Vol. 2
Issue 19
Building Education Cities
Back-to-school is always an exciting and hectic time. This year unfortunately, a great number of families and educators are also grappling with life-changing issues outside the classroom too - from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to President Trump's decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ( DACA ). 

In moments like this, I'm reminded of the dynamic roles schools play not only as a place for teaching and learning but as a center of community life, a safe-haven and so much more.

In this month's newsletter we're pleased to interview Ed Chang, the Executive Director of redefinED atlanta - a new member organization and education quarterback. Ed talks about how the organization began, its initial focus areas, and its guiding philosophy to lead by centering their conscience and investments on community.

We're looking forward to gathering in Chicago in just a couple of weeks for our semi-annual Full Network Meeting. In the meantime, read on to find updates from the field.

All the best,

Ethan Gray
Founder & CEO, Education Cities
Special Section 
Interview with Ed Chang, Executive Director, redefinED atlanta
You have deep experience as an educator, a school leader and a coach/mentor for other school leaders. What about running a QB organization appealed to you? 
It was extremely rewarding to teach in the classroom, run a school and to mentor school leaders to either launch schools or be more effective school leaders. Each opportunity gave me much greater insight and appreciation for the work that people are doing who directly serve children. As a school leader, it was readily apparent how community, talent and schools come together in service to kids. I was less aware of how the intersection of the funding community, politics and policy played into the equation to close the achievement gap at scale. The opportunity to launch redefinED atlanta provided a front row seat to see how the sausage is made and potentially to change the ingredients to make for a better outcome in the city I call home.
The redefinED atlanta team, board, and funders put a lot of thought into the best way to launch. What did you do to prepare and why was it important to you to take this approach?

The team that brought redefinED atlanta to life had been working together for a number of years to learn more about the education landscape around the country and to find a solution that was unique to Atlanta that would take into consideration national best practices as well as local context. When I joined the team, it was important for me to show respect to all of the great work that was done to put us in a good place for launch. It was equally important to do a local and national listening tour so that we could build from the strengths of other organizations like ours around the country as well as learn from the mistakes that these organizations were so kind to reflect upon. In addition, we opted to focus more on setting up a strong organizational foundation and practices versus getting ahead of ourselves with a brand-new name and strong marketing.  We felt like there would only be one opportunity to brand ourselves so we want to be able to control our narrative as much as we can before perception kicks in. While we might have been slower to launch, I think we have a strong and malleable strategic plan that is grounded in our mission, vision and core values.

Early on there were a couple of state level policy changes (state takeover of struggling schools and the funding formula) that could have created additional pathways to growing high-quality schools. When both possibilities stalled, how did redefinED atlanta reevaluate its strategy and chart a new course?

I think that the different outcomes on the state level just shifted our direction versus causing us to re-evaluate and chart a new course. We had already considered a multiple pathways approach to quality seats, so the policy outcomes just represented one of many possibilities that could have happened. We were able to take a look at what opportunities were still available within our landscape and still try to move forward from there. I do think that the outcomes did make us more aware of impact of politics and policy on our long term goals.

One of the goals redefinED atlanta is leading with is engagement and partnership with the district, Atlanta Public Schools. Can you tell us more about why this is a priority?

We currently enjoy and benefit from strong relationships with the district on the senior cabinet level. I have cultivated strong relationships through my work as a school leader as well as some contracted work and members of our board have built strong relationships as well. A majority of students in Atlanta are taught in our traditional schools and in order for us to truly be able to say that all students in all communities in Atlanta have access to a quality education, we need to find areas where there is common ground and work together to accelerate change. I think it would be extremely difficult to make this scale of change if it was done in direct opposition of the district. Also, why burn bridges if you don't need to?

At this stage, are there other initiatives or investment strategies you can share more about?

