Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Microphilanthropy, Donors Choose, and gifted education

I have a column in today's USA Today about microphilanthropy: basically, non-profits that encourage a direct connection between donor and recipient, with donors choosing where their money goes and receiving follow-up updates. One of the non-profits I highlight is Donors Choose. Founded by a Bronx teacher, Charles Best, in 2000, Donors Choose lets people select certain classroom projects to help fund.

I spoke with Best a few weeks ago about finding classrooms serving gifted learners through the search function, and while it's a little complicated, it's definitely doable. You can search for "gifted" in the keyword search, and come up with a few. This morning, I found a request from Mrs. T that way. Mrs. T in Green Bay, Wisconsin writes that "I work in 6 different schools a week with gifted and talented children. Many are second language learners and/or economically challenged. My children come to school and know a large percentage of the curriculum or they learn it very rapidly and many times then have to read a book to wait while other children work through the concepts. These children have so many gifts to offer the world, but they need to be pushed to challenge their learning and expand their thinking." She is asking for donors to band together to raise $353 to purchase materials. (Read more about her classes here).

Best told me that you can also narrow the search to magnet schools, which will help find some that specifically serve gifted students. Using this method, I found a request from Mrs. F in Birmingham, Alabama. She is seeking funds to purchase history books that will intrigue her students. She writes, "I teach fifty-five 4th grade students from fifteen area schools who have been identified as gifted. There is no funding for gifted education in Alabama. Our state education systems have been tremendously hurt by the economic turndown and the oil spill in the gulf. Any materials we get are purchased from our own pocket, thus no books, no equipment, and no materials." She is asking donors to give $268 (it was more but four people have chipped in already). You can read more about her here.

Of course, you can't read these requests without getting upset. The United States spends more per pupil than the vast majority of countries (even in a downturn), yet somehow teachers are being told that there is no money for books for their classes and they have to buy them themselves? How is it that low-income, gifted students -- those that we need public schools to serve and challenge to reach their incredible potential -- are given a mere hour or so of pull-out a week? Why is their teacher running around to 6 different schools and asking anonymous donors for items to help her serve her kids' needs?

These are broader questions that we have to continue working on. But in the meantime, Donors Choose gives people a way to address specific needs even as we figure out how to address a broader problem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heck, *most* teachers are being told to purchase materials, if not books, out of their own pockets. What percentage of the education budget goes to bureaucracy, and how much of that could we save by getting rid of half the standardized testing?