September 21, 2016

The U.S. Education Innovation Index: Prototype and Report

By Jason Weeby | Kelly Robson | George Mu

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Innovation is critical to advancing any sector. It increases the productivity of organizations, tests the merit of new ideas, and phases out practices that no longer work. Innovation-driven economies make current products, services, and organizations better and open up opportunities for new ones to emerge.

Innovation is essential in the education sector too. To reverse the trend of widening achievement gaps, we’ll need new and improved education opportunities — alternatives to the centuries-old model for delivering education that underperforms for millions of high-need students.
Yet compared to other sectors that have relied on continuous invention and improvement as a survival mechanism for decades, innovative policies and practices in the education sector are still nascent.

To modernize education’s approach to innovation, Bellwether created The U.S. Education Innovation Index: Prototype and Report (USEII), the field’s first foray into measuring education innovation at the city level. It describes the dynamic new education systems that are taking root in cities across the country, the pivotal role of innovation in improving schools for urban students, why measuring innovation is a critical first step, the index framework and methodology, and case scores and case studies on our four target cities. 

The innovation index is a city-level composite indicator tailor-made for the education sector that measures innovation conditions and activities along 42 indicators in nine categories to help education and civic leaders identify trends, draw attention to particular issues, determine whether the current mix of activities is producing desired results, and identify areas for improvement.

To test the integrity of the framework, we measured the innovativeness of four urban education ecosystems: Indianapolis; Kansas City, MO; New Orleans; and San Francisco. Each city has a very different innovation profile that reflects its local and state contexts. 

Ultimately, we strive to make the USEII the field’s go-to source for city-based innovation knowledge. Bellwether Education Partners is seeking supporters to refine the theoretical framework, evaluate 30-plus cities across the United States annually, and publish the results in an interactive online format. 

If you have feedback on the index or report or want to learn more, email us at

Download the report here or full-screen the viewer below to read in your browser.

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