More New Jobs To Dream About

Advance Illinois, the new state advocacy and research organization that Robin Steans is going to head, is looking for the best policy person ever to help make sure that "AI" (as it's being called) is knowledgeable and effective in Chicago and downstate.

From an email someone sent me: "Were looking for someone that who gets start-up organizations, who has a really big brain, truly believes in the policy process, and would want to take the lead in shaping this organization and the education policy agenda for Illinois. "

From what I can tell, this could be the job for someone already well-established in the education game who wants to be part of a big new challenge, or for someone who knows the political and policy side and wants to help with education. But that's just me thinking. Check out the details below. Tell them Russo sent you.

Advance Illinois

director of policy and research

Organization Overview

Advance Illinois is a new statewide education advocacy organization dedicated to policy research, mobilization and grassroots support for policy change that will have a dramatic impact on closing the achievement gap in Illinois. Its mission is to serve as an independent, objective voice promoting policies to create a world-class education system in Illinois that prepares all students to be college and work ready.

Led by a high-powered Board of Directors who are business, civic, education and grassroots leaders from communities across Illinois, Advance Illinois aims to help transform the Illinois education policy landscape to create better policies and supports that enable all Illinois students to excel. Advance Illinois’ main office is located in Chicago, with a satellite office to be opened in Springfield.

Illinois Student Achievement

Illinois is a cultural and economic leader among states and even nations. Illinois’ student population of 2.2 million performs near average on most student achievement dimensions including the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), ACT, and Advanced Placement exams. Illinois graduation rates are slightly above the national average.

On the surface, it appears that Illinois’ education system will prepare students to maintain this level of achievement. However, disaggregated data shows many challenges facing Illinois. For example, current data shows that only an estimated 20 percent of Illinois ninth graders will eventually graduate from college. Students perform disproportionately higher on Illinois state achievement exams than on NAEP, indicating that Illinois standards may not be rigorous enough to ensure success. These problems are exacerbated by inequitable funding across Illinois’ 870 school districts caused by a heavy reliance on local property taxes. Finally, Illinois’ racial and socio-economic achievement gap is among the worst in the nation.

In the broader world context, Illinois is an average state in a below-average nation. Today, the United States ranks in the lower fifty percent of developed countries in reading, mathematics, and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Data shows U.S. students are less likely to graduate in high demand technical fields and to qualify for today’s high demand jobs. These challenges are increasingly apparent to Illinois’ corporate leaders, who are finding it more difficult to hire Illinois students that possess the skills needed to compete for jobs in today’s economy. Our students’ long-term success depends on their ability to compete with peers across the globe.

Position Summary

This is a highly entrepreneurial position in a start-up organization that offers a significant opportunity to improve Illinois’ education outcomes and international competitiveness. Specifically, the Director of Policy and Research will be responsible for shaping Advance Illinois’ policy priorities and crafting and carrying out a policy, advocacy, and legislative strategy that will improve education policy, close the achievement gap and graduate all students ready for college and careers.

The AI Board of Directors has established four main policy priorities for the organization’s first three years of work:

  • improving standards, assessment and accountability systems;
  • improving teaching and leadership;
  • improving the quality and use of data; and
  • providing differentiated supports and assistance for students and schools.

The Director of Policy and Research will convene internal and external partners to develop a detailed policy blueprint, ensure the organization’s policy priorities are grounded in the best research available, stay up-to-date on emerging education research and policy innovations and, as appropriate, adapt the organization’s priorities and policy positions over time based on the latest findings.

In close partnership with the Executive Director, Director of Outreach and Director of Communications, the Director of Policy and Research will play a critical role in accomplishing the organization’s first-step goals of building broad, statewide awareness and urgency to improve Illinois’ education system, mobilizing key stakeholders toward this effort, building a movement to encourage the public to support policy and legislative changes, and establishing Advance Illinois as a central source of information, resources and solutions to address crucial needs for the state’s future.

