What do collective impact, cross-sector cooperation, and making a difference in the lives of children have in common? Well, a whole lot. And they’re just a few of the reasons StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are making headlines.
- The work of Cradle to Career Partnership in Tucson, AZ is featured in BizEDUCATION.
- A leader from Northfield Promise was awarded with a “Making a Difference” Award, which is given out monthly to community members who help make Northfield, MN an even better place for young people.
- Education Coalition of Macon County in Decator, IL was mentioned in this EdWeek article about a workshop they co-sponsored.
- There are a lot of education discussions in San Antonio, TX right now, and P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County is seen as a crucial player in the need for “comprehensive data and broad cooperation” across the community.
- RGV Focus in Rio Grande Valley was discussed as an example of collective impact success in Texas.
If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to email@example.com. We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.
In education, challenges are complex, often chronic, and sometimes seem insurmountable. But what if we tackled these challenges with a “How Might We” approach?
As IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, explains in his blog, The Secret Phrase that Sparks Creative Solutions:
“How assumes that solutions exist and provides the creative confidence needed to identify and solve for unmet needs.
Might says that we can put ideas out there that might work or might not—either way, we’ll learn something useful.
We signals that we’re going to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas to find creative solutions together.”
Over the next 12 months, five communities across the U.S. will ask “How might we decrease chronic absenteeism in our school districts?” They’re part of StriveTogether’s second Impact and Improvement Network, which will focus on improving academic outcomes along the Kindergarten to 12th grade continuum. And they will work together to understand the causes of chronic absence in their schools and to develop and test interventions to reduce the number of days students miss.
Learning + Action in the K-12 Impact and Improvement Network
Participants in StriveTogether’s Impact and Improvement Networks receive professional development in continuous improvement, equity, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results-Based Leadership. This Impact & Improvement Network, however, will also incorporate aspects of design thinking (also known as human-centered design) to enable communities to better understand the needs of those they serve and involve students and families in the design of creative interventions. “How Might We” is one of many design thinking techniques used to spur innovative solutions.
The training is not conducted in a vacuum. Research indicates – and intuition confirms – that adult learning is most effective when it is applicable and connected to one’s day-to-day work. And at StriveTogether, we have a bias towards actions that are connected to the result you aim to achieve. That’s why the Impact and Improvement Networks pair learning with action.
Each community team has selected a K-12 outcome to apply their learnings towards. San Antonio, Texas (P16 Plus) and Waterbury, Conn. (Bridge to Success) will focus on early grade reading while Albuquerque, N.M. (Mission: Graduate), Austin, Texas (E3 Alliance), and Thornton, Colo. (Adams County Youth Initiative) will hone in on high school graduation. All five communities will work to improve a common factor that contributes to academic success – attendance at school.
Attendance is a predictive indicator, which means it is an early signal to educators if a student is at-risk of falling behind. Research shows that missing as few as 2 days of school per month– for any reason – negatively impacts a student’s academic performance. The five communities in the K-12 Impact & Improvement Network have identified chronic absenteeism as a priority and key driver of student success, particularly for certain subsets of their student population (e.g., special education, low income, Pre-K, grade 12, Native American, or African American students).
In addition, attendance is an advantageous data point for this kind of national learning network. It is a common metric collected across states, which allows communities to share what they’ve learned and tackle challenges together regardless of geography. More importantly, however, attendance data is available regularly. Schools collect it daily, and it is available for analysis weekly. This allows for “rapid-cycle continuous improvement.” Because you get fresh data often, you can try out an intervention – what we call a small test of change – and see, within a week or two, if that strategy had an impact. You then decide if you want to adopt, adapt, or abandon that strategy depending on its effectiveness.
About the K-12 Impact and Improvement Network
The K-12 Impact and Improvement Network launches this week and runs through September 2017.
We are excited to partner with Attendance Works, who will serve as a content expert and coach for our communities, and with Design Impact, who is our thought partner on the integration of design thinking strategies into our continuous improvement process. This work is made possible by the Lumina Foundation.
Partnerships are broadening their horizons while retaining their focus on the essentials.
- Portland, Oregon’s All Hands Raised has a Parent Equity Fund that collects funding to help schools with less-than robust parent-run groups and campaigns.
- ImpactTulsa is encouraging high school seniors to complete their FAFSA forms. As of March 4, roughly one-third of area high school seniors had filled out the form.
- Thrive Chicago is partnering with other education advocates in the city to compete in the XQ School Design competition.
- There’s a new book out from R.T. Rybak, former Minneapolis mayor and current executive director of Generation Next, a StriveTogether partnership in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.
