Dave was a disengaged 14-year-old. Everything about his world suggested he would fail. He came to class, eyes glazed over, seeing little relevance in school. He was lost. That is, until a teacher found ways to reach him. A teacher who helped Dave find his voice and discover purpose and passion.
A central premise of the cradle to career approach is that this work requires the collective effort of an entire community to really achieve the systems level and institutional change that is necessary to support every child, from cradle to career. Inherent in this, is the engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community around this cradle to career vision. Part of successfully achieving authentic engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community stems from understanding who is and what is the community.
When we talk about community engagement, we often encourage individual partnerships to define what ‘community’ they are trying to intentionally engage and for what purpose. Community engagement needs to be a contextual process not only in regards of a specific community or region but also to a specific topic or challenge. We have broadly defined the community as “Individuals in the defined geographic scope who are directly affected by the quality of the education pipeline (e.g. students, parents, business and civic leaders), and therefore must be clearly understood, actively involved, and eventually satisfied by the impact of the partnership.” This definition of community can essentially encompass every individual in a partnership’s region; however the expectation is not that every person in the region will be engaged in every engagement strategy that the partnership employs. Rather, this definition of community is intended to identify who should ultimately be engaged and informed, recognizing that the strategies to achieve this broad engagement should look different for varying purposes, sectors and individuals within the community. Different partnerships across the Network have identified various community sectors such as youth, students, parents, general public, business leaders, teachers and others as the major focus of their engagement efforts. No matter what part of the community we are trying to intentionally engage, a major lesson learned has been around needing to tailor the engagement strategy for the specific audience. The strategy employed to engage youth voice in the partnership should and will look different than a strategy to involve business leaders in the work.
With the recent launch of the Theory of Action, a continuum of key benchmarks that acts as a guide to implementing the Strive framework, we have taken the opportunity to reinforce the critical role of community in cradle to career partnerships. We are also working to get clearer than ever on what community engagement is and looks like within the context of this cradle to career work.
This is the first blog in a 6 blog series that aims to further define community engagement and illustrate on-the-ground examples of community engagement throughout the Theory of Action. Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about categorizing engagement strategies! 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!
In the piece he reviews outcomes in new report from the Lumina Foundation, “A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education.” While the report shows increased demand for skilled workers in Ohio, it also reports not enough college-educated residents to fill those positions. Merisotis asks, “What can Ohio do to produce more talent? For starters, new models of student financial support must be created. So, we need more leaders to engage on making college more affordable, making costs more predictable and transparent, providing incentives to increase completion and aligning federal, state and institutional policies and programs.”
That’s exactly why EDWorks is focusing its work on early college high schools, one of the most promising strategies for dramatically improving college completion rates, especially among first generation and low-income students.
Our Fast Track Early College High Schools, and many others around the nation, are demonstrating that many students from those communities can in fact succeed not only in high school, but also, in college. To be successful, they need to have access to rigorous, supportive learning environments, adults with high expectations for them and flexibility to focus on their individual learning needs.
Neither Ohio nor the nation can afford to ignore this increasingly significant portion of the population if we are to have a robust economy supported by a more highly educated workforce in the future. Getting them prepared for and experienced in college success early is a proven strategy that is worthy of our attention and investment.
What do you need to know to be successful in this endeavor? While it is the starting point in all good Project-Based Units, dragging them out of young people can be a challenge. Quality Project-Based Learning Units also focus on deeper learning and facilitate inquiry and research skills needed to be successful participants in a constantly evolving workforce. This last year, my co-teacher Ryan Steuer and I grappled with the concept of creating meaningful Need to Knows for our middle school learners and we came up with two strategies to improve them.
This week our Twitter Feed was filled with "back to school" tweets and lots of inspiration. Our chat topic was "Sharing ice-breakers and beginning of the year culture building strategies". The full archive is here on our Storify Page. It is full of great ideas and has already been viewed nearly 200 times!
In other #PBLChat news we would LOVE for you to do two things!
I’ve talked with a number of communities over the years who are undertaking the work of building a collective impact education partnership, and one of the first things they are thinking about is how to manage the data collection and data initiatives of the partnership. “What exactly do you work on as a data manager?” they ask. “And what kinds of skill sets do we need to be looking for in a data manager?” So through those conversations and reflecting back on the data work when Strive was still young, I’ve put together the following “Day in the Life of a Data Manager,” split into two parts. Part II is below.
All of the outcome indicators that you would like to track as a partnership not be readily available – part of the work is directly with partners to help develop shared measures and determine the best way to start tracking them. One example from Strive’s early work was in selecting our outcome indicator for Goal 1: Every child will be prepared for school.
