President's Day sale at DonorsChoose

Pershing Square Foundation is funding public school teacher’s history, government or civics projects on DonorsChoose — if private donors get together to fund the final $98. You can give any amount. There are four days left to give.

For example, an American history teacher in a high-poverty Louisiana school hopes to buy a CD player, junction box, history books on CD and some beanbag chairs for a listening center. She also wants a class set of Grace’s Letter to Lincoln books.

Can D.C. scholarships be saved?

By cutting off new students from aid, Congress has condemned Washington, D.C.’s school voucher program to a “slow death,” say leaders of D.C. Parents for School Choice. There was no Christmas miracle for the program, despite evidence that scholarship students do better in reading than similar students who lose the lottery.

Instapundit suggests that private donors step in to fund scholarships to enable low-income children to escape unsafe, chaotic, low-performing schools.

Update: Save DC Kids is trying to keep the scholarships alive with private funding.

Build a library for $2

You can help the Book Wish Foundation build a library for refugees from Darfur. A $2 donation buys a brick. The library will require 5,000 bricks.

Hedge fund givers back NY charters

New York City’s hedge fund multimillionaires are backing charter schools, reports the New York Times.

“If you’re at a hedge fund, this is definitely the hot cause,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a nonprofit group that lobbies for charters and is financed by hedge fund heavies. “These are the kind of guys who a decade ago would have been spending their time angling to get on the junior board of the Met, the ballet.”

. . .  Charter schools appeal to the maverick instincts of many who run hedge funds.

. . . “At heart we are still the kids who in eighth grade were in the backyard doing science experiments while the cool kids were at football practice,” said (Ravenal) Curry, 43.

Many of the city’s charter schools share space with district-run public schools that can’t fill a building. There’s a lot of conflict over space — who gets to use the library? — and jealousy because the charters may use private funding and flexibility to pay for smaller classes, technology, new learning materials, cleaner classrooms and a longer school day.

Charter managers can’t scale up quickly enough, writes Tom Toch. Yes, that’s a huge challenge.

How to help teachers

DonorsChoose, which lets givers fund public school teachers’ requests, now offers gift cards. For example, the recipient might choose to help a high school teacher buy fun books for a class library.

In some cases, donations will be matched by the Gates Foundation.

Donate with Gates

If you help a public-school teacher buy classroom supplies or fund a special project through DonorsChoose, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match your donation.

Gates: 80% college ready

In a letter on his foundation’s work, Bill Gates advocates a national education goal: “Ensure that 80 percent of our students graduate from high school fully ready to attend college by 2025.”

Note that Gates isn’t shooting for 100 percent and that his foundation is focusing on helping community college students complete a certificate or two-year degree.

The foundation will replicate “the school models that worked the best,” almost all of which are charter schools, Gates writes.

Many states have limits on charter schools, including giving them less funding than other schools. Educational innovation and overall improvement will go a lot faster if the charter school limits and funding rules are changed.

Good schools “help their teachers be more effective in the classroom,” he writes.

. . . our new strategy focuses on learning why some teachers are so much more effective than others and how best practices can be spread throughout the education system so that the average quality goes up. We will work with some of the best teachers to put their lectures online as a model for other teachers and as a resource for students.

Nelson Smith is happy about the plug for charter schools.

Gates also plugs Jay Mathews’ new book on KIPP, Work Hard, Be Nice. (Which makes a good complement to this book.)

FreeRice

FreeRice is a very cool site. It’s practically addictive.

Via middle-school teacher Robert Wright, who says his students love to answer questions and donate rice to the poor.

Books for Darfuri refugees

Book Wish Foundation, which provides books for people “in crisis,” has announced the holiday book challenge:  For every book you received, send $1 via PayPal to fund textbooks for English classes, books for primary schools or to build a library in a Chadian refugee camp for Darfuris.