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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!


Categories: Latest

From Collective Responsibility to Collective Impact

Wed, 2015-08-12 15:15

Just because we share responsibility for a problem does not guarantee we do anything to solve it.

The Commissioner of Education from the State of Connecticut issued a report in 1987, which called for the state to promote “collective responsibility” for integrating the public schools.

“When that report came out, it was a political scandal,” reported Chana Joffe-Walt in a recent episode of This American Life, a weekly public radio show and podcast. “It was on the front page of the newspaper just before Christmas. A State Senator called for the Commissioner’s resignation for writing the report.”

John Brittain, a civil rights lawyer, agreed with the report and worked with eleven other lawyers and seventeen plaintiffs to sue to the state in the pursuit of desegregation.

Again, this was 1987.

This post is not about desegregation. If you want this, listen to “The Problem We All Live With,” Parts One and Two (episodes 562 and 563) of This American Life, to learn more about the current state of school desegregation and integration in the United States.

I want to focus on a different question. What’s the difference between collective impact and collective responsibility? The way the show described collective responsibility sounded an awful lot like collective impact, but there are differences.

Brittain pursued his court case with the assumption that he could win but not necessarily achieve desegregation. He “needed the public to want to integrate,” said Joffe-Walt. “He needed to create what the report called for– a sense of collective responsibility.”

So what does collective responsibility mean?

For Brittain, it meant pulling together leaders from city government, the teachers, the parents, the religious community, the business community, the city council, the Board of Education. That sounds very much like collective impact…

Partnering with the various groups throughout the community worked. Brittain and his team won their lawsuit “on an appeal to the state supreme court in 1996,” according to This American Life. “It took another seven years until 2003, for the state to settle with the plaintiffs. 14 years after he first filed the suit. When they did settle, the plan they came up with is a system where every family can choose integrated schools. But they don’t have to.”

“Brittain’s theory that with the help of the courts, it was possible to design an integrated school system where parents continue to opt into integration over and over again, that’s what’s being tested right now in Hartford,” said Joffe-Walt.

The strategy is working okay in Hartford. They’ve gone from 11% of Hartford kids in integrated schools in 2007 to almost half now. And they did that by sharing the responsibility for a problem / solution throughout the community. Collective responsibility.

It seems to me that collective impact differs from collective responsibility in one nuanced but important way. It flips the focus. Instead of focusing on who is doing the work, attention is paid to the impact of that work. Just because we share responsibility for a problem does not guarantee we do anything to solve it. It’s part of the solution, and an important part, but not the solution itself.

Does that difference matter? I think so.

There are lots of things wrong in the world today on which I think we can all agree. Poverty. Child labor. Human trafficking. Lack of access to education. The list can go on and on and on. But so what if we aren’t doing anything to have impact and make a difference?

Collective impact is the commitment from people throughout a community to join efforts towards a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration. It acknowledges the problem and goes much further.

Collective impact takes commitment to action for the long-haul from all sectors. It means looking at data all the time to identify inequities and programs that are working well to combat them. It means scaling these programs to impact more and more people, and stopping efforts that perpetuate them. It means collectively, and individually, changing how we do things.

Part 2 of “The Problem We All Live With” ends on a pretty depressing note. We know there is an achievement gap in schools that is closely aligned with race, income and class. The staff of This American Life seem to imply that the solution is collective responsibility and a focus on desegregation. Perhaps that’s part of it. But work happening across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network shows that building from collective responsibility to collective impact and real action is providing real results. You can see those results in the report cards put out by each community.

Maybe This American Life should issues part 3 of the series with a focus on collective impact.


Categories: Latest

Network in the News: Kindergartners, Opportunity Youth and Community Building

Tue, 2015-08-11 10:29

As always, StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships are helping students and starting conversations throughout their communities. Coming ‘atcha, here’s this week’s Network in the News:

  1. Knowing, Growing, Going to Kindergarten!: Kindergartners and their families in Macon County, Illinois, will attend a Family Fun Night Graduation, hosted by the Education Coalition of Macon County. All participating kindergartners completed the “Knowing, Growing, Going to Kindergarten” program, which started in July and is designed to introduce soft skills to ease the transition for incoming kindergartners.
  2. 100,000 Opportunities Initiative to kick off: At least 29 companies will engage more than 3,000 opportunity youth in a job fair in the Chicago area. Thrive Chicago will participate in the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, which aims to hire at least 100,000 opportunity youth by 2018.
  3. Regaining what we lost in society starts with us: How critical is ‘community’ to the well-being of residents? And how do we re-instill the value of community into today’s culture? “Community connectedness is not only the foundation of our nation,” writes Adam Hardy, Executive director of Achieve Brown County, “it’s in the basic fabric of what makes us human.”

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” every week 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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Three Ways to Achieve Education Equity (Part 3 of 3)

Fri, 2015-08-07 11:49

Equity Fellowship participants take a moment to reflect on how education policy has had an impact on today's systems.

Communities across the country are working to build a holistic approach to education equity through collective impact work. Through a nine-month equity fellowship with Just Communities and E3: Education, Equity & Excellence, and cradle to career partnerships in Dallas County, Texas; Columbia, Missouri; Red Wing, Minnesota; and Phoenix, Arizona, we have uncovered three key equity strategies:

  1. Raise awareness of equity to encourage a focus on eliminating locally defined disparities
  2. Apply tools to ensure actions, interventions and activities are undertaken equitably
  3. Sustain behavior change through policies and protocols to change systems

In part one and part two of this three-part blog series, we discussed how to build momentum around equity that leads groups to action. This week, in part three, we outline ways to operationalize change into existing structures for long-term sustainability.

