Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Inc.
Date of Award
Term of Grant
Math Strategy Group Planning and Startup Project
This proposal seeks funding to support the launch of a new independent entity that will convincingly distribute evidence of which K-12 mathematics materials, increasingly digital in form, lead to improvements in student performance. No independent entity currently exists to provide trusted evaluations of efficacy of math education materials, but if it did, it could provide a significant service to educators and policymakers at a time of articulated need for improvement in math teaching and learning, and of dynamic change in the public education arena. Given educator demand and the significant ripeness of this moment as new standards are introduced in the lion’s share of American states, the entity’s initial focus will be on Common Core alignment — coherence, rigor and focus. The new organization will provide timely, evidence-based evaluations of the efficacy of K-12 mathematics courseware to influence the purchase and use of the highest quality materials as one strategy to improve mathematics teaching, learning, and achievement. The core values of the new enterprise envisioned include: students first, transparency, independence, research-based–and a “we are here to help/collaborative” approach. The urgent need for dramatic improvements in American students’ mathematics achievement has become widely acknowledged–a matter of global competitiveness and to equip our nation’s youth with 21st century skills and knowledge. While many valiant efforts to foment improvements in learning and in results in this domain have been tried, the searing fact remains that American students lag the academic performance of their global peers, and unacceptable achievement gaps persist by race and economic class in our own country. With Common Core Standards implementation, increased accountability expectations, and a dizzying rise of digital educational tools and their claims of quality and coherence, independent evaluations of efficacy will be useful, and provide leverage for improvement. The entrepreneurial project envisioned in this proposal builds upon considerable planning launched by the nonprofit Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in April 2012, developed over four design sessions by an all-volunteer Sunnylands Math Strategy Group through 2013, anchored throughout by a Sunnylands core team, and supported in 2013 by a small grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The first seven months of the 19-month start-up phase envisioned in this proposal will seed project management to transition from the 2013 design framework to launch of the new enterprise. Among the organization-building activities in the first seven months are formation of an advisory group to become the founding trustees; establishment of fiscal sponsorship; ascertainment of market needs to inform product design (working directly and continuously with education leaders and teachers); and the creation and testing of a rubric and then strategically selected evaluations as first products. The start-up phase also envisions wise, consistent communication, the development of a longer-term business plan, and the hiring of a founding CEO. The first measurement of success will be the first-launch evaluations and their market acceptance.