Kris Kurtenbach, Collaborative Communications Group FounderThanks for visiting Collaborative’s blog. You’ll quickly see that we curate our content to provide to you information and tools that can elevate your work.

To start, Rhyla, Jeff, and Ian, four professional communicators on our team with different skills–along with guest bloggers, will guide you through our perspective on the communications world.

Collaborative’s blog will provide tips and tricks for using digital content, branding, media outreach, and communications strategies, along with insight into news in the education field. All writing is intended to share what we know in ways that can help your team succeed.

When it comes to supporting the work of education nonprofits, the team at Collaborative knows their stuff, as we focus solely on education and learning. Please reach out to our team if you need a sounding board or suggestions for improving your work.

Many thanks, and we look forward to engaging with you.

Kris, Founding Managing Partner

Introducing the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity

Collaborative had the great pleasure of helping to launch a new organization, the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchED). BranchED is focused on closing the educator diversity gap by maximizing the impact and influence of educator preparation programs at minority serving institutions.

BranchED provides technical assistance and amplifies the unique contributions of minority serving institutions (MSIs) through collaboration with key partners, including K-12 entities, the business community, nonprofits, and philanthropic organizations.

For the first time ever, 51 percent of public school students in the United States today are children of color. Problematically, though,only 20 percent of public school teachers are of color, and more than 40 percent of public schools do not have a single teacher of color.

Cassandra Herring, founder and CEO of BranchED, believes that we cannot close the diversity gap in this country without the educator preparation programs of minority serving institutions.

BranchED’s focuses on the nation’s 253 minority serving institutions, which have the longest, most significant track record of preparing diverse educators who thrive and persist in the profession. MSIs, which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities, provide learner-centered, practical, and culturally responsive training experiences. Graduates from MSIs are more likely to work in challenging schools—and stay in those schools whereas other teachers are more likely to leave.

Collaborative’s work with BranchED has focused on building a new website and developing a broad range of informational materials, the launch of social media channels, media outreach that resulted in interviews with Christian Science Monitor and NPR, and developing of commentary pieces to demonstrate BranchED’s thought leadership.

To learn more about BranchED, visit

Seeking: Associate, Afterschool

The afterschool field is growing exponentially with more young people served in quality programs after school and during the summer. The growth of the field includes the need for professionals to serve in a variety of roles to build capacity and coordinate national efforts to help expand opportunities for young people.

Are you creative, organized and a problem-solver?  Are you knowledgeable about afterschool, having worked with an afterschool network, youth advocacy group, or organizing an afterschool or summer program?  Are you looking for the next step in your career at a small, dynamic communications firm?

Collaborative Communications Group, Inc. is looking for an associate focused on afterschool to help coordinate the work of the 50 statewide afterschool networks (funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation).  We’re seeking someone with natural curiousity, developed writing skills, clever with technology solutions, and a commitment to supporting children and youth. Flexibility and attention to detail a must!

The associate works as part of a team that develops strategies, initiatives, events, and products that further client goals in a project-based work environment. S/he will support 50 statewide afterschool networks, a portfolio of afterschool websites, databases, and collaboration platforms, and support communications and logistics for events. Web-based tools to match client needs include but are not limited to Twitter, GoToMeeting, EventBrite, WordPress, and Groupsites.

About Collaborative: Collaborative works to improve public education within the United States and across the world through learning, collaboration, communications, and engagement.

We are a learning-focused consulting firm that works to:

  • Connect networks of people in learning communities within and across organizations to significantly enhance their knowledge and capacity;
  • Create, share and use knowledge to generate new ideas and improve performance; and
  • Engage diverse stakeholders to go beyond traditional approaches, create solutions aligned to the values of the people affected by them, and build sustained attention to complex problems.

