At StriveTogether’s network convening last week, I had the chance to hear Joseph Jezierski of Red Wing Public Schools, Scott Jones of Every Hand Joined, Dan Ryan of All Hands Raised, Carole Smith of Portland Public Schools, and George Tang of Educate Texas discuss what it takes for school districts and community stakeholders to partner for success in pursuing shared outcomes and aligning community resources toward cradle to career success for all students. They emphasized how very different this kind of collaboration is from that to which superintendents are accustomed. So different, in fact, that “it can feel like creating another school board.”
The crux of the difference? In collective impact approaches such as StriveTogether, community organizations are shifting from looking for students for whom those opportunities might be a fit to collaborating with school districts toward a shared goal. The panelists described it as breaking down the silos of everyone pursuing their own goals and approaching schools from the perspective of “not to you or for you – with you.” For schools, they said, it’s about moving beyond community engagement to cultivating commitment among community partners.
This kind of shared ownership and community-wide accountability for learners’ success reflects the ways in which we need to rethink the interrelationships among learning and other aspects of community infrastructure in order to create a vibrant learning ecosystem that can meet the needs of all learners.
As our most recent forecast highlights, trends such as a move toward a sharing economy, the emergence of a do-it-yourself culture, the proliferation of real-time feedback about what is happening in communities, and inside-out urban schools point toward the potential for learning to become embedded across civic landscapes in ways that are hard to envision today. As we increasingly approach cities as shared spaces that we not only cohabit but also co-create, we have the potential to re-imagine learning as a shared community asset. Indeed, those communities that create rich learning landscapes could revitalize not just their education systems but also their economies and cultures.
To get there, we need new kinds of partnerships, new kinds of learning experiences, new kinds of infrastructure, new kinds of data flows, and new kinds of roles for supporting children across their learning journeys. It will be a shared journey toward equitable, interest-driven, collaborative learning. We will all chart the way together.
Last week was a big week for the biggest thing going in edu-reform. It was an up and down week for the Common Core State Standards (an up and down week in an up and down year for the new state standards) with the Michigan legislature providing a boost, Florida’s Governor providing a downer, and Arizona not really doing much of anything.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Matt Williams wrote about the necessity of the Common Core. Well, apparently the Michigan House of Representatives agrees. This press release from The Foundation for Excellence in Education congratulates the Michigan House on authorizing funding for the standards for fiscal year 2014. Michigan had previously put a hold on any money going to the implementation the common core in FY2014. The Common Core isn’t yet safe in Michigan, the House’s decision now moves to the Senate for approval. Here’s hoping the Senate follows the House’s lead.
Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced the state would no longer serve as the fiscal agent of PARCC, one of two testing consortia creating common core-aligned assessments. According to this EdWeek blog, there seems to be confusion about what this actually means for the state’s future with the common core. It seems if the Governor is saying two things, the state chief is saying another, and no one is really sure what’s happening. To me, one thing is clear: the Governor wants nothing to with the new standards.
Finally, in Arizona, a rather benign common core occurrence. Governor Jan Brewer ordered everyone in the state to stop using the phrase “Common Core State Standards” and instead use “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.” The Tea Partiers are upset because they think it confuses the issue. The Governor’s Office says this clarifies what the standards actually are. Either way, the standards aren’t changing and implementation isn’t changing so no harm, no foul.
I think the last week is a pretty good microcosm of what we can expect from the Common Core going forward. Some ups, some downs, but few changes.
Life is always a series of firsts. First steps. First day of school. First kiss. First time driving. First time living away from home. And on and on. Those are the firsts that stick with us. That are photographed, inscribed into diaries, recalled with friends. But, of course, there are all sorts of other firsts that occur, sometimes so quickly we forget to appreciate them.
Part of my job as an EDWorks coach is helping schools meet big goals. This varies in what it means. Sometimes I am introducing an idea, walking school staff through the process, winning over believers, fighting towards success. Hard won successes like that are gratifying. I get to watch people celebrate the first time they reach a certain graduation rate, the first time they successfully implement an integrated STEM curriculum, the first time they host a design competition.
I’m lucky to also get to work with so many people of vision, who know exactly what they want their school to be but just need a little help getting there. That work is different, but the firsts I get to experience are just as sweet.
