2021 Best Collaboration Eddies! Nominees & Winner

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated and voted awards—feature outstanding policy and advocacy wins from the past year.

Nominations tell the story of how advocates improved policy and advanced opportunity, equity, and excellence for students, one community and campaign at a time.

This Eddies! category features coalitions of leaders and organizations who worked together to achieve a significant impact for students and families. Working in coalition can be incredibly powerful—and incredibly challenging.  This category honors the hard work of coalitions that organized artfully to respond to unique opportunities or challenges in their states and communities, contributed to a policy win, and inspired others to take up similar efforts. Leaders and organizations in this category not only advanced or protected critical policy to impact students—they did it in partnership and across lines of difference. This category was previously called the Best Ensemble Cast.

See a complete list of 2021 nominees in all Eddies! categories.

2021 Winner

Best Collaboration Finalists

Best Collaboration Honorable Mentions


Center for American Progress, United Negro College Fund, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Education Reform Now (ERN), The Education Trust, Educators for Excellence, and other education policy organizations

Investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to Increase Diversity in Teaching Workforce

CAP’s 2019 report investigated student loan debt as a barrier to increasing racially diversity in the teaching workforce. The report found that Black and Latinx teachers were more likely to take out student loans for undergraduate and graduate education, and had higher student loan debt compared to their white peers. It recommended investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to increase diversity in the country’s teaching workforce. These institutions produce most BIPOC educators with a Bachelor’s degree in Education despite making up a small percentage of the overall higher education landscape. The Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence grant program provides funding for educator preparation programs at these institutions and it became law in 2008. However, the program has never been funded. Through our advocacy, President Biden requested $60m in funding for this grant program in his FY 2022 budget and the American Families Plan.

ConnCAN, Connecticut Charter Schools Association, Educators for Excellence-Connecticut, FaithActs for Education, and School and State Finance Project

Ending Connecticut’s Racist and Classist Education Funding System

In Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the country, there is a $639 million funding gap between districts primarily serving white students and those serving students of color. This leaves nearly 80,000 students without the resources they deserve, and leaves districts and charter schools facing endless one-off battles for funding.

Five organizations came together to tackle this issue and formed the Education Justice Now Coalition: ConnCAN, Connecticut Charter Schools Association, Educators for Excellence-Connecticut, FaithActs for Education, and School and State Finance Project.

The Education Justice Now coalition’s goal for the 2021 legislative session was ambitious, but simple: eliminate the racist and classist education funding system in Connecticut.

We’re proud to report that we achieved major progress toward this goal – to the tune of a $160.5 million state funding increase for Connecticut public schools, with the majority of funds directed to schools serving Black, Latino, and low-income students. We increased weights for concentrated poverty and English Learners, lowered the threshold for what constitutes a high-poverty area (allowing 15 additional districts to qualify for this funding, including New Haven and Bridgeport who did not previously qualify), and extended needs-based funding to Connecticut’s 11,000 charter school students – 93% of whom are students of color.

The Education Committee passed our ambitious funding proposal, S.B. 948, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority vote of 34 to 4. The Appropriations Committee chairs, Senate President, and Speaker of the House protected education increases during their budget negotiations. And on June 23, Governor Lamont signed the budget into law.

This fall, the Office of Fiscal Analysis will conduct independent modeling of the funding formula and make its recommendations to the Appropriations Committee. The Education Justice Now coalition is returning for the 2022 legislative session to close this gap even further, and speed up the implementation timeline.

NewMexicoKidsCAN (Action Fund), Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Charter Authorizing in New Mexico

NewMexico has a very unique authorizer in the Public Education Commission, which is a ten person elected commission that serves as the statewide charter school authorizer. Our coalition of partners spotted a very unique opportunity to take advantage of the 2019 election, in which five commissioners were on the ballot. The PEC is very far down ballot and had not yet attracted the attention of anyone except the unions. We decided to seize the opportunity to quietly recruit and help qualify for the ballot pro-charter candidates, support them with signature gathering, PAC and Independent Expenditure campaigns and flip five seats on a previously anti-charter commission. Via aggressive and at times, creative (can you say write in campaign?), candidate recruitment paired with local and national fundraising efforts, and a lot of sweat equity, we successfully recruited five candidates into the race, four of whom went on to win; with the fifth seat still being a gain by ousting the incumbent. Due to the coordination and planning of our coalition, not only is the statewide authorizer now favorable to new schools and expansion, we also were able to support a change in the leadership of the commission, getting one of our supported candidates onto the Executive committee (all with ~40k). All in all, not bad for our first ever electoral engagement in New Mexico elections. When you see a chance, you have to take it, even if it feels like you aren’t ready!

Ohio Excels, Thomas B. Fordham Institute-Ohio, School Choice Ohio, ExcelinEd Action

Overhauling Ohio’s Funding Formula

Ohio partners worked together in coordination as part of a broader coalition to achieve multiple student-centered wins this year in the Ohio state budget and prevent efforts to limit educational advancements for Buckeye students. These many wins include a positive overhaul of the funding formula, closing the funding gap between public school students and public charter school students, increased funding for high impact charters schools; implementing a direct funding model that will protect choice program funding; creating a new enrichment ESA program for students; increased funding and eligibility for Ohio’s existing EdChoice voucher programs; and instituting the first tax-credit scholarship available to homeschooling families. This work will help thousands of Ohio students find the best education environment for their learning needs.  

