The DC Public Education Fund celebrated 10 years of philanthropy with the Empowering Males of Color initiative leading the conversation.
Touting themselves as the only accountable private funding source for D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), the Ed Fund marked its anniversary by bringing together leading educators, elected officials and philanthropists on Thursday, Oct. 5 at Dunbar High School in Northwest.
Jessica Rauch, executive director and president of the Ed Fund, said that since its founding in 2007, the organization has raised over $120 million to support DCPS’ transformation from a historically underperforming urban school district to the fastest-improving in the nation.
“We’ve been very proud of our decade-long partnership,” she said. “And part of why we’re convening so many folks is to reflect on the last 10 years with this unique partnership that we’ve been able to establish between D.C. Public Schools, DC Ed Fund and their philanthropic partners. Really thinking about what were those big investments that made the biggest difference and what should we be looking for [throughout] the next 10 years in terms of how we can grow and solidify our model.”
Rauch said that in 2007, when the organization was founded, the school system was in a different place.
“There were a lot of things that needed to be updated and fixed,” she said. “The biggest initial strategy the DC Ed Fund had was partnering with DCPS to support the Human Capital Strategy for the District. So DCPS launched what was considered one of the most groundbreaking aggressive performance evaluation systems in the country.
“IMPACTplus is the performance pay structure that DC Ed Fund raised $64.5 million from the philanthropic community to support,” she said. “So after the first few years of Impact evaluation systems and IMPACTplus, we were able to prove really great success and we started to see the outcome we were hoping to see.”
Rauch said the city started to attract more top educators to the District, and retaining the existing ones.
She contended that after the first few years the Ed Fund made the case that this investment was so successful that DCPS wanted to sustain it long-term and absorb it into the local budget.
“That experience really helped to define our model. To pick a few things at any given time that we want to do with DCPS, and then we work on those things for a few years we help seed them, pilot, initiative, and then the school district decides to sustain those successful programs that are good for long-term investment,” Rauch said.
The Ed Fund works in three-year cycles and in the past few years has had a new set of priorities.
“We announced our updated priorities and they fell into three buckets — first transforming instructional practice investments in curriculum like the cornerstone initiative; global travel — able to send over 800 students to fully funded study abroad programs for the last two summers,” she said. “Also the lead fundraisers for the Empowering Males of Color (EMOC) initiative which was launched in January 2015 with Mayor Bowser and Chancellor Kaya Henderson at the time.”
Rauch said the EMOC grew out of the realization that the achievement gap between males of color and their counterparts were playing out across the country, including D.C. In every single measure — student achievement, students satisfaction, truancy and attendance — males of color were behind, she said.
“We knew we had to do something different, so the Empowering Males of Color initiative is something that is really meant to be a call to action for the community to rally together and support our young men across the system,” she said.
Ron Brown College Preparatory is considered the anchor of the EMOC initiative.
Rauch said the DC ED raised $1 million to help launch the all-boys high school, supporting a lot of the initial cost that “really make the experience unique and special for the young kings who attend that school.”
“Things like summer bridge programming, college tours, international travel and making sure the students have the uniforms that they need,” she said. “The second cohort started this school year so we’re continuing to support Ron Brown for the next six months or so and then the PTO at the school will begin to pick pup fundraising efforts moving forward.”