In Memphis, Tennessee, many education leaders are thinking big about change for our communities.
These are full-blown visions of “cradle to career” improvement and success for all of our cities’ young people. As a result, Memphis is on the cusp of an education renaissance like never before.
Take the organization Seeding Success (one of Education Pioneers’ partners) as a prime example. They connect local schools, nonprofits, businesses, and leaders so they can coordinate services and ensure all children are prepared for success in school and beyond. Over this past year, I’ve been working with Seeding Success’ Executive Director, Mark Sturgis, specifically to help build a pipeline of talented, analytic- and data-minded talent people here in Memphis.
Last year, we placed an analytic leader with Seeding Success, Melissa Perry, and her work has made such an impact that now, Mark and I are in the process of recommending at least five more leaders for placement this year. We’re excited to have a combination of local analytic talent from Tennessee as well as several leaders who are enthusiastic to relocate to Memphis to be a part of this movement.
In Memphis, we’re starting to see the results that Mathematica Policy Research shared in a report last year: that EP’s data-savvy pioneers bring critical analytic capacity to education organizations and help build a data culture. We know that expanding data capacity within our communities is a critical component of advancing our work and can have lasting impact for our children.
For instance, one of our local nonprofits that focuses on early childhood education and foster care services collects a lot of data on their programs. But the gap of time between collecting the data and actually being able to create actions informed by the data often proves problematic. Combing through mountains of data to determine which data points are most telling and should be leveraged to amplify impact is a big – and common – obstacle for many organizations.
Organizations that value data are surely on the right track: they know data’s value, they’ve collected rich data, and they’re actively laying the foundation for a data culture on their teams. To accelerate the work they’re already doing, Seeding Success and EP are working to support these organizations to ensure that the data collected can be acted on immediately and the results felt more quickly.
As Mark Sturgis describes it, “It’s exciting to see highly effective leaders with specific skills, like technical data and analysis skills, build capacity across Memphis’ organizations. They’re helping to drive cultural change in organizations and community-wide.”
For their part, Seeding Success is working to ensure the work that data-savvy pioneers contribute to local organizations is also shared between organizations. Together, we’re piloting a “cohort within a cohort” model that will link the data work between organizations and facilitate cross-organizational conversations across the city. As EP Fellows, our leaders will be a part of EP’s traditional programming and cohort experience and will receive leadership development training. Plus, Seeding Success will provide content training and also be a hub for them to share resources, communications, and ideas.
Together, we’re working to ensure that more organizations are connected so that we can all avoid duplicating or triplicating work. Breaking down barriers and silos means that all of us will be better equipped to serve Memphis’ children.
As Mark says, “This work isn’t just one-off projects here and there, but a comprehensive community strategy to leverage talented people who can drive community engagement and outcomes.”
Locally, our Fellows are excited to be a part of this innovative approach, and our hope at EP is to learn from our work here in Memphis so that we can spread success across more cities. We’re continually looking for new ways to connect talented people to each other and to our partner organizations in order to accomplish the work that will ensure all children are prepared to thrive in school and in life.
Our hope is that when these leaders – some local and some from other cities and states – work together, learn together, and solve challenges together, they’ll find and develop powerful solutions to ensure that all students succeed now and for generations to come, and they themselves will become a permanent part of our communities.
Maya Bugg is the State Director, Tennessee for Education Pioneers. She has over a decade of experience in leading high-impact initiatives throughout the education sector. With a focus on serving under-privileged students and communities, Maya’s dedication lies in her belief that access to a transformative education should not be solely the privilege of some, but instead the right of all. Follow Maya on Twitter @MayaMBugg.