At New Hope Christian Academy, Principal Mike Fluhart approached EDWorks with a vision to become a STEAM school (STEM with an arts integration). He envisioned unique partnresips with local farmers to combine real-world uses for STEM into, and out of, the classroom. He tells people, “Our goal is to provide your child the education you desire, and the education they deserve. I strongly believe if a school is not striving for excellence they are failing the child and the Lord. We see implementing STEM around the 21st Century classroom concepts as providing that excellence.”
Ohio’s first Christian STEAM high school opened its doors a few weeks ago. Success!
Now Fluhart has another first in mind, one that I’m excited to also be helping with. New Hope Christian Academy will be partnering with Ohio Christian University to create a Fast Track Early College High School. High school students will be able to start earning college credits their freshman year, with a total of up to 63 credits available for them to earn, all while still in high school. With this partnership, students will have the opportunity to graduate high school with a diploma and up to two years of college credit under their belt.
This will be Ohio’s first Christian STEAM Early College High School, which is exciting. But an even more exciting first will be watching high school students earn their first college credit, leading them down a path of education success and preparing them for a brighter future!
Katherine Prince guest blogs this week for ASCD’s Whole Child blog in “A Resilient Learning Ecosystem or Fractured Learning Landscape.” From her post:
The great challenge of the coming disruption is whether we will deliver on the promise of radical personalization for all children, not just those whose families have the time, attention, and means to shape and supplement their learning journeys. If we do not take a deep look at redesigning the education system, we risk creating a fractured learning landscape dominated by two parallel and unequal pathways: an ailing public education system and a rich array of alternative and customized approaches to which only the fortunate have access.
We have just learned that Akron Early College High School has earned the prestigious “Blue Ribbon” designation from the U.S. Department of Education. The announcement was made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In a video presentation on Tuesday, Secretary Duncan said, “The 2013 Blue Ribbon Schools prove that demographics are not destiny. In America, we have islands of excellent schools, including schools serving disadvantaged populations and struggling neighborhoods. We need to shine a spotlight on excellent schools.”
The Akron Early College High School is one of the original Ohio Early College High School sites launched by KnowledgeWorks under a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the years, it has been supported by the EDWorks team and is one of our Fast Track Early College High School demonstration sites.
Located on the campus of the University of Akron, the Akron Early College High School was launched in fall 2007 and serves nearly 350 students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. According to the 2012-13 state report card, the student population is 100% economically disadvantaged and 50% minority. On average, students graduate from the Akron Early College High School with 62 hours of college credit; the majority graduate from high school with an associate degree from the University of Akron. Earlier this year the Akron Early College High School was named among the top schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
We proudly congratulate our colleagues at Akron Early College High School!
It is any wonder that Dallas’ pro-education Mayor Mike Rawlings declared it “Big Education Week” in this spit-shined North Texas metropolis? Not only are more than 350 people from 35 states here today through Saturday to attend the 4th annual Strive convening, earlier this week veteran education reformers Jeb Bush and Geoffrey Canada spoke to influential audiences, and a $56 million arboretum opened with an eight-acre educational lab for aspiring young scientists.
It’s rare that such a confluence of education-improvement-minded folks gather in a city at once, so kudos to Dallas for the acknowledgement. It’s rarer still to see elected officials, community leaders, educators and business leaders from 63 communities here to learn how to work better together in the name of improving education outcomes in their communities. Through three days of workshops, plenaries, dinners and good old-fashioned corridor networking, these leaders will share best practices, their failings and their victories.
“We have all come together to positively impact the lives of children by identifying what they need most to succeed and helping communities replicate success,” said Jeff Edmondson, Strive’s Managing Director.
Strive, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks helps communities like Boston, Dallas, Portland, Seattle and more than 90 others create a civic infrastructure to unite stakeholders around shared goals, measures and results in education. As Huffington Post Executive Business Editor Peter S. Goodman once wrote: “Put concerned people in one room, agree upon statistically definable goals, and then coordinate action and spend the dollars to hit the targets.”
The theme of this event, appropriately, is “Gateways to Quality: Raising the Bar of Collective Impact Together.” The agenda can be found online. On Twitter, @strivenetwork will be micro blogging. Follow the convening under the Twitter hash tag, #StriveC2C.
In late August, the U. S. Department of Education released its guidance for ESEA Waiver Renewal. As many pundits have noted, Secretary Duncan attached more strings to states earning renewal of their waiver. As it stands, to get a two-year extension of their waivers, states must reaffirm their commitment to college and career ready standards, assessments aligned to those standards, and to the implementation of their designed and submitted system of differentiated accountability (with an expressed focus on closing achievement gaps). This is all expected fare, to be honest, both the focus and the new strings. Currently 41 states have waivers. The bulk of those (35) were granted in Rounds 1 and 2 of the waiver process and these states will be the first to run through the new drills to get their renewals.