For more than 18 years, Collaborative has partnered with leading education organizations, foundations, government agencies, school districts, and community-based organizations that share our values and commitment. We provide access to and connections within a growing network of organizations, researchers, consultants, practitioners, and community members whose collective content knowledge, expertise, and experience supports the learning and growth of everyone in the network. We build tools, processes, and products intended to accelerate learning and productivity and that regularly produce breakthrough results.

Responsibilities:  The Associate will provide leadership and support in the following areas:

  1. Support all aspects of the afterschool portfolio.
  2. Help manage multiple websites and platforms showcasing the power of afterschool.
  3. Support events and meetings by overseeing production of printed materials, development of overall meeting agendas, communications with participants and speakers, travel support, and overall customer service.
  4. Manage online communities, listservs, and other ways for networks of people to stay in touch via online resources.
  5. Manage networks of people, understanding the relationships, details, and ideas that support and extend their work.
  6. Support network development essentials including audio and web conferences, Web site content, technical assistance teams, and documentation of meetings.
  7. Develop marketing, invitation lists, and social media content for events and initiatives.
  8. Document meetings, tasks, and deliverables. Prepare agendas for client meetings and document follow-up.
  9. Manage and host webinars on GoToMeeting.

Qualifications: The associate will have or demonstrate:

  1. Bachelor’s degree and a minimum of one year of professional experience.
  2. Experience with afterschool programs or systems strongly preferred.
  3. Commitment to and understanding of afterschool policy issues, particularly for children and youth in underserved communities.
  4. Demonstrated competence in using technology-based tools.
  5. Demonstrated experience and success in organizing people and products.
  6. Ability to travel 4-5 times per year.
  7. Flexibility during peak workload periods is a must.
  8. Strong oral and written communications skills and sound judgment.
  9. Problem solving and organizational skill, analytical thinking, attention to detail, and ability to work on multiple tasks independently as well as collaboratively in a team environment.
  10. Being a team player, teamwork, and working well with others is essential to the success of this position and the department.
  11. Interest in supporting events and webinars. We seek continual improvement and want to explore new ideas for materials, participant experience, and formats to improve the participant experience.
  12. Interest in managing multiple websites, platforms, and communication streams and passion for learning new skills/platforms.
  13. Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office with strong Excel skills required.
  14. Additional experience in communications, community/civic engagement, or community-based organizations focused on youth issues ideal, but not required.

Salary is competitive. This is a full-time position based in our Washington, DC, office.

To Apply: Please visit to find more information about Collaborative Communications Group’s corporate capabilities, values, philosophy, practice areas and client base. Please combine a cover letter and resume into a single file and send via email to by July 31, 2017. No phone calls please.

The statements in this description represent typical elements, criteria and general work performed. They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills for this job. Collaborative is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. It is a strongly held value of Collaborative that power and possibility are not limited by gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability, or age. All candidates will be evaluated on a merit basis.

Just Released: State Guide to Building Online School Report Cards

Collaborative Communications Group is honored to partner with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Data Quality Campaign, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Learning Heroes, and the National PTA to develop a State Guide to Building Online School Report Cards. Collaborative believes that education data is a transformative, powerful lever for initiating policy and fostering engagement, and we are thrilled to share this resource with the field.

Dear Friend,

We are proud to announce the release of a State Guide to Building Online School Report Cards – a 12-month, step-by-step timeline and guide outlining the process for states to develop a next-generation report card under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

This new guide, co-created by our organizations – Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Collaborative Communications Group, Data Quality Campaign, ExcelinEd, Learning Heroes and National PTA – helps states break down the process for creating report cards that are easy for parents and the public to access and understand.

We hope this guide will be a valuable resource as states begin coordinating with data experts, designers, developers, policy and communications experts, parents and community stakeholders to develop accessible and high-quality report cards.

Please share this resource with your networks, and let us know if we can offer any additional support.


