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No Blame, Just Responsibility and Results

Wed, 2015-05-20 20:00

President Barack Obama

“I’m not interested in blame. I’m interested in responsibility and I’m interested in results.”  – President Barack Obama

Something is happening. A movement is afoot. We can’t ignore the urgency anymore. And not only because of what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and Baltimore, Maryland. Our moral compass as a nation and the economic well-being of our country is at stake. We simply have to focus on closing opportunity gaps.

Two weeks ago, President Obama gave his personal take on this reality at the launch of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance. This new nonprofit organization will focus on improving early childhood education, keeping black and Latino boys out of the criminal justice system, and on preparing young men to be more successful when entering the workforce. And, it will allow the president’s racial and social justice work to continue after he leaves the White House.

“By almost every measure, the life chances of the average young man of color is worse than his peers,” Obama said at the MBK Alliance launch. “Those opportunity gaps begin early — often at birth — and they compound over time, becoming harder and harder to bridge, making too many young men and women feel like no matter how hard they try, they may never achieve their dreams.”

I was honored to attend the MBK Alliance launch, and to see the President deviate from the script with heartfelt words that captured his commitment to this cause. He noted that he and the First Lady will remain focused on this long after his presidency. Their commitment, and that of all MBK partners, is driven by much more than a sense of charity.

“There are consequences to inaction,” Obama said. “There are consequences to indifference…They sap us of our strength as a nation.”

During his remarks, it was clear that the President is focused more on the result than some ideology on how to get there. He spoke about the reality that we work in silos while blaming each other, instead of partnering in communities to take individual and collective responsibility for moving the dial on our most pressing outcomes. Nothing could be more powerful.

Communities across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network are focused every day on results. Instead of getting buried in opinions and perceptions, they are using real data to determine which programs and services can lead to sustained improvement. They are working to keep the entire community focused on what matters most: the children behind each and every data point.

Where will this take us? At a recent convening of over twenty of the national Cradle to Career Network members who are all focused on issues of race and equity, one key point emerged that is an example of the type of issues we will have to work through: If we take responsibility collectively for moving outcomes, we will have to confront the difference between equality and equity.

Equality vs. Equity

Equality is everyone getting the same thing regardless of what they may need. Equity means people get exactly what they need to achieve the desired result. Focusing on equality may seem fair. But if we want to take responsibility for results, we will have to not just acknowledge, but own that different kids need different supports to succeed… And we simply have to allocate resources accordingly.

We have challenging conversations and difficult decisions ahead of us. My hope and my belief is that communities that have created cradle to career partnerships will have established the trust necessary to move courageously toward equity. And, as the President said, communities will model how to stop placing blame and start focusing on responsibility and results.


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Network in the News: Improving attendance, increasing graduation rates, building collaborative groups and more

Wed, 2015-05-20 09:11

E3 Alliance hosts College Signing Day in central Texas

Last week must have been a busy one for Cradle to Career partnerships throughout the country, because this week’s Network in the News is extra-long. But we’re not very sorry about it. In fact, we’re pretty excited.

Here’s this week’s “Network in the News:”

  1. DHS caseworkers keep school desks filled: In Portland, Oregon, Department of Human Services case workers are being placed at six public schools to work directly with families. All Hands Raised is helping with this effort, with the goal of improving attendance rates.
  2. Tacoma schools announce record percentage of students receiving diplomas in 2014: Tacoma School District administrators and staff are celebrating a record high graduation rate this year.  Graduate Tacoma, in Washington, is helping the community pull together to find mentors and tutors, offer internship opportunities and help prepare students for graduation.
  3. College presidents form coalition to address Lowcountry workforce demand: There’s a new coalition in Lowcountry, South Carolina. Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative is working with leaders from seven local colleges to align their degree programs with the needs of the region’s future workforce.
  4. Out of work and school, Boston’s youth have new place to go: Boston youth now have a new place to go to connect to jobs, skills training, education and other opportunities. The Connection Center, is geared toward youth ages 16 to 24, and is part of the broader efforts of Boston Opportunity Agenda, the local cradle to career partnership.
  5. University-Bound Seniors Celebrated at College Signing Day: The E3 Alliance in central Texas hosted a College Signing Day, which received news coverage from the local PBS affiliate. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro was also in attendance.

  6. Broadcast coverage: Thriving Together in Arizona was featured in these two news broadcasts, explaining their work in the community.

As always, if your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our audiences and the entire Cradle to Career Network.

Read “Network in the News” every week for the latest local coverage of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships. Check out our previous blogs to keep up-to-date with all the latest updates:


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What happens after high school graduation?

