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Two National Networks Working to Improve Early Grade Reading

Mon, 2015-11-23 15:20

Campaign for Early Grade Reading Innovation Brief

Every year, over 80 percent of low-income students in America are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. And studies show that if children are behind by third grade, they generally stay behind throughout school. Students who do not read at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.

By 2020, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading hopes that at least a dozen states will see better results. Their goal is to increase the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently at the end of third grade by at least 100 percent.

With early grade reading as one of the six critical education outcomes StriveTogether helps communities improve, this is a goal we can get behind. And StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are doing just that.

Earlier this month, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading released an Innovation Brief highlighting how three StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities are working to improve grade level reading through collective impact. These three communities – Portland ConnectED in Portland, Maine, Learn to Earn in Dayton, Ohio, and Graduate! Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington – are just a few of the 26 StriveTogether Network communities who are also part of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network.

In the report, StriveTogether Sr. Director of Strategy and Operations Jennifer Blatz says: “We encourage our partnerships to connect with the Campaign’s network because it offers some of the most proven and promising solutions to the challenges and barriers to reaching reading proficiency, which is at the front-end of StriveTogether’s cradle to career continuum.”

The report also notes where Campaign for Grade Level Reading sees value in working in communities that are part of the StriveTogether Network.

“We see particular strength in Campaign communities that have blended, linked and braided together a focus on the milestone of reading success by the end of the third grade and StriveTogether’s cradle to career focus, community partnerships and collective impact approach,” says Ron Fairchild, director of the Campaign’s Network Communities Support Center (NCSC).

Read more about early grade reading efforts in Portland, Maine, Dayton, Ohio and Tacoma, Washington: Innovation Brief: Partnering with StriveTogether


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#AEW2015: Celebrating those who help communities get better at supporting every child

Wed, 2015-11-18 12:04

Photo of Dan Ryan, Cate Joyce, Roberto Jara and Juliette Price

Teachers, librarians, principals, parent volunteers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, afterschool program leaders, guidance counselors – the list of individuals whose daily mission is to help our children along their educational path goes on and on. And they’re not alone – community leaders, non-profit organizations, philanthropists and local businesses all have roles to play to ensure every child has what he or she needs to be successful.

This week, we join with public school systems and communities across the country to celebrate American Education Week and honor the individuals who work with our children every day. And we especially want to thank the individuals whose mission is to help bring the community together, illuminate sometimes alarming achievement gap data, and champion education equity day in and day out.

These individuals are people like Dan Ryan, executive director of All Hands Raised in Portland, Oregon and longest serving executive director across our entire Cradle to Career Network.  StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson says Dan shows great perseverance. “This work can wear you down and he keeps pushing for the use of data to improve outcomes every day.”

Or Cate Joyce, director of continuous improvement for Seeding Success in Memphis, Tennessee. Cate is leading some amazing work to build out a tool to collect the summer reading program attendance data. This data will be used to measure the impact of student interventions designed to improve reading proficiency scores.

Or Roberto Jara, executive director of Destination Education in Holland, Michigan who is building a new community-wide focus on closing achievement gaps and making education success a reality for all local students.

And Juliette Price, executive director of the Albany Promise, who works with community partners and school district staff to implement real practice and policy change to ensure that every Albany, New York child succeeds. “Her leadership has begun to help close the disparity gaps,” says StriveTogether’s Teri O’Brien. “And through the use of data and continuous improvement, her tenacity is strengthening the collective impact efforts in Albany.”

While these people may not be sitting beside a student every day, they are working beside each adult, program and organization that is. With these individuals and thousands more who work across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, our education system has even more support outside the school walls working to get better and better at supporting the education success of every child.


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Newest StriveTogether Network Member Tackles Achievement Gaps in Holland, Michigan

Wed, 2015-11-18 08:57

Destination Education is an Emerging member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network

An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” The road we have ahead of us for truly fulfilling our creed of “every child, cradle to career” is a long journey that requires us to work together. Individuals like Roberto Jara across the country show us that it is possible.

At the March 2015 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening, we chatted with Roberto Jara about how the Holland/Zeeland, Michigan community is coming together to close achievement gaps and improve results for all students. Jara is the Executive Director of Destination Education, a newly formed cradle to career partnership that is leading the charge.

Destination Education, the newest member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, works to make completion of post-secondary education an achievable reality for every student in the greater Holland/Zeeland area. They are particularly focused on low-income students, students of color and students who will be first in their families to attain a degree or credential. To do this, they are bringing together K-12 school districts, higher education partners, non-profit organizations, businesses, philanthropists and local government.

By the time they reach 8th grade, only 36 percent of students in the Holland/Zeeland, Michigan area are proficient in mathematics. The stats are more alarming when you disaggregate them: 46 percent of Caucasian students, 13 percent of Hispanic and only 3 percent of African American students are proficient in math by the time they reach 8th grade.

Like anyone leading a collective impact initiative, Jara knows how important it is to have diverse perspectives at the table and how hard it can be to get people together. But according to Jara, one of the best ways to get people engaged is through data. “Now that we have the data of which students need to reach proficiency,” Jara said, ”we know exactly what they need to do to become proficient.”

Now that Destination Education is part of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, Jara and his team can make connections and share knowledge with communities across the country doing similar work. Moreover, they will have resources and materials to accelerate progress toward their mission.

“Throughout my whole career I have really relied on people who are colleagues and mentors – people who are doing the same work,” said Jara. “I know I need their help to do the work necessary to close the achievement and attainment gaps we are addressing.”

Destination Education is the 65th member of the nationwide StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network. Together, the Network impacts more than 8.2 million students nationwide.

An infographic showing the Cradle to Career Network's presence in 65 community partnerships, 32 states, and 9,750+  organizations engaged.


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There is Purpose in the Planning

Thu, 2015-10-29 09:18

Post image for There is Purpose in the Planning

It’s hard to believe the 2015 Cradle to Career Network Convening has already come and gone!  It takes close to a year of planning to put on a three-day event for nearly 400 people from more than 60 cradle to career partnerships around the country who are coming together to make the mission of success for every child possible. And then it seems to be over in the blink of an eye.

In my role as Senior Manager, Network Events for StriveTogether I make the mission possible by coordinating events like this that provide Network members the opportunity to share their work, connect with others and build their knowledge.

Our annual Cradle to Career Network Convening is a unique opportunity to bring together the many agents of transformational change  working on the ground every day to ensure education success for every child, cradle to career.  It’s an intense job and the National Convening provides a space to take a step back and reflect on all that has been accomplished in the last year, to give Network members a chance to connect with their peers, to allow everyone to reenergize and take lessons back to their community.

The heart of the Cradle to Career Network Convening is our members, and my focus is on putting together an event that provides an incredible atmosphere for them. I believe the mission is possible because the Cradle to Career Network is made up of agents of change from across the country who ARE improving educational outcomes for children. Network members are passionate, dedicated, disruptors of the status quo working to create systems change. Through their efforts the system WILL change and every child will have the opportunity to experience success from cradle to career.

In reflecting on the fourth Cradle to Career Network Convening that I have planned, there have been many lessons learned along the journey. Each year builds on the one before. Being an event planner was not the path I envisioned myself taking; I focused my education on and started my career in the communications field. What was missing for me was the feeling of fulfillment at the end of the day, the chance to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. I took a leap of faith in starting on a new a path at StriveTogether, but being in a supportive environment where failing forward is encouraged has provided me with a safe space to grow.

