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Beyond Blueprints: Questioning the Replication Model in Education Philanthropy


Major new foundations, such as the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation, developed strategies for education philanthropy that drew on lessons from the Annenberg Challenge in the 1990s. Rather than funding locally initiated plans for reform, these new funders share a similar set of strategies, such as charter school expansion and teacher evaluation, and promote these strategies for national replication. Foundation dollars have played a role in enabling significant transformations of some urban districts, such as Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. Based on analysis of foundation grant distribution to urban districts since 2000 and the political consequences of these grants, I argue that the pendulum of philanthropic strategy may have moved too far in response to the Annenberg Challenge. Where funders saw too much adaptation to local circumstances with Annenberg, they have responded with an overemphasis on national models. Where funders saw too much geographic dispersion of resources with Annenberg, they have responded with significant coordinated investments in certain districts where Blacks and Latinos find themselves disempowered by outside interests. Where funders saw too many attempts to cooperate and collaborate with traditional school districts, they have responded with a strategy that financially weakens some urban districts. In the conclusion, I highlight new lessons for foundations based on weaknesses in the national replication strategy.

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Fig. 1


  1.; Accessed on November 2, 2014.

  2. The discussion of the Annenberg Challenge draws upon descriptions in Snyder and Reckhow (2015).

  3. A similar data table is also presented in Snyder and Reckhow (2015).

  4.; Accessed on September 12, 2015.

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Correspondence to Sarah Reckhow.

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Reckhow, S. Beyond Blueprints: Questioning the Replication Model in Education Philanthropy. Soc 52, 552–558 (2015).

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  • Education policy
  • Philanthropy
  • Urban politics
  • Markets