                Reporting Relationships

The Director of Policy and Research reports to the Executive Director and will hire and supervise a Policy and Research Associate. S/he should be comfortable working in a small team environment and partnering with staff members with varying experience and levels.

Responsibilities and Key Tasks

In close coordination with the Executive Director and other staff members, the Director of Policy and Research will:

  • Shape policy priorities and strategy by assessing public education issues facing Illinois, establishing Advance Illinois as a credible and respected broker of ideas while identifying proven policy solutions for the state. S/he will:
    • Oversee the ongoing gathering and synthesis of existing and relevant education policy research.
    • Design and manage a policy and outreach process in 2008-2009 to develop a detailed, research-based education policy framework that is likely to raise the education achievement and attainment of all Illinois public school students.
    • Stay abreast of current education policy research, innovations and developments in states and cities across the country.

  • Build the credibility of Advance Illinois as a source of expertise on the critical issues facing Illinois’ economy and the public education system.

  • Establish strong relationships with Illinois policymakers, education associations, interest groups, lobbyists, think tanks and others seeking to influence Illinois education policymakers. Represent Advance Illinois with government, education, grassroots, media, business, civic and philanthropic leaders across Illinois.

  • Work creatively and tirelessly to see major improvements in Illinois’ education policy adopted and enacted by 2011. Specifically, s/he will:
    • Craft policy proposals and position statements for the organization.
    • Seek endorsements for the policy framework from key leaders.
    • Review relevant legislation and determine Advance Illinois’ positions.
    • Communicate, collaborate and partner with the Governor’s office, state legislators, the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, education associations and other key players in Springfield to advance supportive policies, practices regulations and legislation.
    • Participate in, and contribute to, strategic decisions about potential internal hires related to Advance Illinois’ presence in Springfield.

  • Collaborate with the Communications Director to develop convincing education materials that build awareness of and support for top-priority issues.

  • Create and manage project work plans and budgets.

  • Manage and support the Policy and Research Associate to support Advance Illinois’ mission, grow professionally and succeed in a small team environment.

Education and Professional Experience Requirements


Master’s degree in public policy, public administration, education or related field strongly preferred.

Public Policy Experience

Minimum of eight years in a public policy position is required. Experience lobbying and/or researching and writing policy-oriented publications preferred, as is a strong knowledge of current education policy in Illinois and relationships with key political leaders and stakeholders.

Required Skills and Talents

The successful candidate will have extensive research, policy and/or advocacy experience in a political environment with complex public policy issues. S/he also will have an unwavering commitment to the mission of Advance Illinois and a keen eye for when, where, and how to make a policy impact with the organization’s priorities for education in Illinois.

The successful candidate will demonstrate:

  • Energy and passion about Advance Illinois’ mission;
  • Strategic thinking and perseverance necessary to develop high-leverage relationships with political leaders and stakeholders;
  • Insight as to what will motivate key leaders to support Advance Illinois’ policy priorities;
  • Entrepreneurialism and strategic planning skills that are so crucial in a start-up organization;
  • Strong qualitative research and analytical skills (quantitative skills also desirable);
  • Ability to synthesize information quickly with strong attention to detail;
  • Excellent written and oral communications, organizational and interpersonal skills and a high level of self-motivation;
  • A management and working style suited to work in a small-office setting with limited support staff, mutually and strategically utilizing teamwork with peers;
  • Ability to work effectively under pressure and to handle a heavy, diverse workload;
  • Willingness to spend time in Springfield and work nights/weekends; and
  • A great sense of humor.


Competitive and commensurate with background and experience


Chicago, Illinois

Application Procedures

The review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. For best consideration, applications should be submitted electronically prior to Friday, August 8. Applications should include a letter of interest and a current resume. Nominations for the position, applications, or inquiriesabout the position and/or the search process should be directed to:

Monisha Lozier

President & Founder

Cobbe Place Consulting


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