One of the biggest strings is tied to the implementation of the state’s teacher evaluation system and the new wrinkle that states must, by October 2015, use teacher evaluation data to ensure that poor and minority students are not being taught by subpar teachers at a greater rate than their middle- and upper-class counterparts. Aligned to the teacher evaluations is the new mandate that Title II funds must be spent on evidence-based professional development programs. However, it is important to note that evidence-based is not defined.
There is a renewed and sharper focus on transforming low performing schools in the renewal process. The Department is specifically interested in states’ plans for long-term interventions and supports for their priority schools (equal to or greater to the bottom 5%). This is the right area to focus states’ attentions on. The initial waiver and its implementation focused most intently on standards, assessments, and aligned accountability. As this is implemented the interventions and supports section of Principle 2 of the waiver becomes even more important. Truth is, at this moment in time, a year and a half into implementation it is difficult to gauge student outcomes fully or to know if the articulated interventions and supports are working. The next phase, through the waiver renewal and implementation of that renewed waiver, will be about calibration and refinement of the system of interventions to support the priority and, to a lesser degree, the focus schools. This again is right headed. The question remains, will the Department be able to hold states accountable as the President and his administration enter their collective twilight.
My issue with the ESEA Waiver process from the get go was its prescription. Or rather the tight rope between prescription and the perception of prescription. Having read a significant number of the waivers I’m struck by how similar many of them are and their lack of innovation. Certainly, the state of Vermont felt like innovation was not being encouraged and pulled their waiver. New Hampshire, with their competency focused waiver, went through multiple iterations before finally getting their waiver a few months ago. I wonder if a new way forward should be offered to states. Most states will, admittedly, want to renew their current waiver as they have committed time and energy to its implementation. My hope is that the U.S. Department of Education might think about a parallel waiver offering to allow states to explore implementation of a competency/proficiency system or to allow them to explore more deeply the concept of personalized learning (found within CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network or the Department’s own Race to the Top-District Program). Allow states to at the very least pilot a new system of assessments, accountability, supports and interventions that push the envelope towards a new system…a 2.0 system. These pilots could be through a District of Innovation approach (modeled after the initiative being implemented by the Kentucky Department of Education). This would allow for new ideas, new methods, and, well, innovation to grow. This could be the real promise of the waivers, to create new ways that can then influence the next iteration of our education system and the next version of ESEA.
This is the final blog in a six-blog series on community engagement. To read the first blog, click here. To read the second blog, click here. To read the third blog, click here. To read the fourth blog, click here. To read the fifth blog, click here.
Community engagement in the sustaining gateway, highlighted in the previous blog, focused on action with the involvement of community in solution development and implementation while continuing the flow of communication and awareness. Community engagement in the systems change gateway reflects the evolving nature of the work. Continual communications, mobilization, and alignment of the community and its numerous resources is emphasized in this gateway. See below for examples of community engagement, specifically called out in the systems change gateway of the Strive Theory of Action.
Community Engagement in the Systems Change Gateway:
-Communication of partnership: Continual communication of success and challenges with the community, helps build and maintain an authentic and informed relationship with the community. The strategies to communicate with and inform the community look different for every partnership, but can include community update meetings, regular newsletters, informational campaigns around specific data points, and regular meetings with a community advisory team. These strategies are examples of the necessary transactional engagement that needs to happen, even in the later stages of partnership progress.
-Release of the annual report cards: After releasing multiple report cards, trends in the data will be calculable from the baseline year. Consistent and transparent communication to the community around data points that are trending up and data points that are trending down is important to keeping the community engaged and aware of the progress of the partnership. It is important to connect these data trends to community-level strategies, as well as identify additional ways for the community to participate in improving an outcome. Partnerships must recognize and celebrate the role of the community in the work. Continually engaging the community around the report card data is a transactional engagement strategy; however, using that data to mobilize the community to actively participate in the work of the partnership becomes a form of transitional engagement.