Chris Minnich, Executive Director, CCSSO

Katherine Hunt, Senior Vice President, Collaborative Communications Group

 Aimee Guidera, President & CEO, Data Quality Campaign

Patricia Levesque, CEO, ExcelinEd

Bibb Hubbard, Founder & President, Learning Heroes

Laura M. Bay, President, National PTA


View Guide

Introducing the New DQC Website: We’re Putting Students at the Center

w3winner_silverUpdate (11/8/2016): DQC’s website has won a 2016 W3 Award in the education category of websites. The W3 Awards honor creative excellence on the web, and are judged by the Academy of Interactive Visual Arts. 

This spring Collaborative Communications was delighted to partner with Data Quality Campaign and our friends at Social Driver to lead the redesign of Data Quality Campaign’s website. We set out to make the organization’s mission and vision clearer for all audiences by drawing attention to the human side of education data, and to emphasize the campaign aspect of DQC’s work through pathways on the site that drive users to take action around the effective use of education data. Together we developed a friendly, vibrant new site design that is user-friendly, mobile-responsive, and easily maintained by DQC’s staff. Make sure you visit the website’s new resource library, which now offers a curated set of resources that are easily searchable by topic, type and audience.

DQC does incredible work on behalf of students, parents, educators and policymakers, and we’re proud to support them in their efforts to make data work for all students. If you’re interested in partnering with us on a website redesign project, please email Katherine Hunt at

Introducing the New DQC Website: We’re Putting Students at the Center

Reposted from Data Quality Campaign

Students are at the center of the education system. It’s important to us at the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) that they’re at the center of our advocacy too.

We’re committed to the idea that everyone involved in a student’s education journey should have the information they need to support that student. A big component of that access to information is ensuring information is easily found, in an understandable format, and tailored to the unique needs of parents, educators, community members, and policymakers. While we demand that this become a reality for education systems throughout the country, we also know it must be a reality in our own work. In the spirit of practicing what we preach, we’ve redesigned how we present our own resources.

On April 26, with the help of Collaborative Communications and Social Driver, we launched a redesigned website, with a brighter look and feel to our resources. Our primary goal is to make the information we present about the policies, best practices, and current use of education data available and understandable to people at all levels of familiarity. We’re putting people at the center of our advocacy, so no matter where they live, people in every state can use our tools to advocate for students in their community.

So what’s different?

We’ve centered the new site around our big idea: when students, parents, educators, and policymakers have the right information to make decisions, students excel.

Illustration Sketch

We’ve made it easier than ever to learn the basics of student data. Head over to Why Education Data? to learn the what, who, and how of education data use.

Why Education Data Screen Grab

We’ve reorganized our resource library so that all types of advocates, from parents to policymakers, can find the information they need to make education data work for their students.

Resources Screen Grab

Our new vision permeates the entirety of our work. In addition to making information on our website more accessible and understandable to a variety of audiences, our team is changing the way we create our resources as well. We’re including more stories of what great data use looks like on the ground level, so that everyone can see the impact of this important tool on outcomes for students.

With the help of our web development partners and the commitment of the entire DQC team, we’ve been able to practice what we preach and do our best to ensure that all people dedicated to improving education have access to the right information when they need it so that they can best support their students.

The Importance of Branding


One of the most critical aspects of becoming known in your field and having an impact in the education space is branding. Understanding what branding is and why it’s important will give you an edge over other organizations and competitors. But, before we dive into the importance of branding, let’s first recap the highlights from my previous post.

Branding is made up of three parts: a logo, identity elements and the brand itself. Many people tend to think a logo and a brand are the same thing, however, they are not. A logo is a graphic representation of an organization. The logo and brand are linked together by a family of identity (visual) elements, such as business cards, collateral, website, etc. The brand itself refers to how your organization is perceived. Your brand is about the emotional connection your stakeholders have with the work that you do. Developing a plan to execute the three elements of branding is called a brand strategy. Over time, executing this strategic plan results in brand equity—which is imperative for your organization’s success.

