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 and Improvement Network will 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 toward 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 toward. San Antonio, Texas (P16 Plus), and Waterbury, Conn. (Bridge to Success), will focus on early grade reading. 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 two 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, which 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.