The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) have joined forces to support better education for students at Arkansas public schools in their ForwARd initiative. The philanthropic organisations have appointed The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to carry out an analysis and recommend a comprehensive strategic plan.
The ForwARd initiative is the name of the collective effort – which includes philanthropy, parents, educators, businesses, policymakers, and advocacy groups – to develop a strategic plan with specific recommendations for academically distressed schools and districts. Individual schools and districts are declared academically distressed when, over a three year period, more than half of the student population scores below proficient levels on state exams. Currently the Arkansas Department of Education has designated 26 schools as academically distressed.
The purpose of the WRF and WFF are to strengthen public education in Arkansas so that all children have the opportunity to succeed in school and life, regardless of race, income level, geography, or any other factor. “We recognise that schools operate in different contexts and economies,” says Cory Anderson, Vice President of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “The goal of the Forward partnership is to create a comprehensive plan for kindergarten through college,” which “is in response to the idea that we all want a school where every student graduates from college or enters the workforce.”
In order to realise the goals of the WRF and WFF, The Boston Consulting Group has been appointed to prepare a strategic plan for helping students at Aransas schools. In a press release the advisory committee of the Arkansas Department of Education states that the consulting firm was chosen based on its “expertise in public education systems and experience working with the private, public, and non-profit sectors to address critical challenges and reform systems.” The strategy consultants have been given approximately nine months for their assessment, spread across three phases:
Phase 1: Develop a State of Education in Arkansas report to establish a common fact base.
Phase 2: Identify and convene stakeholders as part of a strategic planning process.
Phase 3: Produce a P-16 Education Strategic Plan with specific recommendations for distressed schools and districts.
The final report is expected to be delivered in the summer of 2015. “We wanted to partner to help all schools improve,” Walton Family Foundation spokesman Kevin Thornton said. “We had an opportunity to provide strategic thinking to accomplish that goal. We will look at specific and strategic action steps.”