Smart List: 50 Advocacy Organizations Making a Difference

Updated: November 2019

We are excited to recognize 50 great policy and advocacy organizations. These are some of the groups that are putting students first, illuminating the path to change and leading the most pressing conversations. Here are some of the missions and visions these organizations are dedicated to, in their own words. 

Equity Voices

  • The 74: a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Their mission is to lead an honest, fact-based conversation about how to give America’s 74 million children under the age of 18 the education they deserve.
  • 826: amplifies the impact of the national network of youth writing and publishing centers, and the words of young authors.
  • Education Post: elevates the voices of the people who matter most in the movement to improve schools: parents, kids and teachers.
  • Education Reimagined: advocates for learner-centered education.

National Policy Advocates

  • Aspen Institute: fosters leadership and hosts interactive forums on critical issues. 
  • Aurora Institute: drives the transformation of education systems and accelerates the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all.
  • Christensen Institute: offers a unique framework for understanding many of society’s most pressing issues including education, healthcare, and economic prosperity. Their mission is ambitious but clear: work to shape and elevate the conversation surrounding these issues through rigorous research and public outreach.
  • Achieve: an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability.
  • Alliance for Excellent Education: sponsors of Digital Learning Day and Future Ready, their mission is to promote high school transformation to make it possible for every child to graduate prepared for postsecondary learning and success in life.
  • American Enterprise Institute: explores ways of strengthening America’s educational system as a vehicle for upward mobility, examining issues affecting early childhood, K–12, and higher education.
  • American Youth Policy Forum: educates and informs policymakers and policy influencers on best practices, policies, strategies, innovations, and research on positive youth development approaches and effective education, youth, and workforce policies.
  • Center for American Progress: develops new policy ideas, challenges the media to cover the issues that truly matter, and shapes the national debate. With policy teams in major issue areas, CAP can think creatively at the cross-section of traditional boundaries to develop ideas for policymakers that lead to real change.
  • The Center for Education Reform: expands educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth, ensuring that the conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.
  • The Education Trust: works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families.
  • Foundation for Excellence in Education: supports state leaders in transforming education to unlock opportunity and lifelong success for each and every child.

State Policy Networks

  • 50CAN: a growing network of local-level advocates for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address.
  • America Achieves: develops capacity for quality education and clear pathways for economic advancement, civic engagement, and success for all in a rapidly changing economy.
  • Democrats for Education Reform: supports elected Democrats and candidates for office who seek to expand policies and practices that work well for America’s students, and to confront those that do not.
  • KnowledgeWorks: works collaboratively to create policy briefs, engage with legislators and help decision makers develop policy solutions that are more equitable and flexible, paving the way for personalized learning in the classroom.
  • Policy Innovators Network: connects state-level education advocacy organizations with colleagues across the country to amplify their voices and maximize their impact.
  • Stand for Children: their three-pillared approach: Parents, Politics and Policy, has led to policy, legislation, election, and budget wins across nine states.

Personalized Learning and EdTech Advocates

  • Battelle for Kids: collaborates with school systems and communities to realize the power and promise of 21st century learning for every student.
  • Consortium Of School Networking (CoSN): focuses on robust funding for edtech, strengthening E-rate, protecting the privacy and security of student data and promoting digital equity. 
  • Digital Promise: works at the intersection of education leaders, researchers, and technology developers to improve learning opportunities for all and close the Digital Learning Gap.
  • Ed-Fi Alliance: offers state education agencies an easy-to-implement data standard that every school district uses to record and compile student information.
  • Girls Who Code: is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.
  • ISTE: inspires the creation of solutions and connections that improve opportunities for all learners by delivering: practical guidance, evidence-based professional learning, virtual networks, thought-provoking events and the ISTE Standards.
  • Mastery Transcript Consortium: made up of a growing network of public and private high schools who are codesigning the Mastery Transcript, a high school transcript that supports mastery learning and reflects the unique skills, strengths, and interests of each learner.
  • The Learning Accelerator: connecting teachers and leaders with the knowledge, tools, and networks they need to enact personalized and mastery-based practices to transform K-12 education.
  • Software & Information Industry Association: provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to the leading companies that are setting the pace for the digital age.
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA): builds the capacity of leaders to improve education through technology.

Pathways Advocates

  • National College Transition Network: provides technical assistance and professional development services to community college, adult education, and workforce systems.
  • National Council of Young Leaders: low-income young people learn construction skills through building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in their neighborhoods and other community assets such as schools, playgrounds, and community centers.