Our board recently challenged us to consider ways we could use public policy engagement to support our investment in the community and programmatic work. The timing of this request and the StriveTogether Policy & Advocacy 101 training was perfect. I was able to gain valuable knowledge and skills to help me respond to our Board’s challenge. United Way of Central New Mexico (UWCNM) intends to engage in public policy to support and protect our grant making and programmatic work, like our cradle to career education initiative, Mission: Graduate.
This year we are launching three multi-year grants that will fund projects that work to implement three of Mission: Graduate’s collaborative strategies: summer learning loss, reduction in chronic absences, and adult transitions to college. As a first step toward advocacy, UWCNM and Mission: Graduate recently partnered with the City of Albuquerque, the Early Childhood Accountability Partnership, and the University of New Mexico Center for Education Policy Research to provide an opportunity for our donors, volunteers, community members, and lawmakers to learn about summer learning initiatives in our community. The event focused on the findings of the Utah State University five-year study on New Mexico’s K-3 Plus program, a program that seeks to reduce summer learning by providing qualifying students an additional 25 school days during the summer.
Educational events like this will be the flagship public policy offerings of UWCNM as we explore our capacity for further advocacy. We hope to use our access to research and the lived experiences of our agency partners and their consumers to provide valuable policy-related information to our donors, volunteers, lawmakers, and community members.
We are in the early stages of public policy engagement but as we deepen that engagement, the training’s effective mix of technical and legal information, coupled with capacity-building materials, will serve as a valuable resource. I have used the knowledge I gained at the training to facilitate the foundational process work, while keeping in mind the elements that will help drive our work forward in a meaningful and thoughtful manner. I will use both the technical information and capacity-building resources as we move from the planning phase into action and advocacy. I strongly encourage organizations seeking to increase their understanding of public policy, and their capacity for public policy-related work, to consider attending a future training.
Heba Atwa-Kramer is the Director of Community Impact at United Way of Central New Mexico (UWCNM). She is part of the team that thinks about how to maximize the impact of UWCNM investments in her community, and staffs the organization’s complementary public policy work. In this role, Heba has the opportunity to spend every day working to improve the health, education, and financial stability of central New Mexico.
Advocacy can be a scary word. We don’t want to appear to take sides or lose our neutrality. But advocacy doesn’t have to be scary and I am willing to go so far as to say that advocacy is what cradle to career partnerships do every single day.
What is advocacy?
A participant at the recent StriveTogether Policy and Advocacy Convening defined advocacy as “bringing community voice to decision-makers.” Bolder Advocacy, an organization that works to advance and protect the role of nonprofits in influencing public policy, takes it further and defines advocacy as, “any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.”
And if the image they provide to illustrate advocacy to non-profits is any indication, this is work we’re already doing: items in green can always be undertaken by partnerships, those in yellow we may do with limitations, and those in red we may never do.
I am sure many of you can think of a time when a decision was made – be it about funding, testing, data access, or some other thing that greatly impacted your work – where you were not part of the decision-making process. Even when we aren’t at the table, we have to live with and sort through the consequences of these decisions. This can stall our work – in some cases it prevents us from doing our work altogether.
If we are not advocating and using our collective voice to shape decisions, then our pathway to changing systems will be much longer and much harder. Stand For Your Mission, a campaign that promotes board and trustee advocacy, suggests that “successful advocacy does not require stepping into the quagmire of partisan politics. It simply means using our voices as committed and informed champions for our missions.” And don’t our missions deserve that? Don’t our students deserve someone to advocate on their behalf?
So, now what?
Your leadership table is full of influential actors whose voice will be crucial in advocacy efforts, and it’s important to get them on board. Facilitating an open and honest conversation about the partnership’s mission, goals, and future is a great place to start. Stand For Your Mission provides a helpful guide to having this initial advocacy conversation and a few tips for non-profit leaders and funders. It is important to understand what issues the partnership will be taking a stance on, who will be the voice, and what the collective message will be.
Advocacy and be tricky, especially in a partnership that has multiple individual and organizational agendas on the table, but it is doable – and it is worth it.
For students and teachers, taking attendance might seem like a pointless formality.
But the power of those attendance numbers to change the outcome for students is huge.
Students who miss more than 10 percent of regular school days are considered chronically absent, and teachers are often aware of which students are on track to be chronically absent within the first few weeks of the school year. Research shows an overwhelming correlation between attendance and school performance, so when the administration in Harlandale Independent School District (HISD) in San Antonio, Texas, with the guidance of community partners and P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, wanted to improve third grade reading results, they saw a way to use regular attendance data to do just that.