Wed, 2015-05-13 20:00

Post-Secondary & Career Success for Every Student Convening

By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require education and training beyond high school. But 79% of Americans do not think that education beyond high school is affordable for everyone.

These sobering stats from the Gallup-Purdue Index highlight just one of the major barriers to college and career success that students are facing across the country. Even when students can afford college, they often graduate without the skills that employers say they need. While 96% of Chief Academic Officers believe students are leaving college prepared for success in career, only 11 percent of business leaders agree.

How can we help students overcome these barriers?

More than 100 individuals from 21 states and D.C. came together in Columbus, Ohio, this week to talk about collective impact strategies to improve college and career results. Communities across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network are focusing more and more on ways to improve college and career success, and our Post-Secondary and Career Success for Every Student Convening provided a venue to share knowledge, dig into the data and explore new strategies.

The theme across our discussions this week was clear:  To improve college and career outcomes, communities need to constantly look at data, measure the impact of their programs, and adjust based on what they learn every day. And, communities are doing this today with the help of traditional continuous improvement practices.

Recognizing that completing the financial aid process is a key driver for post-secondary enrollment, Seeding Success in Memphis, Tennessee, Bridging RVA in Richmond, Virginia, and RGV Focus in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, took the stage this week in Columbus to talk about how they are using continuous improvement practices to increase FAFSA completions. These three cradle to career partnerships, along with StrivePartnership in Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky; Mission: Graduate in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Big Goal Collaborative in Northeast Indiana; and the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo are working together on what we call “Project FAFSA.”

With support from Lumina Foundation, our team has been working with these communities since January 2015 to help them analyze key drivers and demographics impacting FAFSA completions, develop targeted action plans and measure the impact every step of the way to see what is working. The seven communities developed a shared goal to collectively increase FAFSA completions by 1,410 across seven communities by June 30, 2015.

While the goal of this is to ensure 1,410 more students have the potential to afford college, the impact of this work will extend well beyond this year’s graduating class. The partnerships are building their capacity to use data and continuously improve student and family supports, leading to better cradle to career results for all students. And, they are changing the culture in their communities with every conversation and data review meeting.

As Mark Sturgis with Succeeding Success said during this week’s sessions, “It is not just about the FAFSA. It’s about sustaining accountability and culture change in the community.”

#PrepareForCareer: Read our Storify roundup of social media posts from the 2015 Post-Secondary & Career Success for Every Student convening:

[View the story "Post-Secondary & Career Success for Every Student Convening" on Storify]


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Network in the News: Opinion columns, fundraising efforts and a report card launch

Tue, 2015-05-12 10:25

Spartanburg Academic Movement Report Card

In this week’s update, we have a new report card, community fundraising efforts and opinion columns. Plus, we have a successful community event to celebrate graduating seniors, which is perfectly timed with Kid President’s new video, “Dear Grads” (a must-watch, if I do say so).

Here’s this week’s “Network in the News:”

  1. Spartanburg Academic Movement, the local cradle to career partnership, launched its new report card this week. Read more in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal about this progress report. The partnership’s executive director also authored this op-ed about embracing academic achievement.
  2. The director of Achieve Brown County, thecradle to career partnership in Green Bay, Wisconsin, explore equity in this this op-ed in the Green Bay Gazette.
  3. Hundreds of students packed a gym in Central Texas last week to commit to college at an event organized by E3 Alliance, the local cradle to career partnership. Read more about the event in the Austin American-Statesman.
  4. May 7 was the first-ever “Spartanburg County Day,” encouraging people to donate online to local groups during a 12-hour timeframe. Nineteen people donated to Spartanburg Academic Movement, the local cradle to career partnership, raising $12,610. Read more about the day of giving.

And as Kid President says, “Be your own Beyoncé.” Keep up the good work.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our audiences and the entire Cradle to Career Network.

Read “Network in the News” every week for the latest local coverage of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships. Check out our previous blogs to keep up-to-date with all the latest updates:



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Network in the News: From California to Ohio (and In Between)

Wed, 2015-05-06 09:01

Cradle to career network in the news

This week, we’ve got almost twice the updates for local Cradle to Career Network partnerships from California to Texas to Ohio (and in between).