Tennessee SCORE, TennesseeCAN, Tennesseans for Student Success, The Education Trust in TN, Tennessee Charter School Center, and ExcelinEd

Special Legislative Session on Mitigating the Pandemic’s Impact on Students

Before three major pieces of education policy passed overwhelmingly during a special legislative session, collaborative work by Tennessee SCORE, TennesseeCAN, Tennesseans for Student Success, The Ed Trust in TN, the Tennessee Charter School Center, and ExcelinEd ensured the policies that emerged would serve the best interest of students. The focus of the session was on education and specifically mitigating the impact Covid-19 had on students during the 2020 school year. These partners worked with other state education advocates to develop policy recommendations that were grounded in research-supported strategies for accelerating learning and shared them with the Governor’s office and key lawmakers to ensure their support. Partners also organized and activated voters in a diverse set of constituencies applying grassroots and political pressure to lawmakers.

During a special session, this coalition had constant meetings with key members of the education and finance committees to keep the bills on track and to ensure that the legislation remained student-focused. They checked in regularly with our close education partners to make sure we were complementing one another’s interactions with lawmakers.

Key legislation was passed during the special session, protecting the state’s annual assessment and a parent’s right to know where their children stand academically, especially after a year of disrupted learning. Additional legislation worked to lessen the impact of learning loss by ensuring all students have access to high-quality reading supports that prioritize phonics and the science of reading; expanded instructional time through the establishment of summer learning mini-camps; and the creation of a statewide high-dosage tutoring program to give extra remedial and recovery support to students throughout the upcoming school year.


Advance Illinois, Stand for Children Illinois, Teach Plus Illinois

Partnering with Illinois Legislative Black Caucus

Advance Illinois, Chicago Public Schools, Illinois Action for Children, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Collaboration on Youth, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Education Association, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Latino Policy Forum, Partnership for College Completion, Stand for Children Illinois, Start Early, Teach Plus Illinois, Women Employed were honored to serve as close and trusted partners for the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus as they developed their education agenda. This group testified regularly over a two-month period on education-related topics, and ultimately assisted in drafting several bills and resolutions. Several of the organizations’ priorities were included within the Black Caucus’ Education Omnibus Bill that passed in January 2021. The following significant policies were included in the bill among many others that are worth emulating:  

  • Establishes in state law a kindergarten readiness assessment;
  • Establishes the Early Childhood Workforce Act funded with $200M to offer financial support to early educators increasing their credentials;
  • Increased high school graduation requirements and creates automatic high school enrollment in rigorous coursework;
  • Charges Illinois’ P-20 Council with submitting short-term/immediate recommendations for state action to support learning recovery and recommendations for long-term recovery;
  • Charges the Professional Review Panel that reviews and makes recommendations re. state’s funding system to research adjustments to the system to account for racial equity;
  • Expands state scholarships to better support teacher candidates of color; and
  • Creates a path for better educator preparation course alignment and articulation.   

Get more details.

Advance Illinois, Boston Consulting Group, Illinois P-20 Council

Public-Private Partnership on Learning Recovery

Starting last summer, Advance Illinois advocated for Illinois’ P-20 Council to take on the development and implementation of a statewide learning recovery plan. Advance Illinois fundraised $350k for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to be a strategic planning partner on the project.  BCG matched this support with an additional $350k in in-kind support for the initiative. This public private partnership to address learning recovery could be emulated by others. As a result, in November 2020, the P-20 Council brought together 50+ key stakeholders, agency leaders, experts and legislators working in two special sub-committees, one focused on academic recovery (on which we participated) and one on social emotional recovery (which we co-chaired). This work resulted in the release of the P-20 Council’s Learning Renewal Resource Guide, and shaped the state-led efforts in four critical areas: 

  • intensive tutoring/academic support;
  • academic bridge and transition support (to help students re-engage across the B-20 spectrum);
  • social and emotional support, with an emphasis on trauma; and
  • interim assessments.

(See ISBE document, page 14 and P-20 Council Learning Renewal Resource Guide: Illinois was one of the first states that completed such a guide that has been shared nationally.) 

Education Reform Now Connecticut and more

Right to Read

Following their report on Connecticut’s literacy crisis, Education Reform Now Connecticut (ERN CT) led the creation of a diverse coalition of 14 organizations to advocate for the state’s transformative Right to Read legislation, which was signed into law by Gov Lamont as part of the state’s biennium budget. The bill establishes a Center for Literacy to oversee all of the state’s reading efforts and requires all districts to update their early literacy curricula in grades K-3 from a list aligned to the Science of Reading, which will be approved by the Center. ERN CT created the “Right to Read” brand to lead outreach to legislative allies, school districts, and organizations and advocates throughout the state. The team was also responsible for planning a series of five forums devoted to literacy and the Right to Read bill. As the Hartford Courant noted after the close of the legislative session, the Right to Read legislation will touch every K-3 literacy classroom in Connecticut, and hundreds of thousands of students when implemented. The Right to Read campaign provides a framework for how state advocates can support legislation to advance evidence-based reading instruction in their state.

