Cradle-to-Career Approaches Helping Cities Strengthen the Educational Pipeline

Press Release
Press Release

by Imani Hope

Image removed."The mayor should be the most obvious person to lead the charge for education, regardless of who has control over the schools," said Memphis, Tenn., Mayor A. C. Wharton, Jr., last Wednesday to a large group of mayoral education advisors from cities across the country. "The mayor is in an excellent position to rise above the immediate fray and look at the big picture."

Mayor Wharton - joined by the superintendent of Memphis City Schools, the presidents of the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College and other local education leaders - went on to discuss how his city is using a "cradle-to-career" framework to improve educational outcomes for the city's students. 

"Cradle-to-career" has become a catchall phrase used to describe the notion that, in order to prepare young people for a successful future, education must be a priority from early childhood until well after secondary school, and community leaders must work together to address challenges along the educational pipeline.  While city officials throughout the nation have become familiar with many "brand name" cradle-to-career approaches in recent years - including collective impact, Ready by 21® and youth master planning - they continue to grapple with a range of questions about how to achieve and track progress.

The mayoral education liaisons and other senior municipal staff that gathered in Memphis last week are members of the Mayors' Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN), a peer network sponsored by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families since 2003 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The convening provided EPAN members with an opportunity to discuss the cradle-to-career efforts taking place in their cities and learn new ideas from national experts about how to align these efforts with strategies focused on specific age groups along the pipeline. In addition, a subset of EPAN members participated in a concurrent convening of NLC's Postsecondary Success City Action Network (P-SCAN), which is supported by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Visiting Memphis offered EPAN members a closer look at how that city's education partnerships benefit children and youth. As part of Memphis Fast Forward - a collaborative initiative to promote economic development and quality of life in Memphis and Shelby County - the PeopleFirst Partnership identifies key goals and metrics for ensuring that children enter kindergarten ready to learn, graduate from high school ready for college and earn postsecondary credentials that prepare them for local careers. Working together to achieve "collective impact," Mayor Wharton and other local leaders have crafted a shared action agenda for making progress on these goals. To learn more, visit  

Following a panel discussion of the Memphis cradle-to-career framework, EPAN members heard from Memphis city staff about one key program focused on promoting educational achievement. Through the Memphis Youth Ambassadors Program (MAP), local businesses and community organizations partner with the city to provide high school students with tutoring, mentoring and afterschool enrichment throughout the year. 

Other sessions at the EPAN and P-SCAN meetings included one led by Dr. Joseph Murphy from Vanderbilt University on creating a strong recruitment and professional development pipeline for principals; remarks by Brown University Professor Kenneth Wong on mayoral leadership for postsecondary success; and peer-led problem-solving discussions on forming effective city-school partnerships, using data effectively and engaging the business community in postsecondary access and completion initiatives.  

Details: To learn more about EPAN, visit or contact Marjorie Cohen at (202) 626-3052 or

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