My experience at StriveTogether reminds me of how important it is for children to be supported, encouraged and mentored throughout their educational journey from cradle to career. In times of struggle and self-doubt, having just one person to lift them up can be the difference between falling through the cracks and achieving success. When this work feels overwhelming, members of the Cradle to Career Network are able to lift each other up and remember that the mission is possible.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to simply be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Being in this role helps me to live with purpose, and believing in this mission gives me purpose.

There is power in bringing people together around the common goal of creating systems change in education; there is an indescribable energy that fills the room. I’m looking forward to the 2016 Cradle to Career Network Convening in Memphis!









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Our Mission is Possible – 2015 Convening Recap

Thu, 2015-10-15 17:29

Post image for Our Mission is Possible – 2015 Convening Recap

It’s the week after our National Cradle to Career Convening here at StriveTogether and our team is excited for what’s to come over the next year. We welcomed more than 370 agents of transformational change, representing 60 amazing cradle to career partnerships, to the beautiful city of Minneapolis for three days of networking, group problem solving, sharing of stories, best practices and overall getting better together.

Once we recover from all of the convening excitement, we will take a deep dive into everything we learned and heard. We’ll comb through the session evaluations to think about how we can improve for next year, pull together the insights we gathered from workshops to help shape potential resources and tools for the Network, debrief the many individual conversations we’ve had with Network members about what’s happening in their communities and think about how to lift up their stories.

The Convening is a time to come together to celebrate both small and big wins for communities and commiserate about how this work really is hard. We use it as a time to encourage one another to stay the course and share examples of how our mission really is possible. My guess is that for many of you who attended last week’s Convening, who are reading this blog right now, you might be experiencing some of your own Post-Convening withdrawals. So to help you cope (and to help those who weren’t able to join us last week), I’ve prepared a list of a few convening highlights to make you feel as if you are right back amongst all of your people:

1. Jeff Edmondson, Managing Director of StriveTogether, kicked off the Convening and helped set the stage by reminding us of the irony of collective impact in our work to truly change systems. He shared that to get to impact, it’s less about collective action and more about individuals and organizations changing their individual behaviors.

Jeff–we are with you in loving the Strive theory of action. #impactagent @StriveTogether C2C

— Karen Woodward (@KarenWoodward24) October 8, 2015

2. Next R.T. Rybak and the team from Generation Next shared the incredible work they are doing related to assessing and improving students’ social emotional learning in their efforts to close the achievement gap. Eric Moore of Minneapolis Public Schools shared that “the greatest lever for driving improvement is to provide students feedback on their work and progress.” Speaking of narrowing the gap, R.T. Rybak reminded us there are ‘no silver bullets’ and that closing the achievement gap is like baking a cake and will require a ‘recipe for success.

RT and GenNext







3. Later in the day, we heard from Glenn Singleton of Pacific Educational Group, who encouraged us to engage in conversations where we reflect on how race impacts us as an individual. He talked about how race is a part of all of our lives, and though impacts us differently, influences how we view the world and behave. He warned us that not talking about and dealing with race solidifies generational poverty. He expressed that we can’t go forward being peacemakers but we must be risk takers for if not, true change will not come.

Race has been the elephant in the room. #impactagent #racematters

— StriveTogether (@StriveTogether) October 8, 2015

4. On day two, we were joined by Dan Heath, who talked about how hard it is for people to actually change. He showed us examples of how ‘knowing’  is different than ‘feeling’ and that having information alone is not enough to make a change. He motivated us by showing concrete examples of how some of our own Network member partnerships are encouraging others to act differently and showed us that behavior is contagious. He told us to look for bright spots. He cautioned that big change rarely starts big. It starts small and snowballs. He also explained that what looks like resistance to change is often lack of clarity. the rider, 2. Motivate the elephant, 3. shape the path. #DanHeath #impactagent

— Mission: Graduate (@MissionGraduate) October 9, 2015

5. To close out our event, we were joined by a panel of cradle to career partnerships working to change systems one practice at a time. Facilitated by the incredible, Pat Greco, Superintendent of Menomonee Falls, the panel included representatives from the StrivePartnership (Cincinnati, OH), Graduate Tacoma (Tacoma, WA), and the Road Map Project (Seattle, WA). Stephanie Byrd of Success by Six Cincinnati who shared how learning circles are changing and improving early childhood practices in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Eric Wilson and Amanda Scott Thomas, of Graduate Tacoma , discussed the innovative practices that have resulted in a 23 percentage point increase in high school graduation rates in Tacoma, WA. And Mary Jean Ryan, of the Road Map Project,  put on a hard hat to demonstrate how hard this work to change practices and talked about the improvement they’re seeing as it relates to post-secondary enrollment in South King County.


“Change happens at the speed of trust.” #impactagent #StriveTogether #collaborativeaction #AchieveBrownCounty

Posted by Achieve Brown County on Friday, October 9, 2015

These highlights were from the plenary sessions alone. We were in awe of the knowledge exchange occurring in every single breakout room, during the receptions, in the elevators (or stairwells) and every space in between. Throughout those three days together, I think that each and every one could see that the mission really is possible, that we are surrounded by agents of transformational change and that we will win!

Looking forward to next year in Memphis and all that’s in between.

#impactagent: Read our Storify roundup of social media posts from the 2015 Cradle to Career Network Convening.



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There is power in numbers

Wed, 2015-10-14 11:34

Post image for There is power in numbers

This post is co-authored by Michael McAfee, Vice President for Programs and Director Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink, and Jeff Edmondson, Managing Director of StriveTogether.

“There is power in numbers.” – Sondra Samuels, Northside Achievement Zone

Sondra’s quote pretty much captures the primary driver of all the work Promise Neighborhoods and StriveTogether has been advocating for locally and nationally. Recently, leaders across Minnesota came together and showed how this can be true at the state level as well. The outcome, an unprecedented investment by the Minnesota legislature in the central infrastructure needed for partners across a community to have the information they need to make more informed investments to improve outcomes at scale.  As a result, these communities will be better able to ensure that more children are growing up healthy, succeeding in school, and obtaining employment that enables them to support their families.

Photo of Jeff Edmondson of StriveTogether and Michael McAfee of Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLinkA few years back we teamed up to write a thought piece on how Promise Neighborhoods and city or regional StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships can come together to have greater impact. And it has now happened in Minnesota. The leaders of two Promise Neighborhood efforts in the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul came together with leaders of regional partnerships in more rural corners of the state – Northfield, Red Wing, and St. Cloud – to advocate collectively in ways we could not have imagined.

In a time of great fiscal constraint, the partnerships were able to build their case for investment in their results-based and data-driven efforts to improve the educational and developmental outcomes for children. The state legislators from across the political spectrum saw the potential and value of empowering communities to identify and build on their successes and more intentionally work to close gaps in educational and employment outcomes. And they saw this because a core set of leaders from drastically different communities saw the importance and value of working together to ensure results for more than 78,000 students. They saw power in numbers, and we can all learn from their example.