-Alignment of community around outcomes: The broader community that supports a cradle to career partnership includes many different community assets, such as community knowledge, community volunteers, community experts, community resources, etc. Aligning these significant community resources towards improving community-level outcomes to ensure success for all students is part of the systemic change cradle to career partnerships are looking to create. Strategies to align the community around community-level outcomes traverse the three categories of engagement and should include transactional strategies, like awareness campaigns and consistent communications; transitional strategies, like mobilizing community members to participate in data-driven strategies to improve outcomes; and transformational strategies, like engaging community members and community experts in the strategy-setting and decision-making of the partnership.
The examples outlined in this and the previous posts in this community engagement blog series are certainly not the only ways that the community can be engaged in a cradle to career partnership as engagement is an overarching principle to this work. However, these are the different places we have intentionally identified in the Theory of Action where we expect partnerships to engage the community or involve community voice. Community ownership of the community-level outcomes, involvement in strategy selection, and participation in improving the outcomes is crucial to the success of a cradle to career partnership, thus the authentic engagement of the community in the work of the partnership is essential. Building necessary, authentic relationships with the community takes a lot of work and time, but the payoff of this relationship is immeasurable.
If you have an example from your own community on how you have effectively engaged the community- we would love to hear of and learn from your experience!
Still want to learn more about community engagement in the theory of action? Consider joining us at the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening in Dallas. A special ‘deep dive’ session will be devoted to this topic specifically!
In July I had the pleasure of collaborating with ASCD to design their Leader to Leader conference around KnowledgeWorks’ forecast on the future of learning, Recombinant Education. It highlights the emerging opportunity to combine talent and resources in new ways to ensure that every child has the best possible support in realizing his or her full potential.
Indeed, as the accompanying infographic details, we think that it is possible to create a diverse learning ecosystem characterized by radical personalization, one in which learning adapts to each child. Getting there will require a collaborative and ongoing design process out of which many right solutions will emerge.
At the conference, many compelling questions about how to design for the future of learning emerged. I’ve shared three of them below, along with insights from participants and my reflections on what our strategic foresight work suggests.
• How are we going to articulate the value of public education compared to other kinds of learning experiences? Public education represents important shared values as well as essential goals such as equity for all learners. We know the best of it when we see it. But we don’t yet have good ways of articulating why a learner should stay. In addition, there’s great potential for diversification with the public education system. Not all learners need the same solutions. Furthermore, we no longer operate in the industrial economy for which the system was designed. It’s time to think anew not just about how we describe the value of public education, but about what that value is and how that system supports learners. Indeed, public education, or any learning experience, could have multiple value propositions, each of which might appeal to certain learners.
• Could there be a referral system across nodes of the learning ecosystem? In other words, might it be possible to think of public education and other kinds of learning experiences less in terms of either/or but in terms of both/and? Our forecast highlights the need to blur and span boundaries across many aspects of the learning system. If we truly designed the future of learning for learners, knowing that any given learner might need a different mix of learning experiences and supports at various points along his or her learning journey, we could create an interconnected learning ecosystem in which learners moved seamlessly across learning experiences, public or otherwise. Public education could serve a vital role in providing informed referral services to help ensure that learners’ needs, interests, and goals drove the individualized learning playlists that we think will be not just possible but prevalent.
• How can we accelerate or leapfrog our collective progress in helping all learners succeed for college, career, and life? Even where the educators at the conference were seeing progress toward competency education, which we at KnowledgeWorks support as a strong pathway for moving toward radically personalized learning, they saw the need to shift from simply moving at students’ own pace to being driven by what students want to learn. Our forecast suggests that it’s entirely possible to shape learning around students’ interests while still ensuring that all students attain a common set of learning outcomes. That’s a design choice we can make. And we have many other choices to make in using future trends to take learning in the direction that we want it to go.
Looking across these questions and reflections, it’s essential to approach the future of learning from a generative rather than a defensive stance. Gaining insight into future trends gives us all a chance to steer learning toward the outcomes that we want for all learners. We need to focus on creating those outcomes instead of preserving today’s structures simply because we’re accustomed to them. We need to design for learners and let the structures follow.
Secretary Duncan Recognizes Impact of Strive Cradle to Career Initiatives
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education recently made the last stop on his bus tour to connect with educators across the country. He was in the San Diego-area meeting with key players and, specifically, visiting a Promise Neighborhood in Chula Vista that we have heard is doing great work.
As part of Duncan’s comments, he noted that there was innovation happening outside the investment the administration had made in communities. He specifically pointed at the work underway in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood called the Partnership for Children. This work is being led by a host of community partners and is staffed by the local United Way. It is a remarkable effort to start small and scale purposefully across the region. They have embraced the Framework and are demonstrating how best to engage residents and community partners around what the data says works for kids. We have had the honor of supporting them with United Way Worldwide as a part of our work them, along with target, to help better understand how United Ways can anchor this work.
