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Study: Growth in K-12 Education Sector Creates Demand For New Leaders

Growth  in the urban education reform movement, characterized largely by an exponential increase in charter schools, will create a need for at least 32,000 senior and mid-level workers over the next decade, according to a report to be released Tuesday by  EdFuel.

The study, "MAP the GAP," which also looked at transformation in urban education in the 50 largest urban cities where education reform is altering the landscape, found that continued growth outside of the traditional school district model,  will create a "talent gap" for noninstructional staff, including for workers who are skilled in business, finance, operations, management, data analytics, and communications.  

"As demand for new and innovative schools begins to snowball, there is a real threat of a leadership talent gap," said Jimmy Henderson, the CEO of EdFuel, the Washington-based nonprofit that trains leaders in this sector and which also conducted the study. "MAP the GAP vividly shows that talent is the scarce resource that could define the success or failure of this inspiring movement."

The study was supported by the Bellwether Education Partners and the Walton Family Foundation, which also provided the startup funds for EdFuel.

The five fastest growing areas in what EdFuel calls an "autonomous and accountable public school sector"  (a term that refers to public education outside of the traditional model, including charter schools and private schools where students use publicly-funded vouchers)  are in legal areas, instructional coaching, policy, advocacy/outreach, and program implementation, according to the study.

Workers would be needed at every level in these areas, according to the report, with demand especially high for those with expertise in business operations, executive leadership, and data.

The  number of charter schools has grown tremendously over the years, quadrupling in enrollment in a little more than a decade to nearly 2.3 million students in 2013, according to the report.  One in every 20 public school student in the country attends a charter school, and in 135 school districts at least 10 percent of public school students attend charters. In New Orleans, 79 percent of public school students attend charter schools; 51 percent in Detroit; 40 percent in Kansas City;  43 percent in Washington, 29 percent in Cleveland; 28 percent in Indianapolis; and 28 percent in Philadelphia, according to the report.

This growth has been accompanied by a new  "ecosystem," a support infrastructure needed for fundraising, design, budgeting, strategic planning, and more. Hence the need for a trained talent pool.

The  study advocates stepping up recruitment and training of top talent in fields that are likely to need workers; coaching for "career-switchers," and  professional development for "rising stars " in the school districts; additional leadership development; and an active and engaged role by city leaders in order to increase the supply of skilled workers to meet this demand. 

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