Key Points

· Education funders have historically used a “demonstration project” approach to funding, designed to lever change by demonstrating a new program and providing technical assistance to foster broader adoption.

· Despite demonstrating success with many of its grants, the Skillman Foundation’s education reform initiatives were derailed and undone by the instability of the district leadership, political landscape shifts, and disintegrating neighborhoods.

· A complete turnaround model must address the many issues facing a failing school, including culture, curriculum, school leadership, professional development, and classroom instruction. The stability of the central administration must also be considered.

· The new look at urban reform at scale asserts that a specific set of conditions must exist across a city’s education landscape to enable innovation and foster sustainability.

· The philanthropic community can no longer wait for the right set of conditions to emerge for programmatic success. Funders must take an active role in creating the right conditions, often challenging conventional wisdom and long-held assumptions about the role of philanthropy.

Open Access