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Broad Foundation Re-Focuses, Changes Leadership

Change is on the way for the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The education philanthropy announced this week that it would spend the next three years focusing on four areas:

  • Transformational federal and state policy;
  • Groundbreaking innovation in teaching and learning;
  • Strong leadership; and
  • Redesigned, high-performing institutions.

The Broad Foundation is perhaps best known for its annual awarding of the Broad Prize For Urban Education, which is the top prize for urban school districts. This year's winner will be announced Oct. 19 in New York City.

The foundation is also known for supporting charter schools, alternative teaching programs like Teach For America, and the Broad Superintendents Academy, which has produced several leaders of urban school districts.

[UPDATE 6:09 p.m.: Building on what it's learned over the past decade, the Broad Foundation hopes to push more actively at the state and federal levels for the types of policy changes the successful school leaders it works with say are necessary to take that success further.

In an interview Thursday evening, new Broad Foundation managing directors Gregory McGinity and Rebecca Wolf DiBiase said the Obama administration's work on education reform has been part of a climate that creates new opportunities, such as the reforms states have written into their applications for Race to the Top grant funding.

"While we are going to invest in proven results and programs that have had proven results, we also want to take advantage of the opportunity and push for the next set of institutions and investments and organizations in areas that haven't been pursued previously," McGinity said.

The work will be guided, DiBiase said, by what the foundation has learned from the school leaders it works with.

"The lessons learned have really fueled a lot of the next generation work we hope to do. We have gotten a lot of feedback from (Broad Prize districts and graduates of its superintendents academy) on what they need," she said.

Another area where the foundation will put more emphasis is in building linkages with reform-minded union leaders, as it did in the District of Columbia, DiBiase said. The Broad Foundation has committed $10 million to help pay for the performance elements of the new contract negotiated by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Another element of the work is finding innovative, entrepreneur-minded folks who want to re-think how schools and school districts work to create a new delivery model for the 21st century, they said.

"We want to continue to find the best and brightest entrepreneurs in this space and support them," DiBiase said. "We think there is an unprecedented opportunity to really build on the reforms that have evolved over the past 10 years and bring them to the next stage."

McGinity and DiBiase promise more news in the coming weeks and months about some of the foundation's major initiatives and new grant announcements, so keep your eyes on edweek.org. As always, we'll bring it to you first.]

One immediate, visible sign of the transformation will be the departure of Dan Katzir from the role of managing director. He has headed the Broad Foundation's education reform work since it was founded in 1999 and has decided to become a part-time senior adviser to the foundation. His last day as managing director is tomorrow. He will be replaced by two current Broad staffers: McGinity, who will serve as managing director of policy, and DiBiase, who will serve as managing director of programs.

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