We Have to Build Partnerships
But the underlying point behind why he referenced our work together was more profound: we can’t wait on anyone to solve complex social problems. It’s nice if a major federal grant is available to support this work – although we have seen that starting this work around a funding opportunity can cause more problems than one might think – but there will never be enough money to spark universal action. Community leaders of all types, at all levels, and from all backgrounds must stand up on their own to take responsibility for the success of every child. We have to build partnerships with this as the primary motivator: the potential of children as opposed to the almighty dollar.
I will admit to feeling a moment of pride when the Secretary mentioned the nearly 100 communities that are a part of the Cradle to Career Network because the majority was not started with any additional money in hand. They were started because leadership on the ground recognized the urgency of the matter. They recognized that they needed a new way of doing business. They started with the goals and outcomes in mind above all else. Communities from Anchorage to Albuquerque and Richmond to Red Wing are moving in the right direction for the right reasons.
But we have a long way to go.
A Challenge from the Department
Secretary Duncan’s Acting Deputy Secretary for the Department of Education, Jim Shelton, told me the other day that the one thing we could do for the field was to get some proof points. We need to get more examples of the power of this work not just to bring adults together, but to move the dial on child outcomes.
The time is now to demonstrate how the rigor and discipline needed to build cradle to career civic infrastructure can indeed change the outcomes for children across the country. So the pride quickly turned to determination. The Secretary was not patting us on the back, he was calling us out. We have to get from enthusiasm to impact. We are certainly on our way. But let’s not stop until the results we need for kids are actually achieved, and every parent in City Heights, San Diego, and the nation knows their child is going to succeed every step of the way, cradle to career.
Earlier today, I was reviewing sight words with my kindergartner and as we made our way down the list, she kept having trouble with one word in particular. She became very frustrated and wanted to quit, which lead to my panic thinking she wasn’t demonstrating self-efficacy, grit, perseverance or many of the very important social emotional competencies we so often read about.
What are Social Emotional Competencies?
No matter what you call them – social emotional, non-cognitive, non-academic competencies – social and emotional learning is proving to be key indicators to student success and thus are generating a great deal of buzz. With his book, How Children Succeed, Paul Tough found that children were challenged to develop these social and emotional competencies regardless of their socioeconomic status. For rich kids a sheltered life with helicopter parents often deprived the kids of the types of experiences that helped to build strong character. And for poorer kids, growing up in a stressful, unstable environment can result in negative feelings and distractions that challenge learning. In the last week, a New York Times Magazine article, Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught, on this same subject has been making the rounds both in education circles and on the Facebook pages of many of my fellow mom friends because it raises the question of whether or not emotional intelligence is inherent or can be learned and it offers some examples of interventions that seem to be seeing some success in teaching these competencies.
How do You Measure Social Emotional Competencies?
Of course in order to determine which interventions are having impact, you must first be able to measure success. And measurement is one of the greatest challenges in this space. It’s extremely difficult to measure social and emotional learning competencies. Numerous assessment tools have been developed, but very few of these tools have been implemented at scale or nationally normed and they seldom demonstrate strong validity and reliability. The tools, often in the form of scales and rubrics, tend to measure one or two competencies and are, at times, difficult and laborious to administer. The good news is that as a result of the buzz around this topic, a number of researchers, organizations like the Search Institute, and large assessment companies like ACT are working to develop more effective and efficient ways of assessing these competencies at scale.
Placing Social Emotional Competencies on the Roadmap
So, what does all of this mean for cradle to career partnerships? To start, one of the foundational elements in this work is its holistic approach to student learning. This is demonstrated through a core visual representation of the work that started with the Strive Partnership and has been adapted by communities across the Cradle to Career Network. The Student Roadmap to Success has an upper half focused on core academic outcomes and a lower half focused on non-academic, non-cognitive, student and family support. And the cross-sector nature of cradle to career partnerships and the critical role of learning partners from youth-serving organizations in this work necessitate a focus on both halves of this Roadmap in order to ensure student success.