Their work, and their incredible results – more than 2,300 students have shown improvement, and 44 percent of those who were once chronically absent are no longer chronically absent – is the focus of the first in a series of stories exploring how organizations who have changed the way they do business every day, based on data, are improving the lives of students from cradle to career. Each of these stories highlights the work of one individual who is on the ground, making it happen, championing data and advocating for students: an #ImpactAgent for change.
For students and their families in San Antonio, Texas, that #ImpactAgent is Dr. Carol Harle, Harlandale’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. From creating attendance committees, assisting school leadership in crafting a plan to address chronic absence that fits with their school culture, and creating a new position within the district focused on data, Dr. Harle has made tackling this issue in a new way a priority. And it’s paid off, big time.
For more of Dr. Harle and Harlandale’s story, read the first #ImpactAgent story, and learn how possible it is to change student outcomes, one school day at a time.
Recent reports and studies by Network partners, as well as many local events to benefit students and communities, have gained traction in the media in recent weeks.
- The Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative in South Carolina released its most recent report card, revealing that high school graduation rates do not necessarily translate to college readiness.
- Learn to Earn Dayton in Ohio co-hosted the 7th annual Readiness Summit.
- ImpactTulsa announced at a recent event that Tulsa is on its way to being the first midsize city to graduate 90 percent of its high school students on time.
- At a panel at SXSWedu, San Antonio’s E3 Alliance participated in a panel about chronic absenteeism.
- Bridge to Success in Waterbury, Connecticut, partnered with other local organizations to buy more than 7,000 books to give out to local students throughout the next year.
- Students and their families in Macon County, Illinois are encouraged by the Education Coalition of Macon County to complete and turn in their FAFSA forms. They also recently co-hosted a workshop for local students to talk about science learning standards and student learning.
- The Baltimore Promise worked with the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative and The Job Opportunities Task Force to release a report about workforce training and support services for disconnected youth.
- A recent study from P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County talks about data from local agencies and how those groups are positively impacting students.
If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to email@example.com. We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.
Guest post by Victor Cedeño, Director of Networks and Education Policy with Generation Next, a Cradle to Career partnership in Minnesota.
Being a part of the StriveTogether network is exciting because there is a widely held belief that we must do anything necessary to improve outcomes for kids. Eager to have a conversation about how education policy can play a role, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the StriveTogether Policy and Advocacy training.
The training demystified the world of advocacy and lobbying. We learned the differences between the two and strategies to prepare and be effective in pushing for policy solutions. Yet the most valuable component of the conference was being able to discuss the common fears that partnerships across the country share regarding the world of policy and advocacy.
The strength of collective impact lies in the broad coalitions we are able to bring together and maintain. We cut across the traditional battle lines in the education world, bringing together districts, unions, businesses, foundations and other institutions for the sake of improvement for all students. These coalitions can be powerful, but also fragile. There is a fear that entering the world of law and policy making will bring out the traditional fissures and fracture the partnership.
But there is a path forward, and I would argue that unless we are willing to enter into conversation around policies, we will fall short of the improvements we seek. Partnerships are perfectly equipped to do this work because we’re on the ground, and we have the backing of data and evidence. We’re good at taking our time, being patient, and educating key audiences. When we engage in advocacy and lobbying, we have the power to gain powerful alliances.
At Generation Next, we are currently exploring and prioritizing policy issues based on our work and the work our partners are doing on the ground. Where we have found opportunities for advocacy:
- We’ve been working on increasing the number of students screened at age 3 and have discovered that our state lacks a centralized database on who has been screened by either a school or a health clinic. That means that some families may be receiving the same type of screening twice. Furthermore, without a centralized database we cannot identify where there is duplication and where the community should focus extra resources.
- In partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools and Saint Paul Public Schools, Generation Next has been working on identifying students before they are off-track to graduate in four years. We started a pilot to gather this data at a few local high schools, but this is the type of system change that is needed at the district level. Policy makers could encourage other districts to do the same and provide resources to intervene at the first sign of risk.
- As for data, there is an opportunity to ensure all transcripts are digitized and easily transferable between districts. There is also a need for a common kindergarten readiness assessment, as without state guidance each district is free to choose a different one.
There is a comfort in being part of a collective action effort: funders are not going at it alone, superintendents feel like they have support, and businesses finally have a role in contributing to education. However, part of that comfort also comes from the fact that we have focused on incremental improvements and not necessarily radical policy changes. We must continue to focus on improvement through practice but do away with the fear of policy solutions for the sake of the change we seek on behalf of all kids and our communities.
