USC Marshall MBAs Doing Good
Each year, the USC Marshall Society and Business Lab (SBL) awards subsidies to MBA students who intern at nonprofit and social enterprise organizations. Follow their adventures.
Lunch with the LAUSD Superintendent After researching the teacher pay-for-performance models of some high-profile districts, I began to think about potential recommendations for LAUSD. I found myself feeling excited about the potential impact, but frustrated when the roadblocks came to mind. The district is currently in the middle of negotiations with UTLA and depending on the outcome, many of my potential recommendations may not be possible to implement. As I was in the middle of building out incentive models, the Education Pioneer Fellows had a lunch scheduled with Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent of LAUSD. What a great opportunity to get his perspective, I thought. It was an “informal” lunch, as informal as you can get, knowing you’re eating with the Superintendent. As I sat beside the other fellows at the conference table, Dr. Deasy spoke about the challenges that lay ahead, how he leads and his conviction around improving student achievement. I was eager to inquire about teacher compensation. “I feel like one of the common threads across the four LAUSD strategies is accountability, could you speak to the lack of accountability in the teacher compensation structure. As he responded, he walked over to his desk and pulled out a paper. He said it was a copy of the op-ed piece that would run in the local newspaper the following week and then proceeded to read the piece to us. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/31/opinion/la-oe-deasy-teachers-contract-20110731. It spoke about some of the very items I have been researching, I thought to myself. A sigh of relief came over me. Up to this point, I had thought that my line of reasoning, my perspective on teacher compensation was too far-fetched for LAUSD. My mid-summer heat map deliverable highlighted the extent to which LAUSD’s components of teacher compensation are not aligned with teacher effectiveness, but to improve it would necessitate drastic changes. After listening to Dr. Deasy read his Op-ed, however, I began feeling more hopeful, even optimistic about the level of change that is feasible for LAUSD. Jessica Salazar
I am officially done with my internship in Chicago and have arrived back in Los Angeles. Today is the second day on campus for second years and the experience has been a whirlwind. What better opportunity that to reflect back on the summer and my experiences with the Education Pioneers fellowship?
As I have mentioned before, I was placed in the Chicago cohort with Teach For America. This process of placement is a bit of a black box and it seems that the is a great deal of importance on skill set fit with the organizations needs versus skill development in the industry. However, as the majority of these are school districts or non-profits that are in high need, this does make sense. This also means that there is a huge diversity of skill sets and backgrounds built into the cohort.
The experience, which I am sure other fellows will blog about, was extremely unique in that we were working for, and being paid by, our partner organizations (TFA for me). However, as a requirement, the 43 fellows met 7 times throughout the summer to discuss different issues and topics that relate to the ed reform movement and the achievement gap. These are (and can be found on the Ed Pioneers website):
While this is the same in all regions, the majority of the discussions are very focused on that specific region. In Chicago, the district is Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and all types of schools fall into the districts (including Charter, Magnate, etc. except for Private). This means that CPS has some oversight into all areas but that CMO’s manage their schools more specifically. These discussions were extremely interesting because of the experience we had in the room providing insight.
Another benefit of my placement was that we had 7 cohort members in TFA, all sitting in a small area near each other. This made our interactions really unique because we could reflect on our understanding and thoughts during workshops with each other.
In addition to the workshops, Ed Pioneers encourages fellows to organize and attend EPU’s (Ed Pioneers Unplugged events). These encompass everything else in the experience, including social events, speaker panels, lunch and learns, etc. Our events ranged from volleyball at the beach to CPS speakers weekly to a panel on venture philanthropy to a discussion on race and class. These events I was able to attend were extremely beneficial, but unfortunately I had surgery over the summer that limited my mobility and travel. I think this had a detrimental effect on my summer that I did not anticipate.
The last aspect of the experience is the overall cohort experience. There are now 42 other people that I have heard discuss their experiences and shared some of mine with. I feel comfortable reaching out for guidance and advice, and have found a small number that are interested in the same areas that I am. In addition, I was able to network with fellows from DC, NYC, Bay Area, Houston through my experience with TFA. I think this is where most of the EP value is locked and I look forward to exploring this more during the year. In addition, there are expected to be 10,000 alumni by 2020 with which to connect and network. There are very few places that an MBA can find this type of support and assistance.
Overall, I think the organization has an extremely unique value proposition, and when considering, I think the benefits should be weighed against the possible placements to determine if this is really an area that you want to explore.
In my next and last edition, I will discuss some thoughts I have on the ed reform movement and what I am thinking in the long term.
Until then, fight on.
I cannot believe it’s my second-to-last day with CORE! A few days ago, I printed and compiled all my work from the summer and organized it into binders. Even if I do say so myself, I got a lot done and am very proud of my efforts. It feels great to actually look at and hold a finished, physical product that’s ready to be handed off.
My job’s not done yet, though! I’ve been working hard on the training video project and totally underestimated how much preparation it would take. Researching, writing training manuals, buying a video camera and software, learning how to use the new technology, putting together a script, gathering “actors,” getting props, finding an appropriate location, the list goes on and on. It’s fun having a challenge, though, and I think all the preparation will pay off at today’s shoot.
