Best Practices
August 27, 2013

Education Pioneers: Recruiting Business into Education

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Traditional education reform efforts have centered on individuals already engaged in the public school system—such as teachers and administrators—and have commonly overlooked the role of business leaders not previously involved in education. Consequently, a resource with great potential to bring about meaningful change has been left untapped.  An exceptional teacher can shape the future for the children in his or her classroom and an exceptional administrator can create a strong school district, but to incite nationwide reform, we need exceptional individuals from various backgrounds and industries to contribute their diverse strengths and work towards this collective goal.

In 2003, Scott Morgan created the nonprofit organization Education Pioneers in response to the shortage of talented professionals interested in working in the education sector. With his experience in the public school system, Morgan understood the limits of working solely with other educators, and quickly realized the value of alliances with outside professionals. Thus, he began Education Pioneers to recruit emerging leaders whose talents would benefit the education community. The cornerstone of the initiative is what Eastern Region Executive Director, Tanya Ramos, calls the “trifecta”—the effective collaboration of strong teachers, administrators, and professionals outside the classroom. Without any one of the three components, the educational system is less equipped to meet its full potential.

Education Pioneers features three fellowship tracks: a 10-week Graduate School Fellowship, a year-long Graduate School Fellowship, and most recently, a 10-month Analyst Fellowship. The 10-week program is Education Pioneer’s flagship fellowship, and continues to attract thousands of professionals each year. Often recruited from elite graduate schools including Yale University, Harvard University, University of Chicago, and University of California, Berkeley, individuals interested in any of the fellowship paths face a competitive application process which includes objective evaluations in addition to multiple rounds of interviews. Just over 10% of applicants are accepted as fellows, and subsequently placed in one of over 180 partner organizations in 16 cities across the country.

This year, Education Pioneers’ Eastern Region launched its inaugural Connecticut cohort by placing 12 talented, early to mid-career professionals with eight leading education organizations such as Bridgeport Public Schools, the Bridgeport Mayor’s Office, and Achievement First, to advance strategic projects that drove forward ambitious education initiatives. Fellows represented a diverse group of skilled professionals committed to improving education in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven and provided over 5,000 hours of mission-critical support aimed at closing the state’s educational opportunity gap.
 
All fellowships aim to introduce fellows to the field of education and provide them with the knowledge to support and initiate change. Through direct work and involvement in impactful projects, fellows gain experience in fields ranging from consulting to nonprofit management as they relate to education, and develop and apply their existing skills to leadership and management positions in the education sector. In just 10 weeks, Education Pioneer alumni have designed curricula, managed budgets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even presented policy recommendations to the Secretary of Education.

Even more importantly, the fellowships are designed to communicate the importance of work in education reform, and capture the interest and passion of participating professionals. This focus on talent retention is reflected in the impressive retention rate—70% of fellows continue work in the education sector following their fellowships, forging an expansive alumni network that includes Senior Director of Portfolio Planning at the NYC Department of Education, Chief Operating Officer of a DC charter school, and founder of Beyond 12, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between K–12 and higher education.

This September, Education Pioneers celebrates its 10th anniversary. After a decade of growth and innovation, Education Pioneers is poised to continue moving forward and making an even greater impact on both the education community and schools across the country.

For more information, please contact Tanya Ramos at tanya.ramos@educationpioneers.org.