Victor Cedeño is the Director of Networks and Education Policy with Generation Next, a Cradle to Career partnership in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Victor serves as the primary staff for identifying education policy innovations locally and across the country, and ensures these innovations are core parts of Generation Next strategies. He is also tasked with ensuring that Generation Next networks are supported, aligned, and working strategically to find and identify the most effective solutions to meet the coalition’s five key goals to close the achievement gap.
When it came time for the Community Center for Education Results (CCER), the backbone organization supporting The Road Map Project in South Seattle and South King County, to release its annual report on Indicators of Student Success, they decided to try something new. In addition to a shorter, 17-page 2015 annual report – in 2014, it was 45 pages long – CCER staff wanted to give the communities they serve a fresh perspective on the region’s education results.
“We wanted something user-friendly,” says CCER Communications Manager Kristin Johnson-Waggoner about the new Annual Indicator Dashboard, which grew out of a desire to make data more accessible to the community. “Something that could be used to help influence decisions and allow people to really understand student outcomes. The dashboard is a breakthrough for the project.”
CCER didn’t need to completely reinvent the wheel to push their data out there in a new way, either. They were one of 15 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members selected to participate in a new data analytics fellowship program with Tableau Foundation, and were given free training on the Tableau data software as part of their participation in the program. The data team at CCER – Mridula Polina, Trevor Thomas, Alessandra Pollock and Shelby Cooley – had been building automated processes for most of their indicator reporting. The timing of the fellowship, which began months before the 2015 Results Report debut, was ideal and they were able use their existing dataset to underpin the dashboard.
The Road Map Project tracks 40 indicators and the need for actionable, relevant and local data across the seven-district region is huge. While the annual results report focused on regional and district-level data, the dashboard allows users to filter down to individual schools. The community can examine progress toward the project’s 2020 goal and examine trends over time for student subgroups within Road Map schools for dozens of indictors: honors course-taking, discipline, direct enrollment in postsecondary, college completion, and more.
“There’s a connection to the school you went to, the school your kids go to,” says Cooley. “People want to know what’s happening there.”
Johnson-Waggoner is also excited at the prospect of the continual reporting that’s made possible by an online dashboard. CCER can make updates in real time, rather than “keep those who are trying to make change waiting.”
The Annual Indicator Dashboard was rolled out in early February at a 200-person meeting of the Road Map Project’s Education Results Network, a group of cross-sector stakeholders. The CCER team is interested in learning how the dashboard is explored and shared, and working with the community to determine how it can be improved. Ultimately, it is their hope that the dashboard will be used as a tool to inform conversations, both formal and informal, and as a way to explore and contribute to the critical work of the cradle to career partnership.
“We want people to become informed, to be motivated, to be advocates,” says Johnson-Waggoner.
And with the wealth of data available from the Annual Indicator Dashboard at their fingertips, that’s a real possibility.
Picture yourself walking into the room where a collective impact partnership meeting is about to take place. The room should not look like every other Board or committee meeting you’ve ever attended. Instead, it should feel like you are walking into a stadium where you have the score board clearly marked displaying the partnership’s critical metrics:
- Trend lines and targets for the key metrics you are reporting to the community. You should know exactly where you stand on the measures you are focused on addressing – such as kindergarten readiness or college enrollment – against the targets you have set collectively..
- Data on specific local practices that you have found actually improve the outcomes you care about, as well as any data on practices that don’t work. Data on the impact of practices would ideally include how practitioners – operating independently or in Networks – have outlined their plans to make improvements based on the data and the timeline on which they will test revised interventions.
- The resources available – time, talent, and most definitely treasure – that could be mobilized to support the improvement projects to move the outcomes. Seeing the resources available and that can be deployed against impactful practices can help leaders see the invaluable advocacy role they can play as a part of the partnership.
Dan Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of Portland’s All Hands Raised, calls these “hustle metrics” – and making sure you put all this data in front of leaders on a regular basis is essential for helping them see how they can move the most critical metrics of all: your annual student outcome data. In fact, simply setting up the room this way whenever you engage leaders is a concrete way to answer two of the most frequently asked questions I get from Cradle to Career Network members: :
- What is the long-term value the work of the cradle to career partnership team provides a community?
- How do I keep leadership actively engaged in this systems level work?
If the meeting room was always designed in this way, community partners would come to understand there is no better place to go for the data they need to inform their decisions about how to take action to improve outcomes for children in their communities. Simultaneously, the community partners will understand their role: helping to continuously evaluate and identify what works and advocate for resources to support their constant improvement.
I challenge you to rethink your next leadership meeting. Try setting up the room in this way. Give your partners time on their own to digest the information, and then invite them to find ways that they can commit – and be held accountable – for using the data to inform their organizational work and their work as a collective.
Network members closed out February with some big announcements and a number of enriching community events.