Part of our investment philosophy is to ensure that we have a central focus on community not only to lead our investments, but also to serve as a conscience or a check and balance for redefinED atlanta. To that end, we are currently engaged in a study to understand the community, politics and policy landscape in our city better so that we can determine near term and long term goals around what role we should play in this space. We also believe that talent pipelines need to anchor our school growth, so we have secured a commitment from a teacher talent pipeline to train and bring in up to 120 new teachers at scale into our city. We have currently invested in three school initiatives: two charter/district turnaround contract schools and one state authorized charter school. Finally, we have funded some exploratory trips with senior level members of our school district to see what other cities (Denver, Indianapolis, Springfield) are doing and what could be leveraged for Atlanta.
We heard you're an avid traveler. What's your favorite trip from the last 3 years and are there any local gems you would recommend we check out in Atlanta? 
I definitely love to travel and experience different foods and cultures. My favorite trip in the last 3 years was a 5 day hike to Machu Picchu in Peru. It was one of the few places that I have ever been that I would describe as spiritual. In terms of Atlanta, definitely check out the National Center for Civil and Human Rights for some knowledge. If you want some Southern food where you might get a random back rub from your waitress, hit up Mary Mac's Tea Room.
Kudos to...
The Skillman Foundation produced a comprehensive review of its 10-year, $100-million Good Neighborhoods Initiative , which set out to improve conditions and outcomes for children living in six Detroit neighborhoods. A key focus of this initiative was improving school quality and high school graduation rates. Results include increasing high school graduation rates from 65 percent to 81 percent in GNI neighborhoods (a greater rate of increase than citywide). A cross-sector coalition formed, focused on revamping Detroit's education system - its work garnered $667 million from Michigan State to address the fiscal health of Detroit Public Schools and restored local control to Detroit citizens. Read the full report here: www.skillman.org/GNI .
News Spotlight
The 74 spotlighted four member cities including Denver, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Washington, DC through a feature microsite to promote the new book Reinventing America's Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System. Written by the Progressive Policy Institute's David Osborne, the book has interviews with The Mind Trust, New Schools for New Orleans and the Gates Family Foundation. The 74 describes Osborne's book as a "bracing survey" of the most dramatic improvements taking place in urban public education today.


Opportunity 180 announced the first class educators for the Lead Nevada Academy.
In partnership with TNTP, with support from the Windsong Trust, Lead Nevada Academy is a selective professional development program that helps talented educators hone the skills they'll need to become tomorrow's school leaders-and make a difference in their school right now. The year-long academy culminates with participants leading a project they've designed to improve student achievement at their school and spark innovation across Clark County.

SchoolSmartKC announced its newest program, supporting the launch of a Family & Community Engagement Fellowship (KC-FCE). KC-FCE willl help schools build stronger relationships with families and parents with the aim of forming the critical partnerships needed to improve the academic achievement of students. Seven schools were selected through a competitive process and combined, they serve close to 3,000 students and their families. Each school team will spend a year deepening their competencies on effective family and community engagement strategies that are linked to academic outcomes, receive on-site coaching and technical assistance from national experts at the Flamboyan Foundation. To ensure the schools can implement new approaches, schools will also receive a $25,000 grant from SchoolSmartKC to support their work.

After raising nearly $80 million to power Great Schools Fund I and the creation of 25,000 high-quality seats from 2011-2016, the Philadelphia School Partnership has launched  Great Schools Fund II and set a 3-year goal of raising $60 million . At a launch event on Sept. 7, PSP announced it has secured pledges for the first $15 million and completed the new Fund's first grants to 2 district and 3 charter schools. Three of the grants support the expansion of high-performing charter elementary schools, one supports a new "innovation" high school and the fifth is a planning grant for a project-based learning middle school to open in 2018. Some 55 percent of K-12 students are now choosing their schools, more than 40 district and charter schools have closed since 2012, and more than 20,000 seats have been added to a diverse mix of the city's highest-performing schools.
The Philadelphia School Partnership also congratulates Managing Director Miriam Sondheimer, who adds oversight of PSP's talent investments to her responsibilities, and welcomes new staff to its school investments team from schools and networks in Oakland, New Orleans, Tulsa and Camden, who in most cases are moving back to Philly to be closer to family.

New Schools for Chicago (NSC) released a report on school quality in Chicago: Who is sitting in those seats? The students most affected by Chicago's Lowest Performing Schools . The report contains a thorough analysis comparing 2011 to 2017 performance for schools across the city, with an emphasis on identifying which kids, families, and neighborhoods are most impacted by low-performing schools. The report both gives credit to the tremendous progress CPS has made, while also calling out a need to do more, and underscoring the state's and CPS' significant budget crisis.

Key findings include that CPS' nearly 50,000 failing seats are highly concentrated in predominantly African American and Hispanic communities, with four communities - Austin, Englewood, Near West Side, and West Englewood - having 25 percent of Chicago's failing schools. One in four African American students is enrolled in a school with a failing seat, compared to two in twenty-five Hispanic students, and two in one hundred white students. NSC hopes this report might serve as a helpful document for CPS' strategic efforts and those of the broader educational improvement and philanthropic community.

In a new paper, Are City Schools Becoming Monolithic? Analyzing the Diversity of Options in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. CRPE researchers analyzed school offerings in three cities to see how diverse or homogenous the cities' portfolios really are. Using publicly available data, their research showed a diversity of school offerings in each district. However, it also revealed why many families aren't aware of the array of curriculum, instructional approaches, and enrichment activities available. CRPE also has a new blog post by Denver Public Schools' Brian Eschbacher: How Denver Is Working to Improve Its Portfolio of Schools.  
Career Opportunities