Our nation's K-12 public education system falls short for thousands of children and their families. In too many cases, ineffective schools - driven by unaccountable school administrators and elected officials, combined with ill-equipped teachers - fail to prepare our nation's children to be independent, successful, contributing members of society. Unfortunately, disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected by these conditions. From kindergarten to 12th grade, the national statistics reflect a considerable achievement gap between white and minority students, and that a majority of high school graduates are not prepared for either college or the workplace.
The Robertson Foundation's goal is to ensure that all children have access to high-quality educational opportunities. Our public school reform initiatives seek to address challenges that negatively impact student achievement. We utilize a two-pronged approach:
- "Reform from Within" - supporting activities that enhance existing system policies and practices, drive more effective use of resources, and conduct demonstration projects which can be adopted throughout public systems.
- Drive Change by Generating External Pressure - encouraging competition by supporting the development of charter schools, voucher programs, and resources that enable informed parent choice.
Our hope is that the effective schools and systems we support will serve as examples of "what can and should be" for America's public schools; demonstrating effective leadership, demanding high standards, promoting school-based management, ensuring effective teacher support, and requiring accountability based on student data.
Central to our overall education strategy is an unrelenting focus on student achievement. Our conviction is that the combination of support for and pressure on public education will drive the fundamental changes needed to ensure high quality educational opportunities.
Exemplary of the Foundation's two-pronged approach is our early and substantial investment in former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's and former Chancellor Joel Klein's Children First reform agenda, while we simultaneously supported the expansion of the New York City charter sector.
The Foundation was a founder and remains an active supporter of The New York City Charter School Center, created in 2004 as a partnership between New York City and the philanthropic community. The Center was designed "to stimulate the supply of high quality charter schools and support ongoing student excellence in all NYC charter schools, impacting the effectiveness of public education." The Robertson Foundation has provided both organizational leadership and financial support for the launch and operation of this new venture.
The Foundation has gone on to invest in other geographies with reform-minded leadership and vibrant charter sectors, supporting, for example, human capital reforms in Washington, D.C., led by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee and current Chancellor Kaya Henderson, while also making grants to increase the quality of D.C.'s sizeable charter sector.
The Foundation's education portfolio also includes support for teacher and school leader development, as well as for select policy and advocacy efforts to ensure that reforms can take hold and be sustained over the long term. In education, as in all of our program areas, we seek out partnership opportunities with like-minded funders and organizations to leverage investments and maximize the impact of innovative programs.