Quote from Jeff Edmondson & Michael McAfeeWe encourage government leaders at the city, county and state levels to follow the lead of the Minnesota legislature and invest in partnerships that are supporting our children at every developmental stage from cradle to career. Over the years we’ve learned what works; and implementing cradle to career solutions is the work for us to be doing right now. If you are interested in learning how to build and invest in these innovative solutions, please use our Theory of Action and/or Developmental Pathway tools as guides. Minnesota, we applaud your leadership! Let’s use their example as a catalyst for making smarter investments in our children’s future across America.


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Impact agents working for every child

Thu, 2015-10-08 18:49

Post image for Impact agents working for every child

“Our work is a mission. Our work is possible.”

This morning, R.T. Rybak welcomed over 60 communities to Minneapolis, Minn. for the sixth annual StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network convening, themed “Mission: Possible – Agents of Transformational Change.”

“Look to the people next to you,” said the former mayor of Minneapolis and executive director of Generation Next, the Minneapolis / St. Paul cradle to career partnership. “And tell each other, ‘You are a hero; and we are going to win.’”

At that moment, over 350 educators, elected officials, community leaders, business executives, nonprofit professionals and policymakers looked at each other and repeated those words.

While they may not all feel like heroes, there is no question that everyone gathered here in Minneapolis believes that they will close achievement gaps, drive real change in their local education systems, and help every child have the opportunity to succeed. They believe the mission is possible. And each of them – and their partners back home – are doing what it takes every day to make it happen.

They’re tackling persistent inequality and having courageous conversations about race. They’re using data to identify programs that work, and to stop doing what isn’t working. They’re learning continuous improvement methods and implementing tests of change and using data to decide what to do next. They’re engaging voices from across the community, and driving people to stop doing the same thing they have always done the same way they have always done it.

@ThrivingAZ team in full force at @StriveTogether @ChicAngry @LawrenceFromPhx @anelmercado #impactagent #educhamps

— Thriving Together (@ThrivingAZ) October 8, 2015

And, they’re here this week to get better at it – learning from one another, sharing stories and uncovering new strategies to take back to their communities. Last night at the opening reception, we heard stories from three Minneapolis / St. Paul college students who participated in Step-Up, a local internship program engaged with the GenerationNext cradle to career partnership. During her story about how the Step-Up program impacted her life, Ra’Wi Mahamud, whose parents immigrated to Minneapolis from Somalia, spoke about how the people she worked with during her internship even learned a lot from her. “We can all grow and gain knowledge, no matter how successful we are,” she said. These students are powerful examples of the results that can be achieved and why we need to keep learning and getting better.

“We can all grow and gain knowledge regardless of how successful we are.” #stepup #mpls #impactagent — StriveTogether (@StriveTogether) October 8, 2015


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Mission Possible! Getting One Step Closer To Every Child Reading On Grade-Level

Tue, 2015-10-06 13:56

Post image for Mission Possible! Getting One Step Closer To Every Child Reading On Grade-Level

Guest Post by Nia Baucke, Community Impact Manager for StrivePartnership

With a little over half of Cincinnati’s children reading on grade level by the end of third grade, StrivePartnership knows that early education matters. The numbers are staggering—students who are not reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who are. The problem is even greater for low-income students, who are 13 to 17 times less likely to graduate high school if they cannot read successfully by the end of 3rd grade.

So where to start on this seemingly impossible mission to get all children reading on grade-level? For our partners, it’s at the doorstep of children zero to five.

Through the collaboration of our education, health, and philanthropic partners, we’re building personal libraries for children all across our city. Two nationally proven programs, Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read, have combined for the first time to make this possible. Currently, over 1,600 children (in only two months) have signed up to receive a free book every month from birth to age five, right at their doorstep.

So how did we make this happen?

It started with a unique vision for a new kind of venture philanthropy fund that could dramatically change outcomes for children and transform traditional philanthropy—Every Child Capital (ECC).  With more than $4 million committed to date, ECC focuses entirely on early literacy in the Greater Cincinnati area. ECC applies a venture capital lens to philanthropic grant investments, sources deals, innovates on what is proven to work, and defines a “transition strategy” that includes public dollars to test, scale and sustain effective programs.

This combination of Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read is the first grant investment of Every Child Capital and was accomplished by:

  • Placing Children at the Center: On average, low-income families across the country have only two or fewer age-appropriate books in their residence.  Ensuring that children have access to books is an essential piece in encouraging a love of reading at home and ultimately increasing the number of children who are ready for kindergarten.
  • Collaboration and Innovation: ECC discovered Imagination Library after scanning hundreds of early literacy interventions and best practices, worked with local partners to ensure the feasibility of bringing the program to Cincinnati, and innovated on the Imagination Library program by combining with Reach Out and Read. Health and education partner, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, agreed to lead implementation of the program since it sees almost 90 percent of the eligible children.
  • Ensuring Sustainable Outcomes:  The big win for Every Child Capital is to begin directing more of our public and private dollars to what works. Because of the enormous savings and benefits to the district and its students, Cincinnati Public Schools has agreed to assume the investment in this program after three years if key outcomes are met.

The development and funding of this program for children in our city highlights the true value of collaboration. Together, our partners have secured a new and unique way to ensure those children most in need have books in their home and are better prepared for school. No one program alone will help us reach our ultimate mission of every child reading at grade level by 3rd grade, but we believe that with dedicated partners and a continued willingness to collaborate, innovate, and identify equitable strategies, we will be able to accomplish our mission.

On October 7-9  StrivePartnership and other cradle to career partnerships from across the country will come together in Minneapolis for the Mission: Possible – Agents of Transformational Change, the 2015 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening. Follow #impactagent on Twitter and join the conversation!



Nia serves as Community Impact Manager for the StrivePartnership where she manages communications and community engagement, ultimately sharing the message of supporting every child, every step of the way, cradle to career in the Urban Core of Greater Cincinnati. In addition to communications and engagement, Nia also advances the Partnership’s efforts to increase academic outcomes for all children by identifying and supporting equitable strategies.  


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Sustaining Progress Toward Our Mission

Fri, 2015-10-02 13:17

Post image for Sustaining Progress Toward Our Mission

Guest Post by Laurie Wingate is Executive Director for Raise DC

Raise DC  is on mission to provide all children and youth in Washington, D.C., with opportunities to succeed from cradle to career. To do this, we’re bringing cross-sector partners together around a shared vision, using data as a flashlight, identifying best practices and aligning community resources to fill gaps and spread what works

Raise DC is focused on achieving five high-level education and workforce goals, and StriveTogether’s Theory of Action has been an essential tool to guide that focus and grow the partnership. We have found particular success in several of the Theory of Action’s collective impact benchmarks, and we have recently become a StriveTogether “Sustaining” partnership. This designation recognizes the progress we have made toward ensuring cradle to career success for all Washington, D.C., children and youth. Moving into the Sustaining gateway of the Theory of Action means that we are one step closer to achieving our mission.

Some recent successes are great examples of how agents of change across Washington, D.C., are working every day to make this mission possible:

Community Progress

The recently released Raise DC Progress Report has been a galvanizing effort—not only in the data presented, but also in its creation as a piece of collateral exemplifying our work. Our Data Committee, which includes representatives from more than 25 organizations, provided both the data and the feedback on how to present the numbers in a clear, cohesive way. Through a concerted outreach effort, our five Change Networks, each tied to one of our high-level goals, shaped a compelling narrative to accompany the data. The final Progress Report—our first look at improvement over the baseline report card—serves to hold the city as a whole accountable for the success of D.C.’s youth throughout the cradle-to-career continuum. As we move forward, Raise DC intends to use continuous improvement to refine processes that lead to more robust data collection.

