New American Schools
History, Education Entrepreneurs Fund, Education Performance Network (EPN), Center for Evidence-Based Education
New American Schools (NAS) is a business-led non-profit organization whose mission is to significantly increase student achievement through comprehensive school improvement. Comprehensive school improvement is an effort to support high student achievement at the school, district, and state levels through the coherent alignment of five essential components: (1) leadership, management, and governance; (2) resource allocation; (3) professional development; (4) evaluation and accountability; and (5) educator, family, and community engagement.
In 1991 NAS began investing in specific approaches, later known as "designs," to help turn around low-performing schools. The idea behind this concept was to launch comprehensive approaches to improve student performance by applying the best research available on what works in classrooms in as many schools as possible throughout the country. Through a national competition, NAS selected the best research-based ideas in the country. With private and public partners, NAS then invested more than $130 million in these efforts and others. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, these designs had been implemented in almost 4,000 schools and collectively were in every state in the United States.
In 1997 in response to NAS's initial successes and the long-term potential for comprehensive school improvement, the U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) program. Since its passage, almost $900 million has been appropriated to help schools and districts start comprehensive school improvement efforts. As a result, hundreds of organizations have begun to offer systems-based school reform services and products. In its 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act, Congress identified comprehensive school reform as a key strategy in turning around low-performing schools. Congress also authorized new funding streams and provided greater flexibility of education dollars for comprehensive school reform efforts.
In 1999 NAS convened a highly respected panel of educational and business leaders to develop a set of national guidelines of quality to assist consumers. NAS provides the resulting guidelines to educators, parents, and others in an effort to help stakeholders make decisions about an array of educational programs.
In 2001 NAS built on the work of the panel by helping to form the Education Quality Institute. The aim of this independent organization is to help consumers of education products and services select programs that meet locally defined needs and adhere to quality guidelines, are research based, and have been proven to work. Importantly, that same year, NAS shaped a decade's worth of classroom experience, extensive research, and independent evaluations into a coherent set of consulting and operational services, products, and tools, offered through two new divisions within New American Schools–the Education Performance Network and the Center for Evidence-Based Education Development Network–and through the organization's funding arm, the Education Entrepreneurs Fund, which launched a School Funding Services unit.
Education Entrepreneurs Fund
The Education Entrepreneurs Fund operates as a financial intermediary for social investment in education. It seeks grants from corporations, foundations, and government; leverages these funds with social capital loans and program-related investment; and uses the funds to make loans to and investments in education organizations. The fund invests in organizations that contribute to raising student achievement and that have the potential to achieve sustained quality at scale. The fund also provides technical consultation to education entrepreneurs. Additionally, the fund assists educators in identifying and accessing the billions of federal, state, and private dollars available for education improvement programs through its School Funding Services unit launched in 2002.
Education Performance Network (EPN)
The mission of the Education Performances Network is to align education policies and practices to foster strong organizational performance and high student achievement. EPN assists clients in the following areas: accountability and evaluation, charter and contract schools, special education, and community engagement.
Center for Evidence-Based Education
The Center for Evidence-Based Education conducts applied research on the use of school improvement strategies in schools and at the state and district levels. It also supports the development of successful leaders for quality reform and promotes the use of evidence-based approaches to school improvement nationally.
Legal Status and Governance
New American Schools is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization. It is guided by a fourteen-member board of directors.
New American Schools does not have members but is affiliated with independently operating design teams. Schools and school districts contract with design teams to provide comprehensive school improvement services on a fee basis. In 2002 nine design teams were affiliated with New American Schools: Accelerated Schools Project, ATLAS Communities, Co-nect Schools, Different Ways of Knowing, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, the Bernstein Center for Learning, Modern Red Schoolhouse, Turning Points, and Urban Learning Centers.
New American Schools offers several publications to assist in the implementation of comprehensive school improvement. NAS offers a "how-to" series that provides current research about comprehensive school improvement. This series includes the following papers: Design-Based Assistance as Cornerstone of a School Improvement Strategy; How to Create and Manage a Decentralized Education System; How to Rethink School Budgets to Support School Transformation; Strategies for Improving Professional Development: A Guide for School Districts; How to Make the Link between Standards, Assessment, and Real Student Achievement; How to Create Incentives for Design-Based Schools; How to Build Local Support for Comprehensive School Reform; How to Evaluate Comprehensive School Reform Models; and Revising School Schedules to Create Common Planning Time and Literacy Blocks. NAS also offers several publications helpful in design selection, including Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of National Design-Based Assistance Providers; Design Teams Portfolio; and Working toward Excellence: Examining the Effectiveness of New American Schools Designs.
By the most meaningful objective criteria, "comprehensive school reform" has become the dominant school reform effort in the nation's public school classrooms. By the early twenty-first century, public schools were investing some $1 billion every year in the staff working with comprehensive school reform designs. Almost 6 percent–more than 5,400–of the nation's 92,000 public schools have used the federal CSRD program to finance design implementation. Thousands more schools have paid for work with comprehensive school reform models from other funding sources, including Title I. Comprehensive school reform is even part of the charter school movement. From 1999 to 2001 the design teams alone entered into partnerships with sixty-five charter schools. Comprehensive school improvement is considered one of the best hopes for the U.S. public school system to make significant progress on a national scale in the near term.
NEW AMERICAN SCHOOLS. 2002. <www.naschools.org>.