Here is this week’s installment of “Network in the News:”

  1. City Heights Partnership for Children, the cradle to career partnership in San Diego, worked with the United Way and San Diego Unified School District to establish an early-warning system for students. The “Early Warning Continuum” started this school year in an effort to identify and provide personalized intervention to students who frequently miss school, fall behind academically or demonstrate behavior problems. Read about the program in this article by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
  2. The P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, based in San Antonio, Texas, celebrated Destination College throughout April 27 to May 1. Destination College is a week-long celebration of the college-bound and career-ready in San Antonio from elementary school through high school and beyond. Read more in their published piece with the Rivard Report.
  3. Treasure Valley Education Partnership in Idaho has been selected as one of 20 groups throughout the nation to receive a Lumina Foundation grant. Read more in the Idaho Business Review.
  4. Mission: Graduate is mentioned in this article about a student’s success in graduating from college based on combined efforts from community organizations. The local partnership in Albuquerque has a mission to add 60,000 extra degrees to central New Mexico by 2020. Read more in the Albuquerque Journal editorial.
  5. The superintendent of Kettering City Schools in Dayton, Ohio, reflects back on the school year, mentioning Learn to Earn Dayton as a wonderful partnership to the school throughout the year. Read the complete column by the superintendent in the Dayton Daily News.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our audiences and the entire Cradle to Career Network.

Read “Network in the News” every week for the latest local coverage of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships. Check out our previous blogs to keep up-to-date with all the latest updates:


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Your words have power

Tue, 2015-05-05 13:22

Remember that you have something to offer that no one else in this world could ever give

When I was in the 6th grade, I had a minor altercation with a classmate. Mrs. Ross, my 6th grade math teacher, witnessed the argument and interrupted us before things escalated. She pulled me aside and began lecturing about my behavior.  

“Your words have power,” she said. “And remember that you have something to offer that no one else in this world could ever give. Do not allow a moment like this to be the reason why you won’t be able to share your gifts and talents. You could save someone’s life one day. Your words have power, so be mindful of what comes out of your mouth because those same words will eventually become your behaviors and actions.”

After our talk, I found myself making an effort to be more cognizant of my reactions.

Mrs. Ross was not an ordinary teacher. She was stern, but with reason. She took the time to acknowledge your strengths, while challenging each of her students to be better every day. She did not limit her job to the classroom. She was “that” teacher that many students were fearful of, but also respected and often went to for advice.

Self-worth is revealed during a youth’s elementary and high school years. And, given the many opportunities an instructor has to interact with students, a teacher has a unique and major role in validating and shaping the way we think and react. Having a caring adult committed to giving more, both inside and outside of the classroom, is critical to every child’s life.

I want to send my appreciation to all teachers like Mrs. Ross. The extra time and thought you put into your students’ development does not go unnoticed. If it wasn’t for Mrs. Ross, I may not have not realized the gifts I have to offer.

In my role at StriveTogether, I support communities across the country that are working towards improving their local education systems. Each time I visit a new community, or work with them on the phone, I am reminded about how powerful words can be and the influence we, adults, can have in not only changing one student’s life, but the lives of millions of youth across the country.


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The power of teaching

Tue, 2015-05-05 10:32

May 5th is National Teacher Appreciation Day #ThankATeacher

I can certainly reflect on my education and pinpoint teachers who quite literally changed the trajectory of my life. But I can see this even more clearly when I look at the educational journey of my four children. Seeing the learning process through their eyes is incredibly enlightening…and at times sobering. They are easily inspired by content delivered creatively. They can talk for hours about new topics that are presented in relevant ways – and not just from the classroom experience, but their own research afterwards.

But when they are not inspired, the repercussions are clear. And when it becomes a pattern consistently in a given class, they can lose interest in a subject area completely. As a parent, that is nothing short of frightening. You don’t want doors shut so early in life. And it reiterates the power of teaching and our need to really understand what works.

As communities build cradle to career partnerships, they often start by working around the edges of teaching in both the K-12 and higher education systems. They primarily focus on early childhood, out of school time and college access work. But as community leaders dig more and more into the data, they know they will need look at teaching to move the most critical dials at scale, such as early grade reading, middle grade math and high school graduation.

The good news is that we are seeing more of an interest in this as communities get used to using data as a flashlight instead of a hammer. In places like Phoenix, Arizona and Racine, Wisconsin, principals and teachers are actually asking for analysis of their work and its impact on outcomes. At the national level, I recently spoke with John Wright of the National Education Association (NEA) about their Empowering Educators work, an initiative encouraging teachers to use data in the classroom to personalize instruction. And I continue to be heartened by the work in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin where not only teachers, but students use data constantly to improve.

Across the Cradle to Career Network, our goal is to have five communities achieve “Proof Point” by 2018, meaning they will experience sustainable behavior change across all education stakeholders and see 60 percent of cradle to career education outcomes improving year after year. Our ability to reach this goal will in large part depend on our collective focus on the art of teaching.

We are seeing glimpses of the power using data to personalize learning will have in moving outcomes at scale. But perhaps more importantly, we can be confident that no doors will be shut too soon, and every child’s mind can be open to a world of possibility.