Changing individual behavior to be more equitable in considering diverse perspectives and viewpoints is a huge accomplishment by itself.  However, ensuring that equity is embedded throughout that way an organization operates cannot be dependent solely on the actions of individuals alone because equity must be able to withstand staff turnover and personnel change. To create sustainable change, an equitable mindset must be incorporated into the policies and guidelines of an organization or institution.  Below are a couple of examples of how an organization can embed equity throughout its  structure:

  • Integrated Budgeting: Rather than having separate workstreams and budget line-items for “equity work” or “diversity and inclusion,” organizations should focus on funding what works and integrating equitable practices as a part of that work. For example, many cradle to career partnership budgets might currently include a separate line item for an “equity training” or an “equity  consultant.” An integrated budget would estimate the cost of doing the work with an equity lens (this could include equity training for facilitators or a data contract to get different types of data to highlight disparities) and build that into the existing work, like into a 3rd grade reading collaborative action network. When the time comes to make budget cuts, it’s a lot easier to remove a single equity line item, than it is to remove equity-focused work that’s embedded into the work to move outcomes.
  • Cultural Competencies as Staff Competencies: Often, competencies that are outlined for a specific role for which the organization is hiring tend to be very technical in nature: necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to be able to do the job. If an organization includes culture competencies as part of the necessary skills for hiring, we start to shift the system to include the need for culturally competent individuals leading the work.

Through this mini blog series, we discussed: 1. The importance of increasing awareness in order to build the belief that the partnership should be focused on eliminating disparities; 2. The usefulness of incorporating tools or frameworks into the work to ensure actions, interventions and activities are done with equity in mind; and finally, 3. The need to incorporate equity into a partnership’s policies in order to sustain systems change throughout leadership transitions. These three different strategies offer varying entry points for organizations to consider when tackling equity throughout their communities.

For some communities, building awareness might be the clear first step. Others might need to start with integrating equitable tools/processes to change behavior and show the impact of that change before being able to communicate as freely about this topic.  No matter where your community is in working on equity, there is a place to start. We should always think of how to expand our efforts across all three areas (awareness, tools, and policies) in order to truly change our system of education to be one that supports all kids from cradle to career.


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Network in the News: Investing in cradle to career partnerships

Tue, 2015-08-04 10:14

Local communities are invested in their cradle to career partnerships, and the news this week proves it!

Here’s the latest Network in the News, featuring investments in local collective impact efforts:

network in the news-investments

  1. Packers’ financial picture remains strong: The Green Bay Packers’ Foundation provided a $250,000 grant to Achieve Brown County, a cradle to career partnership in the area, for their work with students throughout the county.
  2. Bank of America awards $1 million to advance workforce development and education: All Hands Raised, a cradle to career partnership in Portland, Ore., received a grant, along with other local nonprofits, to continue advancing education and workforce development in the region.
  3. Northwestern Mutual invests $1.7 million in education programs in Milwaukee to improve reading proficiency: One organization that will receive some funding is Milwaukee Succeeds, the local cradle to career partnership. “We want to help the community to come together to ensure the success of our future leaders,” said John Schlifske, chairman and chief executive officer of Northwestern Mutual and co-chair of Milwaukee Succeeds. To learn more about one of the partnership’s literacy efforts, read our stories of impact.

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” every week 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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New Cradle to Career Community Report Cards Released!

Wed, 2015-07-29 13:56

Seeding Success partnership in Memphis, TN released their baseline report card in 2015.

Over the last few months, several StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members have released baseline or annual community report cards as a method to engage their communities and promote accountability for cradle to career collective impact work.

Community report cards share data reflecting the state of the community’s education system, as well as stories of how local partners are working together to improve outcomes for students. Each partnership takes their own creative approach to share their local narrative, commonly highlighted through:

  • Baseline and/or trend data for identified indicators
  • Information about the role of the partnership in the community and examples of action taking place on the ground
  • Stories of impact that bring data points to life and create a broader picture of a community’s progress

Check out some of the most recently released community reports below:

Eastside Pathways: Bellevue, WA

Eastside Pathways

Spartanburg Academic Movement: Spartanburg, SC

SAM Report

Learn to Earn: Dayton, OH

Dayton Report

E3 Alliance: Austin, TX

E3 Report

P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County: San Antonio, TX

P16Plus Report

Seeding Success: Memphis, TN

Seeding Success partnership in Memphis released their baseline report card in 2015.

RGV Focus: Rio Grande Valley, TX

RGV Report

See more Community Reports to learn about cradle to career partnership work in communities across the country.



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Two Communities Take a Step Closer towards Education Systems Change

Wed, 2015-07-29 12:59

The Sustaining gateway logo represents where a community is in the journey towards changing systems and improving outcomes for children.

Across the Cradle to Career Network, collective impact partnerships are building a civic infrastructure that unites stakeholders around shared goals, measures, and results in education, supporting the success of every child, cradle to career.

This month, we are excited to announce that Forsyth Promise in Winston-Salem, NC and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative in Charleston, SC have made significant progress in this work, and have transitioned into the Sustaining gateway of StriveTogether’s Theory of Action.

The Theory of Action is a quality collective impact framework  approach to support communities as they build cradle to career civic infrastructure. Across this framework, there are four fundamental “gateways” which signal a partnership’s progress towards impacting local systems and improving student educational success. By crossing through each gateway, there is a greater likelihood for sustained impact and improvement over time.

