Education Pioneers, a national organization that matches qualified fellows with opportunities to learn first-hand about challenges in education, experienced a boom in applications this year—up 70 percent overall. And, if the past is a predictor of future outcomes, a number of the new participants are likely to focus on integrating education technology into schools, or even creating new technologies meant to improve schools and instruction.
A total of 6,893 individuals sought approximately 450 available fellowships through the Oakland, Calif.-based organization for the 2013-2014 school year. Education Pioneers accepts graduate school students studying business, law, policy, and education, and analysts employed in various industries to work in urban K-12 systems, charter school management, government agencies, and education nonprofits. Graduate fellows agree to work in their positions for a minimum of 10 weeks, up to one year. For 2013-14, graduate fellowship applications grew 69 percent.
Analyst-fellowship applications—which attract working professionals—grew 77 percent compared to last year. With backgrounds in finance, strategy, marketing or operations, analyst-fellows must have experience as consultants or analysts to be selected for the program, in which they are expected to leverage their skills and knowledge for a 10-month assignment on behalf of a partnering school district, charter management organization, nonprofit, or other education entity.
In a phone interview, Scott Morgan, founder and CEO of Education Pioneers, attributed the spike in applications to three factors: the organization’s overall increasing brand recognition throughout the 10 years it has been in existence; positive word-of-mouth, noting that 40 percent of fellows have said they learned about the opportunity from alumni; and, what he describes as an impressive network of educational partners in 20 cities that provide working positions for the fellows.
Some Education Pioneers alumni are moving into important roles in the educational-technology space, said Morgan, pointing to the fact that a number of alumni now hold key positions in Education Elements, a San Carlos, Calif.-based company that works to help schools integrate instructional practice with technology to improve outcomes.
Beyond that, a number of the program’s alumni are starting promising ed-tech companies, he said. For instance, blended-learning technologist Justin Su is co-founder of GoalBook, which is described as offering online toolkits that empower teachers to ensure that all students can access and achieve common-core expectations and Jason Lange is the CEO and co-founder of BloomBoard, which says on its website that it helps teachers grow and improve by enabling personalized feedback and support that meets their individual needs.
Another example of how Education Pioneers are influencing education via technology is the “hackathon,” a community service project in which four Education Pioneer analyst fellows brought together 100 coders and analysts for a day to tackle the real-world issues faced by Aspire Public Schools, Oakland Unified and San Francisco Unified School Districts.
Hackathons have become increasingly popular in the education space as a way of generating new ideas for innovation.
Rocketship Education, a network of San Francisco Bay Area public elementary charter schools that use a blended-learning model, is a fellowship partner that “looks to us for talent, particularly business talent,” Morgan said. “Organizations like Rocketship are looking to scale and grow, and they are looking for great people to do that.”
Overall, more than 1,600 fellows have worked in more than 180 education organizations nationwide through the fellowships since they were founded, according to a release from the organization. By 2014, Education Pioneers is on track to have placed nearly 2,400 Fellows. Morgan is looking to increase the reach of his organization even more, with a goal of having 10,000 alumni by the year 2023.