There were a number of indicators that we could potentially track (infant mortality, low birth weight, pre-K experience, etc). But we knew the best measure would be one that is a close proxy to the goal – and the one we landed on was “Percent of children who are assessed as ready for school when they enter kindergarten.” But this data wasn’t consistently available. We worked closely with the Success By 6® early childhood networks and the school districts to land on an assessment and begin tracking the data on a regular basis. The early childhood networks were meeting on a regular basis, and I remember that in one of the Covington network meetings, we brainstormed a list on flipchart paper of about 20 different assessments that were being used by partners. There are no common measures for kindergarten readiness and there aren’t even standard definitions of it. There are many factors that influence a child’s readiness for school including cognitive development, physical well-being, language use, approach to learning, motor development, and social/emotional skills. But we needed to land on something as a population level measure, even if the measures are imperfect, in order to advance the conversation. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” was a mantra, and we had three good measures in our three geographic areas – Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport.
Cincinnati is using a brief assessment tool called the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment – Literacy (KRA-L) which helps teachers identifies early reading skills. It is an assessment that has been adopted by the state of Ohio. Newport started out using the Developmental Indicators for Early Learning (DIAL-3) screen tool. The DIAL-3 provides scores for motor, concepts, and language. Covington started out using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS). The DIBELS measures letter naming fluency and initial sound fluency.
The work of a Data Manager could involve getting into the weeds on all these measures with the members of the collaborative action networks, where necessary, helping to sort through the various measures. The partnership can highlight the discrepancies in the ways school readiness is measured, and help advance the conversation around the importance of good data and in pushing toward common measures. Covington and Newport agreed on and began reporting a common measure (the Dial-3) a couple years after the initial baseline report. And just recently, the state of Kentucky adopted a new statewide assessment that all districts in the state will be using.
As mentioned earlier, there are three primary areas where I found myself spending time on any given day: digging into data, building relationships and consensus with stakeholders, and supporting the data needs of collaborative action networks. A short list of competencies for a Data Manager would include:
- Knowledge and demonstrated success in data collection, management and analysis; knowledge of education and community data resources
- Ability to build relationships and work with key partners to develop a comprehensive community accountability system that incorporates data across the cradle to career education pipeline
- Ability to address and overcome uncertain and complex issues to achieve desired results
- Plans for the collection, analysis, and reporting of data to measure the partnership’s impact and to facilitate evidence based decision making and continuous improvement
- Develops and cultivates relationships with community partners and stakeholders, including data and research professionals in education, business, faith, nonprofit, philanthropic, and civic sectors
I was recently “trapped” in an airplane for a weather-related delay. We couldn’t use electronic media, and I quickly exhausted all of the print material in my briefcase. Finally I decided to pull a magazine out of the seat pocket in front of me. Nestled neatly between restaurant reviews and travel destinations was an in-depth series on distance learning.
The series focused primarily on the proliferation of online degrees, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and digital learning platforms in higher education, but its salient points apply equally well to the K-12 setting – and have particular importance for our EDWorks Fast Track Early college High Schools, which blend the K-12 and higher education experience. The information in the section was not new or earth shattering, but it made me think about next steps for the schools with whom we work:
Point 1. We’ve really just given “lip service” to distance learning for more than 30 years, at higher education and K-12. Even with more than a generation of experience, the world of distance and online learning is still, as the series points out, a “wild wild west” of approaches, with no real consensus on the best format for online, blended or distance learning.
Point 2. As educators, we’re now faced with students who are not necessarily comparing one teacher to another or one school to another; they are comparing their school-based experiences to the rest of the learning and communication experiences in their lives. How can we make “physics” or “chemistry” or “English 101” as relevant and engaging to them as social media?
Point 3. Different people learn in different ways, and computers and technology really can be helpful in meeting students where they are, presenting information in a format compatible with their learning style and differentiating content and approach to meet individual learning needs. But we’ve not harnessed their power to accelerate learning for all students.
Point 4. There are now a wide range of digital platforms available that make it possible to offer a high quality, deep learning experience at a reasonable cost. But in our experience, K-12 and higher education are not using the same platforms. That makes it more difficult for students to move from one world to another and to apply tools that make them successful in their high school classes to the college courses, and vice versa.
Point 5. Our K-12 students (and teachers, for that matter) now have access to literally a world of great courses and instructional materials free of charge online, in our communities, or across the globe. And the focus, once again, on competency learning, means students can earn credit for work in settings outside the classroom and the school building. The walls of the school really are becoming more and more permeable and flexible. How do we integrate traditional classroom grades and assessments with credit for learning in nontraditional settings – whether you’re talking K-12 or higher ed?
Again, none of this information is new. But it was collected and presented in a way that really that made me stop and think … this is powerful. We finally have the tools and resources to offer every student an amazing learning experience that meets his or her individual learning styles and academic needs – really individualize teaching and learning, not just play around the edges of individualization.
