The 21st Century School Fund (21CSF) began in 1994 to help develop the first educational facilities master plan in the District of Columbia since 1967 and to support the parents and community members of the Oyster Bilingual Elementary School who were working to create a public private partnership to finance a new public school for their community. In 1995, the Ford Foundation began to support the 21st Century School Fund. With their support and that of local foundations in the District of Columbia, we amassed information and expertise on the needs and challenges facing urban public schools and their communities, and developed skill in understanding and navigating public policy and federal and local government laws. We also developed our own data management and dissemination software programs, Format-PROģ and DCSchoolSearch.com, publications and training tools.
The 21st Century School Fund was part of the Ford Foundationís Constituency Building Initiative of 1996-2001. This initiative was developed in support of Ford Foundation's commitment to public education excellence and equity. As part of this initiative, the Foundation convened research, communication, and constituency building grantees on a regular basis to discuss issues that affected education quality for children from low income communities. At the end of this initiative, Ford sought to more explicitly foster collaboration around these issues and selected BEST as one of two national collaboratives to receive ongoing support.
In 2001, the 21st Century School Fund launched the Building Educational Success Together (BEST) collaboration to bring together local and national leaders from around the country. Together, the BEST partners have added new research, developed model policies, advanced innovative practice and brought clarity to the role that public school facilities have in education quality and community.
Former partners have made significant contributions to BEST. They are: The Neighborhood Capital Budget Group from Chicago, Illinois; New Schools Better Neighborhoods from Los Angeles, California; and Mark Schneider, research partner, State University of New York, Stony Brook.