Non-profit ed collaboration recruits, connects top school leaders

Three top nonprofit education organizations have teamed up to create a system that not only recruits and trains top students and skilled professionals for leadership roles in the field but connects them to those opportunities and allows them to easily network with each other to share information and practices nationwide.

The new system, known as Activate Ed, launched yesterday and with it the nonprofits' plan to recruit 1,500 new education leaders - analysts and advocates to superintendents and transportation chiefs - by April of 2014.

We're trying to help school systems run more successfully so the teachers are better supported to do their work and the students are better supported to learn," said Becca Bracy Knight, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, which is partnering with Oakland's Education Pioneers and Harvard's Strategic Data Project. The project is supported by the Gates Foundation.

"What we're trying to think about is how do we get the very best people - the very best talent - into education to figure out what needs to be done and what's already happening that's good," Bracy Knight said in an interview. "We're most excited about this as a way to really amplify the actions of our three organizations and better support the efforts of all kinds of education systems and organizations that are out there working on behalf of kids and teachers."

Through the Activate Ed website, a network of more than 2,000 alumni of the three organizations' fellowship and residency programs can share information and best practices, and serve as a talent pool for potential employers.

Activate Ed currently lists some 400 high-profile career opportunities, including executive positions at education non-profits, school districts, charter management organizations and state and federal agencies.

In addition grad students and other professionals considering a job in the education field can research and apply for the fellowship or residency program that best suits their needs.

Lauren Chianese, a former Teach for America teacher and Coro Leadership fellow, enrolled in Education Pioneers' 10-week summer Graduate School Fellowship in 2009 while she was at USC working toward a master's degree in public policy.

From that program, she worked an internship at City Year - an organization wholly focused on fighting the national dropout crisis - and went on to a full-time job as senior education policy advisor in the Los Angeles mayor's office. She recently left the mayor's office and is now working as director of community engagement at the Foundation for Florida's Future, an arm of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education.

"I am kind of a program junkie. I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn more and to expand my own knowledge base," Chianese said. "I'm also a big believer in networks and that you get more done when you have smart people around you who care about similar things and so [the Graduate School Fellowship] was also an opportunity to build a network."

The fellowship also broadened her perspective on education, which had been shaped by her mostly Teach for America experience and connections, she said.

"Going through Ed Pioneers allowed me to interact with people who were in education but didn't do Teach for America; who hadn't been in the classroom but who had this business perspective or law perspective and thought education was important," said Chianese. "It really broadened my way of thinking about the problems and the possible solutions."

Education Pioneers also offers a full-time, paid 10-month analyst fellowship that places talented, early career professionals into roles that help school districts, charter management organizations, nonprofits and other leading education organizations understand and use data for strategic success.

Broad offers a Superintendents Academy - an advanced development program that identifies proven leaders and prepares them for success leading large urban school districts, state departments of education and public charter systems - and a Residency in Urban Education, a leadership development program that trains and places qualified participants into high-level managerial positions in school districts, charter management organizations and departments of education.

The Strategic Data Project Fellowship places talented analysts in partner agencies where fellows work to influence policy decisions that impact student outcomes.

"Now with the online networking system that we've built into the Active Ed website, called the Exchange, everyone in our three different organizations and our programs can proactively share information, ask for information and have that kind of communication and sharing in a much more efficient way," Broad's Bracy Knight said.

"Same thing with jobs. Everyone is always looking to hire great people and someone would email us a job description and say can you share this with your network?" she added. "Of course we would always do that, but to have one central site where you can post all the jobs and post all the resumes, people can really take a much more self-service approach to looking for people and finding people and finding jobs - it just makes it so much easier to make those connections."

Current program participants or alumni of the coalition's programs have full access to the site, where they can seek out people with expertise in areas different from their own; share a report or toolkit or product they've created, such as a teacher evaluation form, that might be helpful to other people in the network, Bracy Knight noted.

And, education agencies and organizations can post jobs on the site's career/job portal to access people in the network if they're trying to recruit and hire someone.

"We know that, overall, we need the very best people in all roles in education systems in order to make the kind of changes that we want to see for students and teachers, so anything we can do to try and help get more great people into the education field and into roles where they can have impact, and equip them with the knowledge and best practices they need to make a difference, the better," said Bracy Knight. "That's a win for our organizations and it's a win for the field."

The Activate Ed website can be found at more