Trying to change a system to create a better opportunity for students across the country can be a hard and slow process. Just this last week, the U.S. Department of Education released a report that talked about how U.S. graduation rates are going up but racial disparities persist. Early this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis released a study that found that the racial wealth gap is expanding even with degree attainment increasing across the board. As a mother of an almost 1-year-old African American boy, this terrifies me. How can we be optimistic for our children’s future when the system is inequitable?
But then I am reminded that there is hope.
Within the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, 65 community partnerships are working to change a system that is inherently not made for kids that look my son and into one that supports the growth and success of all students. They are doing this by leveraging the resources in their communities and using data to identify practices that are working.
For example, in Waterbury, Conn., the Bridge to Success Partnership is starting to shift power dynamics to include all voices in the community in identifying problems and solutions. In Adrian, Mich., Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership was successful in bringing alignment across 12 school districts to utilize the same kindergarten assessment tool. And Graduate Tacoma! in Tacoma, Wash., has increased local high school graduation rates by about 30% since 2010.
These are just a few examples of progress being made toward education systems change across the country. As the senior manager of network engagement for StriveTogether, I have had the opportunity to interact with each community in our Network throughout the year. Each partnership has had wins, both big and small. From Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine, here are our partnerships proudest accomplishments for 2015 and what they’re most excited about for 2016:
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The formation of the Preschool Facilities Grant Program, the launch of the iREAD campaign and grants program, the expansion of the Kindergarten Student Entrance Profile assessment and the implementation of Quality Counts, Sonoma County’s Quality Improvement Rating System. Through an initial investment of $655,000, our community was able to leverage state and federal contracts totaling $2.9 million to support 264 quality preschool seats. By supporting these efforts, Cradle to Career Sonoma County has promoted and expanded strategies to assure all students enter preschool ready to succeed.
Excitement for 2016: In 2016, we look forward to expanding our efforts beyond goal area one focusing on school readiness to our other two goal areas focusing on academic achievement and college and career success.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The reformation of the partnership and TCM workgroups are now using a rigorous collaborative action/continuous improvement process for their work (using local data to drive decisions, continuous improvement tools/methodology to ensure progress is made, developing plans with continuous improvement embedded, etc.)
Excitement for 2016: Solidifying the infrastructure and building the capacity of the Fresno Cradle to Career Partnership moving solidly into the Sustaining gateway of the StriveTogether Theory of Action.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Marin Promise Partnership Council has made significant progress in understanding and advocating for educational equity in Marin. The Backbone Team’s data analyst (an Education Pioneer) prepared disaggregated data on college readiness that showed continued racial disparities, even among the lowest socio-economic group of students. In addition, in November the Partnership Council dedicated a full day of their time to our “Leading for Equity” retreat, resulting in individual action from these leaders to bring the equity message to their own organizations and networks.
Excitement for 2016: Marin Promise’s Partnership Council has made it a goal to “go public” in 2016. To support this goal, the Backbone Team is developing a communications strategy focused on accountability (report disaggregated data on our progress at each milestone), action (celebrate the progress our Action Teams have made and share lessons learned) and alignment (raise up other community collaborations who are aligned with the cradle to career milestones). Our Partnership Council is coming together as leaders to advocate for educational equity and we are excited to develop the communication tools to support them.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We launched a new cradle to career partnership in a new community, and have quickly established co-ownership among partners. We were able to use lessons learned from the work in our first community to be much more clear about roles and responsibilities and this has really allowed us to hit the ground running. Organizationally, we have aligned the role of United Way with collective impact in a much more purposeful way. We have completely shed the “old way of funding” (allocations and individual programs) and adopting a model that allows us to support the growth of the use of collective impact in our region, with United Way staff serving as the coaches and experts in data collection, continuous learning, facilitation and more.
Excitement for 2016: Seeing the fruits of our labor – tangible results that will allow us to identify what we should do more of and what needs a course correction. We will begin to get data and results from our school districts partners that indicate how successful our interventions have been. We are also using data in a much more intentional way when we want to identify new areas of work. The quantitative and qualitative data that we have provides the first set of parameters for the conversation of where and how we should intervene. This immediately sets us on a path for measurement and alignment across all of our work.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Hiring a continuous improvement coach who helped us move from population level data to student level data to set up for true continuous improvement processes and attracting our biggest foundation grant to date who are supporting expanding the backbone support.