Each gateway has been designed to focus on the different developmental stages a community goes through when working towards creating change. With that in mind, community partnerships are able to chart the path through the Theory of Action from “Exploring”, ”Emerging” and “Sustaining” through ”Systems Change” and ultimately Proof Point,” with sustained behavior change across the community and education outcomes improving year over year .

Today, 40 Cradle to Career Network members are in the Emerging gateway and 23 are in the Sustaining Gateway. Congratulations Forsyth Promise and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative!


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Three Ways to Achieve Education Equity (Part 2 of 3)

Tue, 2015-07-28 18:29

Equity Fellowship participants share equity focused actions plans with peers for feedback.

Communities across the country are working to build a holistic approach to education equity through collective impact work. Through a nine-month equity fellowship with Just Communities and E3: Education, Equity & Excellence, and cradle to career partnerships in Dallas County, Texas; Columbia, Missouri; Red Wing, Minnesota; and Phoenix, Arizona, we have uncovered three key equity strategies:

  1. Raise awareness of equity to encourage a focus on eliminating locally defined disparities
  2. Apply tools to ensure actions, interventions and activities are undertaken equitably
  3. Sustain behavior change through policies and protocols to change systems

Last week, in part one of this blog series, we discussed key messaging to build awareness around equity. In part two of this three-part series, we outline different approaches to help move groups from talk to action.

When implementing any action to address equity, communities should pay careful attention to the various different impacts their interventions could have. Though we often act with good intentions, the actual result may not always match our desired outcome. The following tools and strategies can help cradle to career partnerships assess potential actions to ensure all potential impacts are considered:

  • Use the “Intent → Impact → Residue” framework developed by Just Communities: Throughout our work to change the education system, we must ensure the action we take does not perpetuate past inequities. Cradle to career partnerships can use the “Intent → Impact → Residue” framework to evaluate any proposed action through an equity lens. This approach calls for all stakeholders to take a step back and consider their own intentions, the potential impact of their actions, and the possible long-term systemic effects. Taking it a step further, engaging community members who will be impacted by a decision will ensure multiple perspectives are considered.
  • Focus on Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor (3Rs Framework developed by Bill Daggett): Daggett’s philosophy of education is built upon three basic principles: rigor, relevance and relationships. To break this down, when students can relate to their classwork because it is relevant to their personal lives, teachers can increase the rigor in their curriculum to meet their learning objectives. In addition, cultivating relationships with all stakeholders can open doors to support and resources that can mobilize change. This framework can be used to test the effectiveness of interventions outside of the school house also. The idea of maintaining strong relationships with community stakeholders, strategizing interventions that are relevant to local context and implementing a rigorous continuous improvement process (to ensure discipline and accountability) can help accelerate progress towards results.
  • Apply a Decision-Making Process to understand the impact of decisions (and who has a voice in making decisions). Cradle to career partnerships can practice authentic community engagement to ensure those who are impacted by a decision are involved in the decision making process. These are often the students, parents and families that the partnership is serving. We can only know if the new system we are creating is beneficial for all students, unless we engage all voices (or perspectives) at some point in the decision-making process. Without engagement, unanticipated negative impact on populations whose perspectives are not at the table is much more likely. E3: Education, Excellence & Equity developed the Power Analysis of the Decision Making Process Tool to assess the decision making power of those who are involved.
  • Apply the Critical Pedagogy Framework (CPF) to understand the different points of view engaged in the equity discussion. This tool, developed by E3: Education, Excellence & Equity, was inspired by the work of Dr. Alma Flor Ada’s and Dr. Paulo Friere’s concept of Critical Pedagogy that addresses issues of power, equity and social justice in education. Communities can use this tool to determine if the cradle to career partnership is even the right source for starting the conversation. Additionally, it can be used to help identify which existing relationships, perspectives and skill-sets are well-positioned to facilitate these discussions. CPF can also help analyze conflict to discover next steps to resolve issue(s) at play.

Getting to action is sometimes the hardest step to take when creating impact. Once you have people on board and things are starting to change…what’s next? Next week, we will explore ways to operationalize change into existing structures for long-term sustainability.

Meanwhile, we invite you to reflect on the strategies that you have planned or have implemented thus far. What approaches have worked? Are there opportunities to try something different? What insights emerge?


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Cradle to Career Communities Flex Results Based Leadership Skills

Tue, 2015-07-28 10:17

Post image for Cradle to Career Communities Flex Results Based Leadership Skills

Mobilizing collective action among leaders across sectors can sometimes be hard work. StriveTogether has been collaborating with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to help StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities build leadership capabilities to accelerate action towards results.

Last month, cradle to career partnership staff and local partners from seven communities [Baltimore Promise (Baltimore, MD), Excelerate Success (Spokane, WA), Milwaukee Succeeds (Milwaukee, WI), Portland ConnectED (Portland, ME), Raise DC (Washington, DC), South Bronx Rising Together (South Bronx, NY), and Thriving Together (Phoenix, AZ)] met at the Annie E. Casey Foundation headquarters in Baltimore, MD for a one-day training to learn and practice a mix of Results Based Leadership (RBL) competencies, frames and skills in the context improving outcomes from cradle to career.

