Don’t Friend Me On Facebook!

My column this week is five cautions for Mark Zuckerberg if he wants his Newark donation to leverage change.

3 Replies to “Don’t Friend Me On Facebook!”

  1. I’ll see your five lessons and raise you eight principles. You’re right to point out that Zuckerberg–or anyone else hoping to improve outcomes for learners–needs to be strategic as well as generous in their giving. Tens of thousands of philanthropic organizations fund ducation–and countless individual donors do too. But size isn’t the only measure of effectivenes. Our network of 260 grantmakers includes organizations of all sizes, who collectively donate well over $1.5 billion a year to education. What they share is a commitment to following eight Principles for Effective Education grantmaking (available at We’ll soon release an annual study of trends in the field that provides specific lessons on what funders are doing now and what they need to do in the next 1-3 years to effect much-needed change for learners of all ages.
    That said, some of this column implies a certain suspicion of public school systems. The success of our network members suggest a different role for philanthropy, one that leverages the unique position we have outside the education systems we are working to improve–we must convene and facilitate expertise that exists both within and outside those systems, and ensure that the best ideas are tested and proven, and that the proven improvements are scaled up to reach more teachers and learners. It’s not as easy as friending someone on Facebook, but this kind of networking–the kind Grantmakers for Education does through programs, research and bringing together funders working on particulare issues within education–is what can really change things for more kids (and adults!) across the country.

  2. You state: “If certitude were oil, public schools wouldn’t need the largesse of people like Zuckerberg. There is no shortage of experts on all sides of every debate peddling sure-fire solutions. In urban education, there are organizations that for decades have produced little in the way of transformative results but still limp along dispensing advice. Successful grantmakers listen to divergent points of view, are empirical rather than ideological, and internalize and learn from smart criticism. They are not easily fooled.”

    If grant makers made decisions based on empirical evidence, then none would be giving money to charters, value-added, or increased testing/accountability.

  3. Yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if just one of these generous billionaires insisted that their money go for research-based practices! Then we could finally see real improvements for our schools, such as fully-qualified and experienced teachers, preschools, school health clinics, research-based instruction, enriched curriculum, small classes (fifteen or less) for our most at-risk students, parent education, infant and toddler education etc.

    By studying high achievers, we DO know what it takes to provide a quality education for each child, but it’s expensive and there are no shortcuts.

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