Opportunity/Barrier Identification & Action

As with all successful collective impact efforts, barriers must be appropriately addressed. After both our Disconnected Youth and Youth Employment Change Networks identified a lack of affordable transportation as an issue, the networks collaborated with our partner, DC Alliance for Youth Advocates, to push for expanded public transit subsidies for the District youth. This coalition has seen success in growing from only bus service to include Metro rail and is working to extend the times and age range of free rides to accommodate the needs of unique populations.

In response to the barrier of adequately reaching disconnected youth and providing them with the right range of services, cross-sector support emerged for a one-stop site to serve this population. Raise DC partners collaborated to launch D.C.’s ReEngagement Center in October 2014, which has since provided hundreds of out-of-school youth with opportunities to enroll in educational programs and connect to wraparound services, such as childcare options, employment opportunities, and access to public services. The ReEngagement Center has garnered support from groups throughout the city, including government agencies, corporations, community-based organizations, and D.C.’s police force.

We’ve also seen opportunities to reengage youth through post-secondary education options. Our Youth Employment, College and Credential Completion, and Disconnected Youth Change Networks have united (through funding from Lumina Foundation) to increase the number of disconnected youth who continue to post-secondary work after attaining GEDs. Through a shared vision and support structure, these networks build stronger bridges between service providers and postsecondary institutions to improve the culture of postsecondary attendance and better assist GED earners in their next education endeavors.

Moving Forward

As we continue building our capacity as a “Sustaining” partnership, we look forward to refining and improving the indicators we track to hone in on the most informative data. By shining a light on areas of impact, we can align actions and connect resources to ensure the success of all D.C. youth.

Raise DC and other cradle to career partnerships from across the country will come together in Minneapolis on October 7-9 for the Mission: Possible – Agents of Transformational Change, the 2015 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening. Follow #impactagent on social media and join the conversation!


Laurie Wingate_200

Laurie Wingate is Executive Director for Raise DC, a cross-sector partnership focused on improving the lives of Washington, D.C. children and youth through five high-level education and workforce goals: kindergarten readiness, high school graduation, reconnection of youth to education and/or training, completion of college or credential, and youth employment. Raise DC is a StriveTogether “Sustaining” partner.


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San Antonio Kids Attend to Win

Tue, 2015-09-29 17:22

Post image for San Antonio Kids Attend to Win

Guest Post by Jessica Castañon Maurer, Director of Community Partnerships, P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County

Earlier this summer, P16Plus and the Nancy Smith Hurd Foundation recognized elementary students who have shown the biggest improvement in attendance as a part of the San Antonio Kids Attend to Win initiative. SA Kids Attend to Win is an initiative focused on improving daily school attendance to ensure students are kindergarten ready, reading on grade level by third grade, graduate on time and are prepared to succeed in college and career.

Joseph, a Morrill Elementary School student, is one example of how we hope to help students across San Antonio. Joseph and his family were evicted from their home and were forced to find housing in the middle of the school year. This sudden change made it hard for Joseph to make it to school. “The impact of being late or not going to school had a huge effect on his grades,” said Joseph’s mother, Jessica.

Through SA Kids Attend to Win, teachers, school administrators, and Joseph’s parents investigated the root causes of his absences, which were causing his grades to fall behind. Instead of a punitive approach, the staff rewarded Joseph and his family with positive phone calls, notes and other incentives for his daily attendance. Through this support, Joseph was able to increase his attendance by 17% and was the SA Kids Attend to Win Morrill Elementary School’s winner. In addition to winning a WiiU game system, he also passed the state standardized test for the first time and became his own advocate in and outside of the classroom. This school-wide approached led to 90% of students who were chronically absent to improve, and 70% of them no longer being chronically absent. Strong leadership and fidelity to the SA Kids Attend to Win model led to these outstanding results.

To help kids like Joseph across San Antonio, during the 2014-2015 school year, P16Plus partnered with over 50 campuses and community partners to increase overall attendance and decrease chronic absenteeism (students who attend school less than 90%)  in the San Antonio Independent School District and Harlandale Independent School District .  Through continuous data monitoring and monthly attendance committee meetings to set individualized plans for students, 72% of chronically absent students showed improvements and 44% of students were no longer chronically absent. This improvement also saved over $1.3 million in average daily attendance funding for both school districts.

P16Plus Promo Video

Joseph’s story is one that highlights the results of agents of change coming together to change the course of a student’s life. On September 18th, P16Plus hosted their third annual SA Kids Attend to Win Kick Off and Summit to promote this year’s campaign. This school year, SA Kids Attend to Win is expanding to another district, Southwest Independent School District, which has high rates of chronic absenteeism and strong leadership with strong commitment to adopt the initiative. The P16Plus Council will also be hosting a professional development session for schools and districts in November to provide resources and training on how to implement the initiative. This expansion will ensure that students like Joseph will no longer fall through the cracks in our educational system and become successful leaders in our community.

On October 7-9, P16Plus and other cradle to career partnerships from across the country will come together in Minneapolis for the 2015 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening. Mission: Possible – Agents of Transformational Change Follow #impactagent on social media and join the conversation!



Jessica attended St. Mary’s University before joining Teach For America in New Orleans, where she taught elementary special education. Jessica joined P16Plus staff in December 2014 and oversees the SA Kids Attend to Win Initiative.


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5 reasons education success for every child is possible

Mon, 2015-09-28 16:42

Dallas students impacted by the work of The Commit! Partnership

64 communities are on a mission.

They are bringing together all organizations that work with students around a common vision for improved education results. They are developing shared outcomes and success metrics, and identifying best practices and solutions. They are addressing inequities, closing achievement gaps and creating sustainable change to the education system in their communities.

This mission is BIG. It can change lives. But it can be slow, and there can be many obstacles in the way. But the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network believes this mission is possible through collective impact. And here’s, why:

1)      Communities are seeing action lead to real results for students

“I believe our mission is possible because we see it working! The cycle of educators sharing student data, asking what’s working and agreeing on action has helped 491 more K-3 students achieving reading proficiency across 14 schools (in Dallas County, TX). Promoting a common pre-K registration week and rallying 100+ partners has led to nearly 1,400 more 4-year-olds enrolled at the beginning of the school year.”
-Jonathan Feinstein, Director of Community Engagement, The Commit! Partnership

“I have seen the light go on for so many leaders when they get past the conceptual to the practical realities of this work. It is most often when partners are able to see a specific action in their own community – not somewhere else – lead to improved outcomes and then find creative ways to spread that practice to ensure children have access to it when they need it. And once that light goes on, they want more data and more information to make smarter decisions on an ongoing basis. They never look back. They will never do “business as usual” ever again.”
-Jeff Edmondson, StriveTogether

2)      Communities are laser-focused on results.

“In diverse communities nationwide, leaders are working intentionally to sustain a laser-like focus on the end result: the success of every child, cradle to career. By empowering change agents at all levels across sectors and aligning efforts to what works to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities, our mission is possible.”
-Parvathi “Parv” Santhosh-Kumar, StriveTogether

3)      Resources already exist to make it happen.