RBL is an approach, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, focused on helping leaders, organizations and groups move from intention to action for children and families. RBL is built on five core competencies, two foundational frameworks and two foundational skills. Throughout the training, participants applied the foundational skills of Results-Based Accountability, a method focused on differentiating between population and program level results, using data to develop high-impact strategies, and establishing ways to track if the work is making a contribution to results. Each community spent time exploring how a variety of perspectives can impact collaborative work to address disparities, identified how personal experiences and preferences impact how an individual responds in a group, and discussed how clarity of authority, role, and task can make or break a group’s progress.

Some participants were particularly drawn to the activities around using performance measures to track progress and drive improvement within a community. In RBL, performance measures answer three questions:

  1. How much did we do? (Quantity)
  2. How well did we do it? (Quality)
  3. Is anyone better off? What difference did we make? (Impact)?

Performance Measures

Using performance measures are helpful when assessing progress at multiple levels. It also helps to determine the impact strategies have on short term and long term goals. It’s hard to scale practices to improve outcomes for an entire community if you are unsure of the effectiveness and reach of your strategies. Performance measures can help decipher these details of scope and scale.

To close the day, each team made powerful action commitments to take the competencies, frameworks and skills of RBL back into their everyday work to improve outcomes for children. By integrating RBL into their work, these teams will be better positioned to move their cradle to career partnerships from vision to action to results.


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New IHEP guidebook helps communities use data to advance postsecondary attainment

Mon, 2015-07-27 10:48

IHEP Data Guidebook

Our colleagues at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) have launched “Driving Toward Greater Post-Secondary Attainment Using Data,” a tactical guidebook to support community-based collaborations on data use among key sectors. It is a fantastic new resource for the field, aimed at shining a light on how some local communities have overcome obstacles to use data effectively to advance postsecondary attainment.

We were pleased to partner with IHEP and Data Quality Campaign to develop an animation as a component to the guidebook. This short video highlights successful strategies for developing data sharing agreements and partnerships from our recently released data sharing playbook, Data Drives School-Community Collaboration: Seven Principles for Effective Data Sharing.

IHEP’s Tactical Guidebook also includes:

  • Fact sheets on national and voluntary data collections to learn where to find data
  • Interviews with community leaders about their data tools, including their intended purpose, lessons learned, and tactical advice on implementation and collaborative work
  • Manuals and templates to explain how to develop tools and to highlight how communities already are using them
  • Additional resources with examples of other tools and more information on their implementation

Whether you are interested in student-level or community-level data, the guidebook will be relevant. It provides insight into different data tools used to support students and improve educational outcomes, and how communities could potentially adopt these tools.


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The Power of Continuously Improving

Fri, 2015-07-24 12:54

Post image for The Power of Continuously Improving

Continuous quality improvement (CQI) has become a hot topic for many of us in the social sector.

While continuously improving seems like a rather easy concept to understand, CQI requires more than just acknowledging the significance of these words. Instead, it requires ownership of the concept by both individuals and communities.

I have learned the importance of internalizing CQI and bridging the gap between theory and practicality through our work leading a cohort of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities working to apply CQI practices in their efforts to increase FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student aid) completions.

Project FAFSA launched in January 2015, with a goal of increasing FAFSA completion rates by four percent or an additional 2,220 students across seven participating cradle to career partnerships, including Seeding Success in Memphis, Tennessee; Bridging Richmond in Richmond, Virginia; RGV Focus in Rio Grande Valley, Texas; Mission: Graduate in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Big Goal Collaborative in Northeast Indiana; the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo in Michigan; and StrivePartnership in Cincinnati, Ohio / Northern Kentucky.

With support from Lumina Foundation, StriveTogether has been working with these communities to analyze key drivers impacting FAFSA completion rates, develop improvement action plans and measure progress in real time in order to improve. They joined us to dig deep, set goals and work collectively to not only increase FAFSA completion rates locally, but to embed a culture of continuous quality improvement within their own communities and partners.

Each of the seven communities has walked away with invaluable knowledge on how to continuously improve FAFSA completion rates. But, more importantly, they learned some key lessons that will help build a culture of continuous quality improvement in their communities:

  • Data does not always illustrate unidentified best practices, which can serve as valuable feedback on how to move forward in practical manners. During Project FAFSA, collective impact partnerships learned how to establish a collective goal, how to identify partners required for implementation, and how to navigate access to student level data.
  • Partnerships also gained valuable skills around embedding the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) process on both micro and macro levels, how to compel community wide ownership, and how to communicate their information.
  • CQI is about improving what you are already doing. It would be counterproductive to review results, make assumptions and move on to the next strategy. Modeling a culture of continuous quality improvement requires an intentional approach to studying how we implement strategies in real time. Communities engaged in Project FAFSA learned to be intentional about pausing to take a closer look at what they are doing that directly or indirectly affects our intended results.

As of June 30, 2015, FAFSA completion rates have increased by 1.8 percent across the cohort, with 26,816 FAFSA applications completed by the seven communities. While we must celebrate Seeding Success for achieving a 27 percent increase in Memphis alone, lessons learned throughout the collaborative speak volumes about the power of striving for improvement.

The natural tendency is to look at these results and assume that not much has changed. However, if we look a little bit deeper, it is clear that communities engaged in Project FAFSA can challenge this mindset. The power that comes from internalizing CQI lessons helps us bridge the gap between theory and practically.

To quote the very wise Thomas Edison, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” It is safe to say, the knowledge gained through Project FAFSA helps us all take another step in the right direction that is worth celebrating.

Photo: Maria Esther Rodriguez and Daniel Tesfay with RGV Focus share lessons learned during panel discussion on Poject FAFSA at the 2015 StriveTogether Post-Secondary and Career Success for Every Student Convening.


