Education Cities: Redefining what’s possible in education

This blog is part of a series that highlights the work of our partners. 

Students in low-performing schools are in desperate need of high-quality talent.  How do we solve the problem of finding and retaining great leaders for these schools?

“Poaching” can be a loaded word in the education sector. Many cities shy away from finding talent in other places because they believe it’s smarter to improve schools using only talent in their own backyards.  But what if the lack of poaching in education is actually keeping schools from reaching their full potential?

This is the issue Education Cities tackles in a recent report How Cities Can Compete For Great School Leaders. Simply put, the report states that high-performing schools are founded on innovative leaders. These leaders must be sought out – from near or far – and then inspired to grow their impact in areas with few high-quality school options.

Education Cities

Education Cities is a nonprofit organization committed to a vision of a future where all children can access great public schools.  It’s currently comprised of 31 member organizations in 24 cities.  Member organizations serve as “harbormasters” and work in their own cities to increase high quality seats in schools.  Like maritime harbormasters, who facilitate safe and cooperative navigation in a challenging space, education harbormasters build and coordinate the efforts to improve education in their city. As a result of these partnerships, Education Cities has an overarching view of the challenges, problems and wins that are occurring in today’s schools. With this wide lens, they have a deep understanding of best practices based on their findings across many cities.

This is innovative and difficult work, to say the least. But it’s also work that is moving the needle for students and bringing us closer to achieving educational equity for students of all income levels.

This broad view of education practices distinguishes them from others, along with:

  • Consulting: While Education Cities finds similar levers across many school districts, they do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Working as consultants, the team gets to know the individuals and the context in each city before assessing next steps to improvement.
  • Collaboration: Education Cities is a hub for harbormaster leader networking. The members of the organizations can collaborate and participate in “working groups,” each tackling a major issue facing member organizations.
  • Thought leadership: Education Cities serves as a thought leader in the field. They look beyond data at their relationships with member organizations to find new information about what is or is not working for cities.


Progress in the field

In 2014-2015, member organizations collectively invested more than $100 million to ensure students have access to great schools.  Most of these resources were used to invest in quality schools by creating and replicating great schools and helping low-performing schools to improve. Members also invested to recruit, train and support great teachers and administrators, support community engagement efforts, and create the policy conditions so schools can thrive.

The result:  More than 50,000 children across the country were positively impacted, whether it means they attended a new quality school, experienced personalized learning models or had access to teachers who were trained in improved preparation programs.

This is innovative and difficult work , to say the least.  But it’s also work that is moving the needle for students and bringing us closer to achieving educational equity for students of all income levels.

And, let’s face it, every student from every zip code deserves it.