Careers in Education NonProfits

Six people gather in an office for a business meeting.

Widening equity gaps, underresourced school communities, unequal distribution of talented and experienced teachers—solving pressing issues such as these calls for ingenuity and resources. Many schools, however, face challenges. Education nonprofits can play a strategic role in filling the gaps in educational access.

Nonprofits offer expertise in everything from harnessing data to make critical decisions about school safety to shaping policies that boost teacher retention. Education leaders dedicated to making a real difference in students’ lives can find meaningful opportunities in education nonprofits.

Education Nonprofits That Support Schools

Whether promoting social-emotional development, helping school systems operate efficiently, or bringing highly qualified teachers into every classroom, education nonprofits transform education for the better. Consider the following education nonprofits and the work they do.

WestEd

WestEd strives to address opportunity gaps, raise student achievement levels, and turn educational research into practical applications. The nonprofit works with education communities at the local, state, and national levels, providing services in the following areas.

Professional Development

WestEd offers research-based professional development designed to build strong leaders as well as develop the skills and knowledge of educators. Some examples are:

  • Training teachers to implement a standards-aligned algebra curriculum
  • Preparing educators to respond to young students who may have experienced trauma
  • Helping educators support children with special needs in early learning programs

Technical Assistance

WestEd supports education leaders with technical assistance in various ways, such as by:

  • Determining if tests measure academic standards
  • Reviewing and revising content standards
  • Ensuring that policies and systems adequately support student learning

Research and Evaluation

WestEd researchers explore questions related to learning, teaching, assessing, and tracking the progress and success of programs. They also conduct studies about what’s happening in education and what is and isn’t working.

WestEd has 14 offices nationwide; the scope of its work extends across many areas of education, including the following:

  • Childhood and development
  • English learners
  • School districts and state education systems
  • Special education
  • Standards, assessment, and accountability

TNTP

TNTP, formerly The New Teacher Project, strives to make sure that great teachers fill every classroom. It partners with school systems, helping them:

  • Develop strategic policies that lead to supportive school environments
  • Support educators to create engaging classrooms with rigorous academics

The TNTP approach involves counseling education leaders on how to address educational quality, leverage data, and train and evaluate teachers. It also advises them about strengthening academic content and recruiting teachers.

A current TNTP project, the Good to Great program, trains experienced teachers in techniques to make grade-level content accessible to every student. Participating schools have seen academic gains big enough to raise their state accountability rating significantly.

Learning Forward

Learning Forward focuses on helping school systems plan professional development for teachers. This education nonprofit also advocates for policies that support social and emotional support for students and educators.

The goals of Learning Forward’s training programs include giving instructors expansive teaching strategies that support students’ learning needs and help teachers remove bias from instruction. Learning Forward’s services include the following:

  • Evaluating the current state of a school system’s professional development programs
  • Helping education leaders create and scale systems that connect professional learning to student outcomes
  • Supporting the development of collaborative learning teams

Part of Learning Forward’s mission is to develop a system of teaching coaches who mentor other instructors. Learning Forward also offers leadership coaching to principals, assistant principals, and other administrators with the aim of addressing school culture, curriculum alignment, and professional learning.

CASEL

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) champions the integration of social and emotional learning (SEL) into preschool through high school education. SEL teaches students to understand and manage their feelings, so they can work toward positive goals, make responsible decisions, show empathy toward others, and develop productive relationships.

CASEL’s work involves:

  • Advancing research about SEL to bring greater insights and knowledge about its impact
  • Translating research into applicable practices and field-tested tools, which CASEL’s school district partners can put into place
  • Partnering with states to establish SEL policies that accelerate the integration of SEL in education
  • Keeping federal policymakers informed about why SEL matters through advocacy work

CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) helps school districts across the country incorporate SEL. This has led to improved academics, behavioral outcomes, and school environments. For example, schools participating in the initiative saw suspensions decline, GPAs rise, and math and English achievement levels climb.

EdSource

EdSource works to build awareness among Californians about key challenges that schools face. The work involves informing the public about:

  • Major education initiatives being implemented
  • Effective teaching models and strategies that increase student learning
  • Areas of education in need of reform

To achieve these goals, the education nonprofit:

  • Shares daily reports covering topics about Common Core, California education policy reforms, early education, student wellness, and college and career readiness, among other topics
  • Conducts public opinion surveys about issues including parent engagement and early childhood education
  • Provides data about schools and districts on topics ranging from suspension to graduation rates through its Education Data Partnership website
  • Offers consulting services to organizations and agencies

Leadership Roles at Education Nonprofits

Education nonprofits offer a host of leadership and advanced roles. Job titles can vary and will reflect the specific mission of individual organizations. Education leaders seeking nonprofit careers can consider positions in many areas.

Senior Management

Senior management leaders in education nonprofits, such as executive directors, oversee other leaders in their organizations. They work with department heads, offering strategic guidance that helps ensure that the education nonprofit achieves its mission.

Specifically, an executive director may work closely with a program development manager to roll out a plan for supporting a teacher mentorship program that pairs veteran teachers with first-year teachers.

Directors in education nonprofits often serve as liaisons between the organizations and their boards of directors, keeping the boards informed of successes and challenges. They also set a strategic vision, advocating for changing systems, policies, and programs as necessary to accomplish the education nonprofit’s goals.

Programs and Service Delivery

Education leaders in programs and service delivery may work as program directors or coordinators. They implement and manage the different projects or initiatives that are key to their education nonprofit’s mission. These roles involve working directly with communities and schools.

Research and Evaluation

Many education nonprofits conduct research and generate evaluations about education initiatives and programs. This allows them to help schools improve instructional models, assessments, teacher evaluations, and more. Research and evaluation also allows education nonprofits to measure their work’s impact.

Education leaders with expertise in research and evaluation contribute to the knowledge base that helps shape best practices in teaching, school leadership, and system administration. They also ensure that their organizations’ programs and services make a meaningful impact.

Become an Education Nonprofit Leader and Transform Schools

Bringing equity to education requires help from every corner. Education nonprofits play an invaluable role in supplying the resources and support schools need to succeed. Discover how Mills College’s online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership prepares graduates to become education nonprofit leaders and transform schools.

How to Promote Change and Equality in Education

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Educational Leadership?

What Does an Education Nonprofit Director Do?

Sources

Boardable, A Complete Guide to the Nonprofit Executive Director Role

CASEL, About CASEL

EdSource, About EdSource

Learning Forward, Learning Forward Professional Services

School Services of California Inc., California Education Organizations

The Balance Small Business, “Five Education Nonprofits Working with Schools”

TNTP, About Us

WestEd, About Us