“I believe our mission is possible because our work is student-centered. Our practices are based on the current reality of local data.  And our resources already exist within our community. Combined, these factors enable us to create sustainable, proven best practices.”
-Amy Slancik, Director of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo

4)      Adults can be true agents of change.

“Watching people, groups and organizations from across a community come together, use data and identify successful practices shows me that  our mission of ensuring that every child, cradle to career, receives the education she deserves is possible.”
–Heidi Black, StriveTogether

“I believe the mission is possible because the Cradle to Career Network is made up of agents of change from across the country who ARE improving educational outcomes for children.  Network Members are passionate, dedicated, disruptors of the status quo working to create systems change. Through their efforts the system WILL change and every child will have the opportunity to experience success from cradle to career.”
-Kelly Robinson, StriveTogether

5)      It has to be.

“Why do I believe our mission is possible? Because it has to be. . .although a little cliché I do believe the children are our future and lifting each child to their potential can start with the education system.”
-Angie Okuda, StrivePartnership of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

Are you an #impactagent for education change?

On October 7-9, cradle to career partnerships from across the country will come together in Minneapolis for “Mission: Possible – Agents of Transformational Change,” the 2015 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening. Attendees from 64 community partnerships in 32 states and Washington, D.C., will discuss collective impact best practices and their work to unite communities around one mission – education success for every child.

Follow along and join the conversation on Twitter using #impactagent. Share why you believe this mission is possible and tell us how you can be an agent for education change in your community.


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ROC the Future Moves the Needle on Chronic Absence

Tue, 2015-09-22 16:57

Post image for ROC the Future Moves the Needle on Chronic Absence

Guest Post by Linda Phillips, Communications Specialist at ROC the Future.

ROC the Future’s mission is to improve academic achievement for children in the city of Rochester, New York, with an immediate focus on ensuring every student reads at grade level in third grade. Every day, we are seeing successes, large and small, that show us that our mission is possible. Recently we celebrated a success in reducing chronic absence among target elementary students by 10.7 percentage points! This boost in attendance means that 442 students will be more likely to read at grade level in third grade because they attend school more often.

How was this achieved?

In 2012, the Rochester City School District started an Attendance Improvement Initiative with help from the ROC the Future cradle to career partnership. The initiative included:

  • Collaboration of government, investors and community leaders to address student and family barriers to regular school attendance
  • Recruitment of door-to-door volunteers
  • New continuous improvident processes to measure attendance and analyze absences by student, class and school in real time
  • Effective messaging to students, parents, teachers and the community including an “every Minute matters” ad campaign and classroom communications

The active engagement of key leaders from all sectors in the Attendance Improvement initiative resulted in a shift from tracking only average daily attendance to using a continuous improvement process to identify and address chronic absence as it occurs. In addition, ongoing volunteer community outreach not only sent the message that we care, but it gave us the opportunity to talk directly with parents and caregivers about why regular attendance is important and connect them to resources to help get their students to school regularly.

The combination of effective measurement, community engagement, continuous improvement and scaling proven strategies led to reducing chronic absences among K-3 students at 13 target elementary schools from 47.3 to 36.6 percent. Six of the 30 actively participating target classrooms met the attendance goal of 92 percent, and received donated field trips and family passes to the local natural history museum or the County Zoo to reward their efforts.

We also unintentionally reduced disparities by race. The rate of chronic absence for Black/African American students declined from 36 percent in 2013-14 to 33.6 percent in 2014-15, edging closer to the stable rate of 31.8 for White students. Looking at racial disparities highlights the need to identify effective outreach and support strategies to improve attendance among Hispanic/Latino students which remains high at 41.9 percent chronically absent in 2014-15 up from 41.5 percent in 2013-14.

To some this may seem like a small increase, missing just two days of school per month starting in kindergarten adds up to a child who is half a year behind by the time he/she reaches the 4th grade.  Today, 442 students in the Rochester City School District have increased their learning time. That’s 442 students who are on the right track to finish high school on time. And, 442 children who have a chance to reach their highest potential. This is just the start and we are committed to making academic achievement possible for all our children.

On October 7-9, ROC the Future and other cradle to career partnerships from across the country will come together in Minneapolis for the Mission: Possible – Agents of Transformational Change, the 2015 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening. Follow #impactagent on social media and join the conversation!



Linda Phillips focuses on managing communications among the 50+ partner organizations and communicating about the work of ROC the Future in ways that engage parents, funders, community members and other partners in improving academic achievement for city of Rochester youth.


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Four Ways to Make a Bad Decision

Mon, 2015-09-21 10:01

Post image for Four Ways to Make a Bad Decision

On average, adults make approximately 35,000 decisions each day. Some of these decisions are made easily and quickly, while others require careful consideration and contain differing – and perhaps unforeseen – consequences. Building cradle to career civic infrastructure and shifting adult behaviors to best serve kids requires hundreds of thousands of decisions by partners and the community. There is one critical component that transcends all of this work – decisions are made together using data to improve outcomes.

Next month, at the 2015 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening, over 350 community leaders will learn about decision making and managing change during a keynote speech from Dan Heath. Heath knows a lot about making decisions, particularly the “decision-making villains” that can get in our way and impede progress. Heath is co-author of Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work and has also written about the important work of managing change. Decisive outlines four common barriers that can stall our ability to make an effective decision or encourage us to charge forward to a solution too quickly. Heath’s “Four Villains of Decision Making” strike a number of parallels to the struggles cradle to career partnerships grapple with on the ground:

  • Narrow Framing – We often set up a problem in linear and finite terms: there is a defined problem and we must find the perfect (and likely singular) solution. For example, a community may recognize a need to increase FAFSA completion as a means to improve post-secondary enrollment. Instead of deciding between two possible courses of action (e.g. a FAFSA completion night OR awareness campaign), partners can instead ask “What can we do to improve post-secondary enrollment?” Asking this one question could encourage thinking that incorporates both ideas that have worked in the past and new innovations that could work.
  • Confirmation Bias – It is easy to gather data and information that confirms a nascent decision we were already hoping to make. If a community believes transportation is the primary factor for low preschool attendance, surveying parents, families, and teachers on transportation issues can seem like the logical next step. This, however, negates the possibility of uncovering root causes that may not be visible on the surface. Heath writes, “When we want something to be true, we will spotlight the things that support it, and then, when we draw conclusions from those spotlighted scenes, we’ll congratulate ourselves on a reasoned decision.” Keep an open mind when collecting and synthesizing data to uncover impactful practices and remember that insightful data can live in uncommon places.
  • Short-term Emotion – While we all try to root our decision-making in actionable qualitative and quantitative data, we can often miss a component difficult to capture in routine data analytics – emotion. Partners bring valuable investment and commitment to the students and families they serve; this can also bring a strong sense of attachment to a particular strategy or program. Having passion for the work you do is crucial, but it is important to be mindful of the lenses this enables you to view your decisions – and those that may be clouded by such a strong sense of purpose. As partnerships begin to frame the work with the “result at the center,” partners can take a step back to collectively decide on strategies that leverage what they already do and the inputs of other partners.
  • Overconfidence – Assuming we know best can serve as a major cloud hanging over decision making and judgment. Heath notes that “when doctors reckoned themselves ‘completely certain’ about a diagnosis, they were wrong 40% of the time.” Partners may believe they have the silver bullet to improving 3rd grade reading, if they could just get more funding, more support, more volunteers, etc. Yet, the truth is, we don’t have a crystal ball to know how the future will unfold. This exemplifies the importance of running small tests of change and using data to determine if and how a strategy positively impacts kids. Each partner at the table is an expert in their own experience, but the collective expertise of the partnership should be shaped by shared data and unique perspectives.