Great MN Schools, EdAllies, Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, Minnesota Association of Charter School Authorizers

Charter Authorizer Accountability

Great MN Schools convened a coalition of key stakeholders—including EdAllies, the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, and Minnesota Association of Charter School Authorizers—to build consensus for needed charter authorizer accountability legislation. For two years, this coalition met quarterly with the state association of authorizers and individual authorizers. We first established a shared definition of authorizer quality, and then agreement around the need for accountability. Our bill reflected stakeholders’ concerns, and ensured those being held accountable were most vocal in supporting it. Historically, this is the type of legislation that the Minnesota Department of Education could struggle to support–or vocalize concerns with during the legislative process. However, with our open lines of communication and framing this as a win for students, they abstained from voicing any doubt.

For the 2021 legislative session, we amassed a strong, aligned coalition to champion the bill. With a legislative strategy led by EdAllies, and in a year when very little policy was passed, we were able to secure bipartisan support and the bill was ultimately signed into law by Governor Walz. The bill ensures high-quality authorizing by:

  •     Incentivizing authorizers to address areas of weakness identified in our state’s authorizer evaluations.
  •     Clarifying sanctions the commissioner can take, including time-bound correction action plans.
  •     Empowering schools with flexibility if their authorizer is in corrective action.    

Good schools can become great ones with the help and oversight of high-quality authorizing.

myFutureNC, UNC Carolina Demography

County Attainment Profiles

myFutureNC maintains several dashboards that help stakeholders measure progress toward attainment milestones. The dashboards help myFutureNC share key learnings and insights for accelerating progress  on raising attainment rates.  One of its most successful dashboards is the County Attainment Profiles which helps county leaders establish local attainment goals that support a statewide 2030 attainment goal. The Profiles are  conversation starters for setting goals, establishing priorities, and identifying target populations.  To refine and update the annual Profiles, myFutureNC works closely with both local education and  workforce stakeholders and university data partners. 

These collaborations not only fueled the development  of the Profiles but also of a suite of supporting tools: 

  • Setting Local Attainment Goals Practice Guide
  • Setting Local Attainment Goals Presentation
  • Setting Local Attainment Goals Video    

One example of a way in which these Profiles have contributed to local attainment efforts was the  identification of districts with an opportunity for growth in Free Application for Federal Student Aid  (FAFSA) completion rates. Using Profile data, myFutureNC helped to organize groups that created  locally-tailored approaches to improving those rates. As of this writing, 4 of 10 school districts and 20 of  40 high schools on the FAFSA Completion Leaderboard were FAFSA Priority Districts and Schools.

myFutureNC with The Collaborative including, public  (Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill), private (myFutureNC, College Advising Corps, Hunt Institute),  and governmental (College Foundation of NC, NC State Education Assistance Authority [NCSEAA]), and  state and local education partners

NC First in FAFSA Collaborative

College affordability is a major obstacle to attainment for many students. Consequently, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)–required for eligibility for federal and state aid—is an  important key to attainment, especially for students from low-income households. Unfortunately, many  families do not complete the FAFSA because they believe it’s too complicated, don’t think they are eligible or don’t know that it exists. Increasing FAFSA completions is the third most frequently reflected  opportunity for growth on the myFutureNC County Attainment Profiles.    During the pandemic, FAFSA completions have declined, creating an even greater urgency around this  key performance indicator. To address this challenge, myFutureNC organized the NC First in FAFSA  Collaborative to develop a plan to boost FAFSA completion rates. The Collaborative included public  (Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill), private (myFutureNC, College Advising Corps, Hunt Institute),  and governmental (College Foundation of NC, NC State Education Assistance Authority [NCSEAA]), and  state and local education partners. 

Collaborative members:

  • Set a FAFSA completion goal tied to existing initiatives and priorities
  • Created incentives for local completion strategies
  • Used data to target supports and report progress
  • Provided on-the-ground training and support; and
  • Developed the public-facing NC First in FAFSA Tracker to measure FAFSA completion progress.    

To date, these efforts have resulted in greater awareness and increased completion rates, with 75% of  NC public high schools registered for the Challenge (at least one in every district), and with a 58.4%  completion rate as of August 6, 2021.  myFutureNC also encouraged the development of NCSEAA’s legislative priorities to support their FAFSA  outreach: Funding for additional FAFSA positions, an update of the grants management IT system, and  support for a public awareness campaign. As of this writing, draft versions of the General Assembly  House and Senate budgets include support for all three.

See a complete list of 2021 nominees in all Eddies! categories.

PIE Network

PIE Network

The PIE Network connects, strengthens, and catalyzes the work of education advocates across communities, states, and ideological lines to transform education so that every student, in every community can achieve a future with no limits.