Excitement for 2016: Small tests of change with each action team – scaling what works!
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Our partners have undertaken slow and deliberate steps to deepen the feeling of community between parents and caregivers, grassroots organizations, the city, its schools and our more traditional long-term partners. Years of trust development made 2015 the right year to release a Community Report Card with disaggregated data.
Excitement for 2016: We look forward to broadening community conversations around finding shared solutions to eliminate disparities and ensure the success of all our city’s youth.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Twice this year, our partnership decided that a specific aspect of our continuum was not working. Both times, it would have been easiest just to dissolve that portion of our initiative. Instead, both times, the partners unanimously committed to continuing the work, and all chipped in to help design a new, stronger partnership structure.
Excitement for 2016: We will be expanding our data warehouse to include not just public school data, but also data from local non-profit providers and from the National Student Clearinghouse. This will allow us to track both the short- and long-term impacts of the interventions we’ve put into place.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: 1. Increasing literacy volunteers from three schools in year one to 14 schools in year two, with one entire district (of three) having volunteers in every school. 2. Establishing the new network team of Youth Civic Opportunity to address the My Brother’s Keeper goal of reducing youth violence.
Excitement for 2016: Developing a project to address the 30 million word gap for young children ages 0-3 in poverty.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Our biggest accomplishments for 2015 are (1) maintaining momentum through key partner transitions; (2) doubling down on our successful programs; (3) establishing ten fully updated, disaggregated core indicators across the cradle-to-career spectrum; and (4) moving from ‘acting strategically’ to longer-term, prioritized, durable strategic planning.
Excitement for 2016: We are most looking forward to (1) sharpening our focus, (2) moving to high action and high alignment with more partners, (3) implementing our priority strategies, and (4) watching more indicators of child and family success start to move in the right direction.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: During its first year, Baltimore’s Promise released two major reports – A Best Practices and Financing Review, which detailed public and private investments supporting Baltimore City’s cradle to career continuum, and a Baseline Report to the Community. The data included in those reports were catalysts to launch work groups, with over 200 content experts, whose work will inform decisions and fuel action to improve outcomes for our youth.
Excitement for 2016: Baltimore’s Promise is exploring opportunities to sustain successful strategies that have led to reductions in Baltimore City’s infant mortality rate and improved healthy birth rates. We are mapping Medicaid policy and funding to determine the delta between those strategies and what is actually covered under Medicaid reimbursement. Our goal is for the State of Maryland to modify its Medicaid plan to allow reimbursement for services that are currently unfunded.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Lenawee County schools (11 public and 1 private) began using the Brigance III screener in the Spring 2015 as a shared measurement tool for determining kindergarten readiness. Nearly 900 students participated in this assessment. A standards setting panel met in June 2015 to review the data from this shared measurement of five domains of academic, language, and physical development.
Excitement for 2016: Creating a Trauma informed Community! Much work has begun in 2015 with leadership coming from the Community Mental Health Authority. Several school districts have, or will shortly, be training administrators and teachers in what “trauma informed” looks like.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We received an incredibly generous in-kind gift of continuous improvement training and coaching from Bronson Healthcare Group, a community partner of The Learning Network and a leader in healthcare for our region.
Excitement for 2016: Community partners have gathered around three action networks that are each focused on long-term and shorter goals reflected in a community scorecard. They are looking at local and national data, bringing a local voice to the table, and using continuous improvement processes. The collective impact process is working!
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: On a big-picture level, one of our great accomplishments was partnering with other Minnesota communities to secure a state investment in Minnesota’s Strive and Promise Neighborhood efforts; in addition, the network that has formed among these partners is incredibly valuable in improving how our collective impact effort functions on a day-to-day basis.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited about the continued work to share disaggregated data with our action teams, our partners, the schools, and our community to help drive community-level change. In addition, the momentum we are seeing on the two ends of our continuum — the early childhood efforts and those around high school engagement, graduation, and future planning — are exciting and look to grow in the year ahead.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The work we did to engage employers in developing a shared vision and action plan with K-12 educational leaders to better align educational practices with local workforce needs. Through a series of strategic conversations with employers, superintendents, and community leaders, we were able to develop customized workforce alignment projects that are currently being implemented in three school districts. This work is meaningful because of the depth of employer engagement and the potential for impact toward our larger goal of graduating more students from college.