As you begin to think about your own opportunities to serve as an Agent of Transformational Change, consider how you can work with partners to make the best decisions for sustainable systems change to improve outcomes for every child, from cradle to career. This is our Mission: Possible.






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Network in the News: Efforts to increase graduation, encourage attendance, recruit tutors and promote early-grade reading

Wed, 2015-09-16 09:16

With back-to-school time come stories of new collaboration for student success (and there are some pretty cool ideas, if we do say so!).

Here’s the next installment of Network in the 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 partners, stakeholders and friends.

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


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Co-construction and Collaboration ARE Communication

Tue, 2015-09-08 11:06

Convening participants discussed current trends in student data sharing and also learned about the latest developments in state and federal legislation.

Over 80 individuals joined StriveTogether and the Data Quality Campaign for the 2015 Student Data Privacy, Policy, and Advocacy Convening on August 20-21. The event brought together experts and organizations working to enable the data access needed to identify and improve practices that help kids succeed.

We learned about the latest developments in state and federal legislation, new tools and resources from the field, worked through case studies about data use, and discussed what an emerging collective voice might sound like on these topics. We also heard about the importance of keeping students and families at the center of our discussions around data privacy, policy and advocacy from Michael Robbins with Span Learning.

During his keynote, Robbins said, “Co-construction and collaboration ARE communication.” This striking statement, and the discussions throughout the conference, represented a fundamental shift in how cradle to career partnerships and community partners are thinking about using data to support students – a shift from technical to adaptive solutions.

Time and again, attendees recognized that relationships and engagement are primary barriers when implementing data practices to improve student outcomes. A two- or three-part challenge was often raised:

  • How do we engage the right people to facilitate data sharing and policy?
  • What does engagement actually entail and how can it be done in an authentic and results-focused way?
  • What does effective communication look like in this space?

One of the key insights of the day was the cross-functionality between data, policy, communication and community engagement. In collective impact work, we often think of these functions as independent of one another, perhaps even competing for priority or resource allocation. Instead, we discussed that the interplay between these four areas can complement one another and, in fact, build stronger ownership toward action. We learned that:

  • Co-construction and collaboration ARE communication! Engagement and communication don’t exist as two separate functions, but are inextricably linked through co-construction of solutions to meet community challenges. Indeed, they are ultimately required to change systems. As cradle to career partnerships develop strategies to engage the community and consider opportunities to embed parents, teachers, and students in the creation of actionable solutions, we should build their lived experience in as a key data point. This can provide an authentic and productive medium for two-way communication.
  • Economies of scale can exist between data sharing and privacy policy when coupled with practices that allow for data to be put into the hands of those individuals actually serving children on the ground. As partnerships grapple with their role in policy and opportunities to connect academic and programmatic data, this felt like a particularly poignant place to strike a relationship between policymakers and the work of building cradle to career civic infrastructure.

The call to action is clear: effective and appropriate data access and sharing requires intentional and authentic relationships between the people closest to students and closest to making policy decisions.

View our Storify wrap up of the 2015 Student Data Privacy, Policy, and Advocacy Convening!


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Identify your trusted data hubs

Wed, 2015-09-02 10:40

Find your one-stop shop to connect people to the data they need.

This guest post by Leah Hendey, senior research associate in the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center, is part of a series on seven principles of effective data sharing.

The backbone organizations for collective impact efforts and lead grantees in place-based initiatives have their hands full! They are project managers, conveners (and mediators), continuous learning specialists, fundraisers, deal negotiators, and service providers. Some of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network’s highest capacity members, like the Road Map Project, even take on data collection, research and evaluation tasks.

The good news is that, in many communities, it’s not necessary to build all of this capacity in-house! As an important first step you should know your local information ecosystem. This step can also help you identify a trusted local data hub. Such an organization might be able to assist you with managing and collecting data, setting up performance management systems and goals, and planning and evaluating the interventions.

At the Urban Institute, we organize a peer-learning network of local data hubs in more than two dozen cities across the US – the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP).  NNIP partners follow a “one-stop shop” model. They collect local administrative data across a range of domains, from student performance and vital statistics to property sales and crime rates. They transform the raw data to create useful indicators at relevant geographies such as neighborhoods. They often disseminate these indicators through their websites but more importantly they work directly with local nonprofits, government agencies, and foundations to help them put the information to good use and improve program planning, policymaking, community building, and evaluation efforts. The approach eases the burden on local stakeholders trying to track down the information, by maintaining regularly updated information about neighborhoods and their residents in one location.

As you might know (or be discovering) obtaining data from a variety of sources is not a simple undertaking. NNIP partners are trusted and engaged institutions, most often university centers or nonprofits, and some have been working for decades to build relationships with data providers and users. The data providers count on NNIP partners to protect confidential records and use and interpret the data thoughtfully. And they are viewed by data users as neutral interpreters of the data, outside of the politicized nature of local government. Having institutions outside of an initiative or government can present a “safe” space for sharing sensitive data when agencies and programs may be reluctant to share with each other. For example, NNIP Partner the Providence Plan in Rhode Island, has been nicknamed the “data Switzerland,” serving as a place to integrate data across domains in the Rhode Island DataHUB.

Local data hubs, like those in NNIP, give communities a leg up, allowing them to more quickly assemble the contextual information needed to apply for grants, plan and implement programs and collaborate across silos with shared information resources. Importantly – they are a resource that multiple initiatives can tap into at the same time. In San Antonio, NNIP partner Community Information Now serves as the data partner for the Choice and Promise Neighborhoods, as well as number of other federal and philanthropic initiatives.

Even if there is not an NNIP partner in your community, there may be a nonprofit or university center engaged in similar types of efforts or that collects and makes use of local administrative data. For example in Cincinnati, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati help make data more accessible to the region through Facts Matter and inform the work of the StrivePartnership.

So as you begin to think about data sharing and using data to drive your own community collaborations, look around for organizations that have already taken on similar challenges and consider partnering with your local data hub!

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.

Leah Hendey is a senior research associate in the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center

Leah Hendey is a senior research associate in the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center and serves as the deputy director of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership. Her research focuses on policy to improve neighborhoods and she is experienced in working with national and local administrative datasets to create neighborhood indicators and study neighborhood conditions.


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Investing in community ecosystems

Tue, 2015-09-01 08:43

Collective impact can't be achieved unless individual partners change how they do business...

Over the course of two years, a small team from StriveTogether, United Way Worldwide (UWW) and Target came together to work with seven communities to expedite progress toward improving education results through collective impact.

Local United Ways, who have fully embraced the shift from funding programs alone to facilitating partnerships working to find new ways to serve children and families, house the core cradle to career partnership staff in Anchorage, Alaska; Phoenix, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Diego, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Spokane, Washington. The seventh community, Memphis, Tennessee, also works closely with the local United Way as a key partner.  In addition, partnerships in Dallas, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Boise, Idaho provided guidance to these communities based on their experience.