Even so, because work in this field is so new and emergent, Cradle to Career Partnerships have struggled with how to approach measurement in this space. And so, the Strive Task Force on Measuring Social and Emotional Learning launched early this year in an attempt to make some recommendations to the Cradle to Career Network on how to approach measurement in this area. The end result is a comprehensive reviews of the literature as it relates to some of the core social and emotional competencies that lead to improved cradle to career academic outcomes. Coupled with the lit review and recommended competency list is an overview of the measures for these competencies and a compendium with more than 100 measurement tools that can be used for assessment in this space. It is a tremendous resource for Cradle to Career Partnerships and a great contribution to the field.
At the Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening in Dallas, TX, we will distribute the report entitled, Beyond Content: Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning into the Strive Framework.
Susan Philliber of Philliber Research Associates, who worked with us to produce this report, will join to moderate a panel during the Breakfast Plenary, “Understanding and Measuring Beyond Content Learning,” on Friday, September 27, 2013. Following the Convening release, this report will go live on the www.strivenetwork.org website as a resource to the Network and broader field.
In the meantime, what we need from Cradle to Career partnerships are stories about how this work is playing out on the ground in your community. Are you currently using assessment tools in this space? If so, which ones and how is it going? We want to hear from you about your experience –both successes and challenges.
This is the fifth blog in a six-blog series on community engagement. To read the first blog, click here. To read the second blog, click here. To read the third blog, click here. To read the fourth blog, click here.
As we continue our series on the crucial role of community engagement in collective impact, it is becoming apparent that while engagement remains important across all the gateways of the Strive Theory of Action, the specific strategies and ways to engage differ greatly. The strategies for community engagement in the exploring gateway of the Strive Theory of Action, highlighted in the third blog of this series, were around laying the foundation for deep community engagement and mobilization. Community engagement strategies in the emerging gateway, highlighted in the previous blog, start to involve the community more actively in the work and priorities of the partnership. Community engagement in the sustaining gateway builds off of this action through the involvement of community in solution development and implementation while continuing the flow of communication and awareness. See below for examples of community engagement, specifically called out in the sustaining gateway of the Strive Theory of Action.
Community Engagement in the Sustaining Gateway:
-Regularly and consistently informing community: Keeping the community updated on the work of the partnership is important to establish a transparent relationship with the community, as well as to build the necessary awareness of the partnership’s efforts to improve the community-level outcomes. Consistent awareness and understanding of the work of the partnership is necessary, especially with an ultimate goal of community mobilization and ownership around community-level outcomes. Holding community update meetings, sending regular newsletters, or engaging in other awareness campaigns to regularly and consistently inform the community are examples of transactional engagement.
-Release of the report card: Releasing a report card, similar to the release of a baseline report, provides a great opportunity to engage the community in a conversation around the data for the community-level outcomes and any changes that have occurred from the baseline year data. Additionally, with the release of report cards after the baseline year, the partnership needs to communicate the work it is doing to improve community outcomes through collaborative action networks and community campaigns. This communication strategy provides a platform to then mobilize the community to take action and plug into the work of the partnership to help improve community-level outcomes. Engaging the community in the release of the report card and community-level outcome data is a form of transactional engagement.
-Collaborative action feedback loop: Using local data to drive student success through a continuous improvement process is core to the cradle to career approach. One pivotal piece of data that can’t be overlooked is the voice of the customer (or in this case, community members who are impacted by the work). Collaborative Action Networks, groups of appropriate cross-sector practitioners and individuals who organize around a community-level outcome and use a continuous improvement process to develop an action plan with strategies to improve that outcome, often build a community feedback loop into their process to test their data-driven strategies against the voice of those impacted by their work. This feedback loop allows the community to be involved in the decision-making and strategy-setting to improve community-level outcomes, an example of transformational engagement.
-Mobilizing community to improve outcomes: When data-driven strategies arise to improve community-level outcomes, the mobilization of the community to participate in these strategies can be crucial to success. Different approaches involve the community in different ways, but often a campaign to mobilize the community to take action (like becoming a tutor or a reading volunteer) is launched to involve the community in the improvement of a community-level outcome. The mobilizing of the community to take action can help reinforce the shared accountability of the entire community to improve the community-level outcomes and is an example of transitional engagement.
If you have an example from your own community on how you have effectively engaged the community- we would love to hear of and learn from your experience!
Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about community engagement in the systems change gateway of the Strive Theory of Action! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
When Dr. Antonio Hurt drives around the inner-city Baltimore neighborhood surrounding Frederick Douglass High School, he doesn’t see bleak, boarded up houses – he sees only his students and their families.
