Cultivate Coherent and Thriving Systems

Breaking down silos to build resilient systems

Public education is facing monumental challenges—including looming enrollment challenges and funding cliffs in traditional districts– that must be confronted systemically, with focus and collaboration. Today’s district, charter network and state leaders can seize this moment to move beyond sector silos and either/or thinking. By collaborating more authentically within agencies, across agencies and with stakeholders, education leaders can substantially improve the design and implementation of policies, programs and solutions. The result: More resilient, coherence and adaptive schools and school systems. Drawing on our own experience as former system leaders in traditional districts and charter management organizations, Education First helps leaders and stakeholders align around a clear vision and shared priorities; assess and address organizational culture and effectiveness; and implement policies, practices and funding to produce transformative change for students, families and educators. Education First:

  • Advises organizational leaders to build internal cultures centered on learning, growth and effectiveness
  • Centers the people most proximate to the problem and designs for and with them to seek sustainable solutions
  • Develops funding sustainability and budget-neutral strategies to help agencies implement ambitious plans and programs
  • Advances coherence across a school system or state education agency by building focus and coordination, cultivating authentic relationships and changing behaviors at scale
  • Coaches state and district executives to take an organization- and system-wide perspective to identify problems and solutions, prioritize collaboration between stakeholders and build an intentional focus on equity into processes and decisions
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Coherence Lab

Coherence Lab

Coherence is a mindset and collective approach that consciously addresses silos and bias in public education. The Coherence Lab coaches school system and state education agency executives and middle managers to develop more capable, coherent and resilient organizations. The Lab provides free, research-based and field-tested tools that education leaders need to address fragmentation, strengthen coherence and improve outcomes for all kids. The Coherence Framework, Toolkit, and Assessment are a product of our partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers.

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Coherent and Thriving Systems Experts

Education First is a seasoned team of trusted advisors to the leaders responsible for delivering what many Americans want most: public education that effectively prepares all students for success in college, careers and a world of constant change.

Jenn Vranek professional headshot
Jenn Vranek
Founding Partner
Bill Porter
Bill Porter
Roneeta Guha
Roneeta Guha
Principal Consultant
Damien White
Damien White
Principal Consultant
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Recent clients

Planned, launched and incubated this new national nonprofit to provide Consumer Reports-like reviews of yearlong curriculum materials’ quality and alignment to Common Core to inform district purchasing and selection of materials. Facilitated the funders (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helmsley Trust and Hewlett Foundation) and founding board chair Dr. Maria Klawe to recruit the board of directors, hire the founding executive director and develop a business plan. Conducted national listening and learning tour to gain insight and feedback for the organization’s proposed programs. Assisted new executive director with organization start-up issues (such as strategic hiring and website development) and with the educator-led reviews of instructional materials beginning in K-8 mathematics.

Indiana Department of Education

We have supported Michigan Area City Schools, Gary Community School Corporation and School City of Hammond since 2021 with strategic investments of their federal COVID relief funds, including advising the districts on their plans for ongoing fiscal sustainability once ESSER funds conclude.

Pennsylvania Department of Education

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) joined the Coherence Lab Fellowship from 2019-2021. Education First also administered the Thriving Organizations Profile (TOP) survey with PDE to understand employee experiences and the impact of the agency’s organizational development efforts. Based on the TOP findings, the agency began working to improve internal communication across departments within the agency. After finishing the Fellowship, through the Coherence Lab Intensive PDE focused on building the skills of its middle-managers to engage in Equitable Ways of Thinking and Working to improve internal communication efforts.

New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE)

A team of system leaders and educators from the New York City (NYC) Public Schools and SUNY-SUTEC participated in the Coherence Lab Academy, a 10-month long professional development and strategic planning process for team members to develop a shared vision and commitment to equity, build trust and strengthen their collaboration to build a sustainable pipeline of diverse, excellent teachers for NYC Public Schools.

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