We learned so much from this initiative about how to accelerate  the progress of communities working to improve outcomes at scale by embracing a common goal.  Perhaps the most critical lesson, and one of the most prominent in the collective impact field to date, is how difficult it is for all the individual organizations engaged to change how they operate every day.  It’s terribly ironic actually. Collective impact can’t be achieved unless individual partners change how they do business on an ongoing basis.

Through our work with these seven communities, it became very clear that investors in particular have a critical role to play to incent changed behavior.  And to play this role, individual philanthropies and government agencies have to manage considerable change in the way they work.

In a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) article, Stacey Stewart, US President of United Way Worldwide, Kate Mohan with Target’s social responsibility team and I highlighted some key factors investors need to consider and manage when partnering on collective impact initiatives instead of investing in programs alone.

The bottom line: Investors have to feel comfortable investing in the infrastructure needed to make sure programmatic investments are: a) driven by the use of data to identify what practices actually get results, and b) interconnected and complimentary to achieve better results. We call this new way of working “ecosystem investing” as we must fully understand the various players and factors that interact with and eventually impact any given outcome, such as early grade reading or high school graduation.

Ecosystem Investing vs Program InvestingAs we note in the SSIR article, this type of investing is a heavy lift and a long-term proposition. The lure of programmatic investing alone is strong because it is much more straight forward in nature. But if we don’t consider investing in the infrastructure needed to identify what programs work and glue it all together, we will likely find ourselves in the same place with the same results we are getting today.  In short, ecosystem investing is critical to ensure we can actually support the success of every child, cradle to career.


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Advocating for College Access in the Greater Seattle Metropolitan Region

Thu, 2015-08-27 11:10

Students of all ages participated in Advocacy Day, which brought about 300 people to the Washington State Capitol to call for full funding of the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant, two critical state financial aid programs.

Guest post by Kristin Johnson-Waggoner, Communications Manager for the Community Center for Education Results, the nonprofit supporting the Road Map Project.

Advocacy is a key strategy toward changing systems and improving educational success for students. For the Road Map Project, a cradle through career partnership in South Seattle and suburbs in South King County, this became a reality when we elevated student and community voice to advocate for critical state financial aid programs.

In the 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington decision, the Washington State Supreme Court found that the state was not adequately funding basic education. A couple of years later, in 2014, the state’s Supreme Court held the Washington State Legislature in contempt for an “ongoing violation of its constitutional duty to K-12 children” for failing to redress school funding in its budget. Seeing this inadequacy, year over year, we were concerned that this political environment would push the education conversation to focus solely on K-12, and efforts that focused on higher education, such as the College Bound Scholarship, might be left out of the discussion. We consider the College Bound Scholarship Program to be a game-changer for our region. It combines with other state aid to cover the average cost of tuition (at comparable public colleges), some fees and a small book allowance for low-income students who sign up in the 7th or 8th grade, work hard in school, stay out of legal trouble and successfully enroll in a participating higher-education institution when they graduate. Our region’s sign-up rate for the scholarship is nearly 100 percent.

Around the same time, State Senator David Frockt of North Seattle convened a work group made up of legislators, higher education leaders, and representatives from community-based organizations to look at the viability and future of the College Bound Scholarship. Road Map Project partners participated in the process and offered recommendations for how to improve the program. The partnership saw this as an opportunity to strengthen and secure the scholarship, and to create new champions in the legislature for the policy. Sen. Frockt’s work group gave the issue momentum going into the 2015 legislative session.

In part to capitalize on this momentum, the Road Map Project formed the Cradle Through College Coalition, a cross-sector coalition that includes educational institutions, community-based organizations, business groups, and local governments. The coalition identified several priorities across the education continuum, including fully funding the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant. The State Need Grant is the state’s financial aid program from which the College Bound Scholarship draws its funding. Together, the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant have helped hundreds of thousands of Washington students obtain a college education, but nearly 34,000 students – or one in three – could not access financial aid last year because funding ran out.

In December 2014, Road Map Project advocacy leaders started planning an Advocacy Day to draw attention to college access for low-income students and the importance of fully funding the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant. The goal of the event was to rally students, parents and community members at the state Capitol and advocate for these priorities. About 300 people clad in bright-green shirts went to Olympia on Feb. 17 for the Advocacy Day. Students met with lawmakers and shared their stories, and the entire group took over the Capitol Rotunda with chants and signs. Parents and community partners repeated a common message about the importance of fully funding the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant. Throughout the day, we heard students say “Since I was little, I always dreamed of going to college.”,  “The College Bound Scholarship inspires me.”, or “My future depends on the College Bound Scholarship.”.

College Access Advocacy_Roadmap Project_2015_300px

We were very pleased with the attendance and participation. Members of the Advocacy Day planning committee leveraged their relationships to help recruit people from around the state. The outreach efforts paid off, we had students come in from eastern Washington and from cities north and south of Seattle.

The Advocacy Day was an overall success. The College Bound Scholarship is recognized by more lawmakers as a critical support for low-income students and, although the State Need Grant was not fully funded during this session, the Cradle Through College Coalition will continue to build pressure on decision-makers. This all would not have happened if we did not:

  • Create and maintain relationships to accomplish shared goals
  • Have patience to allow partners to become invested in a project, and
  • Keep the messaging simple

By doing those three things, we were able to build and maintain community will, gain attention and avoid roadblocks toward achieving our goals.

Moving forward, we will continue to follow up on this success and keep close track of further legislative action by the state.


Kristin is the Communications Manager for the Community Center for Education Results, the nonprofit supporting the Road Map Project.

Kristin is the Communications Manager for the Community Center for Education Results, the nonprofit supporting the Road Map Project.






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Community Conversations on Student Data Privacy & Education Improvement

Wed, 2015-08-19 16:35

In 2015, 46 states introduced 182 bills on student data privacy.

This post is co-authored by Rachel Anderson, Senior Associate, Policy and Advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign, and Geoff Zimmerman, Associate Director of Data Utilization for StriveTogether.

Data-driven decision-making is critical to cradle to career collective impact efforts, neighborhood-based strategies, community schools initiatives, and other outcomes-focused community-based organizations. The ability of community organizations to securely access appropriate student-level data from schools ensures that we can understand what programs and actions really provide improved education results for kids.

But data sharing comes with the crucial responsibility to use it effectively and responsibly, and to protect student privacy. And, community organizations need to understand the increasing amount of both federal and state legislation on the use of student data.

Over the last two years, nearly every state has considered legislation around student data privacy. In 2015 alone, 46 states have introduced 182 bills on the subject and 15 of these states have passed new student data privacy laws. While these bills and laws reflect the unique privacy and security conversations happening in each state, there are also some clear themes nationwide. And many of these themes can have important implications for community partners who need information about their students in order to best meet their needs.

