks to information provided by the School District of Philadelphia, researchers have been able to identify what we know about the qualifications, experience, and school assignment patterns of Philadelphia's 11,700-member teaching force. The study was conducted by a group of scholars who have launched Learning from Philadelphia's School Reform, a three-year research project designed to measure and help the public understand the impact of the 2001 state takeover of the Philadelphia schools, the school management partnerships undertaken with external for-profit and non-profit organizations, and the reforms initiated by the state and city-appointed School Reform Commission (SRC) members and School District of Philadelphia CEO Paul Vallas.Led by Research for Action (RFA), a Philadelphia non-profit, the research team includes investigators from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education and the Wharton School, the Philadelphia Education Fund, Swarthmore College, Rutgers University, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, and other organizations