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Waterbury, CT cradle to career partnership releases first community report card

Tue, 2015-04-28 10:00

Bridge to Success Community Report Card

Waterbury, Connecticut parents, public schools, foundations, religious organizations, local government and social service agencies have come together to achieve a common goal – to ensure all youth succeed in school, work and life.

85 partners are working together toward this vision as part of Bridge to Success, Waterbury’s cradle to career partnership. And last week, Bridge to Success achieved a critical milestone for collective impact work – the release of a baseline community report card. Waterbury’s first cradle to career report card provides a transparent look at local child and youth data, broken out by gender, race/ethnicity and economic status. The report card also identifies disparities based on this data, prioritizes key areas of focus for the partnership, and highlights local action already happening to improve education results for kids.

What’s next now that community-wide education data has been published? Bridge to Success will hold a community forum on May 27th to discuss the data and determine next steps the community partners will take together.

“Hope has replaced frustration, by developing volunteers and creating unity in the community,” said Waterbury parent Rubis Collado in a press release about the report card launch. “When we hold hands together, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.”

Bridge to Success is an Emerging member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network. Follow Bridge to Success on Twitter @WaterburyBTS or on Facebook.


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Network in the News: Spartanburg Academic Movement, Thriving Together and StrivePartnership

Mon, 2015-04-27 09:31

 Spartanburg Academic Movement, Thriving Together and StrivePartnership

While horse-racing fans ready their extravagant hats for the Kentucky Derby this weekend, StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships have been creating inspiring change in their local communities: positively impacting local students, thinking outside-the-box and raising money for good educational causes.

And this week, there’s even a little pie involved.

Here’s last week’s news roundup:

  1. The Spartanburg Academic Movement and the greater Spartanburg County are seeing success in a local school district. District 7 has seen an increase in high school graduation rate and a decline in dropout rate. Based on its success, the superintendent introduced four new priorities to continue building on progress, which is featured in this article by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
  2. Thriving Together in Phoenix published an insightful opinion column in the Arizona Republic titled, Education’s a mess and here’s how we can fix it.
  3. StrivePartnership’s #ReadorPie challenge has raised roughly $2,000 for early childhood literacy throughout the past month, with more than 35 people contributing and more than 20 people taking pies in the face so far, as reported by this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Added Bonus: Watch the StriveTogether team ‘get pied’ for the #ReadorPie challenge.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, please send it along to We would love to share your work with our audiences and the entire Cradle to Career Network.

Read “Network in the News” every week for the latest local coverage of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships. Check out our previous blogs to keep up-to-date with all the latest updates:


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Network in the News: Milwaukee Succeeds, Thriving Together and Northfield Promise

Mon, 2015-04-20 20:00

 Milwaukee Succeeds, Thriving Together and Northfield Promise

The news spotlight seems to constantly hit local Cradle to Career Network partnerships. As our in-house PR person, I’m continually impressed by the news I see about the amazing collective impact work happening throughout the country.

As an effort to share this work and the great stories from throughout the Network, we are kicking off a new blog series: Network in the News!

Ok, so maybe it’s not the most creative name. But “Partnerships in the Newspapers” and “Cradle to Career Chronicles” didn’t seem quite right either. If you think of a more creative name, I’m open to suggestions.

Without further ado, the first installment of Network in the News!

Milwaukee Succeeds has a new executive director, Danae Davis. With a couple video interviews and multiple profile pieces, the local media is buzzing:

Thriving Together in Phoenix has been working with schools and other local organizations to tackle the achievement gap, which was featured in the Arizona Republic.

Northfield Promise in Northfield, Minn., published a great editorial in the Northfield News, titled “We can all play a role in supporting our youth.”

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, please pass it along to We would love to share your work with our audiences.

Read “Network in the News” every week for the latest local coverage of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Partnerships.


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Excellence with Equity

Thu, 2015-04-16 11:43

When we talk about equity, we leave out excellence and when we talk about excellence we leave out equity.

Yesterday, more than 50 Network members and community leaders attended StriveTogether’s “Role of Equity & Community in Systems Change” convening in Atlanta, Georgia. Equity is an integral part of collective impact. Implementing collective impact in a quality way means actively working to make systems more equitable and closing disparities in achievement.

Dr. Ron Ferguson of the Achievement Gap Initiative of Harvard University kicked off the day and emphasized this point with his concept of Excellence with Equity. He suggested that our goal is not (or should not be) to just get lower-performing students to perform at the same level as higher-performing students. Instead, our goal should be to have low-performing students and higher performing students both perform at higher levels than what they are now. Often, Dr. Ferguson suggests, when we talk about equity, we leave out excellence and when we talk about excellence we leave out equity. We need to find a way to achieve both if we really want to change our systems and see sustained improvement in our students’ outcomes.

