Taking a Holistic Approach: Our New Education Practice

 

One of the many flashpoints emerging in the early days of the Trump Administration is the commitment of President Trump and his education secretary-designate Betsy deVos to the privatization of education in this country – and then the defunding of education, and most forms of human capital investment, completely.

This is an issue that I and my terrific colleagues at Public Works have been involved with for years. We decided last year to build one of the top education policy consultancies in America. In 2017, this is shaping up to be even more important. In this update, I’d like to let you know about our approach to education – including stressing creativity over doctrinaire approaches of any kind.

We undertook three major education projects in 2016. We spent the bulk of the year enmeshed in two distinct performance reviews of the state of Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) and the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education/Alaska Student Loan Corporation (ACPE).  The unique significance and sensitivity of education issues in Alaska demanded a high degree of oversight; you can read our full DEED report here. ACPE is the state entity for central planning for higher education and financial aid programs; our ACPE report is available here.

We also were retained by the Eagle County (Colorado) Department of Human Services and the Eagle County School District to develop an Early Childhood System Roadmap to identify principles and best practices essential to a comprehensive early childhood system, and strategies for building such a system in Eagle County. The report is available here.

And 2017 is off to a fast start: We just completed a comprehensive performance review of the Dalhart (Texas) Independent School District for the Texas Legislative Budget Board. That report hasn’t been publicly released yet – but the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, DC, did release this month a report I wrote on the Springfield (Massachusetts) Empowerment Zone Partnership – an attempt to create within the public schools the conditions that make charter schools successful, without the poisonous politics: It’s very close to the model Public Works has developed for our clients and advocated around the country for years. You can read it here.

The objective of our education practice is to help guide human capital investment so that all Americans, of every age, can receive world-class education and training enabling them to achieve their full potential. We’re combining expertise throughout the entire educational “pipeline” – from early childhood to K-12 through post-secondary and higher education, on to the adult workforce system – and building bridges between them.

We’ve helped multiple states construct P-20 systems, uniting everything from early childhood education through post-secondary training in governance, coordination, policy and substance. We’ve designed model early childhood programs for localities and national think tanks – and led the restructuring of adult workforce systems in a dozen states, bringing together all segments (PK-12, community colleges, and universities) in the public education system. In short, we’re taking a holistic approach to education.

We also take a holistic approach to effecting meaningful change, working on education policy-making at the highest levels of states governments, but also with principals and superintendents on improving district and building leadership – and community engagement. We’ve put together a team of about two dozen education consultants, with a core team that has some of my favorite people:

  • JoAnn Cox education experience includes teaching, district administration, and leadership at a state Department of Education, and then headed up the PK-12 Education practice at MGT of America. Dr. Cox has earned a national reputation for improving outcomes and generating savings.
  • Laura Dukess was Director of Professional Development the Office of School Leadership of the New York City Department of Education, worked at New Visions for Public Schools, and was a law school classmate of mine.
  • Pamela Kondé, is an expert in policy analysis, government relations and legal advocacy, with a focus on parental engagement, community building, and strategic grassroots organizing. She also teaches and runs after-school programs and a summer camp for creative writing. Previously worked with the National League of Cities and on Capitol Hill.
  • Marybeth Schubert was the founding executive director of the Advanced Programs Initiative, a New Mexico-wide foundation dedicated to advancing public education through partnership with public school districts, and previously was my firm’s southwest director.
  • Ester Smith has more than 30 years of experience in the design, implementation and management of education evaluations. She has conducted program evaluations and management and performance reviews in school districts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
  • Ken Weil is a principal at Social Impact Solutions, focusing on social impact bonds, pay for success contracts, and other new revenue paradigms for early childhood, K-12, and higher education. He previously served as regional Executive Director of College Summit, a national leader in increasing college enrollment and persistence for low-income students.

If your state or city needs intelligent new approaches to helping its schools, universities and workforce-preparation systems work better, we would love to hear from you. There’s really no more important issue in the years ahead if you truly want to keep America great.

 

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2 Comments

  1. February 8, 2017 at 9:27 am

    As a retired teacher that taught at every level from 6th grade to a college adjunct faculty position at rural and urban schools both small and large. I am now watching a teenage daughter navigate both the blessings and horrors of a below average public high school in North Carolina, I applaud your efforts to re-imagine what education should be, and the holistic approach presented. Education does not occur in a vacuum, nor can it be reduced to a business model of solely inputs and outputs,, which is all too often the case.
    I just listened to a rant on a cable television news program about the out-sized power teachers’ unions, and it was accurate. I could also deliver an out-sized rant on the role of administrators and/or consultants who have precious little actual classroom experience. Both groups are deficient in so many ways. My experience taught me that the vast majority of my students matriculate under-prepared due to the various vicissitudes of policy, lack of clear priorities in the system, a dearth of truly well educated and dedicated teachers and assistants in the classroom, and a lack of community support and understanding at the most basic levels. Most individuals navigated school attempting to go unnoticed by authority. Many more actively viewed school as a hostile environment. As parents, they bring that pre-existing set of notions into play when they engage with what is almost universally a set of professionals who experienced their own education in an almost completely opposite manner.
    Since I was not a “choir boy” in school, and actively struggled at times, I found it much easier to reach out to parents, to form bonds that made a difference for my students, and to help other teachers find paths to effectively communicate with students and parents.
    I say all of that to pose the following: how much of your team actually involves teachers as active think-tank participants? I note above that only two of the member bios include actual teaching. Would lawyers, or doctors, or accountants be so willing to outsource their governance and policy as educators have been forced to accept? Finding teachers who have had success over long periods and actually letting them help craft policy proposals would pay tremendous dividends.
    Former University of Virginia head basketball coach Terry Holland was at a faculty dinner party during an exceptionally bad year for his team. A noted physician approached him and asked if he could offer some advice. Holland responded, “Do you want me to come and advise you during your next surgery?” The physician laughed. Holland pressed on with “Didn’t you study long and hard to become good at your job?” The physician acceded, with pride that he did indeed. Holland responded, “So did I.”
    Holland’s perhaps apocryphal story sums up the position of actual teachers all to accurately.

  2. Anne Whittredge-Reply
    January 29, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Please add me to your email list. Looks like exciting work.
    Are you working in Springfield MA?

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