Collective Impact: The End of Piecemeal Education Reform

Topics: Education Policy, ESSA

Did you know the United States spends more educating its citizens than any other developed nation, yet we continue to fall in the middle of the pack on every international measure of academic performance? Some might use this as a rallying call to invest even more in the system. At KnowledgeWorks, we believe in a better solution– scale collective impact so every community in the nation can build the civic infrastructure necessary to support and sustain impactful education reform!

Last week, at StriveTogether’s annual convening in San Diego , KnowledgeWorks released “Improving Student Outcomes through Collective Impact: A Guide for Federal Policymakers.” This guide provides an overview of the emerging collective impact movement and a series of policy recommendations to bring this work to scale. My colleague, Jeff Edmondson (the Managing Director of StriveTogether) and I decided to write this guide after witnessing more than 50 communities in StriveTogether’s network  use the collective impact approach to move the needle on challenging education outcomes — without investing new resources in the system. Collective impact has the potential to revolutionize the way the nation approaches education reform, accelerating student success, closing achievement gaps, and expanding educational opportunity at every stage of the education pipeline.

As the largest investor in the nation’s education system, the federal government is in a unique position to bring collective impact to scale. Our guide encourages policymakers to take three simple steps:

    1. Leverage resources for education reform by aligning all federal education place-based grants with local collective impact efforts and base eligibility for federal grants on where a community is on its path to reform.
    2. Ensure that federal grants for place-based work help communities make strategic investments to further quality collective impact.
    3. Establish a set of six essential outcome areas, or academic points along the education continuum, that will guide selection, monitoring and evaluation of all federal education place-based grants. The six essential recommended outcome areas include:
      • Kindergarten Readiness
      • Early Grade Reading
      • Middle Grade Math
      • High School Graduation
      • Postsecondary Enrollment
      • Postsecondary Completion

Our country will not maintain its international competitiveness if it continues to fund piecemeal strategies that lack stakeholder buy-in at the local, state and federal levels. A comprehensive approach will help stakeholders identify challenges and shift resources behind the strategies with the greatest potential to make a difference in the lives of America’s students.