Excitement for 2016: Mission: Graduate is most excited about the work we are getting underway to help get more adults enrolled in postsecondary education. As one of the newest members of the Graduate! Network, we are working to step up our outreach to adults in our community and provide better advising and support services to help break down the barriers to postsecondary enrollment and completion that many of them experience. This work has the potential to have a large impact toward our goal of 60,000 new college graduates by 2020.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Successfully engaging over 60 leaders in our region to support our efforts.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited about launching our kindergarten readiness community action network, along with implementing our overall strategic plan. We are working hard to reach “sustaining” within the Theory of Action!
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The articulation of defined strategies for all parts of the cradle-to-career continuum and the buy-in for those strategies by all our key stakeholders. Also partnerships with the regional paper, the Dayton Daily News, now carries a weekly ( Sunday edition ) one page synthesis of the activities that are underway to increase student success and attainment rates…
Excitement for 2016: The most exciting thing is the buy-in that we now have from all the regional stakeholders, including elected and appointed officials. It makes things possible at the policy and practice level that would not otherwise be achievable!
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: This year, we launched “ImpactU”—a program dedicated to building capability in continuous improvement, results-based leadership, and equity among our region’s systems leaders. This is unlike anything we’ve ever done before and is bound to have a lasting impact.
Excitement for 2016: We have a chance to make history by ensuring that every 3 and 4 year old in our city has access to quality preschool. It’s a game changer.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Raised $138,000 in 8 weeks to support K-3 literacy projects in 15 partner districts from over 500 community members.
Excitement for 2016: FAFSA,FAFSA, FAFSA! We are helping increase FAFSA completion so more students can enter and complete post-secondary, as well as take advantage of Tulsa’s tuition free community college and career tech programs—which just require completion of a FAFSA form.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We spent 2015 providing 1) More direct continuous improvement services to our partners. Instead of scaling up more theories with plans, we went deep with six schools on attendance by using rapid cycle data to identify practices that correlate to improved school attendance. 2) Shifted the work in the Eliminating Disparities Collaborative Action Team from policy to practice, our six partner superintendents and six culturally specific organizations CEO’s are building trust to partner and improve student engagement and success to drive improvements in the rates of suspensions and expulsions of students of color. 3) Launched the transition from high school to college and career, by tightening up the focus of the work to increase access to financial aid and build a seamless pathway to careers in construction and manufacturing.
Excitement for 2016: Taking the findings of the rapid cycle continuous improvement work in attendance and move the progress from six schools to district/community wide scale. How exciting to implement what we have measured and studied in our own market and not wait for the next silver bullet from afar.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Putting out our baseline report and nearly doubling the number of community stakeholders involved in the partnership.
Excitement for 2016: We are most excited about growing our capacity around data and evaluation, and using our strength in this area to reach out and serve community partner needs around program evaluation as it relates to our shared outcomes.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We “launched” and “flew” our Kindergarten Success Collaborative Action Network (CAN). Capitalizing on the results of intense student-level data pilot studies, the partnership is at work on countywide collaborations supporting six contributing indicators identified by the CAN: universal countywide developmental screenings; a 4K enrollment expansion campaign; common entry assessments and enrollment forms across seven school districts; alignment and communication of summer enrichment programs; and creation of a parent app for birth-to-K resources, and an early childhood educator app for sharing training resources across private and public pre-Ks.
Excitement for 2016: We will ramp up the College/Career-Ready High School Graduation CAN. Its probable centerpiece will be a strategy for tuition free community/technical college with heavy reliance on dual high school/college enrollment and, given satisfactory associate’s completion, guaranteed admission to upper division enrollment in local baccalaureate institutions.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The transition from “conceptual frameworks” to collaborative action networks and consortia on the ground doing good work…with a first report and accompanying metrics to guide them.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited at the prospect of deeper and more authentic community engagement in this collaborative work.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Our mission is to improve educational outcomes, but our data told us that far too many students are missing school because of the flu, taking us into the health care space. Working with a variety of partners, we have just completed providing 19,500 vaccines in 136 schools in four weeks, the largest in-school flu immunization campaign in Texas, helping many more students and families stay healthy and in school!
