There’s no silver bullet to transform education in the United States. But any promising strategy for “what” we do requires that we get the “who” right.
At Education Pioneers, we focus on the “who.” All day. Every day. We know that providing a pipeline of exceptional talent for the education sector will reinvigorate, create, and sustain great American schools that do right by all children.
This work is extremely urgent because our education system isn’t living up to its promise. We live in a nation where less than 1 in 10 adults from the lowest income quartile earn at least a bachelor’s degree by age 24 (vs. nearly 8 in 10 adults from the top income quartile). We have an equal distribution of talent and potential greatness across zip codes—and a radicallyunequal distribution of access and opportunity for all children to fully realize their potential.
How can we do right by all children, and especially students of color and poor students, to ensure they can thrive and our nation can flourish as a result?
The answer: People.
Extraordinary people are the most powerful lever that we have to transform education in America.
Education leaders who work outside of the classroom shape the experience of teachers and students in the classroom. They manage enormous budgets, tackle complex problems, and supervise diverse teams—all in the pursuit of helping prepare all students for success in life. In fact, leadership is the second most important school-related factor after classroom instruction in determining what students learn in school.
Since 2003, Education Pioneers has recruited, developed, and supported talented people from diverse backgrounds to step into critical education leadership roles—more than 3,000 Pioneers to date and counting. We partner with school districts, charters school organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, and more nationwide and connect them with the leaders they need to support student, teacher, and principal success in schools.
Last week, we announced our plan to double down on the bet on talent by expanding our work so that we can bring thousands more exceptional leaders into the education sector:
1 | First, we’re expanding and evolving the programs we’ve operated for over a decade.
To provide our partner education organizations with thousands more transformational leaders, we’re now recruiting for the Education Pioneers Fellowship (with start dates beginning in early 2016).
This new and expanded Fellowship has two options—the summer and career tracks—to meet the needs of both emerging and established professionals, and the talent needs of education organizations nationwide.
For a number of years our partner organizations have told us that they need long-term leaders who have specific, targeted skills such as data analysis, operations, and human resources. They also need leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds—and leaders who have community ties.
Education Pioneers’ new Fellowship is designed to meet these needs and ensure that our nation’s most extraordinary people have a clear pathway to the critical work happening in education in communities across the nation.
2 | Second, we’re placing a particular focus on attracting exceptional leaders of color to the education sector.
Across industries and sectors, diverse teams deliver powerful results. In public education, where the work is incredibly complex and where we serve racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse communities, bringing exceptional leaders of color into the sector is vital to provide students and families with an excellent and equitable education.
At Education Pioneers, we believe in the power of all facets of diversity, and we’re working to ensure that the leaders serving communities of color and low-income communities reflect those communities.
Additionally, there are incredible opportunities for leaders of color to make an impact in education. Education Pioneers’ African American/Black and Latino/a Alumni working in education serve as senior managers at five times the rate of their peers working in the private sector.
There is a tremendous need for highly qualified leaders of color in education organizations across the country, and we want to do everything we can to connect leaders of color to organizations where they can make an impact.
3 | Third, we’re thinking big: our goal is to attract and support 10,000 talented professionals from diverse backgrounds to serve in mission-critical roles across the entire education sector.
We’re aiming to grow our network significantly, to have 10,000 Pioneers working in education by 2023, our 20th anniversary. We want to make it easier for talented people to find the right career fit in education leadership right away.
To that end, we’ve launched flexible start dates. Whereas in the past, EP Fellowships had defined timeframes, our new career track offers professionals the opportunity to find the right role when they need it, and when our partner organizations need to fill it to advance mission-critical work on behalf of students.
Additionally, we’re seeking to broaden our talent pool to encompass leaders from every stage of their careers—from early-career professionals to seasoned executives. The education sector evolves continually, and we want to ensure that people with new ideas and with established expertise have a way to advance meaningful, high-impact careers.
We’re currently piloting programs with partners to meet acute talent needs (like strategic human capital leaders in education) and expand our talent pipelines. Our new Fellowship model will enable us to remain agile and responsive to the sector as it evolves.
Our work is also about supporting leaders’ growth and connecting them to each other. Being part of a powerful, diverse network of leaders is critical to finding solutions for students across the country. Therefore, we’re ensuring that all of our leaders have access to strong alumni groups and resources that help them lead, learn, and connect as they make positive impact in the education sector.
At EP, we’re excited about what these changes to our work will mean for the education sector and for the impact that we can make through our partner organizations’ work with students.
We’re determined to break down the many barriers that currently prevent our partner organizations from recruiting and retaining diverse, exceptional talent, especially in the places where they are most desperately needed.
When we realize our goal, we will support thousands of talented people in making a lasting difference and finding meaningful careers across the education sector—and keep them there for the long term.
|Scott Morgan is the Founder of Education Pioneers. He founded the organization in 2003 to identify, train, connect, and inspire a diverse group of leaders and managers to accelerate systemic change across the education sector. An educator, attorney, and social entrepreneur, Scott believes that talented leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds can transform education for all students. Follow Scott on Twitter at @scottmorgan1.