For example, many states are thinking about their role in supporting good data use and protection practices by their districts.In 2014,nine states passed laws that gave school districts new or expanded responsibilities around student data privacy and security.This year, many states are thinking about the supports and guidance districts will need from the state in order to fulfill their new roles. States are also working to provide transparency and build trust with educators and the public that education data are being used to support students and improve education in the state, looking at lots of ways to make education data useful, and focusing on the critical need to safeguard student data. Here’s the latest on state policy efforts:

  • North Dakota now requires data sharing approval by the school board and implements data governance, transparency, and supports including data use training.
  • Virginia has a new law to direct the state to develop a model data security plan for districts and to designate a chief data security officer to assist local school divisions their data use and security policies.
  • Minnesota considered a bill to create student data backpacks to give families more control of their student’s data.
  • Florida looked at early warning systems that help keep students on track for success.
  • Washington introduced a bill to support collaboration between educators by looking at multiple data sources to help identify student needs.

Student data privacy is also an issue under increasing consideration at the federal level. And again, these conversations and decisions can have important implications for community partners and their ability to securely access data about the students they serve.

  • Lawmakers in the House recently introduced an amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)—the most prominent federal student data privacy law. FERPA governs when student records and be disclosed, making any potential changes significant to the ways states and districts work with community partners.
  • Student data privacy has also been part of recent efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); as a part of the Senate’s work on their version of the bill they adopted an amendment to create a Student Privacy Policy Committee. This committee, which would represent parents, educators, education privacy and technology experts, and state and district leaders, would be charged with studying and developing recommendations around student data privacy and parental rights. If implemented, this committee could help to develop the guidance and resources states and districts need in order to implement good data access and use practices within communities.
  • Other recently introduced federal privacy bills include the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act and the SAFE KIDS Act, both of which seek to safeguard student data while allowing for the use of data and technology.

To help communities develop effective data sharing relationships, learn best practices to protect student data, and understand the latest student privacy legislation, StriveTogether and the Data Quality Campaign are partnering to host the Student Data Privacy, Policy, and Advocacy Convening on Friday, August 21 in Washington, D.C. This event brings together over 100 education stakeholders from across the country to dig deeper into the policy and advocacy issues that arise when school-community data sharing partnerships are formed. Attendees will learn more about resources from the field to address these challenges, the current privacy policy landscape, and what an emerging national advocacy agenda might look like.

Follow along and join the conversation with convening attendees this week on Twitter using #datadrivesresults.


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Reflecting on What it Takes to Move K-12 Outcomes

Mon, 2015-08-17 12:04

All Hands Raised Shares Process Map on Reducing Absenteeism at StriveTogether Expert Convening

Cradle to career partnerships across the country are working to ensure every child gets what they need to be successful – from the time they are babies to when they enter a career. A significant chunk of this effort includes support and improvement when a child is in elementary, middle, and high school. We often view improving results in the K-12 space as the responsibility of school district leaders and teachers, but collective impact partnerships across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network emphasize the importance of an entire community effort.

On July 29-30, 2015, in Portland, Oregon, StriveTogether hosted an Expert Convening that brought together six advanced cradle to career partnerships, including their school district partners, who are actively working to improve one of the three K-12 outcome areas: early grade reading, middle grade math, and high school graduation. This day-and-a-half event focused on better understanding the different ways that partnership staff engage, support and work with school district partners to support student achievement.

With cradle to career partnership staff and school district representatives from the Promise Partnerships of Salt Lake City, Utah; Seeding Success in Memphis, Tennessee; E3 Alliance in Austin, Texas; All Hands Raised in Multnomah County, Oregon; P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, Texas; and The Commit! Partnership in Dallas County, Texas, we had a room full of experts from whom knowledge and expertise flowed abundantly. Three lessons stand out from the in-depth discussions last month in Portland, Oregon:

1)      Engage Partners Intentionally:

Engaging teachers, principals, superintendents, cradle to career partnership staff, community leaders, investors, parents and other people who impact students’ lives is critical to effectively implementing action to improve K-12 outcomes. Also important, is engaging partners at multiple levels of an organization, for instance engaging teachers, principals, and superintendents within a school district. Multi-level engagement promotes sustainability and effectiveness in working relationships. Engagement strategies to consider include:

  • Show alignment: Clearly communicate how the work of the partnership benefits each partner’s work.
  • Celebrate expertise: So much experience and data exists in the heads of partners that can’t be quantified in a spreadsheet or graph. Respecting and appreciating this expertise is crucial for engaging and maintaining effective relationships with partners.
  • Give recognition: Recognize partners for their great work though formal media spotlights or through informal celebrations and a “thank you.”
  • Provide incentives: Understand what motivates a partner. Speaking to those interests or providing appropriate incentives can go a long way in initiating engagement to spur action.

What’s your process for moving K-12 Outcomes? @StriveTogether @AllHandsRaised @uwsl #impactK12

— Hany Elena White (@hanyelenawhite) July 29, 2015

2)      Be Specific About Data: When we talk about data, it’s usually in a broad sense like “data-driven decision making” or “we need data before we can make that decision.” But data is much more helpful if we get more specific. Knowing what types of data are needed for a specific purpose helps collective impact partnerships make a more informed request for this information from partners who hold the data. And, it is easier to see when privacy laws or data-sharing agreements need to be considered. In a resource called Who Uses Student Data, the Data Quality Campaign defines three types of student data: (1) Personally Identifiable Data, (2) De-Identified Data, and (3) Aggregate Data. Cradle to career partnerships at the Expert Convening discussed the following ways each type of data is used:

  • Personally Identifiable Data is most often used to connect a service, such as tutoring or mentoring, to a specific student and to understand which services are improving a particular student’s experience.
  • De-Identified Data is often used for research, such as regression analysis, to see if a specific practice or intervention impacts a community-wide outcome.
  • Aggregate Data is often used for tracking and reporting progress of a partnership in improving outcomes and for strategic planning purposes.

We learned that most partnerships use aggregate data at the beginning of their continuous improvement processes to help decide the scope of their work and outcomes to focus on, and then gradually work with personally identifiable data when they start measuring the impact of interventions.

Breaking down what practices are actually improving student outcomes through process maps! #impactk12

— Geoff Zimmerman (@zimmermang) July 29, 2015

3)      Get Clear About Roles:  Understanding the different roles and authorities of partners working to improve early grade reading, middle grade math and high school graduation rates can ensure relationships are as smooth and effective as possible. When roles and levels of authority are not explicit or overlap, as is often the case in collaborative projects, the potential for conflict can grow dramatically. To help clarify the authority, roles and specific tasks that each partner has on a given project, cradle to career partnerships can use a tool called B/ART, a concept introduced to StriveTogether by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. B/ART stands for Boundary of Authority, Role, and Task and provides an approach to clarify the different roles that people play with corresponding tasks and authorities to do those tasks, especially within a situation where multiple people or organizations are working on a project together. B/ART can be used in the beginning of a collaborative project or even throughout as issues arise and more clarity is needed about specific roles, authority and tasks.

4 letter acronym kind of morning. When PDSA & B/ART collide. #impactk12

— KaciRoach (@KaciRoachST) July 30, 2015

These are just three of the many important topics and lessons we captured from cradle to career teams working with their partners daily to improve early grade reading, middle grade math and high school graduation. All of the knowledge shared during last month’s Expert Convening will be used to inform the work of cradle to career partnerships across the country.

Let us know how you are improving K-12 outcomes by sharing strategies are you using to engage school district partners in your work! What tools have you used to clarify roles and responsibilities when working collaboratively with partners? Don’t forget to comment below!


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