Brand equity refers to widespread recognition and loyalty, which is earned through consistent messaging and your organization’s ability to deliver on your mission and achieve impact. Brand equity can be achieved through consumer-based branding and service-based branding. Ultimately, target audiences are what differentiates the two. Each aspect of branding is vital to the success of an organization or company, and each element requires extensive thought and planning—resulting in a comprehensive brand strategy.

Consumer-based branding refers to the branding of products. For example, a toy company called GoldieBlox, which is less than 5 years old, has managed to disrupt their industry, inspire the next generation of female engineers and seize the attention of people across the country with their brand message—encourage women to build structures and write code from an early age to level the playing field in a male-dominated industry. GoldieBlox believes that girls can wear pink skirts and a tool belt at the same time. This compound message flows through every facet of the company, including their products and branding. Due to GoldieBlox’s uniform messaging and aligned visuals, the company has gained brand equity and customer loyalty, both of which help drive their business forward.

Service-based branding follows the same rules as consumer-based branding: construct a logo, create identity elements and a build a brand. A recent example of branding a service-based organization can be found in the newly launched Education Forward DC. Collaborative Communications partnered to develop the new brand and identity package, which included the logo, website and print collateral. As the branding gains momentum, so will brand equity. People will begin to recognize the logo and soon after that, the organization’s message will start to permeate the field.

When creating a new brand, the tasks can be overwhelming and it’s difficult to know where to begin. Typically, the process starts off with a great deal of research and in-depth conversations with the client, which lays the foundation for both the content and visual direction. It’s at this point, when the core message is determined—the message should be short and concise. In the case of Education Forward DC, the core message was “closing the gaps to move forward.” Those thoughtful and precise words paved the way for the messaging and the visual implementation. Let’s take a look at how those words influenced the concept of the logo.


The logo includes words and a symbol which is called a combination mark. The words show movement with the forward leaning “WA,” emphasizing their desire to move the DC education community forward. The message is reinforced with an arrow (symbol) to the right of the words. The small dark blue triangle in the middle of the symbol represents “closing the gaps” which is the cornerstone of their messaging. Both of these visual elements come together to create their logo, which is the foundation for the identity package. Aligning the visuals and content to create a strong brand strategy is essential for creating brand equity.

To better understand these top notch strategies and the weight they carry, we have to understand the “why” first. Why is branding important? Here are the reasons why companies and organizations utilize branding.

  1. Promotes Recognition
    Branding is a key differentiator. When done well, a brand mirrors an organization’s strategic plan.
  2. Creates Clarity
    Strong branding will carry an organization through the ebb and flow of unavoidable challenges in the education space.
  3. Generates Referrals
    Creating a memorable and impactful brand is important. If someone has an exceptional experience with an organization, chances are that they will tell others about that experience.
  4. Sets Expectations
    A brand is the origin of a promise to an organization’s key stakeholders. A consistent brand creates brand equity and credibility.
  5. Provides Direction for Staff
    Communicating the goals of the brand strategy to organizational staff will provide them with clarity and help ensure their success and the success of the work.
  6. Increases Value
    The value of most businesses come from intangible assets. An organization’s brand is its most powerful intangible asset.

Branding transcends the art of the logo and graphic elements. When you think about branding, everything from the identity package to the impact you have on your stakeholders makes up the brand—a promise to your constituents. This promise tells your audiences about the character of your organization, what you believe and the value you are going to provide. How does your brand impact how others perceive the work that you do?

Now that we understand the importance of branding, in my next blog we’ll address the significance of brand protection from both an internal and external perspective. First, we’ll focus on the internal protection, diving into brand guidelines and how to implement them for your organization. Then we’ll address the importance of protecting brands externally. Stay tuned!

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Facebook are the top five most valuable brands in the world for 2016 according to Forbes. What’s their secret to success? In my opinion, top notch branding strategies!