This idea of excellence with equity was carried throughout the first day of the “Role of Equity & Community in Systems Change” convening as we dug in with facilitators Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz of E3: Education, Excellence, & Equity and Jarrod Schwartz of Just Communities for an interactive session focused on the “how” of equity. Three key equity areas were identified as barriers to moving towards action:

  1. Having difficult (and successful) conversations about equity
  2. Having a partnership that reflects the community (especially those the partnership is focused on serving)
  3. Disaggregating data to lead to effective and equitable strategies for improvement

Tools were provided and practiced for each issue area to ensure that partnerships are not just doing the work, they could do it with quality; with equity.

There is still a lot of work to do, both in local communities and nationally, to ensure that every child has a fair chance at success. A large piece of this work is changing the systems that perpetuate the low achievement and disparities in outcomes that we are currently seeing. Cradle to career partnerships are uniquely positioned to drive this shift in systems to not only ensure that disparity gaps close, but also that all students are achieving at high and acceptable levels. They are uniquely positioned to create systems that are excellent, with equity.


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Greater Cincinnati Education Report Card Shows Progress, But Significant Opportunity Gaps Exist

Wed, 2015-04-08 04:45

StrivePartnership 2015

Education success indicators like kindergarten readiness, fourth grade reading achievement and high school graduation are improving for students in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky. However, every child is not experiencing the same results.

The sixth annual community report card is out from StrivePartnership, the collective impact partnership in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky that has served as a model for similar cradle to career initiatives across the country. The 2015 report card highlights major progress across the region, with 91 percent of education indicators trending up. Highlights include:

  • Kindergarten readiness and early grade reading scores are up across all school districts. In particular, public school students in Covington and Newport, Kentucky have made major jumps in 3rd grade reading (17 and 13 points, respectively).
  • High school graduation and college completion have improved in all school districts. Cincinnati Public Schools has seen an eight-point jump since last year. College completion is up across all institutions for students from the urban core, though recent progress has slowed.

The StrivePartnership report card also showcases action happening across the region focused on improving education results. Stories highlight the community’s universal pre-school advocacy work, early literacy tutoring program, talent pipeline initiative and post-secondary attainment collaborative. The report card also highlights an elementary school in Covington, KY that has closed achievement gaps.

However, community-wide data identifies that a significant achievement gap exists across economic condition and race. Data disaggregated by race, gender and income shows that economically disadvantaged, black, and hispanic students are significantly behind their counterparts in key education benchmarks. The report also found there is a serious need for interventions to improve 8th grade math and ACT scores.

“Our partners have been working to improve key outcomes for our students, from school readiness rates to college completion, and they have made significant progress.” said StrivePartnership Executive Director Greg Landsman. “Yet the data are clear: too many kids are still being left behind, and income and race are driving factors. This must end, and a collective response to eliminating these inequities so that every child is succeeding is the clarion call of this report.”

Download the 2015 StrivePartnership Community Report Card

Read more about the StrivePartnership report card release from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Education for everyone: Report shows big gains, big gaps


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Phoenix rallies around cradle to career success for 250,000+ students

Wed, 2015-04-01 10:44

Thriving Together Cradle to Career Baseline Report Card

The Phoenix, Arizona community is coming together around a common vision: preparing over a quarter-million students for success in school and the workforce.

The Thriving Together cradle to career partnership, a member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Networkmade news this week in Arizona with the launch of it baseline report. A key milestone for all communities focused on cradle to career collective impact, Thriving Together’s baseline report outlines community goals and strategies, and provides data and insight on how the initiative will help young people improve their educational results and transition to a career.

Thriving Together connects more than 200 leaders from 60 local organizations, including higher education, social services, community groups, business and industry, government leaders and parents. The goal of the partnership is to bring together resources from across the community to improve key education milestones for students. Thriving Together will initially initially focus its efforts on improving results in 3rd grade reading, 8th grade math, high school graduation / college readiness, and college enrollment and attainment.

Download Thriving Together’s baseline report to learn more about cradle to career collective impact work in Phoenix!


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Communities Explore Cradle to Career Collective Impact

Fri, 2015-03-27 10:13

StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening March 24-25 Indianapolis, IN

Communities across the country are looking to cradle to career collective impact as a successful way to create a common vision and drive action to improve education results for every child.

Over 140 individuals from over 40 communities in the early stages of developing a cradle to career partnership traveled to Indianapolis, IN March 24-25, 2015 to learn strategies from StriveTogether staff and Cradle to Career Network members. Attendees discussed how to create a community wide visionuse data to define community-level metrics, engage investors, create a cross-sector leadership table and develop a baseline community report card. In addition, attendees received one-on-one coaching from Cradle to Career Network members and StriveTogether staff.

