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Private foundations lend kids a helping hand.

Disadvantaged schools lack many resources other schools take for granted. But, in 63 cities around the country, a network of private funders steps in to help.

A few years ago, the Public Education Foundation, a private fundraising group, surveyed Chattanooga, Tennessee, teachers. The question: "What do you need to achieve the greatest degree of effectiveness and satisfaction?"

Their answer: shared decision-making, a collegial environment, sensitivity in dealing with diversity, and continuing intellectual development.

PEF went to work. It got teachers involved in developing skill training programs and in-service sessions for staff. Now 95 percent of Chattanooga schools participate in an intensive staff development program.

PEF established ways teachers could learn from each other. Third grade teacher Judy Sivils is chair of the peer-coaching committee that allows colleagues to visit, observe, and critique each other's classes. "Peer coaching," she explains, "provides a support group for trying new techniques without the threat of a formal evaluation."

PEF paid for release time. Plus, they published a teachers' guide to getting grants and using community/university resources. They awarded teachers $1,000 grants to pursue their intellectual interests. They created summer geography institutes and enrichment programs, an intergenerational tutoring program, and numerous other special projects. And helped provide funding for them all.

"Everything the Public Education Foundation (PEF) has done has opened doors for educators and for students," says Sivils.

Chattanooga's Public Education Foundation is a member of the Public Education Fund Network (PEFNet)--an association of 65 independent, privately-supported education funds. Serving 5.2 million children in 26 states, PEFNet promotes major public school innovations in communities with disadvantaged and minority students.

Almost all PEFNet members sponsor teacher mini-grants, teacher development programs, and curriculum initiatives--all tailored to the particular needs of their communities.

In Worcester, Massachusetts, another PEFNet member--the 10-year old Alliance for Education--has taken a different approach to supporting teachers. When the local school district became too financially strapped to have in-service programs, it created a teacher development program.

With teacher input, the Alliance developed a Teachers' Roundtable, a series of workshops and lectures given by area professors and community experts. The Roundtable is now so over-subscribed that teachers must limit their choices to three sessions per semester.

Like other PEFNet members, the Alliance is independent of the school district. It succeeded in winning a three-year, $150,000 grant from a local trust fund to create an extensive Professional Development Institute for Worcester educators.

Worcester elementary science facilitator Patrick DeSantis from Chandler Magnet School attests to the quality of Alliance programs.

"We met with higher education faculty and business leaders to develop state-of-the-art courses. We've found the entire process very professional and well thought-out."

With the Alliance serving as a matchmaker, each Worcester school has a unique business-school relationship. Education Association of Worcester President Edmund McGovern explains, "Business in our community really understands that they have to help us."

Around the country, PEFNet members encourage business involvement and reach out for broad-based community support of public education issues. Their goal: to become catalysts for genuine public school reform by building real collaboration among all of education's stakeholders.

For further information contact: Public Education Fund Network, 601 13th Street, N.W., Suite 370 South, Washington, D.C. 20005-3808, 202/628-7460.
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Title Annotation:Public Education Fund Network
Author:Etlin, Melissa
Publication:NEA Today
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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