The Smith Family Foundation is dedicated to increasing educational attainment for urban students, with an emphasis on socio-economically disadvantaged youth. Toward this end, the Foundation has directed most of its support toward highly successful operators of non-traditional public schools who are playing an important role in Massachusetts’ efforts to eliminate the achievement gap. The leaders of these innovative public schools have been granted significant autonomy over such factors as the hiring and evaluation of teachers, the length of the school day, curriculum, and school culture in exchange for accepting full accountability for student success.
The Foundation’s support to such autonomous schools falls into two basic categories of assistance that school leaders tell us are important to their success. The first is talent development: strengthening the pipeline of highly qualified teachers and school leaders trained to work in the high-performing charter school environment. The second is helping replicating charter schools expand their facilities to accommodate the greater number of students they are permitted to serve under Massachusetts’ recently raised enrollment cap.
As high-performing local charter schools expand, they face an undersupply of teachers and school leaders trained specifically to work in the “high expectations, no excuses” charter school culture. In response to this shortage, the Smith Family Foundation funds teacher training and the preparation of school leaders to strengthen the talent pipeline for this innovative type of school. Grants in this area are by invitation only.
Charter School Facilities
Charter schools receive little to no state funding for purchasing, renovating, and maintaining their facilities. Other than the legislated enrollment cap, the dearth of public facility financing is one of the greatest constraints to the growth of high-performing charter schools. To help expand quality educational opportunities for urban students in Greater Boston, the Foundation makes significant gifts toward capital campaigns undertaken by high-performing charter management organizations aimed at expanding the capacity and quality of their educational facilities. Grants in this area are by invitation only.