Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice
The Education Trust - Washington, DC

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The Education Trust, an organization dedicated to closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth, is seeking a Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice.

The Education Trust fulfills its mission through a strategy that combines rigorous analysis and reporting of education data, on-the-ground technical support to educators working to improve results for students, and ardent advocacy at both the state and national level. The Trust is a widely respected voice for improvements in education at all levels, with an unmatched reputation for integrity and effectiveness that has earned the trust of funders, practitioners, and policymakers.

Reporting to the President, Kati Haycock, the Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice leads the division that mines the data, develops policy options, and provides support to practitioners in colleges and universities across the country. This is an exciting opportunity for a seasoned leader to join a strong and growing organization at a critical moment in its history as the organization sets out on a strategic review of its work to assess impact and lay out a plan for the next decade. The timing is also exciting because the public policy debate is increasingly focused on higher education and the Ed Trust is poised to play a substantial role in shaping policies to expand both access and success.

The position calls for a strategic and creative leader, deeply knowledgeable of higher education, especially the strengths and weaknesses of past approaches—both policy and practice—to access, opportunity, and success for low-income students and students of color. S/he must be a skillful manager adept at cross-functional integration. The successful candidate must be able to work with diverse stakeholders and have the capacity to create and nurture effective partnerships and alliances. With a personal style that is professional, polished, and warm, the Vice President will engender trust, foster a collegial environment, and bring out the best in staff and colleagues.

Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, has been engaged to assist with this important search. Inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in confidence to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.

The Organization

Described frequently as “the most important truth teller in American education,” The Education Trust was established in 1992 by the American Association for Higher Education as a part of a special effort to encourage colleges and universities to support K-12 reform efforts. Since then, the Ed Trust has grown into an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to make schools and colleges work for all young people regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.

Mission and Goals

The Education Trust promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college. Its goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement that consign far too many young people—especially those from low-income families or who are black, Latino, or American Indian—to lives on the margins of the American mainstream.

The Education Trust advances its mission along several fronts, from raising its voice in national and state policy debates to helping teachers improve instruction in their classrooms. Regardless of where it occurs, their work maintains a persistent focus on improving the education of all students, particularly those students whose academic interests are so often ignored. The Ed Trust evaluates every policy, every practice, and every dollar spent through the single lens of its potential to advance student success.

Current Context

The Ed Trust has a talented, knowledgeable, dedicated staff that has experience in a wide variety of backgrounds: PK-12, postsecondary education, advocacy, policy, and community-based organizations. Their insistence on high academic achievement for all students at all levels pre-K-16, their teamwork with local education and community activists, and their single-minded attention to what is best for students, especially low-income students and students of color, sets The Education Trust apart from many other Washington-based education groups.

The Education Trust provides:
  • Advocacy that encourages schools, colleges, and whole communities to do what it takes to make sure that all their students reach high levels of academic achievement;
  • Analysis and expert testimony on policies intended to improve education; and writing and speaking for professional and general audiences about educational patterns and practices, both those that cause and those that close achievement gaps between groups of students;
  • Research and wide public dissemination of data identifying achievement patterns among different groups of students;
  • Assistance to school districts, colleges, and community-based organizations to help their efforts at raising student achievement, especially among minority and low-income students.
The organization has experienced considerable growth in recent years and is on a path of continued growth and expansion. Significant organizational growth includes:
  • Establishment of the West Coast office of The Education Trust, The Education Trust-West (ETW), in 2001. ETW is dedicated to working with teachers, parents, students, academic administrators, and other stakeholders across California to improve the quality of education and to close the immense achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from other young Californians.
  • Establishing the Midwest office, The Education Trust-Midwest, in 2010. It is focused first and foremost on doing what is right for Michigan children, harnessing the power of education to reinvent Michigan and the Midwest for the 21st century.
  • Partnering with The National Association of System Heads (NASH), an association of chief executives of the 52 public college and university systems in the United States, in the Access to Success initiative. Access to Success’s 2015 goal is to reduce by at least one-half the gaps in college access and success that separate low-income and minority students from others.
The Education Trust has:

Number of Employees: 67
Current Budget: $13.6 million
Office locations: Washington, D.C., Royal Oak, Michigan (Ed Trust-Midwest), and Oakland, California (Ed Trust-West)

The Position

Position Overview

Based in Washington, D.C, the Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice will report to Kati Haycock, President, and will serve as a member of the Ed Trust’s executive team. S/he will develop and drive strategies that effectively focus national attention on inequities in postsecondary education, and that promote the policies and practices needed to bring about meaningful change. The Vice President will ensure that the strategy is pursued collaboratively with other organizations working on educational equity, and that the organization’s data, policy, and practice work are well coordinated.