- Indiana has awarded 13 community partnerships grant funding for training and education programs. Some of the money will benefit Big Goal Collaborative in northeast Indiana.
- Northfield Promise helped during “I Love to Read Month” by organizing community events, including a book drive in partnership with Bridgewater student council, Rotary and ECIC.
- One of the founders of Every Hand Joined in Red Wing, Minn., launched her run for the Minnesota State House.
- Generation Next in Minneapolis/St. Paul is working with the local school districts to focus on struggling 9th graders to help them succeed.
- Boston Opportunity Agenda released its fifth annual report card.
- The E3 Alliance in Austin, Texas, cohosted a recent summit for education leaders. The summit aimed to outline plans for the next five years to continue improving student outcomes.
- Treasure Valley Education Partnership in Idaho, hired a new communications and operations coordinator.
The racial, ethnic and socio-economic divide that exists between white students and most students of color raises questions about the quality of life for so many people and, as Jared Bernstein recently pointed out, the future economic gains are at stake for all. In education collective impact work across the country, we’re seeing communities shift their focus from designing interventions aimed at under-performing students to designing interventions aimed at the root causes of educational achievement gaps. This expanded focus, to address educational disparities at their origin, is the work of advancing equity in education. Given the multifaceted and deeply engrained history of the educational achievement gap, finding ways to address disparities and create a more equitable path forward is often unclear and cannot be done by any one group, organization or person. For those willing and ready to start the conversation and take action to advance equity, the publicly available tools listed below can help deepen your understanding, frame conversations effectively and develop equitable strategies that fit local context and extend across all social sectors.
- Equity is not Equality - Document courtesy of Interaction Institute for Social Change - Use this slide to start conversations on equity. Have individuals come up with a label or description for the picture and then have them discuss how this applies to our work.
- The Four Voices of Collective Impact - Document courtesy of CoCreative Consulting - This tool outlines four voices needed in collective impact initiatives; Expertise, Experience, Design and Intent. Use it to ensure you have all the right voices at the table.
- Assessing Your Organization’s Readiness and Capacity to Move a Racial Justice Agenda - Document courtesy of Western States Center - This assessment is designed to identify potential barriers to taking on a racial justice focus. It outlines the preparatory work that may be needed to effectively engage in and sustain racial justice work.
- Racial Equity Impact Assessment - Document courtesy of RaceForward - A Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) is a systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed action or decision. This includes sample questions to anticipate, assess, and prevent adverse consequences of proposed actions on different racial groups.
- How Can we Create an Inclusive and Equitable Planning Process? - Document courtesy of Racial Equity Tools - This tip sheet focuses on inclusivity in four issues: processes, practices, decision-making, and accountability. These tips apply to a wide variety of group formations and processes, including coalitions, collaborations, system interaction, dialogue processes, etc.
- The Business Case for Equity - Resources courtesy of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance - My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) generates and distributes innovative tools and resources to support change in local communities that will ultimately improve the lives of boys and young men of color (BYMOC). Information available here will help business leadership develop a complete understanding on issues BYMOC face, recommended ways to approach the community and how diversifying talent can positively impact the corporation itself.
- Community Collaboration for School Innovation Toolkit - Made possible by the Colorado Department of Learning, The Learning Accelerator and The Colorado Education Initiative - The driving principle behind the Community Collaboration for School Innovation toolkit is that over time, community engagement has become a one-way mechanism for districts to push out information about initiatives and programs into the local community. This toolkit provides a process for school districts to understand who needs to be engaged, how to engage them and how to develop a clear understanding of what the community expects from their school district. The processes outlined will help facilitate effective conversations with multiple perspectives to align initiatives and efforts.
In August of 2015, StriveTogether, in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, launched the StriveTogether Leadership Program. This nine-month program is an in-depth training for the six cradle to career partnerships participating in StriveTogether’s Accelerator Fund in Annie E. Casey’s Results Based Leadership, a practice that has changed social outcomes for communities across the nation. This blog from Kirstin Yeado, Community Impact Manager with Higher Expectations in Racine, Wisconsin, and is one of several reflections from participants in the program.
Meetings without a particular result or focus are simply work avoidance.
This, among many other takeaways, has influenced Higher Expectations’ approach in taking on the complex challenges that so many communities face. Working toward eradicating racial disparities in education and opportunity in Racine, Wisconsin, Higher Expectations has recently joined five other StriveTogether Network communities in the StriveTogether Leadership Program. When we know that 88 percent of white students entered school “ready to learn to read” in the Fall of 2015, but only 71 percent of African-American students and 68 percent of Hispanic/Latino students, we know, too, that this is a challenge that requires a commitment to results.
