Coherent Supports for Special Populations of Students
Millions of children and young adults are in the care of our nation’s social service agencies, and millions more are eligible for special education services. Too often, though, students receive fragmented supports that, while well-intentioned, create an impenetrable maze and often fail to meet their needs. Bellwether’s work helps systems, state agencies, and nonprofits center students’ needs and design solutions with quality, access, and coherence at the forefront.
Bellwether partners with public agencies to improve both access to and quality of education programs for all young people who have experienced significant disruptions to their education pathways, with a focus on success in the classroom and in life. In the process, we shift the national conversation toward a holistic, integrated, and student-centered understanding of system-level reform. In fall 2020, our Missing in the Margins analysis estimated that as many as 3 million K-12 students were at high risk of experiencing minimal or no educational access from spring through fall 2020 as a result of the pandemic. It became a shorthand for understanding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on America’s students, particularly those furthest from opportunity, and was featured in hundreds of national news outlets, including the The New York Times and NBC News.
Every day, youth experiencing homelessness, foster care placement, previous incarceration, and unmet mental and physical health needs, show up at schools wanting to learn. Students whose educations are significantly disrupted are more likely to achieve far below grade level; drop out of high school; be excluded from postsecondary and career training institutions; be unemployed or employed in insecure, low-skill, low-wage jobs; and enter (or return to) the criminal justice system. Designing less-fragmented pathways is critical to ensuring all students can be successful in adulthood.
Bellwether’s team focuses on creating more effective systems to serve young people. We bring extensive experience in civil rights law, state and local education agencies, and networks and alternative schools, and draw from different disciplines to meet the unique needs of each client. Much of our underlying philosophy is inspired by the merging of community organizing and human-centered design thinking. We believe that when the people experiencing a problem articulate their needs, wants, and constraints, systems can be better designed to respond effectively.
Ignored, Punished, and Underserved: Understanding and Addressing Disparities in Education Experiences and Outcomes for Black Children with Disabilities
Double Punished: Locked Out of Opportunity
Missing in the Margins 2021: Revisiting the COVID-19 Attendance Crisis
Lost by Design: How Well-Meaning Systems Fail Kids
Partner With Us
We've partnered with a diverse array of equity-focused clients — from large-scale foundations to school districts to nonprofits to mission-driven companies. Let's work together to transform education.