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Collective Impact + Pay for Success: Greater than the sum of their parts

Thu, 2015-07-23 09:56

Collective impact & Pay for Success

Communities across the country are finding new and innovative ways to improve outcomes for children, and work is anchored in results more than ever before. Across the social sector, we are looking less at starting new initiatives and more at identifying what is already working. More attention is on finding creative ways to focus limited resources on efforts with the potential to get the best possible social return on investment.

This is why collective impact and pay for success financing, such as social impact bonds, can be mutually beneficial. At StriveTogether, we believe communities can improve education outcomes through a disciplined and rigorous collective impact approach that uses data to identify and lift up what works. And according to Social Finance, a leader on social impact bonds, communities that take this disciplined approach can be ripe for pay for success financing mechanisms that align public dollars behind what works.

Collective Impact + Pay for SuccessI have no doubt that communities with the civic infrastructure required to achieve collective impact are uniquely poised to realize the promise of social impact bonds. And by combining the financing opportunity of pay for success with the convening power of collective impact, communities may accelerate their ability to create a shared vision across multiple sectors, shared accountability for moving outcomes and shared data to enable action.

Learn more about the intersections of collective impact and pay for success financing in a new paper from Social Finance and StriveTogether, “Collective Impact + Pay for Success: Greater than the Sum of their Parts.”  There is so much potential for these revolutionary approaches to work together and achieve better outcomes for kids.


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Three Ways to Achieve Education Equity (Part 1 of 3)

Mon, 2015-07-20 15:20

StriveTogether Equity Fellowship Meeting

Ensuring that every child has a fair chance at success requires a community-wide commitment to education excellence with equity. To achieve this, we need to change the systems that perpetuate persistent disparities in child outcomes. Cradle to career collective impact partnerships are uniquely positioned to drive this shift to ensure education results are improving on average AND that achievement gaps are eliminated.

Four StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships have come together to tackle this work head on in collaboration with StriveTogether, Just Communities and E3: Education, Excellence and Equity. As part of a nine-month equity fellowship, the Commit! Partnership (Dallas County, Texas), Cradle to Career Alliance (Columbia, Missouri), Every Hand Joined (Red Wing, Minnesota), and Thriving Together (Phoenix, Arizona) are learning how to make equity a core component of their work to improve educational outcomes for every child, cradle to career. [Read more about how the Commit! Partnership is focusing on equity in Dallas, Texas.]

Through this fellowship, three strategies have emerged for building a holistic approach to education equity within cradle to career collective impact work:

  1. Raise awareness of equity to encourage a focus on eliminating locally defined disparities
  2. Apply tools to ensure actions, interventions and activities are undertaken equitably
  3. Sustain behavior change through policies and protocols to change systems

In part one of this three-part series, we dig deeper into strategy #1 with ways communities can raise awareness of equity:

When addressing inequalities in student achievement, there may be a need to prioritize targeted interventions for particular populations. However, universal approaches are often favored over targeted ones, for fear of leaving some out. It’s necessary to bring awareness, and to make the case, that narrowing and focusing efforts could lead to greater impact for all.

To effectively engage in these conversations, consider the lenses (perspectives on how an individual sees the world based on life experiences, culture, ethnicity, etc.), triggers, comfort and preferences that your audience brings to the discussion. Universal messages that should be consistent across audiences to move equity from conversation to action are:

  • Equity isn’t equality: Understanding the difference between equity and equality can build support for targeted interventions or differential strategies based on kids’ unique needs. Equality is providing every child the exact same support. Equity is recognizing that children need different types of support and providing each child with what they need to succeed. Treating everyone equally may actually perpetuate inequity.
  • Achievement isn’t a zero sum game: “Excellence” is often positioned against “equity” as if they are opposing and mutually exclusive areas of focus. To garner support for equity, communicate that achievement is not a zero sum game. Intentionally supporting the achievement of a certain group of kids for which the system does not currently serve effectively does not have to result in decreasing achievement of higher performing students.
  • Equity isn’t different or additional work; it is our work: Equity is a lens through which to view every opportunity, decision or action. It’s not a body of work to be assigned to “equity experts,” it’s how the work is approached. For example, if a community is working to improve early grade reading, equity is an approach to determining all strategies – both universal and targeted. For example, consider:
    • Are the people impacted at the decision-making table?
    • What perspectives are we engaging to identifying strategies?
    • How will strategies impact different kids?
    • Do strategies address the root cause of the problem?
    • Do we have the experience to know the root cause of the problem?
    • Will strategies be culturally relevant to the students we are trying to serve?

Even though it is important to move from universal approaches to targeted approaches to achieve excellence with equity, this message can be difficult to communicate.

Consider the following when building awareness around equity:

  • Find the right messenger: Determine the right person to deliver the message. Identify those with trust, established relationships and credibility with the person or group being engaged.
  • Carefully consider timing: Often, multiple situations may converge in the community making it a prime opportunity to take action towards achieving equity. Capitalize on this moment.
  • Implement small tests of change: An effective way to grow support for equity work is by demonstrating that it works in your community with your kids. Implementing small-scale interventions around equitable strategies in a single program and communicating its impact is a great catalyst to garner support for large-scale equity work.

Equity fellowship participants are finding that building (and sometimes rebuilding) awareness around these key messages can change mindsets and accelerate action. However, moving towards action, even after engaging around equity, may not be easy. In part two of this blog series, we’ll explore approaches to move from conversation to implementation.