“My first goal upon coming to Frederick Douglass High School three years ago was to embed myself in the community,” said Dr. Hurt or “Doc” as both students and faculty call him. Once the influential alumni community began to know and trust him, Dr. Hurt could really get down to business.
When Dr. Hurt arrived at Frederick Douglass, the 125 year old school with a rich history of producing nationally-known graduates like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and bandleader Cab Calloway had become a place of failure, sabotage and complacency. Stories from those days use language that makes the school sound like a literal war zone. Staff recalls Dr. Hurt saying that if he only did one thing, he was going to restore humanity.
With the help of EDWorks, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, Dr. Hurt and Frederick Douglass High School have moved far beyond that initial goal. In 2012, Frederick Douglass hit its state academic targets for the first time in 15 years and they did so again in 2013, with 19 percentage point gains in math and 17 percentage point gains in English since 2010.
Students are now proactively coming to adults in the building to own their own achievement and future plans. At the last school open house, 250 parents showed up, compared with just a handful of parents at similar events in the past. Staff and students frequently talk about “Finding Thurgood” – the belief that the next Thurgood Marshall is sitting right next to you in class.
When someone challenges Dr. Hurt, saying that this success is the result of a charismatic leader with an unusual set of resources, he responds that this work can be done by focusing on basic levers that every school is capable of influencing: 1) Vision/leadership; 2) Instruction; 3) Data; and 4) Student Supports. We will be exploring these elements (adapted from rubrics EDWorks shares with schools) or what Frederick Douglass calls “Operation Graduation” more deeply in an upcoming set of white papers and blogs.
Dr. Hurt will not stop at turnaround; he wants Frederick Douglass to be among the best high schools in the country. He has been searching for the past few years and says that he has not found an example of that caliber of school situated in a similar neighborhood. Dr. Hurt vows that Douglass will be that national model of greatness: “Our goal is to become that place where principals and teachers can come to believe.”
A new policy and advocacy focus for KnowledgeWorks is multi-school, multi-district state level interventions. We are defining this as innovation zones, partnership zones, districts of innovation, feeder patterns and state turnaround districts. You will be able to read more about this in the coming weeks but, for now, let’s focus on what’s happening in Virginia.
On July 1, House Bill 2096, establishing the Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI), went into effect. According to a summary on Virginia’s Legislative Information System, HB 2096:
Creates the Opportunity Educational Institution to be administered and supervised by the Opportunity Educational Institution Board. The bill requires any school that has been denied accreditation and permits any school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years to be transferred to the Institution and remain in the Institution for five years or until the school achieves full accreditation. The bill also sets forth requirements for student attendance, staffing, and funding for the Institution.
The OEI won’t be implemented without a challenge. The Virginia School Board Association and the Norfolk City School Board, Norfolk City Schools is home to two schools that would be taken over by OEI, have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to stop the state-run district from getting off the ground. According to this District Dossier post by Jackie Zubrzycki, the basis of the lawsuit asserts that the OEI is unconstitutional, “The VSBA and Norfolk challenge alleges that, while the state’s constitution requires that schools be overseen by a school board, the board that’s overseeing the OEI is a branch of the executive office. It also says that the state board of education is tasked with creating school districts, but the OEI was created by the state’s legislature.”
I tend to agree with this Education Week article by Andrew Ujifusa that this is a high profile fight between local school boards and state officials over who should have control, and I believe responsibility, over failing schools. I also think the lawsuit in Virginia could set other states up to create state run turnaround districts or, depending on the outcome of the lawsuit, local officials to challenge such state-wide districts. The show in Virginia is one worth watching.
Community engagement is an integral piece of the cradle to career approach and a theme that is inherent in the work across the Theory of Action. The strategies for community engagement in the exploring gateway of the Strive Theory of Action, highlighted in the third blog of this series, were specifically around laying the foundation for deep community engagement and mobilization. The community engagement strategies in the emerging gateway start to involve the community more actively in the work and priorities of the partnership. See below for examples of community engagement, specifically called out in the emerging gateway of the Strive Theory of Action.
Community Engagement in the Emerging Gateway:
-Release of the baseline report: Publicly reporting on the baseline data for community-level outcomes and indicators presents an important opportunity to engage the community in a conversation around the data and the purpose of the partnership. Moving to a norm where data is used often and effectively in the community requires the first step of being comfortable with the data, of having a basic understanding of it. The release of a baseline report is a great way to initiate and foster that understanding, and it shows the partnership’s commitment to share data with the community. Engaging the community in the release of a baseline report and initiating a conversation around the data is an example of transactional engagement.