At a recent site visit, we were given the opportunity to be truly results-focused, using the visit to spearhead a conversation with community leaders who would be willing to commit their time, talent and resources to solving the challenge of racial disparities. But what would be on the agenda? What’s the result we want to achieve? And what would the “ask” of our participants be? Using lessons in results-based facilitation learned from StriveTogether and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we developed a results-based agenda that used a particular outcome – kindergarten readiness – as the focus of our conversation. By keeping the conversation focused on this particular challenge, we created a clear path to action.
Our meeting was attended by several community leaders, including leadership from the school district, county, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and the local NAACP.
- Our conversation started with a data walk. Before you can begin to tackle the challenge of inequity, you must know what the data tells you.
- We then spent time as a group uncovering the story behind the data. What does the data tell us about the state of well-being for children in Racine? As we reviewed the data, we saw a clear pattern of disparities that started in kindergarten and continued through post-secondary experiences between African-American and white students. We also noticed a growing Latino population in our community.
- Next, we spent time exploring the mental models that guide the thoughts and actions of our community each and every day. Like most communities, we know there are mental models around who is “responsible” for these outcomes. Understanding these models is critical to ensuring we develop solutions that disrupt or align with our beliefs about root causes.
- Finally, we made action commitments. What can we as community leaders do to continue have tough conversations and, ultimately, move the needle when it comes to kindergarten readiness?
During our time together, we agreed to further explore the implicit racial bias that affects so many communities and how it impacts the way we approach solutions to racial inequity. We also will be doing a deeper investigation into kindergarten readiness “bright spots” where outcomes are strong for all students and racial disparities are minimized, and investigate key aspects that make these schools, programs or classrooms successful.
Though our conversation in January was brief, it was a necessary step for our community. Using the lens of kindergarten readiness results, we engaged our community in an important discussion and developed next steps around a challenge that often leaves people feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. Though we know the journey ahead is long and full of challenge, it’s a journey our community must take if we wish to eliminate racial disparities.
Kirstin Yeado serves as the Community Impact Manager for Higher Expectations in Racine County, Wisconsin, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Sustaining member. Higher Expectations launched in 2014 with the bold vision of creating a fully capable and employed Racine County workforce. Yeado is an experienced social sector professional who has provided technical assistance to communities building partnerships through the Federal Promise Neighborhoods and Building Neighborhood Capacity (BNCP) programs.
Guest post by Stan Masters, Data Steward for the Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership in Adrian, Michigan.
It’s a roller-coaster ride when you are serving your community to improve educational outcomes. You don’t know what’s around the next corner: It could be a sweeping curve, a deep descent, or a complete 360-degree loop. But that is what is exciting when you get to share these experiences with others at a StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening, which I recently had the opportunity to do.
Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership had the opportunity to attend StriveTogether’s Exploring Communities Convening in 2014. In this convening, you have opportunities to listen and share with leaders in communities who have been trying to orientate themselves around a common agenda. Guest speakers encourage you to dare to do something special for your students along their pathways to success. As the Data Manager for Lenawee Cradle to Career, I was able to connect with others who have the same responsibilities in breakout sessions and networking meetings to build my expertise. As my team debriefed on each day’s events, we were able to put together various pieces that helped to define our action plans and timelines.
While your community is unique because of its climate and culture, there is a uniform track that we all follow in this work: the elements of collective impact. For me, the graphic of the arrows moving from “program-rich” to “systems-rich” has become my call to action. When I climb the hills of continuous communication or dig deep into shared measurement systems, I know that I am experiencing the thrill of this responsible work in tandem with other communities.
An Exploring Communities Convening is just what you need as you look for examples of mutually reinforcing activities around cradle to career outcomes of kindergarten readiness, third grade reading, middle grade math, high school graduation, and post-secondary enrollment/completion. With the support of our backbone support organizations and over 50 partners in just two short years, the Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership is beginning to raise its hands together to celebrate our successes.
Join the excitement and fun at this year’s Exploring Communities Convening in Chicago on March 22 – 23. Learn to appreciate the wind in your face, the somersaults in your stomach, and the applause that awaits you at the end of your journey. Then get back on the coaster and ride it again! Move to the front and witness a new perspective for youth, families, and stakeholders in your community.
Stan Masters serves as the Data Steward for the Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership in Adrian, Michigan. He is employed as the Coordinator of Instructional Data services for the Lenawee Intermediate School District, the county’s regional education agency. Just one year after attending the StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening, Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership met the necessary community milestones to join the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network as an Emerging member.
StriveTogether Cradle to Career Partnerships are in the news this week sharing incredible graduation rates, annual report cards, stories of FAFSA assistance and more.
