Photo of Memphis, TN students at GradNation summit

Six communities partner to increase FAFSA completions

by Heidi Black on January 13, 2016

StriveTogether has developed a variety of tools and techniques to support Cradle to Career Network members as they work to change their local education systems and improve results for students. We’ve seen communities achieve results more quickly when they have a chance to work together and learn from each other. Now, based on common challenges shared by our Cradle to Career Network members, lessons learned from last year’s Project FAFSA and the growing adoption of continuous improvement methods, StriveTogether is launching a new method to help communities achieve results together: Impact and Improvement Networks.

With support from the Lumina Foundation, we have kicked off our first Impact and Improvement Network focused on post-secondary enrollment with six Cradle to Career Network members – All Hands Raised (Portland, OR), The Commit! Partnership (Dallas, TX), Impact Tulsa (Tulsa, OK), P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County (San Antonio, TX), The Road Map Project (Seattle, WA), and Seeding Success (Memphis, TN).

These six partnerships will work to improve post-secondary enrollment by focusing on increasing FAFSA completion rates in their communities. Through collaboration and training, these partnerships will develop and test strategies for improving FAFSA completions, track progress regularly and scale successful strategies. As the Post-Secondary Enrollment Impact and Improvement Network digs deeper into their work, we will also share key learnings, successes and challenges to help other partnerships working on post-secondary enrollment.

This is just the first of many Impact and Improvement Networks that will help partnerships accelerate their progress and impact across the cradle to career continuum, improving kindergarten readiness, early grade reading, middle grade math, high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment and post-secondary completion. As part of a StriveTogether Impact and Improvement Network, cradle to career partnerships will get coaching and support in five ways:

  1. A tested and proven format. Modeled after the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series model, Impact and Improvement Networks are structured to help partnerships learn from experts and each other about a specific outcome or strategy that they want to improve. Specifically, our Impact and Improvement Networks use pre-work, monthly learning sessions and coaching between sessions to ensure that partnerships are getting the support they need to advance their work.
  2. Access to nationally-recognized content area experts. With every Impact & Improvement Network, we will partner with content area experts, such as engaging the National College Access Network to improve post-secondary enrollment rates, to ensure that our partnerships get the support they need for their work to be successful.
  3. Integration of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results Based Leadership (RBL) approach. RBL tools and techniques help partnerships tackle challenges that can stop the work in its tracks. Specifically, these tools and techniques help to address adaptive challenges (problems with no known solution) such as building trust between organizations or navigating complex adult relationships in order to help every child succeed.
  4. Training and coaching in rapid cycle continuous improvement. Pulling from several different continuous improvement methods like Model for Improvement and Six Sigma, we have begun to design a process for systems-level, collaborative continuous improvement work that our partnerships can use to better understand and implement the practices and strategies that move outcomes.
  5. Peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Partnerships often learn best from other communities that are working on the same outcome. Peer-to-peer learning allows partnerships to share their work, share best practices, troubleshoot challenges with other partnerships and get important feedback and coaching from people who have experience in cradle to career collective impact partnerships.

We are excited about the launch of our first Impact and Improvement Network and look forward to launching another in the spring of 2016, focused on attendance and its impact on one of the three core K-12 outcomes – early grade reading, middle grade math and high school graduation. We look forward to taking a deep dive into strategies that improve attendance with the Cradle to Career Network members who participate in this Impact and Improvement Network.

Heidi Black About Heidi Black
Heidi Black is Senior Manager, Innovation for StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. Black is responsible for supporting partnerships as they develop collaborative action networks and practice continuous improvement.

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