#ExploreWhatWorks: View our Storify roundup of social media posts from the 2015 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening:

[View the story "2015 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening" on Storify]


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Communities Making Sure “Our Kids” Means Every Child

Thu, 2015-03-26 09:37

Our Kids Means Every Child

In 2001, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam provided a wake-up call to the nation about dwindling civic engagement in Bowling Alone. Now he has released a new book that exposes a related, but even more devastating crisis: the vast and growing opportunity gap between rich and poor children. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis combines individual stories with rigorous evidence about changes in the economic and social landscape—trends that increasingly reserve upward mobility for those who are born into relative wealth.

At the heart of this chasm lies a pivotal indicator of future success: educational attainment. If you are born to parents who have a college education, you have a very good chance of graduating from college yourself. But if your parents didn’t make it past high school, statistically your fate has likely been sealed to that future as well. This was not always the case. In decades past, a high school diploma was a ticket to a decent job in manufacturing or other industries, and the children of those families had a good chance of going to college—indeed, it was the expectation of the times that children could do better than their parents. Today, sadly, that is far from a foregone conclusion.

The facts of growing opportunity and income gaps are not news. What is significant about Putnam’s new work is its focus on the dangers these gaps pose to America’s future. The economic impact of this state of affairs is increasingly unsustainable: Putnam cites estimated costs of child poverty at $500 billion annually—a number that will only grow if the income and opportunity gaps continue to widen.

Perhaps even more important, he puts at the center the moral imperative to view all children as our kids. Putnam writes that when he was growing up, when his parents talked about “our kids” they meant all of the kids in their town. Not our offspring, our kids—all of the children in the community. While there is much to be learned from Putnam’s book, I believe this may be its most transformative contribution.

This shift toward seeing all children as our kids is at the heart of StriveTogether’s cradle to career collective impact work. It is the inspiration for building cross-sector partnerships that create accountability and mutual responsibility for the success of every child.

Today our communities suffer from an epidemic of distrust that undermines change. One student Putnam’s research team interviewed, Mary Sue, captured her sense that people in general are not looking out for her best interest by simply stating, “Love gets you hurt. Trust gets you killed.” She has learned in her life that trusting others to look out for her only leads to harmful outcomes.

The lack of trust is most pronounced in low-income communities, but it transcends all sectors and segments of society. We’ve seen distrust derail progress so many times that we’ve adopted the mantra raised by leaders in Milwaukee who observed, “Partnerships move at the speed of trust.” Cradle to career collective impact requires adults to model trust in one another, to transform how we work together and to prioritize what is best for children above all else in decision making.

The 61 communities in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network are further testing their ability to trust one another by putting equity at the center of their work, tackling pervasive disparities and the root causes of inequitable outcomes. In Dallas, having brought robust data and expertise to the table, and scaling proven interventions, The Commit! Partnership is seeing a significant increase in third-grade reading proficiency, regardless of socioeconomic status. And in Portland, Oregon, partners in All Hands Raised focuses on specific actions to eliminate high school graduation rate disparities. The results? An unprecedented five-point reduction in the graduation gap for students of color.

Every single member of the Network would note we have a long way to go. But the success stories help build the trust needed to show we can as communities work differently to achieve better outcomes for kids. And along with building trust, these communities have made that fundamental shift toward mutual responsibility for every child’s success, anchored in the moral imperative that all children are our kids.


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Albany Shares Collective Impact Lessons with New Cradle to Career Partnerships at Exploring Communities Convening

Wed, 2015-03-25 11:49

StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening

The Albany, New York, community had a vision for a different education system and a brighter future for local kids. With Albany Promise cradle to career partnership and the support of committed local leaders like Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Mark Bobb-Semple of Urban Arts Experience, change is happening.

Mayor Sheehan and Mark traveled from Albany to Indianapolis this week for the StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening to share insights from Albany Promise with early-stage cradle to career partnerships from across the country.

“We have an entire system that is failing,” Mayor Sheehan said during a panel discussion on creating a community-wide vision. “We all have to own our piece and take collective responsibility.”

When the collective impact work in Albany first kicked off, leaders focused first on bringing everyone whose work impacted youth to the table, Mayor Sheehan said. “We celebrated what they were doing and talked about where they fit on the cradle to career continuum.” Once everyone was at the table, then Albany Promise started talking about how to improve results for kids through collective impact.