Meanwhile, we invite you to reflect on the strategies you have developed for improving outcomes for children in your community. What insights emerge?

Photo: Equity fellows discuss building a common language around what it means to embed equity into their work during an April meeting.


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Network in the News: Celebrating local partnerships, cradle to career work and dedicated volunteers

Thu, 2015-07-16 08:45

Roadmap Project Report Card

Throughout the last couple weeks, two cradle to career partnerships were included in local and national studies on graduation rates and workforce readiness. Another was recognized with a local community award. And yet another was featured in a story about a dedicated volunteer.

Celebrating all the amazing work throughout the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, here’s the latest Network in the News:

  1. Volunteers work with students through Step Forward: Mike Silva volunteers through Step Forward, a cradle to career partnership in Shreveport, Louisiana. At a local elementary school, he reads to Pre-K and third graders three days per week.
  2. Mission: Graduate recognized locally: The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce board of directors announced its annual awards. Mission: Graduate, a local cradle to career partnership, received the Chairman’s Award for Community Excellence.
  3. Road Map Project sets bar for large district-based improvement: A recent GradNation report explores the work of Road Map Project, a cradle to career partnership in Seattle. According to the report, Seattle school districts and Road Map Project are taking education into their own hands and using data to improve graduation rates.
  4. Big Goal Collaborative strives to meet growing workforce demands: Investment in employees is a weak link in Indiana, according to a new report by Ball State University. Big Goal Collaborative, a cradle to career partnership in northeast Indiana, works to increase the number of individuals with education beyond a high school degree.

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, as well as all cradle to career partnerships throughout the country.

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 news.


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From “Dropout Factories” to Record Graduation in Tacoma, WA

Mon, 2015-07-06 16:11

Graduating Class of 2015 from Mt. Tahoma High School stretch out the Graduate Tacoma! flag

Guest post by Eric Wilson, President & CEO of Graduate Tacoma! in Tacoma, Washington.  

In 2010, just over half of Tacoma students were graduating. Front page headlines in USA Today pronounced Tacoma schools, “Dropout Factories.”  The incoming Superintendent declared the 55% graduation rate, “shameful.”

It was time for a bold, ambitious, Tacoma-built goal that represented the community’s high expectations for all students, shared responsibility with parents, educators AND community, and an unwavering belief in the potential of every child to succeed, regardless of background.  The “Graduate Tacoma!” movement was born.

Tacoma faced low graduation rates, a diverse and highly-mobile student population, and a recession that sent poverty levels surging from 48 to 64 percent in one decade. That same year the Foundation for Tacoma Students was founded to build and strengthen the community-wide movement to help every student achieve success from cradle to college and career.

Hundreds of citizens and organizations came together – parents and educators, early learning and higher education, youth and community service, business and labor, civic and philanthropic, local government and communities of faith. Together, we forged one clear and unequivocal goal:

By the Class of 2020, we will increase by 50 percent both the graduation rate of Tacoma Public Schools students and those who complete a college degree or technical certificate. Success will require measuring and closing gaps in access, opportunities and achievement for all students from cradle to college and career.

Today, over 150 community partners – from every neighborhood and sector of Tacoma – have joined Graduate Tacoma! Together, diverse community partners have identified and agreed to a common set of Student and Community Indicators that need improvement to reach the community’s shared goal. Three Collaborative Action Networks are developing collective, credible and transparent ways to measure progress and improve student outcomes:

Early Learning & Reading Network

The community recognizes we have lots of room to improve in early learning, but Tacoma has a unique opportunity to improve with new data. In 2012, Tacoma began assessing every entering kindergartener in six developmental areas: literacy; math; cognitive; language; social; and physical. We now track and disaggregate this data over time to help guide early learning strategies. The Network also joined the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and focused early literacy efforts on parent outreach to specific communities with 90 percent free and reduced lunch and significant racial and ethnic diversity. Tutors provide one-on-one reading time with elementary students and books are mailed weekly to families this summer to expand access when school is not in session.

Out-of-School & Summer Learning Network

To combat the summer learning slide, Graduate Tacoma! launched a new website to increase access and build awareness of free or low-cost quality summer learning programs. It features 80 organizations and over 220 programs searchable by calendar, neighborhood, fee v. scholarships, and type of learning. Last year’s launch included over 26,000 searches and registered a 59 percent increase in summer program slots-filled at partner organizations over the previous year – 5,616 to 8,919. The Network also translates college support and summer learning materials for parents who do not yet speak or read English.

Reaching Higher – College Bound & Technical School Network

Just 25 percent of Tacoma adults hold a college degree, and local students are often first in their families to go to college. Cost is a major barrier with nearly two-thirds of students living in poverty. Each year, the Network and District successfully sign up nearly 100 percent of eligible students by the required middle school deadline for Washington’s College Bound Scholarship. Students who sign up, get into college, and maintain good citizenship are qualified for 4 years of college tuition-free. The SAT is now offered free to all Tacoma students. Participation has soared from 50 percent in 2010 to 83 percent in 2014. Students enrolling in college-eligible classes have also increased from 34 percent to 57 percent. Most significantly, college admission has increased from 33 to 43 percent and college completion has increased from 31 to 37 percent over the last three years.

It’s working. Tacoma is making steady student progress toward our shared goal. In just five years high school graduation rates for Tacoma students have risen from 55 to 78 percent – a record high for the District – surpassing the state average for the first time. Just as importantly, graduation rates among students in poverty have increased from 61 to 70 percent as well as significant gains among every racial demographic: Native American up 19.6 percent; Pacific Islander up 17 percent; Black up 14.4 percent, Asian up 13.9 percent; Hispanic up 9.5 percent; and White up 8.2 percent.

