Since the mid-1990s, school networks have become increasingly popular and effective tools utilized by both school systems and outside support agencies such as education nonprofits and funders to implement and advance education reforms. In a network, school leaders come together to share ideas, experiences, and strategies in order to address common concerns, issues, needs and goals. By coming together as a network, school leaders are able to provide tangible forms of peer level support, including the pooling of resources, collaborative programming, collective organizing and advocacy, as well as peer reviews and mentoring.
In New York City alone, CEI-PEA facilitates a series of school networks that include more than 220 public schools. We also extend our networks to the national and international levels through strategic alliances. Our main school networks are:
- Network of Independent Charter Schools
- Partnership Support Organization for NYC Schools
- PICCS: Partnership for Innovation in Compensation for Charter Schools
Why Form School Networks?
Schools do not educate children in isolation. Students move through sets of schools—elementary, middle and high school—as they progress through educational systems. Bringing the schools together through networks makes it possible to establish educational continuity for students as they move through the various schools. The school leaders are able to identify and correct problems in matriculation schedules and other structures that influence the “flow” of students among schools. In addition, they share information about students to help ensure that their needs are met as they transition among schools.
Leaders Helping Leaders
Most school leaders work in isolation because of the nature of the job. CEI-PEA brings school leaders together to discuss common issues, challenges, needs and goals. This fosters peer-level sharing of knowledge, which is crucial to helping leaders grow and strengthen their practices. In addition, through our school networks, school leaders conduct peer reviews for one another as well as provide mentoring and modeling of best practices in a fully supportive, non-bureaucratic manner.
Access to Extra Resources
CEI-PEA’s school networks serve as major vehicles for channeling resources to schools in a cost-effective and high-quality manner. Through our networks, CEI-PEA has been able to secure private funding and government grants in excess of $24 million. In addition, CEI-PEA leverages more than $1 million a year of in-kind after-school programs through network affiliations. The networks also provide leadership development services and direct technical assistance from educational experts.
Collaborative Professional Development
Schools often face challenges that can be overcome with focused professional development, but lack the resources to provide such professional development. Through CEI-PEA’s networks, schools identify common needs for professional development, such as training in new literacy approaches, integration of technology in classroom instruction, and meeting the needs of specific student populations. The networks then sponsor workshops, retreats and other collective professional development opportunities.
Collective Organizing and Advocacy
Working in isolation, it is difficult for an individual school to influence and shape local and state educational policies. However, through the CEI-PEA school networks, schools bring together their human, intellectual and community resources to organize and advocate for policies supportive of their educational communities.
If you would like more information about any of CEI-PEA’s school networks or would like to join, please contact CEI-PEA Senior Fellow Bill Colavito at 212-302-8800.