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If you had $4 million, how would you help Los Angeles classrooms?

In November 2011, the Wasserman Foundation teamed up with DonorsChoose.org to support the schools of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). LAUSD is the second largest school district in the United States and one of the most impoverished, with a dropout rate of 20.6%. The Wasserman Foundation pledged $4 million to help classrooms in need, encourage innovative teaching practices and create a hub of micro-philanthropy in LAUSD.
Our partnership was designed as a two year program, but every goal was met and exceeded in just 12 weeks. Through this campaign, more than half a million students received critical resources in their classroom. More than 140,000 Angelinos were connected to 9,000 teachers, many of whom had never received local support in their classroom.
Funds from the campaign were distributed through DonorsChoose.org gift cards as well as matching donations. Gift cards were given to LAUSD parents and LA residents at Starbucks locations. The campaign gave citizens of Los Angeles an opportunity to express their educational priorities by choosing which projects were funded.
Thanks to the generosity of the Wasserman Foundation, this was one of the largest funding efforts in DonorsChoose.org history. The tremendous impact in Los Angeles is still strong as students are reusing their donated resources this fall. Through a partnership of this scale, we were able to learn a great deal about LAUSD. Many of the findings are presented below.
The plot below shows the geographic distribution of gift card spending on projects by Angelinos participating in the campaign. Each point corresponds to a school in LAUSD; the size of the point indicates the level of funding received and the color depicts the percentage of students at that school receiving free lunch. This is a measure often used as a proxy for the level of poverty of the school. 80% of LAUSD’s more than 650,000 students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Below is the distribution of giftcard spending over subjects and grade levels. Literacy and Language projects received the lion’s share of the funding, and projects supporting PreK-5th grade classrooms were also heavily favored.

Angelinos supported thousands of classroom projects, below is a word cloud of frequent terms used by teachers that were funded.

The Wasserman campaign brought a new corp of teachers to DonorsChoose.org who posted projects for the first time. Over 4,500 LAUSD teachers joined the site during the campaign and had a project funded; for comparison, during the same period last year, 448 LAUSD teachers joined the site and had a project funded. The plot below depicts the cumulative growth in teachers during the campaign and the blue shows the figure for the same time period last year.

We would like to thank the Wasserman Foundation for their generous donation to the schools of LAUSD and congratulate the dedicated teachers and citizen philanthropists in LA who came together to make this campaign so succesful.

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