2018 Ensemble Casts Advancing Policy
September 6, 2018

Recognizing Coalitions Across the Country

As the reform movement grows, there’s often more than one organization in most states advancing reform in their state capitol. (Visit our member map to see who’s working where.) That’s a positive trend: the line at the microphone lobbying against the status quo is even longer.

Because that’s true, most advocates find themselves working in coalitions, or in partnership with other organizations, to advance shared goals.

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—celebrate excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns across the country, and in this case exemplar coalition building.


Below are the nominations for Best Ensemble Cast—a coalition artfully organized to respond to particular opportunities or challenges in their states that contributed to a policy win and is worthy of replication. Click on a specific nomination to see more. You can see the complete list of Eddies! nominees in other categories here.

Best Ensemble Cast Top Finalists

Additional Eddies! Nominees:

A+ Colorado, Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, NAACP Denver Branch, African Leadership Group, Together Colorado, Padres y Jove’s Unidos, & Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc.

Defending The Integrity of Accountability

In the fall of 2017, Denver Public Schools released its School Performance Framework, the color-coded ratings that communicate and drive decisions about school quality. However, significantly higher ratings were greatly inflated relative to most measures of academic improvement. For example, the number of “red” (lowest rated) elementary schools decreased 80 percent, but only 5 percent more students were meeting expectations on the state exams.

A+ Colorado’s research showed a huge disconnect between the underlying data and the ratings, and that the district relied far too heavily on formative early literacy data that was not aligned to the state standards. A+ Colorado called on the district to change the accountability ratings, so they better reflected students’ mastery of state standards and accurately communicated school quality to families. A+ supported a group of community-facing civil rights organizations including Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, the NAACP Denver Branch, The African Leadership Group, Together Colorado, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, and Alpha Phi Alpha to lead the demand for adjusted school performance framework ratings. This particular coalition brought together a unique set of voices, rallying families, community leaders, and elected officials to push for an honest assessment of school performance.

In spring 2018, Denver Public Schools responded to the pressure from A+ Colorado and civil rights groups, agreeing to fix the early literacy measures that had so skewed the school performance framework. This goes to show that actionable research and a compelling coalition are a powerful force, holding systems accountable for the education they provide to students.

A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama GRIT coalition.

Implementation of School and District Letter Grades

When Alabama began working to implement its school letter grade law five years after it was passed, there was no strategy in place to communicate information about the work to school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, or students. However, these stakeholders would be those who spent the most time talking about the grades. Rumors abounded—most of them untrue—about the formula, the purpose of the grades, and the consequences of a low grade.

A+, through its coalition Alabama GRIT, partnered with the Alabama State Department of Education, Alabama Association of School Boards, School Superintendents of Alabama, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, and the Alabama Education Association to develop a communications and messaging toolkit for school leaders and teachers. The goal was to frame the letter grades as a conversation starter for communities—not a condemnation of schools or students.

In part because of this work, when the grades were released, there was less negative coverage than expected. Statewide, public and private discussion focused on how to support students, especially around chronic absenteeism (one of the letter grade components). The Birmingham Superintendent and Mayor even stood together committing to do this. Broadly, the conversation changed from one focused on the unfairness of labeling schools to one about helping students.

Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) Coalition, including Teach Plus California and Educators for Excellence-Los Angeles

Realizing the Promise for All: Close the Gap by 2023

Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) is a broad coalition of parent, student, educator, community-based, and civil rights organizations dedicated to ensuring that all students in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) receive an equitable, high-quality public education. Led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the twelve core organizations include Alliance for a Better Community; CARECEN; Center for Powerful Public Schools; Community Coalition; Educators for Excellence-Los Angeles (PIE Member), Families in Schools; InnerCity Struggle; MALDEF; Partnership for Los Angeles Schools; Teach Plus California (PIE Member) and Promesa Boyle Heights.

Over four years, CLASS engaged historically-underserved communities in the nation’s second largest school district to understand their priorities for district spending. Using this extensive work as a launching pad, the coalition worked with an array of partners to craft a comprehensive resolution that both identified goals with higher expectations of schools and students, and looked at ways to better equip teachers and administrators to reach those goals. Armed with the resolution, the CLASS coalition then launched a grassroots campaign to put pressure on the LAUSD School Board to adopt it. This resolution, “Realizing the Promise for All: Close the Gap by 2023,” was adopted unanimously by the Board on June 12, 2018.

Close the Gap, in combination with other recent reforms, is helping to bring about a just distribution of resources and differentiated supports to high need students across LAUSD. As the organizations representing teacher voices on this team, Teach Plus and E4E are continuing to work with the CLASS coalition through the implementation of the resolution to foster more productive partnerships between educators, families, students, and the district.

