Thoughtful Gifts


At year’s end many of us make gifts to worthy organizations. It helps them and also gives us a tax deduction or two.  Below are seven organizations that I hope you will consider supporting, non-profit organizations that I have come to admire during my career:

*** FAIRTEST:  The ongoing “Opt Out” movement was one of the most remarkable developments I observed during my 41-year reporting career. Suddenly—and without support of any established organizations, including teacher unions—true grassroots opposition emerged when students, parents and some teachers said “No Mas!” to high stakes testing.  Only one organization tracked the spread of this movement, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, widely known as FAIRTEST.  For decades FAIRTEST has been a reliable and honorable advocate in the battle to get beyond the ’test and punish’ mentality that dominates schools today.  FAIRTEST works with activists across the nation, testifies to legislatures, and advises colleges considering test-optional admissions.

*** MARA-A-PULA is widely considered to be one of the top independent schools in Africa, and the best in Botswana. Its mission is to prepare leaders who will serve their communities. Nearly two-thirds of Maru-a-Pula’s 765 students are citizens of Botswana. Maru-a-Pula students have gone on to attend schools like Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Williams, the London School of Economics, and Oxford, where two former students were Rhodes Scholars. Because of the AIDS pandemic, many are orphans attending on full scholarship, and that’s where your gift can help.

*** URBAN ASSEMBLY:  The easy way to improve educational opportunities is to start in kindergarten and add a grade every year. Want tough? Then start high schools with kids who’ve already spent 8 years in traditional schools.  Because Richard Kahan likes a challenge, he decided to tackle high schools when he transitioned from a successful career in real estate and urban planning. Today Urban Assembly includes 21 high performing, themed public schools in New York City, including seven Career & Technical Education (CTE) schools and three all-girls schools, serving over 9,000 students from low-income neighborhoods.  The themed schools like the Academy for Government and Law and the Gateway School for Technology are open to all students.

*** NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION: Only a few years old, NPE already has more than 100,000 individual members as well as dozens of grassroots local groups. Started by veteran teacher Anthony Cody and historian Diane Ravitch, NPE opposes high-stakes testing; privatization of public education; mass school closures to save money or to facilitate privatization; demonization of teachers; lowering of standards for the education profession; and for-profit management of schools. While that’s a mouthful, the list of what NPE supports is much, much longer, including schools that offer a full and rich curriculum for all children, including the arts, physical education, history, civics, foreign languages, literature, mathematics, and the sciences; early childhood education; high standards of professionalism; and assessments that are used to support children and teachers, not to punish or stigmatize them or to hand out monetary rewards.

***NEW VISIONS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS has been providing vital support to NYC schools for 26 years.  Today it’s working with 50,000 students in 70 traditional public schools and 7 charter high schools. Students in NEW VISIONS schools are more likely to attend school regularly (92%), earn academic credits and Regents diplomas, and be ready for college than their peers in regular high schools.

*** WHAT KIDS CAN DO was years ahead of its time when, 20 years ago, it began celebrating young people’s accomplishments. You may already know WKCD from “Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students,” but WKCD now uses digital, print, and broadcast media to demonstrate what kids can accomplish when given the opportunities and supports they need. WKCD helps thousands of marginalized kids discover the best in themselves.

*** YOUTHBUILD, which I reported on in the late 1980’s, is dedicated to giving marginalized youth 2nd, 3rd and perhaps 4th chances. Today it’s stronger than ever, and its dynamic founder, Dorothy Stoneman, remains one of my heroes.  Once just Boston-based, YouthBuild now reaches many corners of the globe. Clearly there’s a need: 2.3 million low-income US 16-24 year-olds are not in education, employment, or training. Globally, over 200 million youth need education, jobs, entrepreneurship, and other opportunities. YouthBuild provides pathways.

Oh, and don’t forget your local NPR and PBS stations!

Thank you, and Happy New Year….


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