We hope you enjoy my blog series and if you have any suggestions or comments, please email me at

At Collaborative we dedicate our work to supporting education and learning by helping a wide variety of education nonprofits with their communications needs. Click to learn more about Collaborative and our services.

Former U.S. Department of Education Official Joseph Walsh Joins Collaborative Communications

Joe Walsh named Senior Vice President for Innovation at the education-focused strategic communications firm

Washington, D.C. – Collaborative Communications, the nation’s premier communications firm focused solely on education and learning, announced today that Joseph Walsh, who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for State and Local Engagement in the Office of Communication and Outreach, has joined the firm as Senior Vice President for Innovation.

“Joe’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge has already made him a key addition to the Collaborative team and network,” said Kris Kurtenbach, founding partner. “We view his appointment as a sign of our commitment to being the leading communications firm in the education space. Our dedication to finding innovative solutions to education and workforce issues, coupled with an increasing demand from our clients and network to understand how to best navigate the evolving policy landscape of ESSA, led us to look for an addition to our team who will fit in with our ethos of innovation and exceptional service. And we are fortunate to find someone of Joe’s caliber to fulfill this role. I’m confident that Joe will play a key role in providing and implementing high-quality communications and strategy solutions for our clients.”

Walsh is a communications and political strategist and adviser with senior leadership experience at the national, state and local levels. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education, Walsh was an adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan on political and strategic communications issues, helped develop the Department’s communication strategy and led their engagement efforts with governors, mayors, legislators, chief state school officers and with the advocacy community.

“Collaborative has worked for more than 15 years with leaders in the education community to improve outcomes for all students,” said Walsh. “I’m excited to join the great team at Collaborative, and look forward to what’s next as a firm and in our work in education and learning.”

Walsh has worked at the intersection of policy, politics and communications throughout his career, in senior leadership roles in government and as a consultant leading political campaigns and issue advocacy efforts. Before joining the Obama Administration, he was Deputy Director, U.S. Policy and Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading teams working to help build the public and political will to support the Foundation’s efforts to improve educational outcomes in the United States. He served as a member of Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty’s cabinet as Director of the Department of Employment Services, and in Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration as Director of Policy and Planning at the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Under President Bill Clinton, Walsh was education director of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. He began his career in civic education teaching government, history and civic engagement to high school students at the Close Up Foundation.

About Collaborative
Collaborative Communications Group, Inc. is the nation’s premier communications firm focused solely on education and learning.We are dedicated to improving learning systems, in and out of school, for students and adults, through better communications, collaboration and engagement.

Our Clients’ Work Shines: Collaborative Wins Six Honors at 22nd Annual Communicator Awards



At Collaborative we are committed to excellence. This is evidenced by our clients, who we are honored to work with, and the incredible work our clients produce. And while we believe good work speaks for itself, there is also something to be said for outside recognition of such work.

For the past three years Collaborative has participated in The Communicator Awards to highlight the work our clients do and to pay tribute to our shared commitment to excellence. Each year we’ve entered, our clients’ work has been honored..






We are thrilled to announced that for the 22nd Annual Communicator Awards, six of our clients received an award, and we hope you will join us in congratulating them and celebrating this tremendous achievement.


Penguin Young Readers Group and Baltimore’s Summer Reading Program

Everyday Hereos Poster

Every Hero Has a Story: Read to Unlock Them!
Winner, Award of Excellence for Print & Design


This poster represents a collaboration between Penguin Young Readers Group and the Baltimore Grade Level Reading Campaign that got young people excited about reading and writing across Baltimore. As part of our work promoting Brad Meltzer’s Real Heroes children’s book series, we reached out to the Baltimore Grade Level Reading Campaign to see if we could help their mission of engaging youth in reading over the summer. A few weeks later, we developed this poster promoting Baltimore’s summer reading campaign, Every Hero Has a Story, which encouraged children to write their own hero stories. Christopher Eliopoulos designed the poster and designed book covers for the five winning stories. When you work with people that are passionate about youth, amazing things happen.