Strategic Challenges for the Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice

Specific challenges for the position include:

Reshape the higher education “reform” discussion with a clear equity focus . Nationally, there is a lot more discussion about problems in higher education these days, as well as about potential “solutions.” Discussions about who goes to and who succeeds in college, when they occur at all, occur separately from these broader conversations. The next Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice will help reshape the national discussion on preparation, access, and success rates, including the continued reform of the cost of higher education, to place the equity issues where they belong: front and center.

Advance a strong policy agenda. If Congress does anything in education over the next two years, it will probably be in postsecondary education. The Education Trust is well positioned to shape federal policy. Our team needs to understand the possibilities, develop potential legislative solutions, and argue for their enactment. In many states, there are opportunities to influence state policy, as well.

Develop better tools for advocates and practitioners. The Education Trust’s College Results Online tool is the most widely used tool for benchmarking institutional success. It also has fairly wide use among students and parents. The organization needs to update its tools, customizing them for different audiences and enhancing their use to pressure institutions for better service to low-income students and students of color. Current partnerships include development of an app on student success with the NAACP; those need to be expanded. Also, the Trust’s Leading Indicators Framework needs to be taken the next steps for more powerful institutional use.

Develop team leadership and cross-organizational capabilities. The Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice will need to ensure that the Higher Education staff remains a highly functioning, results-driven team. S/he will mentor, coach, and help develop staff to their full potential, providing for their growth and increased contribution to the mission. S/he will need to ensure that staff, as they focus on their own work, are attentive to broader organizational goals and objectives and look for opportunities to leverage their work by collaborating across departmental lines.

Thinking nationally and operating locally. The Education Trust is also uniquely positioned as a practice leader. The organization doesn’t just talk about change; it works to help bring about change. The Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice will need to make sure that policy positions and practice efforts are appropriately linked and work in partnership. S/he will need to raise the profile of the Ed Trust, helping to build capacity by deploying staff resources effectively, developing and leveraging third-party working partnerships, and finding other creative approaches to meeting field work demands.

Overall Responsibilities
  • Provide clear direction and effective oversight of a coherent and collaborative Higher Education Policy and Practice team to ensure that the division’s work is aligned with the organization’s strategic plan;
  • Effectively and productively advance the organization’s postsecondary policy work to ensure that it achieves the impact the organization seeks;
  • Provide strategic direction for the organization’s practice work so that it complements, informs, and serves as a powerful extension of the Ed Trust’s policy and research efforts;
  • Increase the organization’s research capacity to enhance both its policy and practice work;
  • Expand the organization’s reach as it begins to address higher education policy at the state level;
  • Effectively manage and develop a healthy and productive team;
  • Represent The Education Trust at external meetings and conferences;
  • Foster effective working relationships with national, state, and local organizations that can help further the mission;\
  • Work collaboratively with the Division of Government Affairs and Communications and the Division of K-12 Policy and Practice to develop policy positions;
  • Maintain good funder relations through effective project management and actively seek and obtain new sources of funding;
  • Serve as a responsible and active member of the organization’s executive team;
  • Lead by example through ongoing improvement in skills and abilities.
The Person

The successful candidate will bring:
  • Passionate commitment to remedying injustices in the educational system at all levels;
  • A track record of success in postsecondary education, with deep knowledge of the sector and an ability to set priorities, work cross-functionally, and advocate internally and externally on behalf of a team;
  • Some familiarity with key federal policy initiatives in higher education, including major student aid programs;
  • Keen analytical skill with the ability to synthesize and coordinate complex concepts;
  • The capacity to write and speak clearly and persuasively to a wide range of audiences, including students, practitioners, and state and federal policymakers;
  • Ease with data, in both an understanding of it and ability to explain its analysis to a variety of audiences;
  • Drive and an entrepreneurial spirit;
  • Strong management and leadership skills, with proven success managing teams to ambitious goals while also mentoring and developing staff;
  • An appreciation of the value in others, even when it comes in a different style, shape, or form than s/he is accustomed to;
  • Courage to have hard conversations with allies and the grace to maintain those alliances even once there is disagreement, mindful of the shared mission of success;
  • Professional maturity, with the ability to handle a dynamic and changing agenda, adapting to a changing landscape, where appropriate, and operating effectively amid ambiguity;
  • Exceptional relationship-building skills, with the capacity to work effectively with diverse stakeholders, cultivating impactful partnerships and alliances;
  • Comfort working with mass media as a tool to effectively further the reach to constituent groups and stakeholders.
Other Attributes:
  • Razor-sharp intellect
  • Creative and politically savvy
  • Channeled passion
  • Lively sense of humor
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Likable and approachable
  • Enjoys leading and working with others
  • Diplomatic
  • Flexible

Please send CV with cover letter, or contact, preferably by email , in strict confidence:

Jane Gruenebaum or Karla Saunders
Isaacson, Miller
1300 19th Street, N.W., Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20036

The Education Trust is an Equal Opportunity Employer and invites and encourages qualified applicants from all walks of life.

About this company
The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and forever...