Policy Advisors & Resources

  • Bellwether Education Partners: helps education organizations accelerate their impact and by working to improve policy and practice.
  • Center on Reinventing Public Education: informs systemic improvement in American public education so that every student is prepared to solve tomorrow’s challenges.
  • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO): a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education.
  • Education Council: develops and advances evidence-based ideas at the local, state, and national levels to strengthen educational systems and promote expanded opportunities and improved outcomes for all students in order to close achievement gaps and significantly improve education outcomes for all children from early childhood through postsecondary education.
  • Education First: partners with practitioners, policymakers, funders and advocates to design and accelerate policies and plans that help all young people— particularly students in poverty and students of color—succeed in college, careers and life.
  • Evergreen Education Group: supports, creates, and disseminates collaborative research and understanding of the K-12 online, blended, and digital learning field. They also organize the Digital Learning Annual Conference.
  • JFF: drives change in the American workforce and education systems to promote economic advancement for all.
  • LEV Foundation: provides strategic, accurate, and timely information about research-driven education policies and practices to citizens, educators, policymakers, and the media.
  • National Council on Teacher Quality: proposes new changes to restore the teaching profession to strong health so we can provide every child with the education needed to ensure a bright and successful future and to offer all teachers—from aspiring to veteran—the conditions needed to thrive and succeed.
  • New America: renews America by continuing the quest to realize our nation’s highest ideals, honestly confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social change, and seizing the opportunities those changes create.
  • Public Impact: devises and advances visionary but practical ideas to improve K–12 education. Also created Opportunity Culture.
  • Student Achievement Partners: advises educators around the nation as they align content and instruction to academic standards in literacy and mathematics.
  • Thomas B. Fordham Institute: promotes educational excellence for every child in America by focusing on three policy areas: High Expectations, Quality Choices, and Personalized Pathways.

Regional Personalized Learning Support 

  • Highlander Institute: researches, develops, and disseminates innovative methods to improve outcomes for all learners in Rhode Island.
  • Great Schools Partnership: provides school and district coaching, professional development, and technical assistance to educators, schools, districts, organizations, and government agencies in New England states and beyond.
  • Donnel Kay aims to improve public education in Colorado through research, policy, creative dialogue, and critical thinking.
  • SREB:  works side-by-side with policymakers such as state legislators and education agency officials as they implement policies to help students achieve more.

These are just a few examples of outstanding advocacy organizations that are doing urgent and essential work. Who did we miss? Who would you add? We’d love for you to add more local and regional examples below in the comments section below, and don’t forget to check out more of our past lists on our Smart List Series Page.

This Smart List is sponsored by Getting Smart Services, Getting Smart’s consulting division that helps schools, districts, networks and impact-oriented partners create, implement and amplify thought leadership campaigns, education initiatives, powerful learning experiences and forward-leaning strategies. Learn more about what they can do to support your education initiatives here.

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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Dave Potter

I'd add the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, which is a resource and/or partner with many organizations on this list. P21 continues to be a unique consortium, supported by a bipartisan Congressional 21st Century Skills Caucus, committed to 21st century learning for all students.


Hi Tom- Would you include LightSail Education as an enterprise making a difference?

Robyn Bagley

Parents for Choice in Education in Utah, of course. We've led the nation in groundbreaking legislation - first to successfully initiate and pass a course choice law in the U.S based on 10 Elements of Digital Learning and first to initiate and pass a Student Data Backpack law after being challenged by Tom VanderArk to do so. Those are just two of many laws related to choice and innovation initiated and passed by us.

Gene Coulson

Add EntreEd, The Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education for advocacy of entrepreneurship education in K-14. EntreEd just received a 3-year grant to expand the America's Entrepreneurial Schools initiative into a 5 state region in Appalachia.

Jim Flanagan



Students United! This is a nonprofit that is run BY students, its board of directors are the student body presidents from each of the universities it represents. The organization just got an affirmative consent policy passed for 54 colleges and universities.


Erik Day

Thanks for sharing, Aly! Looks cool

Barbara McKenna

A good list but many missing. Could you add Center for Teaching Quality, Learning Policy Institute, American Youth Policy Forum, Learning Forward, National Urban League, Opportunity Institute.

Steven Cruz

Hi Getting Smart Team!

Consider adding Leadership for Educational Equity! LEE is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, leadership development organization working to end the injustice of educational inequity by inspiring and supporting a diverse set of leaders with first-hand experience to engage civically and politically.
It counts over 45,000 members across the country who are elected officials (or running for office), policy leaders and community organizers committed to providing solutions to educational inequity that work for their communities. Read more about them here.

Carmen Reyes-Colon

Hi Im Chaplain and would like to learn on how to give back to the community, with providing the needs of others. How can I get information on how to Volunteer?

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