Keeping my fingers crossed!
Being an Education Pioneers fellow is definitely not the typical MBA summer internship path but with it comes many perks beyond having the privilege of improving our city’s education. Of all the things I love about Education Pioneers, I would say the network in the education that we are exposed is truly unparalleled. I may even dare to say that it’s every bit as good as the Trojan network in SoCal. Through various EP events, I was able to meet so many different power players in the Los Angeles education scene. I even got the chance to organize 4-speaker panel on “Technology in the Classroom”, a topic that I am personally extremely passionate about. It was so cool to have the LAUSD’s Director of Instructional Technology, a founding principal of an Alliance charter school, the founder of upcoming USC Hybrid High (to be opened Fall 2012) and a founder of an LA Educational Software company all together in the same room speaking about a topic that they are equally passionate about too. And this fantastic networking experience is on top of the fabulous cohort experience where we immersed ourselves in discussion of various issues impacting our education system, both citywide and nationwide.
Of all the people I have met this summer, the chance to sit down with Dr. John Deasy, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District, was by far my favorite highlight this summer. I have to say Dr. Deasy is one of the best leaders I have ever met in person. He is like one of those “mythical” leaders that people so often read about but can’t tangibly grasp until you come across one in person. Though I have heard him spoke before a large audience a year ago at an Education Pioneers networking event (and I was impressed back then too!), it was different to see and talk to him up close. Though it’s well known that Dr. Deasy is on turbo mode from 5am to past midnight every day, the energy that he exuded in front of the ten+ EP LAUSD fellows was just so powerful when I witness for myself. His answers to every question we threw at him were so purposeful and direct. His blunt responses were so “not political” but yet it feels exactly like that he is providing the right antidote to the political muck that LAUSD is completely stuck in. When I asked him about the distrust between the central offices and the local schools, I loved how he immediately replied with something like “it was beyond mistrust; it’s borderline hatred.” And he didn’t even say that with disdain but rather agreed that local schools should hate a central office that had previously done little to promote progress. It is the kind of honesty that is shocking but refreshing at the same time! I can go on and on about his clarity of vision, dogged determination, and intense sense of urgency but to spare you all from my fandom, I will say I am very hopeful that Dr. Deasy is the right man to steer the ship in the right direction.
Finally, I was just want to give a pat on the back for all the hard work that LA teachers are doing. If you haven’t seen, LAUSD is MAKING progress (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-test-scores-20110816,0,5162350.story). Much credit goes to not just Dr. Deasy, but the former Superintendent Ramon Cortines as well. As said by our new Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Jaime Aquino, which is echoed by Dr. Deasy at the press conference: “We are nowhere close to where we used to be but we are nowhere close to where we ought to be.”
On August 11th, Education Pioneers had its Annual Showcase, where the Education Pioneers Fellows were able to celebrate the conclusion of their internship. The keynote speaker was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali. One of the points she made that really resonated with me was with regards to the opportunity gap in education. By 2025 a majority of students will be of color and by 2050 a majority of adults will be of color in the United States. In her speech, Russlyn argues that if America does not invest in closing the opportunity gap and provide students of color the same educational opportunity as their white affluent counterparts, the country’s national security and global competitiveness will be compromised in the future.
I feel the future may already be upon us. For the last couple of weeks, I have been mesmerized by wall street’s reaction to the United State’s rating downgrade. I have found myself asking, “Is this the beginning of the end for the US?” A friend of mine forwarded to me an interesting report and presentation on the US debt crisis by Mary Meeker, a former financial analyst at Morgan Stanley. In this report she does an excelled job explaining the cause of the debt crisis and what it means to Americans as the Nation moves forward. One thing she mentions in the presentation that echoes Russlyn Ali’s speech is the important of education. While the US has gone on a mad spending spree with regards to entitlements, it has not increased its investment in education for the last few decades. Perhaps, this may explain why the US is ranked very low in math and reading compared to other OECD countries.
I worry about the future. However, one thing that has been reaffirmed for me during my Education Pioneers internship is that education is the key to a better future. Public education should be the government’s number one priority. Human capital is America’s largest asset, and if we don’t invest in an equitable education system for every child in its borders, our greatest asset will become our greatest liability.
For those interested in watching Mary Meeker’s presentation, please visit http://www.kpcb.com/usainc/.
I am now finishing week 9 of my 10 week internship and can comfortably share more about the organization I am working with and what their goals are throughout the country.
First off, Teach For America is a polarizing topic in which most people have an opinion about their mission. Coming into the summer, I was informed mostly by the recruiters I had met during my undergrad experience. I had no clue how much I was missing in the TFA conversation. My project is with the admissions team, and focuses on improving the matriculation rate of accepted applicants into the TFA corps. During this time, I was allowed to peak behind the recruiting that so often becomes a black hole. This was a really unique opportunity to connect mission and method. TFA’s vision is that “One day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” They dont play around, this is a commitment to reducing the achievement gap. Everything they do has a focus on getting the right teachers into the classrooms that need them the most. For admissions, there has been a ton of fact-based research and analysis on what makes a transformational teacher. These traits that they have identified is what they are looking for in their corps. I wont go into more detail than that, but the really challenging part of this mission is to find a diverse group of applicants to join the corps.