Schools and communities are at a real nexus. How will we bring all of these digital advances to scale? How do we move from isolated offerings to “just the way we do business” in every classroom, in every school, in every community? How do we move from the traditional classroom to a leaving, breathing, ever-changing, ever-growing, learning organism? Educators and students should demand nothing less.
I'm still on the NTAC cloud nine. There's just nothing as energizing as spending five days with a thousand-plus teachers who come together to learn, connect, share and push one another as we look toward the coming school year. That week felt like the best kind of family reunion you could imagine — filled with old friends and welcoming new teachers.
“Polarization by race and ethnicity in the nation’s postsecondary system has become the capstone for K-12 inequality and the complex economic and social mechanisms that create it. The postsecondary system mimics and magnifies the racial and ethnic inequality in educational preparation it inherits from the K-12 system and then projects this inequality into the labor market.”
This is among the conclusions in Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the International Reproduction of White Racial Privilege, a new report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.
One reason for this inequality is that traditional high schools in urban school districts don’t align curriculum with post-secondary institutions. As a result, most students aren’t adequately prepared for college coursework and are in need of remediation. Starting college behind starts a pattern of being behind throughout the student’s college career, assuming they are able to persist to a college degree.
EDWorks Fast Track schools help prepare students for college by working directly from the college course guide and partnering with faculty at the college. Early College High School students are taught the same college courses as other traditional college-going students, by the same professors, while they are still in high school.
Our students earn up to 60 college credits while still in high school, which is the equivalent of an associate degree or two years of college credit. Students at EDWorks Fast Track schools are generally the first in their family to graduate college and often include those from minority backgrounds. We set these students up for success by:
- Introducing them to the rigor of college coursework while still in high school, surrounded by a strong system of supports
- Implementing a personalized learning plan for each student
- Creating a culture of high expectations, in which students believe in, and demonstrate, their capacity for handling work found in top tier schools
Our Early College High School model eases the transition to college and helps students, including minority students, succeed in the university environment.
The American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath once wrote, “...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” As an English facilitator, I know writing is a powerful tool towards self-confidence. Writing should be an exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. Unfortunately for some high school students, writing has become a dreaded task—a desperate attempt at a word count.
I’ve talked with a number of communities over the years who are undertaking the work of building a collective impact education partnership, and one of the first things they are thinking about is how to manage the data collection and data initiatives of the partnership. “What exactly do you work on as a data manager?” they ask. “And what kinds of skill sets do we need to be looking for in a data manager?” So through those conversations and reflecting back on the data work when Strive was still young, I’ve put together the following “Day in the Life of a Data Manager,” split into two parts. Part I is below.
As a Data Manager for a cradle to career partnership, there are three primary areas where I found myself spending time on any given day: digging into data, building relationships and consensus with stakeholders, and supporting the data needs of collaborative action networks.
Evidence based decision making is an underpinning of a collective impact partnership, and one of the first things to tackle after establishing the shared vision and goals is to establish a set of shared outcome indicators to help measure progress toward the shared goals. And so a data manager needs to dive head first into the data itself and really understand all the sources, variables, and caveats to how the data may be collected and presented. We started with a list of over 75 potential measures, and so the data manager really needs to understand the data landscape in order to be able to help steer the data team and partnership in getting to consensus in narrowing that list down. The manager also needs to become the local education data “expert” – and help build credibility for the partnership by being one of the go to people for questions related to education data and results in the community.
Building relationships and consensus, however, is just as important as the data analytic skills. A partnership’s Director and local champions will definitely help with the relationship building among partners and advocating for data transparency – but the Data Manager also has to be able to forge relationships with the key data partners and build trust with them. One of our first efforts was to form a Data Committee comprised of all the data experts from key partners at the table – the school districts, postsecondary institutions, early childhood professionals, and other community data experts. As a committee we came to a list of ten shared outcome indicators together, using a set of criteria that we developed, to take back to the Executive Committee as a recommendation.
It is important that this process is done with your key partners as opposed to it feeling like you are producing a report about your key partners. And so establishing relationships and building trust are key ingredients in this – and landing on the indicators is a back and forth process of presenting ideas and getting feedback until you have built something together that everyone feels ownership of. As a result, when we released the first report, members of the Executive Committee could speak with confidence about it knowing that they had truly helped to create it.
Coming next: Working with networks to define indicators where no clear ones exist, and key competencies of a Data Manager
When we think of the skills students need to be successful in school and in life, the word "agency" doesn't usually pop into mind. But maybe it's time...
The work to build and sustain cradle to career civic infrastructure is extremely complex and interconnected. One of the biggest challenges early on in this work is just organizing the different pieces and players that all impact the education pipeline and our students’ success. Developing an accountability structure to start organizing the different pieces of a partnership has become crucial to effectively managing, communicating, and involving partners in this work.