Today, according to Mayor Sheehan, when the City of Albany looks at funding different entities, it now considers cradle to career criteria. The city asks if the entity is involved in the Albany Promise partnership, if they are sharing data, and if they have considered how they can be a part of the collective impact initiative. From early childhood to college readiness, the entire community is starting to own their piece and is seeing results. The community now has a standard kindergarten readiness assessment and a teacher training package that is leading to improved results for the youngest Albany kids. And, a new community-wide college prep day resulted in increased SAT participation from 53 to 82 percent.

Though these improvements may not seem very dramatic, members of Albany Promise know that small improvement is needed to move a bigger outcome, such as kindergarten readiness or post-secondary enrollment. The partnership has also learned that, by sharing small successes with the community, it can build momentum and keep people engaged in the collective impact process.

“The dial didn’t move for over 20 years in Albany,” Mark said during the panel discussion. “Now it has moved and we had to celebrate it. It’s only going to get better.”


Over 140 individuals from over 40 communities joined the StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening this week. Throughout the convening, attendees were able to learn strategies from StriveTogether staff and Cradle to Career Network representatives from Albany Promise, Higher Expectations for Racine Youth, Impact Tulsa, Milwaukee Succeeds, Raise DC and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.

Creating a community-wide vision was just one of several core collective impact strategies discussed in Indianapolis. Sessions also explored how to agree on community-level metrics, build accountability structures, create a cross-sector leadership table, develop a baseline report card and engage investors. In addition, attendees received one-on-one coaching from Cradle to Career Network members and StriveTogether staff.

We are grateful for the Cradle to Career Network members who took the time to share their knowledge and experiences at the Exploring Communities Convening and on a regular basis. Together, each community is helping to build momentum nationwide to improve education outcomes for every child.


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New Report Cards Unite Communities & Showcase Successes

Mon, 2015-03-16 13:12

Norwalk ACTS is one of a dozen Cradle to Career Network members with a new report card out this quarter

Releasing a community-wide report card is an essential step to kick-start conversations and get people involved in cradle to career partnership work. By combining student outcome data with an open report about the state of the community’s education system, community report cards help collective impact partnerships celebrate success, illuminate priorities and drive people to take action together.

During the last few months, over a dozen StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members have released new community report cards with data from the 2013-2014 school year. Some of these are baseline reports to educate community members on how kids are doing and goals the entire community will work to achieve. Others are the community’s second or even third report card, providing updates on progress toward goals.

While each of these publications tells a unique story, we see encouraging common approaches and promising results across the Network.

Cradle to career partnerships are reporting on results, and being transparent with data and progress toward goals. They are informing their communities about action that is showing promise, celebrating successes and sharing best practices. And, they are sharing stories of impact, instead of just charts and graphs.

Of the communities who have released more than one report card, we are also seeing encouraging results for kids, including decreases in opportunity gaps and increases in kindergarten readiness, reading proficiency, high school graduation rates and post-secondary enrollment and completion stats.

Check out these great examples of data-driven collective impact partnerships driving change across the country:


90% by 2020 Anchorage United for Youth | Anchorage, AK


The Albany Promise | Albany, NY


All Hands Raised | Portland, OR


Boston Opportunity Agenda | Boston, MA


The Commit! Partnership | Dallas, TX


Fresno Area Strive | Fresno, CA


Graduate Tacoma | Tacoma, WA


Mission: Graduate | Albuquerque, NM


Norwalk ACTS | Norwalk, CT


The Roadmap Project | Seattle, WA


Thrive Santa Barbara | Santa Barbara, CA


Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative | Charleston, SC


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Leaders Can Pave the Way for Effective Student Data Sharing

Wed, 2015-03-11 20:00

Decision makers, not data people, get information moving. And they do it when it’s in their own best interest.

This blog is part of a series on seven principles of effective data sharing, including contributions from StriveTogether’s Geoff Zimmerman and the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) Chris Kingsley. Read Chris Kingsley’s introductory post on DQC’s blog.

When the leadership table was formed for 90% by 2020: Anchorage United for Youth, cradle to career partnership staff quickly realized how valuable this cross-sector group of leaders can be. They learned that this powerful group of leaders can help pave the way data utilization and community-wide commitment to improving education outcomes.

90% by 2020 launched Anchorage’s first community report card last fall. In a recent interview about this key milestone, Senior Director of Education Impact Kameron Perez Verdia told us he learned about a successful approach to community conversations from a local CEO on their leadership team. “His main takeaway was that we need to make it about them and not about us,” Kameron said. “How does this work impact you as a small business owner? How does this work impact you as a parent? How does this work impact you as a teacher or construction worker? He was really thinking about taking the key messages around outcomes and data and utilization of community resources, and making these conversations about the key people he was talking to. That’s where it becomes really powerful.”