But we’re not there yet. The 50 percent community goal increase means Tacoma needs to reach an unprecedented 87 percent high school graduation rate and a 47 percent college and technical school completion rate by the Class of 2020. We know the climb ahead will only get steeper, the closer we get to our shared community goal. But together, Tacoma is striving for every child. WE WILL Graduate Tacoma!

Tacoma's graduating class of 2015

Tacoma’s graduating Class of 2015 celebrate in front of the iconic City Waterway and Cable-stayed Bridges and the Tacoma Dome – proudly flying the Graduate Tacoma! flag above the city skyline.


Eric Wilson, President/CEO, Foundation for Tacoma Students Eric Wilson is President & CEO of Graduate Tacoma! in Tacoma, Washington. Graduate Tacoma! is the community-wide movement to help every child achieve success from cradle to college to career. Graduate! Tacoma is a Sustaining member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, and is anchored by the Foundation for Tacoma Students.




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The Commit! Partnership Focuses on Equity in Collective Impact

Tue, 2015-06-30 10:23

April 2015 Empowering Oak Cliff community action meeting in Dallas, TX

Guest post by Kyle Gardner, Deputy Executive Director of The Commit! Partnership in Dallas, Texas. 


In the last two years, Dallas County, Texas early pre-K registration has increased by nearly 5,000, K-3 literacy proficiency rates in partner elementary schools have improved by 15 percent, and county priority-deadline FAFSA completion rates have risen by 4 percent. Together with education partners and collaborative action networks across Dallas County, the Commit! Partnership continues to implement regional campaigns, place-based strategies and systemic initiatives to improve educational outcomes.

Yet racial and economic disparities persist across Dallas County. For example, college readiness rates for White high school graduates are five to six times higher than their African American and Hispanic peers.

To gain tools to address these disparities and mobilize communities to drive change, Commit! and three other cradle to career communities are engaging in the inaugural StriveTogether Equity Fellowship, facilitated by E3 and Just Communities.

In May, we were introduced to the “3 Rs” framework from Bill Daggett with the International Center for Leadership in Education. This approach has inspired the Partnership to infuse equity into its strategies to drive student achievement, focusing on:

  • Rigor in content and expectations. It is the quality of thinking, not the quantity, and the core belief that rigorous learning can occur in any environment.
  • Relevance in application of core knowledge to address real problems in an authentic manner. Rigor without relevance can prevent some from actively pursuing knowledge or equip others to succeed only in certain environments.
  • Relationships between teachers and students or between organizations and families served. As one of our partners has succinctly stated, “Nothing moves without a touch.” Only after environments learn to cultivate mutual respect, honesty, responsibility and quality can collective impact lead to outcomes.

The Commit! Partnership is working to integrate each of these elements into its work. Here are a few examples of local efforts:

  • Rigor and Relevance: We are piloting a reading academy to provide professional development for grades K-3 teachers to introduce and reinforce quality early literacy instructional practices, including effective strategies to engage children from different backgrounds. After year one, all participants self-reported significant growth in their instructional effectiveness, and 14 of 19 participants saw greater in-year improvement in student literacy scores than teachers who were not a part of the pilot. The Dallas Independent School District (ISD) is now rolling out similar reading academies in additional feeder patterns in 2015-16, with supplementary coaching supports to improve instructional quality and raise student achievement.
  • Relationships: The Commit! Partnership is supporting a coalition of community-based and resident-led organizations with data and facilitation for action in Dallas ISD’s South Oak Cliff feeder pattern. The power of the collective and its multiple touches was demonstrated in a recent pre-K registration push, where a mass canvassing effort and celebratory event grew early pre-K registration by more than 115 students over the prior year, representing 45 percent growth. Building on this momentum, the coalition continues to expand. A June Empowering Oak Cliff meeting focused on deepening relationships between schools, nonprofits, grassroots organizations and residents to foster belonging and bring about truly collective impact. Incorporating the learning from the StriveTogether Equity Fellowship is especially relevant to this network.

As we continue to develop tools and knowledge through the Equity Fellowship, we will execute more elements of an equity-infused strategy for early literacy with core partners from Leadership ISD, Literacy Instruction For Texas (LIFT) and others, while integrating the knowledge, experience and momentum that Dallas Faces Race and others have initiated to mobilize Dallas County to face inequities and work for change.

Kyle Gardner, Deputy Executive Director, The Commit! Partnership

Kyle Gardner serves as Deputy Executive Director of the Commit! Partnership in Dallas County, helping guide strategy and operations for the backbone team. Previously Kyle was a consultant at The Bridgespan Group and ZS Associates and taught math in the classroom.




About The Commit! Partnership

Formed in 2012, the Commit! Partnership is a growing coalition of 160 different institutions, all with a vested stake in the educational outcomes of Dallas County’s ~750,000 students. The Partnership’s efforts are supported by a dedicated backbone staff of 17 individuals and over 120 community members serving on various councils guiding the work along the cradle-to-career continuum. The Commit! Partnership is a Sustaining member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network.

Read our Story of Impact to Learn More:

Bringing people to the table to look honestly at student data: The Commit! Partnership rallies community-wide partners to improve education for students throughout Dallas County



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Unprecedented investment in Minnesota to support cradle to career collective impact

Wed, 2015-06-24 09:01

Cradle to career collective impact

According to the most recent U.S. Census, each year, United States taxpayers spend $591 billion on elementary and secondary education. Of those funds, 91 percent comes from local and state sources. This makes up the strong majority of all resources spent on educational improvement, followed by private philanthropy contributing about $5 billion annually.