The TFA is traditionally ~35% people of color. However, the schools that it serves are traditionally ~90% people of color with >75% receiving school lunch assistance. There is a big push to improve and grow the corps by 2015. There also is a push to improve the diversity of the corps during this time. This means that not only does TFA have to do better at recruiting these applicants, but must do it twice as well.
Once hired, these corps members are assigned to a region, with an emphasis on regions in the most need. (The Mississippi Delta and Kansas City are particular needs currently.) They then are hired into school districts with a need for teachers, and work for these school districts. This creates some resentment from current teachers that claim TFA is taking jobs from traditional teachers or that they are infiltrating the system. Typically, though, these students achieve alternate certification and then are members in the school rather than outsiders. TFA teachers are union members in many cases and are hired by schools that desperately need people.
After the 2 years, ~60% of the corps stay in the classroom to teach, some will go into policy or politics, and some will start social enterprises. Whatever it is, TFA hopes that these leaders will stay engaged and have an impact on the sector in a meaningful way.
How do I fit in? Well, I am implementing new methods to make TFA more attractive to students of color and from unique backgrounds. This has involved interviewing many current corps members about their experience when being hired, and reflecting on the issues they had when deciding on offers. It has been very interesting to hear so many unique voices and how committed our generation is to making an impact in their world, and how much social justice rules their thoughts and actions. It makes me proud and excited to be a part of it.
Next week, I will write more about the Ed Pioneers Fellowship experience. Bye for now.
Jordan High School and the Partnership for LA Schools continues on in the journey towards Transformation with a new teacher and staff retreat featuring a community tour of Watts.
I had the opportunity to join 30 new and some returning teaching staff at Jordan in their first group team building event, led by new Partnership principal Ms. Sherri Williams. Williams has been a successful administrator with the Partnership at 99th Street Elementary School, also in Watts, and has worked closely with me in my fellowship projects at Jordan. She served as our expert tour guide, as we sat on a tour bus fit for a Hollywood or theme part sight seeing adventure, and introduced her new staff to the many gems, potential prospects and some of the many disadvantage and challenges facing the south east community of Los Angeles.
We began the tour at the newly re-opened and renovated Ted Watkins Park off 103rd and Compton Ave and walked along the park’s Promenade of Promise (see pictures below), the unofficial Watts Walk of Fame similar to the the film, music and television stars seen on Hollywood Blvd. These plaques commemorate celebrated figures of the Watts community in politics, medicine, community organizing, the arts and athleticism. We then visited the historical Watts Towers, which gave way for even more fun photo ops.
Some of the more sobering events of the tour including driving past the 3 housing projects (Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs, Imperial Courts) that all surround Jordan High school that house many of the gang members that create notoriously unsafe passage lines for students to be able to safely get to and from school. Also the fact that the education market in the area is becoming saturated with new charters schools, magnets and recently renovated campuses such as South East High School fighting for competition of enrollment, and creating some clearly distinct inequities for students educated in this community.
Throughout my Education Pioneers fellowship, our cohort is continually challenged to think about how education reform efforts play into issues of the opportunity gap. I feel I get to address issues of the opportunity gap daily throughout my project at Jordan. Working on the Jordan transformation on the ground, at the school site, in the Watts community, and learning more from community leaders that are trying to change things and create better opportunities for the students and families in this area has played a huge role in how I view education reform efforts and theories. In order to transform you need to understand where you started/began before you can even develop and change to something new. I hope this community tour helped many of the new teachers at Jordan internalize this and hopefully give them some conviction and enthusiasm about the challenging work they have ahead of them, because it definitely did for me.
This summer has absolutely flown by! I’ve been working for a small not-for-profit down in Inglewood called CORE Educational Services. It’s a young organization in which each employee wears many hats, and I like that. Every day is different and the challenges really make you think and step outside your comfort zone.
I worked on many small projects for the first few weeks, while getting to know everyone and familiarizing myself with their goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Then I got going on a whale of a task: analyze the adventure department from every angle (financial, marketing, strategic, human resources, organizational, etc.) and figure out what I could do to improve it over the summer.
Recently, I completed a marketing campaign that involved studying what avenues would provide the most bang for the buck, so to speak, and then carrying out a targeted mailing plan. I wore the “marketer,” “researcher,” and “writer” hats for a while on that project. Now my hat says “director” since I jumped into a totally different realm: making training videos so new staff can be brought up to speed efficiently and effectively. Filming starts soon, so wish me luck!
For all the blog-readers and lovers out there - check out another great Blog site for the current Partnership for LA Schools undergraduate and HS summer interns. These students have created some great posts that document their experiences throughout their summer, with weekly reflections and other Partnership related events and news.
It has been great getting a chance to read about my fellow SBL subsidy recipients summer internships, but on days when my project gets to be a bit too overwhelming - reading the posts from the students who have benefited from the Partnership’s efforts helps bring my focus back to why this work in Education Reform is so important and meaningful.