Conversations around student data can be extremely challenging. And, many community organizations are unsure how to even begin to develop data sharing partnerships across organizational boundaries. When schools and local community organizations effectively share data, schools can better understand which community partners are serving students and help to align partners and resources. And community organizations have better information on the kids they are serving, which can help improve programming.

StriveTogether and the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) recently released Data Drives School-Community Collaboration: Seven Principles for Effective Data Sharing, a new resource to help communities implement complex data partnerships. A data sharing playbook for community partnerships, this resource contains seven key lessons about how to begin and grow a data-driven initiative with schools and other community partners. It also includes several case examples and resources to help guide communities.

Pave the way with leaders and decision makers is first principle for effective data sharing in the playbook. Decision makers, not data people, get information moving. And they do it when it’s in their own best interest.

Leaders involved in data sharing need to advocate for the use of data for continuous improvement, and for the legality, urgency and value of data sharing for the partnership. And to get there, just like the CEO in Anchorage did, each community needs to build these partnerships by understanding what’s in it for each of them.

It’s in this spirit that we need to pave the way with leaders and decision makers to create the structures for sustained data sharing across sectors. Sustained data sharing is the only way that communities will be able to know what practices are leading to improved outcomes so they can align existing resources to practices that are getting results.

Engaging Key Sectors - What  it in it for them?


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Moving Toward Big Results in Education with Data and Continuous Improvement

Wed, 2015-03-11 20:00

Big Results in Education with Data and Continuous Improvement

They’re doing something right in Portland, Oregon. In just three years, the graduation gap for students of color has gone from 14.3% to 9.5%. And in several large high schools, the gap is gone. How you ask? By paying attention to local data and moving toward what works.

Lisbeth Schorr of the Center for the Study of Social Policy and Anthony Bryk of the Carnegie Foundation recently published a blog on Huffington Post called, “To Achieve Big Results From Social Policy, Add This,” and my inbox immediately filled up with messages celebrating their message. Schorr and Bryk said:

“There is enormous variability in the impact of social interventions across different populations, different organizational contexts, and different community settings. We must learn not only whether an intervention can work (which is what randomized control trials tell us), but how, why, and for whom – and also how we can do better.”

The work of All Hands Raised in Portland, OR is a great example of how cradle to career partnerships across the country are doing this today – using real-time, evidence based learning to continuously improve both interventions and outcomes.

All Hands Raised made racial equity in education its main goal. Through a powerful process and courageous conversations about achievement gaps, this community is moving toward proven practices based on what the data shows them. When data showed that chronic absenteeism hurt early grade reading outcomes, partners in Portland, OR focused their attention on practices that would increase attendance. With this and other effective data-driven strategies, Portland has begun to steadily chip away at the achievement gap it seeks to eliminate.

Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated use of data in these communities, every day we are seeing new signs of student impact like this. And, we’re learning how to help partnerships expedite progress.

Early access to both programmatic and student outcome data can effectively pinpoint what leads to better outcomes. And, communities can go much farther if they start by building trust that data will be used as a flashlight, not a hammer.

Real change can happen when communities come together, focus on data and build on what really works for kids. We’ll continue to learn from these experiences to develop social interventions that focus resources on what works. With these lessons, we’re in a strong position to make the case for those efforts, and to truly move the dial on our children’s future.


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StriveTogether Signs on to National Student Data Privacy Principles

Mon, 2015-03-09 20:00

Student data privacy principles

Effective data use provides critical information communities need to personalize education for every child. Cradle to career partnerships, place-based initiatives and school districts all across the country are finding ways to do this every day, and are working hard to make sure every child has access to the right resources to help them succeed. This work requires a commitment to share data across organizational boundaries, while making sure the privacy rights of individuals are respected.

Today, the Data Quality Campaign and Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) are launching Principles for Using and Safeguarding Students’ Personal Information, a first-ever effort by major national education associations to articulate commonly held principles that should guide the use and protections of student information.

Developed in partnership with leading national education organizations representing parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, state boards of education, chief technology officers and many others, these principles are intended to articulate the education community’s core beliefs and a commitment to building transparency and trust. They emphasize safeguarding data requires more than just compliance with the law. It requires building a culture of privacy at all levels.

StriveTogether is one of many leading national educational organizations to sign on to these student data principles. We believe that committing to these principles will enable the effective use of data at scale to improve results for all students.

These principles, focused at the school district level, are very much aligned with the Student Data Privacy Best Practices StriveTogether released last month for community-based organizations and cradle to career partnerships.

We applaud the Data Quality Campaign, CoSN and all educational organizations that are committed to protecting privacy and using data to ensure we collectively support each child with the right resources, from cradle to career.


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