This leads us to a very clear and undeniable conclusion: To change how we educate children at scale, we must change how funds flow from local and state sources.

The state of Minnesota just took a big step in this direction, providing a great example of how communities across the country can shift funding. As part of the new state K-12 education finance package, $5.8 million has been appropriated to support cradle to career partnerships across the state, in both rural and urban communities. The law provides $1 million over two years to be shared equally by three partnerships in “Greater Minnesota”–Red Wing, Northfield and St. Cloud—all members of the Strive Together Cradle to Career Network. Minnesota’s two urban Promise Neighborhood initiatives, the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis and the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, each will receive $1.2 million each year in annual operating grants.

This is the first time a state has invested heavily in the support of the backbone infrastructure that is such a critical component of collective impact. This means that legislators saw that investing a small amount of funds in the human capital and data management capacity needed to understand what education improvement initiatives work is critical to ensure a measurable return on investment.

Let’s be clear:  This investment by the state of Minnesota is unprecedented. Rather than simply investing in programs, the state will invest in ways to understand what programs can provide the best ongoing results. Over time, we will be able to answer the following question on an ongoing basis rather than just at the end of a long-term evaluation: What is working for kids and how can we build on it? The power of this to make sure the state gets the best possible return on investment is simply undeniable.

Here are a few insights that other communities can learn from to drive similar policy change:

  • Multiple communities from diverse geographic locations can have a powerful voice when they work together. The combination of rural and urban collective impact partnerships working arm-in-arm to influence legislation is invaluable. Partnerships in smaller communities outside the Twin Cities in Red Wing, Northfield, and St. Cloud came together with urban partnerships like Generation Next and the Promise Neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul to advocate not only for themselves, but for each other. This is the type of statewide coalition legislators rarely see and can draw a great deal of attention and support.
  • A central convening entity to guide and support the policy strategy is invaluable. Dane Smith and Maureen Ramirez at Growth & Justice*, a policy and research nonprofit which has long been supporting StriveTogether initiatives in Minnesota on advocacy work, played a critical role in helping to build and guide the overall work of the coalition in Minnesota. They acted as a critical component of the overall backbone function in helping to facilitate this work, modeling the concept of servant leadership.
  •  All partners modeled selfless advocacy to achieve a greater goal. The United Way, Generation Next, the Wilder Foundation and other partners advocated for resources for the community at large, instead of for their own. Getting individuals and organizations to put the interest of the broader effort ahead of their own is the true power of partnership.

We will draw more lessons from this outstanding example in the months to come. But for now, all the partners engaged in working with the legislature to get this win for the State of Minnesota should be celebrated across the Cradle to Career Network and the collective impact field at large. This legislation serves as a model to the nation for how public funding can be influenced to support the success of children.

*Growth & Justice is a research and advocacy organization based in St. Paul. They participate as members of the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success, based in the north-central part of the state and are in the third year of a project called the “Minnesota Statewide Student Success Movement,” supported by the Blandin Foundation. Growth & Justice has participated actively in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network on topics of rural partnerships and racial equity and have been a constant champion for the work of quality collective impact across the state. 


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“Not Knowing If We Are Making a Difference Is An Injustice”

Tue, 2015-06-23 10:17

It’s not about more new things. It's about a collective commitment to applying and scaling what works.

Recently, Hany White team spoke at an event in Burlington, North Carolina,  to a group of community partners interested in improving how they support the success of children at scale. A local reporter captured an interesting quote: “Not knowing if we are making a difference is an injustice.”

I so appreciated how succinctly summarized this point. While we have not always captured the thrust behind our work in this way, I do not believe it is an overstatement. The fact that we work every day with children on noble efforts without truly understanding our impact is indeed an injustice. It means we are not doing everything we possibly can to ensure their success. We are doing good without knowing if we are actually doing any good at all.

In a recent interview on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, President Obama was speaking directly to the injustice we are seeing play out all across our nation, most recently with the horrific tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina. He could not have been more clear in his response. And as for moving forward together as a nation to respond effectively, he could not have been more direct: “I am less interested in having an ideological conversation than I am in looking at what has worked in the past and applying it and scaling up.”

This comment, gets right to the injustice Hany identified that we are trying to address through our work building cradle to career partnerships. We need to respond not by admiring the problem from afar, but by doing the very hard work of actually looking at what we are doing every day to see if it is having impact. It is messy. People can be wedded to their programs.

But the result is not the program. It should be about identifying and scaling those practices that work … and having the courage to call it out when they don’t.

The President went on in his interview with Marc Maron to focus on early childhood education. He said that effective early childhood education can help not only address the plague of racism, but change the trajectory of a child’s life economically. Unfortunately, he went on, that quality early childhood education “happens spottily … what hasn’t happened is us making a collective commitment to it.”

Once again, we need to take on the very difficult challenge of not starting more stuff, but identifying what works and doing more of it. If we know, as many Cradle to Career Network members have found and the President highlighted, that a qualified teacher in child development is the key, let’s find concrete ways to get more highly qualified teachers in more classrooms.

It’s not about more new things. It’s about a collective commitment to applying and scaling what works.

To do anything less is nothing short of an injustice.

Listen to the complete interview of President Barack Obama by Marc Maron.


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