Baton Rouge Students Raising Hands
By: Catherine Pozniak

The Education Ecosystem

Since I gave up television six years ago, I often talk about the books that I am reading – like others talk about the latest episode of Scandal. I suspect that listening to my incessant references is something my colleagues tolerate more than enjoy, but I share nevertheless. One of the books my colleagues heard a lot about recently was Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Of course, Steve Jobs has had an incredible influence on how we interact in the world. He was exceptional at harnessing simplicity to coax people into using technology. One of the ways that Jobs accomplished this was through the use of metaphor. Think about it. Where does that single button on your iPhone take you? “Home.” What are you looking at when you are staring at your screen? Your “desktop.” When you organize your computer, where do you file things? In “folders.” It’s a clever tactic – referencing familiar objects to help people understand the unfamiliar.

Likewise, the term “education ecosystem” is intended to convey meaning through metaphor My colleague recently wrote about schools as the unit of change. I agree with Chris, but also recognize that it is not very efficient or effective for schools to exist in isolation. With this in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine how school systems came to be, operating to ease the burden of schools to do everything on their own. The problem with school systems, however, is they long ago tipped the scales from responding to the unique needs of schools to dictating one-size-fits-all mandates.

In a system of autonomous schools, where principals are making the most critical decisions for their campuses, an “education ecosystem” is composed of all of the organizations that support the school. Many of these are non-profits focused on specific aspects of education, from teacher recruitment to professional development to social services to student tutoring. Like its counterpart in nature, the education ecosystem is defined by the network of interactions among its members. For schools to thrive, a robust ecosystem is required and provides the critical diversity of services and supports that schools need to meet the particular needs of their students.

This week, over 50 organizations from across the state and country are convening in Baton Rouge for its inaugural Education Ecosystem Summit. The purpose of the gathering is to foster collaboration and partnerships among organizations that have different functions, but share a common vision: excellent schools for every child in every neighborhood in Baton Rouge.

More than any one leader or board or plan, the strength of the ecosystem will determine whether Baton Rouge can effect and sustain change that will improve the lives of children. For all the talk elsewhere of change, whether by drawing new lines on a map or reducing the number of school board members who represent us, the fact so many impactful organizations have come together this week to join forces is the most promising indication we are on a path to actually make a difference for kids. Because it’s not about any one of us, it’s about all of us. #EduEcoBR

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