An accountability structure is the organizational framework that depicts the different groups within a partnership and includes an outline of the roles and responsibilities of each group, describing the processes, people, and supports necessary to function effectively. An accountability structure for a cradle to career partnership can be likened to an organizational chart for a company. To support communities in developing this crucial piece of the work, Strive has released a ‘Building an Accountability Structure Toolkit.’ This toolkit is part of a larger ‘Getting Started Playbook’ that will be focused on helping communities meet the key benchmarks in the Exploring Gateway of Strive’s Theory of Action. The ‘Building an Accountability Structure Toolkit’ aims to help Network members:
- Understand the importance of an accountability structure
- View different types of structures and their respective advantages and disadvantages
- Understand and outline the roles and responsibilities that need to be accommodated in a structure
- Clarify the decision making roles of different groups in the accountability structure
- Develop necessary agreements that need to be in place to operationalize an accountability structure
- Create an accountability structure that fits their partnership’s needs and context.
With the help of Network members who agreed to share their stories and examples with the Network, the toolkit also includes narratives around different accountability structure groups, designs, and agreements. This provides you with an on-the-ground perspective of how other communities have designed and convened the various groups in their accountability structures.
The ‘Building an Accountability Structure Toolkit’ is available to Network members through the Strive Partner Portal: http://www.striveportal.org/resources/strive_network_documents/buildinganaccountabilitystructuret
Be on the look-out for the next pieces in the ‘Getting Started Playbook’ to be released in the upcoming months!
Meet Paulena. She fits easily into the category of “these kids.” You know who “these kids” are, they are the kids that society and even some educators believe won’t ever graduate. She’s the kind of kid that some might let sit in the back of the classroom, because it’s a lost cause. She’s the one who after a couple of weeks, I was ready to write off. Yes, I admit it.
This word "agency" has come to me like a breath of fresh air after a school year full of challenges at the student, staff, and district level. It seems to me that this idea of agency is an answer to unspoken questions in the midst of a climate that often presents challenges where we have to evaluate, yet again, our own beliefs about teaching and learning.
“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again.” James Agee, 1960, pg.289.What is resiliency?
Resiliency is defined as “the ability to bounce back successfully despite exposure to severe risks” (Benard, 1993, pg. 44) Resilience is the reason why one child who experiences troubles, violence, abuse – major life disruptions and stressors – is able to overcome and succeed while others wither and fail. The theory of resiliency is one of hope – hope for the future and the belief that all individuals have within them the ability to overcome negative life circumstances if provided with the proper supports and opportunities. For students in urban environments or the rural poor, resiliency is often the ability to overcome the stresses of the environment and poverty. While much of the original research on resiliency focused on resiliency of children raised in poverty – especially minority children – in today’s turbulent society the ability to transcend and bounce back from life challenges is a critical skill for all of us. Building resiliency is supported through participation in a resilient community. A resilient community is a group that focuses on creating conditions that foster and build resilience for the group members – especially the young people, The conditions for a resilient community are:
- Caring adults and peers
- High expectations and appropriate supports
- Opportunities for meaningful participation in the group. (Henderson & Milstein, 2003)
For many this resilient community is a large extended family of caring adults who nurture and build a child’s ability to persevere and bounce back. Unfortunately, too many children do not have such a support system unless it is created by the schools they attend. Schools can be the resilient community for students if the school intentionally creates a climate and culture focused on building that resiliency.How does a school support and build resiliency for students?
Becoming a resilient community begins with the school building a climate where the adults know the students and care about them—all of them. In each school every child should have one adult that they know and who knows them well. A personalized learning environment allows each child to learn and grow with appropriate supports for inquiry learning and innovative thinking. A resilient community also has high expectations for all members. In a school that means that school personnel believe that all children can succeed and seek to build an environment and learning experiences where that can take place. High expectations are present in academics but also in social behaviors, demonstrations of responsibility and in a commitment to be part of a larger community. Meaningful opportunities to participate in the resiliency group take many forms from student groups and student voice in school leadership to the types of lessons taught. Relevant lessons and experiential learning encourage full participation in the learning environment.
Building a positive school climate and a nurturing culture of high expectations for all is a key to becoming a resilient community – and is a critical component of the work of EDWorks. Our work in many high poverty environments has demonstrated that schools that very intentionally focus on building the positive climate and culture experience not only changes in behaviors and attitudes but the improved academic outcomes that are the hallmark of confident resilient students. Rapid changes in the economy and workforce will require future workers to be flexible, adaptable and ready to take on new learning challenges. Resiliency is the critical 21st Century Skill for students, for teachers, for leaders – for the entire education system.
Benard, B. (1993). Turning the corner from risk to resiliency. San Francisco, WestEd Regional Educational Laboratory
Henderson, N. & Milstein, M. (2003). Resiliency in schools. Corwin Press, Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA.