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City leaders have great opportunities to support learning in their communities. While only a handful of mayors and city councils play a direct role in the governance of their public schools, every mayor, councilmember and city administrator can take steps to ensure that all children are ready for school, have access to expanded learning opportunities, and receive the extra help they need to succeed. The payoffs for this leadership are visible not only in better prospects for children and families but also in stronger and healthier communities, including more vibrant economies that can compete and thrive in a new global era.

This new education playbook presents a host of practical, tested strategies that municipal leaders can adapt and use to drive local progress. Each strategy is linked to a city example in NLC’s City Practices Database, a searchable, online tool designed to support the sharing of ideas across cities. Staff within NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families stand ready to provide additional information and guidance on how city leaders can take the next step that’s right for their own community.

City leaders will see the greatest impact when they adopt a “cradle-to-career approach,” as reflected in Promise Neighborhoods or other collaborative models that coordinate existing efforts and launch new initiatives or investments at multiple points of the developmental spectrum for children and youth. Intervening early to support learning in the first years of life is vitally important but frequently not sufficient, as subsequent steps are often necessary to keep school-age children on track and help young people make successful transitions to adulthood. City strategies to support learning are also most effective when they are aligned as part of a collective impact approach or framework that promotes a common vision, the engagement of diverse stakeholders, a coordinating entity and a commitment to shared accountability for results. With strong leadership from mayors and other municipal leaders, entire communities can come together to support learning, boost educational achievement, reduce racial disparities and improve outcomes for all children and youth.


NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families developed this new resource in collaboration with the NLC Council on Youth, Education, and Families under the leadership of 2015 Council Co-Chairs:  Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh, Pa. and Councilmember Kristin Szakos, Charlottesville, Va.