The World Bank Group, a collaborative effort with Social Driver

World Bank STEP Video
Winner, Award of Distinction for Video & Commercial


Systematic Tracking of Exchanges in Procurement, or STEP, is an online planning and tracking system for World Bank projects. It transforms data into knowledge, speeds up the procurement process, and improves accountability and transparency–driving results for better development. Watch the video above to learn more.


The George W. Bush Institute

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 3.51.57 PM (2)

The North America Competitiveness Scorecard
Winner, Award of Distinction for Interactive Media


The George W. Bush Institute created The North America Competitiveness Scorecard as a tool to compare the competitive position of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as a region, relative to other major economic regions and countries with large economies. The Scorecard provides the opportunity to see at a glance how well North America—country by country and altogether—is performing in the global economy. The Scorecard enables users to compare any countries they wish, look at economic data over time, and examine the economic performance of entire regions.


The QED Group, LLC.


Our Children, Our Future: Ensuring Child Well-Being in Uganda
Winner, Award of Distinction for Print & Design


Developed in support of the National Forum on the State of the Ugandan Child, held in Kampala in October 2015, Our Children, Our Future: Ensuring Child Well-Being in Uganda is a major report and call to action that lays out the National Action Plan for Child Well-Being, as well as the numerous challenges facing children in Uganda. The report also articulates strong goals for addressing those challenges to improving outcomes for children in the country.


College Success Arizona


Doubling Arizona’s Economic Growth: The Potential Fiscal and Social Gains From Increasing Postsecondary Attainment
Winner, Award of Distinction for Print & Design


College Success Arizona released this report in January 2016. The report shows that raising the post-secondary attainment rate has the potential to double Arizona’s economic growth, equating to $660,000 per additional college graduate. The report was the second in their series of publications that highlight the economic and social importance of increasing the number of students that enroll and stay in post-secondary education, and graduate with a degree or certificate.


National Afterschool Association Convention

MyAfterschoolStory Template


View the Twitter campaign here.

Winner, Award of Distinction for Content & Marketing

For the 2015 National AfterSchool Association Convention, we chose a theme of Passionate Professionals, Powerful Stories to help our audience of 1,500 afterschool professionals tell their stories. As part of this, we designed a template for users to print, customize and share their story with the hashtag #MyAfterschoolStroy. By asking them to share their stories, they had to think about themselves: why they do what they do, what drew them to afterschool, what afterschool programs did they do as a kid and why it all matters. Hundreds responded with their stories, ranging from personal growth after tragedy to their goals for the future of afterschool. By digging a little deeper and having these dedicated educators think about themselves, we connected them to a larger community of like-minded peers, highlighted what they have in common in their personal histories and beliefs, helped them to refine their stories and encouraged them to keep telling their stories.

We are honored to participate in The Communicator Awards, and we extend our congratulations to our partners and collaborators who have helped make our work and their work shine.

The Communicator Awards are presented by the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts (AIVA), and serve to honor achievements in marketing and communication across a range of mediums and platforms.

The Gap Between Graduation and College and Career Readiness

Here, at Collaborative, we live on a steady diet of education news, research, opinion and conversation. Whether it be a tweet, a commentary or a policy paper, if it’s about teaching and learning, in or out of school, we are reading, watching and listening.

In my new blog series #TalkAbtEd I’ll highlight some of the trends, stories and reports that folks at Collaborative are thinking and talking about. From the inspirational (see, for example, NPR’s wonderful “50 Great Teachers” series) to the nitty-gritty of education data (NCES’s Digest of Education Statistics, anyone?), this series will run the gamut to discuss what’s new and important in the education conversation.

This week’s post looks at the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data and the ongoing national conversation about college and career readiness. So, then, off we go!