-Prioritizing community-level outcomes: Very few partnerships have the capacity and resources to work on improving all outcomes at once, so the prioritization of the outcomes becomes necessary to ensure success. Prioritization is based off of a number of different factors, one of which is community momentum. Understanding the existing community assets and recognizing where momentum already exists in the community helps to determine outcome areas where community support and resources can help drive success faster than in other outcome areas. The prioritization of outcomes is a great way to plug in information gathered from prior engagement efforts and to actively use community voice in the decision-making and direction-setting of the partnership. This is an example of using information gathered through transactional forms of engagement for decision-making and direction-setting of the partnership.
If you have example from your own community on how you have effectively engaged the community- we would love to hear of and learn from your experience!
Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about community engagement in the sustaining gateway of the Strive Theory of Action! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
Social Impact Bonds Overview
An emerging approach in the United States to support evidence-based social programs is social impact bonds, which we consider part of the larger impact investing sector. Social impact bonds provide investment capital to fund evidence-based social programs delivered by highly effective providers. In this model, as currently executed, government agencies agree to pay external organizations a pre-arranged sum, and they agree to return the investor’s principle, but only if the funded programs achieve predefined results and presumably create cost savings as well in order to fund the returns.
According to Social Finance, social impact bonds require interventions and programs that are evidence-based, provide sufficient net savings within a time horizon, and are replicable and scalable. Ultimately the financing vehicle attempts to bring new money to address and advance qualifying social outcomes – we consider this an ‘expanding the pie’ strategy and funding to be potentially additive to the work in Strive cradle to career communities.
Using Data to Make Decisions
Presently, we see preliminary alignment between the social impact bond concept and the work that happens in Strive Cradle to Career Communities. The initial component to the social impact bond financing model is the need for rigorous data. As the Strive Theory of Action asks for routine collection and analysis of key data points, we feel comfortable that our more advanced sites could be in a position to provide meaningful outcomes data necessary to support social impact bonds. We would expect that sites that have implemented a comprehensive data system and focused on student-level data would be particularly well-suited in this regard. However, there would be a significant lift to provide data in support of social impact bonds that may extend beyond current data practices in less mature cradle to career sites.
Saving Costs and Supporting Outcomes
The next criteria, demonstration of clear cost savings over a defined time horizon, suggests that the social impact bonds would have to be anchored around very specific and visible transition points in the cradle to career pipeline. Reasonably, we are looking at social outcomes that emerge within two years of intervention and can be affirmatively verified.
For example, for the social impact bond that is supporting early education in Salt Lake City, UT, the social outcome is reducing the number of children who are placed in special or remedial education based on their participation in the Utah High Quality Preschool Program. At the time of their entry into school, investors will know how many students are and are not in special or remedial education and related cost savings to the public can immediately be calculated. In Strive communities, you could see a corollary to students at not only the school entry point but also those entering higher education without the need for remedial coursework and then demonstrate related public costs savings. As currently constructed, social impact bonds do rely on a cost savings or cost avoidance model though an economic benefit or value creation model could be considerably more compelling to private investors.
Positioning to Scale
Finally, the scalability question for Strive relies heavily on our ability to align communities on a discrete set of materially similar outcomes, and as previously mentioned, have consistent and reliable data to provide the evidence base. As we look across our Network, sites in Sustaining and System Change are more likely candidates for this type of model if only based on their existing data collection processes and evidence-based provider base.
At the Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening in Dallas, TX, we will have some of the nation’s leading experts discussing social impact bonds and their potential application to cradle to career communities during the Lunch Plenary, “Social Impact Bonds: How Civic Infrastructure Helps Sites Get Ready for Creative Financing,” on Thursday, September 26, 2013. In addition to leaders from KnowledgeWorks, the Lumina Foundation, United Way Salt Lake City, and the U.S. Department of Education, executives from both Social Finance and Third Sector Capital Partners will join the conversation. We look forward to exploring this emerging financial model with our sites in a few weeks.
 Alden, William. “Goldman Sachs to Finance Early Education Program.” New York Times. 12 June 2013.
You hear it daily -- the mantra "college and career ready." What you don't hear is consensus on "what" this looks like and "how" we are going to improve the state of play. Recent news from New York state student assessments confirm what many of us know --most high school graduates are not ready to perform college work.