What DonorsChoose Can Reveal About Education Inequities
BEST KNOWS BEST: Since 2000, DonorsChoose.org has raised $225 million for 400,000-plus projects helping over 175,000 teachers and 10 million students. In a FastCompany profile, founder Charles Best attributes that success to a simple philosophy: Solve immediate needs in schools without stepping into the polemical debate over how to fix education (i.e., top-down, corporate-driven reform versus unions and teachers). The non-profit has drawn support and praise from companies and teachers alike for efforts like providing discounted Chromebooks and 3-D printers, and funding AP classes for STEM subjects in needy districts.
There's more to DonorsChoose than funding school supplies. The platform "says very explicitly what it is that teachers experience in their classrooms," Best said. And the data that it collects from every campaign can "create a pointillist portrait of educational inequality in America" to illuminate the what, where, and why behind schools' needs. Best added: "If a district is getting a relatively high per-student spending rate and there are many requests from that district for basic supplies such as paper and pencils, that will tell us that too much of that money is never leaving the central office."
Infographics based on such data are in the works. And in case this level of transparency is unwelcome and draws criticism, Best already has a response:
"We've heard people say that teachers have no business going rogue and trying to select their own books, technology, and classes--and citizens have no business deciding what is worthy. And yes, we have a position on that, and a response to people who raise that question...'Screw you. We believe in teachers. We believe in the wisdom of the crowd.'"