Pioneering Fellows Bring Hacktivism to Bay Area Schools

As a business development and product strategy manager for LiveOps, a cloud customer service provider in Silicon Valley, Han Hong knew she had a strong and lucrative future in the private sector. She didn't mind putting in the extra hours her work required, but she was increasingly drawn to find more meaningful work. With limited experience in education, Han applied to the highly selective Education Pioneers Analyst Fellowship in 2012.

"I knew that in education, that extra hour I spent working late at night would mean another chance for a child to receive a high-quality education," Han said. "There's more at stake in education, and I wanted to make a difference."

In 2009, Education Pioneers recognized that the education sector had a massive need for strong analytic thinkers like Han, who have the skills to work with significant amounts of data in actionable ways. This need was showing up at all levels of the education sector:

  • At the federal level, the United States Department of Education ranked "building data systems" as one of four core K-12 education reform areas;
  • Education Pioneers heard firsthand from our district, charter and nonprofit partner organizations, where 81% told us that increasing analytic capacity in their organizations was an important priority; and
  • We also heard the need from collaborations with other leadership networks: notably, 96% of Broad Residents we surveyed in central office positions in school districts and charter school networks articulated the need for more analytic capacity to achieve their organizational goals.

In response to this need, Education Pioneers launched the Analyst Fellowship in 2010, under the leadership of Christine DeLeon, to attract our nation's best analytical minds into education to meet the needs of education organizations nationwide. During the 10-month program, fellows work with school districts, charter school organizations, nonprofits and other education organizations to manage strategic, data-based projects and accelerate our partners' important work. Additionally, fellows participate in high-quality professional development and collaborate on education community service projects.

This year, four 2012-2013 Analyst Fellows -- Han Hong, Chian Gong, Roxanne Phen, and Thu Cung -- conceived of an education hackathon, HACKtivate ED, for their community service project. They envisioned bringing the rich tech talent from Silicon Valley into a room with local San Francisco Bay Area educators and education organizations to solve pressing K-12 education problems together.

Sponsored by the Activate ED collaborative and supported by numerous organizations, HACKtivate ED will come to life from June 15th to 16th at the Code for America headquarters in San Francisco, when nearly 100 of the brightest minds in app development, education and analysis get together to develop new apps and analyses for local schools and districts.

As a human capital organization, Education Pioneers believes strongly in collaboration, one of our four core values. To see our fellows initiate this innovative, cross-sector collaboration between the local tech community and local schools and districts is incredibly inspiring, and I know that HACKtivate ED will create real solutions for its education partner organizations: Aspire Public Schools, Oakland Unified School District, and San Francisco Unified School District.

Seizing the most important opportunity our nation faces -- transforming education to provide all students with a high-quality education -- requires teamwork from people with diverse expertise. We need the most talented people from different sectors to join together to contribute their skills, passion and ideas to this all-important cause. HACKtivate ED is an important step in the right direction.