Excitement for 2016: Going into 2016, we are most excited about transforming middle school teaching and learning. Based on evidence from our demonstration project that shows our struggling learners have 10 TIMES as many point gains on nationally-normed assessments as their peers across the country, we are now expanding RAISEup Texas to 28,000 students and 1,100 teachers to create a tipping for educational change in our region.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Building data capacity at multiple levels and seeing partners continue to increase their alignment and ownership of the partnership’s work. The launch of a statewide data dashboard, including unique district-level views for superintendents, coupled with a first-ever data learning cohort with 14 nonprofits helped build access and effective use of data. We also saw 5 partner districts and more than 100 community partners align around a common pre-K registration period (9 districts are already aligned for 2016); increased ownership and internal capacity building around early literacy data usage within our largest district partner; and increased alignment among district and community college leaders to address academic readiness and reduce remediation rates.
Excitement for 2016: We are most excited to see our community continue to mobilize around early childhood education through the formation of Early Matters Dallas, an alliance with Early Matters Houston that represents >1 in 4 Texas kids. Having strengthened data transparency through advocacy at the state level, we look forward to developing proof points around the value of high-quality, full-day pre-K in preparation for the 2017 legislative session. Finally, we look forward to growing a regional teacher pipelines strategy focused on increasing access to high-quality teacher prep programs, growing interest in the profession among 16- to 24 year-olds, sharing timely data for continuous improvement and driving sustainable programmatic investment.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Clarifying roles and accelerating the pivot to shared action.
Excitement for 2016: Partners being able to clearly articulate the value of their shared work because they are seeing tangible results.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Creating a strong foundation for systemic change with the benchmarks of the Sustaining Gateway in mind. A Partner Leadership Committee (PLC) was established in 2015 to enable Eastside Pathways to have a truly localized and collective decision-making model, thus sharing leadership across the entire Partnership. In an effort to allocate and align resources for improved community outcomes, Eastside Pathways and partners introduced the Community Café model to the community as an effective community engagement model. Lastly, we embarked on adaptive leadership and racial equity trainings to mobilize the way we work within our collaboratives and community.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited to continue on our adaptive leadership and racial equity learning in 2016 as well as identifying new campaigns to focus on.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Excelerate Success has been successful at both continuously improving but doing so along with local funders. Working with several local business partners, Excelerate Success has provided more than 5,000 new books to children in the Spokane County community. Over the course of several distributions, the Reading at Grade Level Network has both improved the methods of distribution to create the greatest impact as well as leveraged successes to help secure more than $60,000 of local funding to support early childhood and reading at grade level efforts.
Excitement for 2016: Excelerate Success has seen incredible increases in community support and engagement. In the upcoming year, we are most looking forward to the implementation of one of our largest initiatives yet that will align kindergarten registration across Spokane County. This initiative will allow for a common message from community partners, school districts, child care providers and others about the importance of being ready for kindergarten, as well as opportunities to identify families who would benefit from additional resources.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We are very proud of our first-ever Advocacy Day! On February 17, 2015, more than 300 students, parents, community members and advocates rallied in Olympia to demand lawmakers fully fund critical financial supports for low-income students. The day was a success thanks to strong partnership with many schools and community organizations from across the state.
Excitement for 2016: Next year, we are looking forward to our second celebration of success event, where we can put a spotlight on great partnerships, collaborations and innovations in our region.
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: (1) Becoming fully staffed, which enhances our capacity to engage with networks for all goal areas — kindergarten readiness, school readiness and college and career success — while ensuring that the social emotional health of our children and young people is infused in how we achieve our 2020 goals and (2) resetting our leadership teams to deepen engagement and ownership of the work of Milwaukee Succeeds.
Excitement for 2016: What I am most excited about next year (2016) is the implementation of our comprehensive communications plan! This plan is inclusive of all stakeholders and has been embraced enthusiastically by our communications committee and other thought leaders that we’ve shared the plan with for feedback and improvement.