Education Equity Delaware, including DelawareCAN and Rodel Foundation

Creating Fiscal Transparency

Education Equity Delaware came together in 2016 when many of its organizations were represented on the state Education Funding Improvement Commission (EFIC) in order to deliver to the commission a statement of principles for how to transition to a student-centered funding system. Since then, the organizations, which include leadership from the Rodel Foundation and DelawareCAN, have grown in size and strength and represent a diverse coalition of advocates from civil rights, business, Hispanic, faith, and parent organizations. In order to make progress toward the goal of a enacting a fair student-centered funding system, in 2018 the coalition focused on transparency, a problem facing nearly all of the states in the Network. They passed fiscal transparency legislation to establish a statewide approach for districts and charter schools to report per-pupil expenditure that would ensure consistency, school-to-school comparability, and community input. The legislation also requires that per-pupil expenditure data include key context about the school and student school type and that trainings be offered to enhance the public’s ability to incorporate the data into education decision-making.

GeorgiaCAN, Foundation for Excellence in Education, American Federation for Children, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Charter Schools Association and Georgia Independent School Association

Tax Credit Scholarships, and Operational and Capital Outlay Funding for Public Charter Schools  

This legislative session Georgia enacted two bills to increase private choice and charter school opportunities for students in a political environment that was not at all conducive to either issue passing, let alone both. The coalition partners had to turn to younger, newer legislative champions. The coalition began executing a plan in mid-2017 to position ed reform as a pivotal issue for Republican candidates. They generated statements of support from county party committees, organized a statewide board of influential political leaders, and generated thousands of grassroots contacts for key elected officials. They created a unified plan early, overcame numerous setbacks, and insisted on robust policy reforms. Through thoughtful coalition work, well-orchestrated negotiations, and round-the-clock lobbying, Georgia enacted HB 787 and HB 217 to greatly expand both public and private school choice through more equitable public charter school funding and nearly doubling the cap of the tax credit scholarship program. HB 787 modified the funding for state-authorized public charter schools, bringing them into parity with their traditional school neighbors and also authorized the creation of a replication grant program. This legislation will greatly improve the chartering environment in the state and will aid high quality charter school expansion for years to come. HB 217 is a massive expansion of Georgia’s successful tax-credit scholarship program, expanding the $58 million program into a $100 million program, an increase that will allow for nearly 10,000 new students to receive scholarships.

Additional Nominees

Foundation for Excellence in Education

Choices in Education Video Contest  

ExcelinEd launched Choices in Education, a national video contest to identify fresh voices from parents, students, and others to share their stories about the personal impact of educational opportunity, resulting in nearly 500 entries from across the country. ExcelinEd has woven these stories into their policy work and state advocacy to better show the impact educational options have had on so many families. Identifying hundreds of students and families interested in sharing their educational choice success stories has set a strong foundation for ExcelinEd to continue supporting advocates across the country. Collaboration with other partners played a key role in reaching diverse demographic segments and multiple forms of educational opportunity, as it allowed for each partner to engage with the groups where they had the strongest relationships. This contest provided a key reminder of the enthusiasm families have for sharing their school choice experience—and the power of those personal stories.

Network partners included American Federation of Children, Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, EdChoice, Institute for Quality Education, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and America Succeeds. Non-Network partners included Agudath Israel of America, Arizona School Choice Trust, Children’s Scholarship Fund, Classical Conversations, EdChoiceKY, Florida Parent Network, The Foundation for Blended and Online Learning, The Heartland Institute, Missouri Charter Public School Association, National School Choice Week, PEFNC, PublicSchoolOptions.Org, School Choice Ohio, School Choice for Oregon, Step Up for Students and Texans for Education Opportunity.

The Education Trust, Tennessee SCORE, Campaign for School Equity

Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition

The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition was formed to expand the type and number of voices speaking out for education reform and equity. The coalition is an alliance of diverse civil rights and education advocacy organizations—including The Education Trust, Tennessee SCORE, and the Campaign for School Equity—strongly advocating for students of color during the development and implementation of Tennessee’s ESSA plan and A-F school grading system. This year, the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition launched the Mosaic fellowship for education leaders of color, partnered in SCORE’s gubernatorial forum, hosted a summit to produce a policy agenda, and provided a crucial perspective supporting statewide assessment to counter anti-assessment attacks.

Winners will be announced at the PIE Network 2018 Summit on Thursday, Oct. 4.



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Ashley Schmidt

Ashley is PIE Network's Senior Director of Member Engagement & Communications

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