By Ian Hickox, Associate, Content Development

Earlier this school year, the Department of Education shared the wonderful news that high school graduation rates in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 82 percent. Such progress is, in part, a testament to the great work on the parts of teachers, school leaders, policymakers, and students themselves, to improve academic outcomes in our schools and communities. Yet, though improved graduation rates are certainly cause for celebration, the latest NAEP data offer a sobering reminder that the 82 percent graduation rate does not represent an unalloyed success.

NAEP, which is given to high school seniors and tests what they know and can do in the areas of math and reading, is among the most useful national measures of student achievement that we have. The latest results show that in 2015, math scores dropped one percentage point and reading scores remained the same since 2013, when the test was last administered. These numbers, in and of themselves, are not all that newsworthy. But when you consider the NAEP results in the context of student college and career readiness, the implications are much more striking.

In fact, what the latest NAEP results show is that over 60 percent of high school seniors are not prepared for college or career success, unchanged since 2013. This stagnation, on its own, is noteworthy because it points to the fact that, on the whole, widespread efforts to improve college and career readiness are not making enough of an impact. Troublingly, it also suggests that despite record high graduation rates, many students are finishing high school with diminished prospects for their futures, and that this pool of underprepared graduates is growing every year.

Moreover, it’s not just NAEP scores that point to the alarming gap between graduation rates and the number of students who are actually ready to take the next step when they graduate. A recently released report from The Education Trust presents findings of an analysis of high school transcripts from across the country that show that 47 percent of high school graduates in 2013 completed neither a college- nor career-ready sequence of courses.

To be sure, a diploma is a vital credential for future success. But high school graduates who are not college and career ready face a much more difficult path forward, with many fewer opportunities ahead of them. And as we approach the end of another school year, after which yet another class of seniors will chart its course forward, the ongoing conversation about college and career readiness is fundamental to improving outcomes for all students in this country. Anymore, high school graduation is an important waypoint, but not a destination unto itself.

Education Writers Association: Lessons Learned

My blog series — #PitchTips — kicks off today. And for my first blog I’m bringing you a recap of what our team learned from attending a recent conference for education media. Hoping this will help improve your practice. ~ Devin

By Devin Boyle, Director of Media Relations

Two weeks ago I joined education reporters from across the country in Boston for the Education Writers Association Conference to talk edu story angles, edu policy, edu politics, and—on an unrelated note—the Red Sox v. Yankees. (Don’t ask me who won the series. A baseball fan, I am not.)

The conference, organized around the theme of “The Quest for Quality and Equity,” was a chance for journalists to learn from each other, discuss trending topics in education and honor the best education writing over the last year. For those of us in communications it was also a chance for us to learn from members of the media.

Over the course of a few days, our team got a glimpse into what journalists think will be the top storylines of 2016, and what they’re looking for in pitches from communications professionals. Below are a few things we learned. Shoot me an email if you want to brainstorm story ideas or have any questions about what works best in pitching (

Storylines Likely to Be Covered in 2016-17

Journalists gave their take on what they think will be the trending topics of 2016-17, ranging from diversity of the teaching workforce to new stories tied to Common Core. Here are a few to pay attention to. These will give you a few good starting points for story angles when crafting your pitches.

  • Trauma in and out of school;
  • Diversity of students and teachers;
  • Common Core implementation; and
  • K-12 assessment.

What Media Need From Us

Reporters receive hundreds of email and phone pitches a day. It’s important that we make every word we say count when we’re sending them our story ideas if we want them to write about what we’re pitching. Below are two ways we can make our stories heard.

  • Grassroots Resources: Media want to have lists of teachers, parents, school leaders, etc. from across the country willing and ready to speak with them when stories tied to education at the grassroots level pop. When pitching, we should always let reporters know that we can connect them with the resources they need on the ground. (#PitchTip ~ Have a person(s) and/or program(s) you can list as example resources in your pitch.)
  • Research: Comms folks should always do their research before reaching out to media. They should know what storylines the reporter has previously written and whether or not what comms professionals are pitching would be relevant to the reporter they’re pitching to. (#PitchTip ~ Mention something you liked or that made you think in a recent article written by the reporter you’re pitching to.)