- The White House recently recognized an initiative by E3 Alliance, a StriveTogether partnership in Austin, Texas, as an excellent educational practice. The partnership worked with local schools to create a rubric to effectively teach English Language Learners, which is now being used in 30 schools in nine districts.
- The Big Goal Collaborative, a StriveTogether partnership in Indiana, has teamed up with local organizations and school districts to offer free FAFSA assistance to students and parents.
- Step Forward, a StriveTogether partnership in Shreveport, Louisiana, hosted an event last week to share its annual report card with the community.
- In 2015, graduation rates for seven school districts near Seattle reached or surpassed 70 percent for the first time. This region is served by Road Map Project, a StriveTogether partnership in Seattle.
- The Milwaukee mayor mentioned Milwaukee Succeeds, a StriveTogether partnership, in his 2016 State of the City speech.
There’s a lot of potential in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for communities interested in collective impact. I’ve already explored opportunities for states to develop their own accountability systems and how data can be used more effectively to improve outcomes for students. In this final installment of the series, I’m looking ahead to the federal grant programs that were reauthorized and embraced under ESSA:
These competitive federal grant programs support the overall goal of building cradle to career civic infrastructure and achieving collective impact. Full-Service Community Schools and 21st Century Community Learning Centersare fully embraced under ESSA as a way to make sure resources are at students’ fingertips, not dispersed randomly throughout a community. We have seen cradle to career partnerships help identify the most high-impact programs and services to partner with schools under these programs, and the support of ESSA will only see that impact grow. Communities will now be able to use Title One dollars for key roles and supports, such as school-based resource coordinators who serve the critical role of connecting students to the resources they need the most.
And with the authorization of Promise Neighborhoods under ESSA, StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities working arm-in-arm with Promise Neighborhoods in the most high-needs communities will be able to better test data utilization to personalize learning. While they were already doing this work, the potential for such alignment was only increased with ESSA’s passage.
Opportunities in all three areas – accountability systems, data use, and competitive grant programs – will become much clearer when the DOE releases regulations, but until then, it is never too late to engage your elected officials and agencies at the state level to let them know the knowledge and expertise you bring to the table to achieve better results at scale.
What does the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mean for collective impact in education and cradle to career partnerships? In this blog series, I’m exploring the three key insights I believe ESSA holds for those interested in the collective impact movement.
I discussed accountability systems in my first blog, and now I’d like you to think about the power of ESSA to promote effective data utilization to improve services.
Access to data is one thing, but making sure communities – educators inside and outside school walls – can use it to inform instruction and practice is something completely different. As states develop accountability indices required by ESSA, there will likely be an increase in the amount of data that stakeholders collect and analyze to determine the performance of schools and students. States and districts have the opportunity to develop and implement system-wide continuous improvement processes to ensure stakeholders leverage this data to make necessary improvements in real time. This is a huge opportunity for collective impact partnerships that have been practicing continuous improvement to influence the work of communities across an entire state on a fundamentally critical aspect of personalizing learning.
And when it comes to data, stakeholders should be thoughtful in how they talk about its use. The emphasis must be on using data in a transparent way to inform services and instruction while fully respecting student privacy. The key privacy legislation, FERPA, was not addressed in ESSA, so historical requirements are still in place. We will keep you informed of progress related to taking this up on the Hill. You can find guidance in the Student Data Sharing Playbook we developed in collaboration with Data Quality Campaign.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the final installment in this series of ESSA insights for collective impact.
So what does the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mean for collective impact in education and cradle to career partnerships? It’s hard to say exactly until the final regulations come out from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). But I was fortunate to get an opportunity to learn about the central tenants of the new legislation with the outstanding policy team here at KnowledgeWorks. Three key insights emerged that could help communities think through how to leverage this landmark bill to improve outcomes for children at scale in advance of clarifying language from the DOE. I’ll explore these three insights in a series of blog posts over the course of this week.
First things first, states will be empowered to build accountability systems. The law provides states with significant flexibility to design their own accountability systems rather than following a strict federal formula. This includes goal setting and new measures that could help community partnerships collect, analyze and utilize data to better personalize learning beyond just academic outcomes.
Collective impact partnerships could work to influence the state in a few key areas:
- States must establish ambitious state-designed long term goals with measurements of interim progress for all students on a) improved academic achievement on state assessments and b) graduation rates. Further, they must set goals specifically for English language learners (ELL). This opens the doors for collective impact partnerships to advocate for state goals that are aligned with local goals and elevate equity discussions that are critical to meet the needs of the most vulnerable students.
