Scaling Up Is Hard To Do: Wallace Foundation Report

Citizen Schools is proud to be a part of a movement of high-impact education organizations. This movement gains immeasurable strength from evidence-based philanthropies like the Wallace Foundation, which itself pursues a valuable mission: to share the knowledge gained through the direct service of its grantees. In a perfect example of this synergy, the Foundation convenes teams from their Expanded Learning Opportunities grantees, including Citizen Schools, to form what they call a Professional Learning Community.

In November of 2013, Citizen Schools joined seven other organizations, along with researchers, nonprofit strategy experts, communications professionals, and staff members of the foundation, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the topic of scale. The question of the day was, "How can national non-profits provide expanded learning opportunities to as many children as possible while maintaining program quality and financial stability?"

The conversation was provocative, as evidenced by the Wallace Foundation's new report of the event, Scaling Up, Staying True. Citizen Schools' co-founder and CEO, Eric Schwarz, had the honor of participating in one panel discussion, addressing the challenge of replicating non-profit program models:

Schwarz's biggest concern about expanding was that the drive to simplify, as expressed by [keynote speaker Larry] Cooley, would not accommodate program features that are beneficial but difficult to replicate, resulting in programming that fails to truly bridge the opportunity gap between poor students and their well-off counterparts.

 

'I think what works for upper-income kids is not simplicity,' he said. 'It's actually a hand-tailored suit that's very well put together that meets particular needs that are often complex.' Schwarz cautioned his colleagues against adopting a one-size-fits-all approach in the interests of scale. 'I worry that we will collectively let go of too much,' he said.

 

...The metaphor of the hand-tailored suit clearly resonated as it was picked up by several speakers over the course of the meeting.

This report follows another inspiring publication by the Wallace Foundation released last fall as part of its "Stories From the Field" project, which profiles Wallace-funded programs working to expand learning and enrichment for children in low-income communities.

The report, Expanding Learning, Enriching Learning: Portraits of Five Programs, describes the approaches, successes, and challenges of the programs and paints a picture of expanded learning time efforts nationally.

All of the chapters are fascinating. Don't miss "A Lesson in Pizza Gives Middle-Schoolers a Taste of Future Possibilities," starting on page 10!