Now What?

These are just a few #PitchTips to get you started. Come back to our blog again to find out how to refine your pitches so the messages you want to be communicated hit the news hard. If you’re looking for tips on branding, read Rhyla’s blog here; if you need some digital advice head on over to see what our digital expert, Jeff Stovall, has to say.

Thanks for reading! And, please follow me on Twitter @devin_boyle and our team @Collaborative_.

Collaborative is Hiring: Digital Project Manager

Collaborative is entrepreneurial and mission-driven. Our rapidly growing digital practice is helping leading organizations in the United States and around the world extend their influence by making data meaningful and actionable, and combining technology and creative solutions that are not only beautiful, but have impact. Through expert consulting services and award-winning products, we are building momentum and results—within our own organization and for those we serve.

We’re looking for a self-motivated, highly effective individual with extensive digital and project management experience—and a strong understanding of digital strategy, content strategy and storytelling—to join our team as Digital Project Manager.

The ideal new team member will be able to:

  • Facilitate the delivery and management of websites and online tools;
  • Lead projects and teams;
  • Deliver quality products on time and within scope and budget in a fast-paced, team-oriented professional environment; and
  • Remain aware of new and emerging technologies and their potential application for client engagements.


The Digital Project Manager will:

  • Lead the development of and create content for various digital products, including websites, data visualizations and video;
  • Consult directly with clients on digital solutions, helping to make decisions based on project goals, align to digital best practices and clarify project vision;
  • Independently direct website development and related digital projects;
  • Develop effective project plans to best support defined strategies and client deliverables;
  • Manage project scope, budget and timeline;
  • Actively engage in team and client strategy sessions, and support and manage trainings and launch events for clients;
  • Cultivate and sustain effective relationships with team members, clients and partners, media sources, and consultants and vendors;
  • Help to develop the Collaborative brand and expand the organization’s footprint.


Collaborative is a strong fit for professionals who want their work to matter; who possess strong drive, confidence and self-motivation; who demonstrate a willingness to work with others to achieve better results than can be accomplished alone; and who are resourceful, accountable, tenacious problem-solvers.

The successful candidate will have:

  • Bachelor’s degree and experience managing the creation of digital tools in the service of strategic goals;
  • Exceptional communications skills, combined with the ability to work with people at all levels of an organization;
  • Demonstrated leadership and management skills, including technical teams;
  • Ability to facilitate technical decision-making, both independently and in coordination with a client;
  • Familiarity with a range of database and CMS solutions and UX practices;
  • Experience with the development of project timelines, milestones, budget reports, technical requirements and user documentation;
  • Experience solving client or customer problems through the application of appropriate technical solutions, particularly as relevant to non-profit organizations and government agencies;
  • Experience with new and social media writing in a professional setting.
  • Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. This is full-time position, based in our Metro-accessible Washington, DC, office. Collaborative offers premium benefits.


Please visit to find more information about Collaborative’s award-winning products and services, as well as our corporate capabilities, values, philosophy, practice areas and client base. Please combine a cover letter and resume into a single file and send via e-mail (with subject line “Digital Project Manager”) to Resumes will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.


Collaborative Communications is a strategic consulting firm devoted to developing collaborative solutions to education, workforce and community challenges. Leading philanthropic, education and non-profit organizations, as well as universities and corporations hire Collaborative to achieve their strategic goals through superior communications, management, consulting and engagement services. We build tools, processes and products that are intended to accelerate learning and productivity and that regularly produce breakthrough results.

The statements in this description represent typical elements, criteria and general work performed. They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills for this job. 

Collaborative is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. It is a strongly held value of Collaborative that power and possibility are not limited by gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability or age. All candidates will be evaluated on a merit basis.