- States must establish at least one measure of school quality and student success other than traditional academics. This could go in a host of directions, from school culture to student and teacher satisfaction. But given the strong interest in social-emotional measures by members of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, this could be an opportunity for community partnerships to work with the state to pilot and/or test scalable, cost-effective, and informative assessments that accurately capture the developmental growth of students in critical areas such as grit, agency, and resilience.
- States will have to develop a unified index that takes into account all of the indicators listed above. If done well, this could be an opportunity to make sense of data in a way that will help the general public better understand progress at scale. StriveTogether Network members with a high level of data analytics capacity could help states develop this index and set reasonable but ambitious goals.
Look for the next installment in this series tomorrow.
Network in the News: teachers as students, early childhood education, and building a workforce for the future
Early childhood education has gotten a lot of attention in the Network lately, along with teaching and coaching opportunities and a push to improve attendance rates and third grade reading scores.
- StrivePartnership warranted a mention as part of what makes Cincinnati an ideal community for the work of Accelerate Great Schools.
- Education Coalition of Macon County partnered with ADM to make scientific training workshops available to Central Illinois teachers at the IBIO Institute.
- Education Coalition of Macon County was also present at a recent event for families exploring preschool options.
- Representatives from Milwaukee Succeeds testified before Wisconsin’s Task Force on Urban Education on the importance of early childhood education.
- Milwaukee Succeeds‘ work to improve third grade reading, including one-on-one tutoring and teacher coaching, that began in 2014 continues to attract attention.
- Many local Dayton, Ohio, schools have seen increased attendance rates, thanks to work from Learn to Earn Dayton.
- Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative is working to ensure graduates have the technical and problem-solving skills they need to fill highly-skilled positions within the manufacturing industry.
- Thriving Together received an $84,000 grant for its work in improving academic achievement.
Guest post by Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York and Chair, StriveTogether National Leadership Council.
Based on my experience over the last few decades working on collective impact, I know that the saying “There is no ‘I’ in team” is right only some of the time. Here’s why.
Collective impact is a concept that caught fire about five years ago based on work I collaborated on as president of the University of Cincinnati and following the same-titled article published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011. Collective impact is most simply defined as the phenomenon that occurs when community partners work together, using data, to improve specific community-level outcomes. The results of our flagship work, the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and the national StriveTogether Network, are extremely promising. And we have learned a lot along the way.
To date, most of the work related to collective impact has focused on the first word: collective. Communities focus on how to bring partners together, how to create the “backbone” of the work, and perhaps most importantly, how to engage a broad set of voices that are far too often not heard. This work requires a selfless mentality where partners embrace what is best for the community as a whole as opposed to what is best for their own institution. As a result they are able to achieve critical agreement on a vision and outcomes and begin to identify priorities. This is the foundation for success.
But once the foundation is set, we need to shift the focus to the impact. It’s here that we start to see there really is an “I” in team. We are now realizing that in order to achieve impact at scale, it will come down to individuals changing their behavior to achieve a community-level goal. For example: A community sets a goal of increasing college enrollment by 25 percent in three years. There may be an intervention or two—such as a policy change—that could boost enrollment significantly. But to meet this goal it will require each and every individual involved in the work changing his and her behavior toward meeting that shared goal.
It’s important to stress what we mean by “each and every individual.” I have led two different leadership tables in communities with CEO-level leaders who come to regular meetings to work together to achieve a specific set of cradle to career outcomes. I have seen far too often that these leaders will show up and give their opinion and then assume the staff will take it from there, and they continue in their work as usual. These leaders need to think about how they can go back to the office and change what they actually do to better align the work of their institutions to the shared community goals. The change has to play out in day-to-day choices and operations.
What does this all mean? If we are going to improve outcomes at scale despite complex social challenges, we do need to focus on team goals up front. But as the work progresses, we must focus on the role of each individual as part of that team in order to achieve impact.
When it comes to creating collective impact, there is an “I” in team after all. It’s an essential part of the mix.
Nancy L. Zimpher is an active leader in numerous state and national education organizations and is nationally recognized in the areas of teacher preparation, urban education, and university-community engagement. As co-founder of StriveTogether, Dr. Zimpher has been instrumental in creating a national network of innovative systemic partnerships that holistically address challenges across the education pipeline. She is board chair of both the New York Academy of Sciences and CEOs for Cities. She also led the national Coalition of Urban Serving Universities from 2005-2011 and co-chaired NCATE’s blue-ribbon panel on transforming teacher preparation. In 2009, Nancy Zimpher became the 12th Chancellor of the State University of New York by unanimous vote of the SUNY Board of Trustees. With more than 463,000 students, SUNY is the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education.