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.
As I embarked upon my immersion in the New Tech Network, I felt a sense of newness laced with an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Over the past 8 years, I have moved from a novice to expert for PBL and have experienced the success with my students as they have grown and learned...but at times the journey seemed isolated.
At home in my classroom, I refer to my students as “little birds”. A project deadline approaches and I’ll remind them on the forums that I cannot wait to see them fly. It feels appropriate, then, to be so homesick and to feel so much like a caged bird myself. I have been struggling, in some ways – feeling lost and disoriented, trying to making meaning of my time here and relying on others to do it for me, not trusting that I have just as much of a right or a reason to be here as everyone else.
New Tech Network events are my Christmas. NTAC is Christmas when I'm six and still believe in Santa Claus. I eagerly await the opportunity to guzzle as much as I can from the New Tech fire hose.
Data-informed decision making is a central tenet to collective impact and building the civic infrastructure. Data can serve as the translator when it comes to understanding what is really happening in a community. In the words of one prominent local Strive partner, “People are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”
One of the roles that a cradle to career partnership plays is promoting the use of community level data. And so the question arises as to what are the roles of a cradle to career partnership in making data available to the public? I think that the answer varies by community depending on the existing organizations and capacities that are currently in place. Some may house and make readily available large amounts of data to be queried by the public and partner organizations, while others may focus only on their core outcome indicators to produce a report card without providing a publicly accessible data portal.
I believe that cradle to career partnerships should play a role in both of these types of efforts. A “report card” is important to be able to organize and report on a set of key outcome indicators that a partnership is organizing around. It is almost more of a communication and storytelling tool, although data being a critical element. The indicators should be relatively few, easy to digest, and something that gets reported on an ongoing basis in order to keep the focus for the partnership. Many partnerships are publishing report cards, and you can find many examples on the Strive Network website.
But there’s only so much data that you can (and would want to) include in a report like this before it becomes too big to digest. So making more and deeper levels of data available in a user friendly way is also important. There’s only so much you can do with high level data before the right questions lead you to dig into to the data to better understand what’s going on and what you can do about it, collectively. So in Cincinnati we also have a tool called Facts Matter that serves as portal for large amounts of data that can be viewed in tables, charts, or on maps – http://www.factsmatter.info. This isn’t a led by our cradle to career partnership though. Rather, we partner with a number of local organizations in this effort, and it is owned by these organizations collectively. The partners include United Way of Greater Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, Northern Kentucky University, Agenda 360, Vision 2015, and the Strive Partnership.
The Strive Network has launched a Community Impact Report Card tool to help sites create and build their own local report card. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky partnership’s data from this tool can be seen via the Strive Partnership website. All Hands Raised and the Michigan College Access Network also have examples of this tool in action. And the Facts Matter data portal is built off of another local GIS data solution and is available to other communities as well.
With the growing amounts of data available to communities, it is important to be able to help translate and package it so that it can be used to inform collective decisions about where to invest resources – time, talent, and treasure.
I must admit I'm perplexed about the controversy over whether so-called "soft skills" such as work ethic, collaboration and critical thinking should be taught in school. This debate should be a non-starter. What's so soft about skills valued by Fortune 500 companies?
According to a report by the Associated Press (AP) released in June 2013, "companies increasingly want skills that don't show up in a college transcript or a sit-down interview."
American Institutes for Research recently released a capstone report on the national Early College initiative launched by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2002.
The report presents a long-term, study that compares results for students in Early Colleges with their peers in more traditional settings. The results are impressive. According to the study, “Early College students had a greater opportunity than their peers to enroll in and graduate from college. They also appeared to be on a different academic trajectory, with Early College students earning college degrees and enrolling in four-year institutions at higher rates than comparison students.”
In fact, the report finds that, “Up to one year after high school, 21 percent of Early College students earned a college degree (typically an associate’s degree) compared with only 1 percent for comparison students.”
Further, the study finds that, “Early Colleges were particularly effective at helping female, minority, and lower income students earn college degrees.”
In light of the following statistics, the above findings about Early Colleges are critically important:
- A growing body of evidence links economic, community and national prominence to college degree attainment. Currently fewer than 60 percent of students entering four-year institutions of higher education complete a degree within six years1. Even more alarming, only 13% of low-income and minority students who enter the ninth grade will go on to complete college.2
- According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States is projected to become a majority minority nation just 30 years from now, in 20433. Given these demographic trends, it is clear that the U.S. can only reach its goals for college completion and workforce development by dramatically improving the educational attainment of its low income and minority students.
- President Obama’s administration announced a goal for 50% of the United States population to have earned a higher education degree by the year 2020. And Lumina Foundation is aiming for 60% by 2025. Currently, 39% of adults across the nation have college degrees.
If only 13% of low income and minority students complete college; and if the nation is rapidly becoming a majority-minority population, how will the U.S. reach the goals set by President Obama and Lumina Foundation – goals which many states and corporations agree we will need to meet to be competitive in the global economy?
If, as the AIR report says, 21 percent of Early College students earn college degree only one year after they graduate from high school (compared with only 1 percent for comparison students); and if Early Colleges are particularly effective at moving low income and minority students to college completion, could Early Colleges deliver on the national higher education goals?
It’s possible. That’s why we’re parting with schools on the EDWorks Fast Track early college high school model.
Early College high schools are not boutique, “hot house” schools that work only in very limited locations. Nearly 250 Early College High Schools were launched by the Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation across 28 states and the District of Columbia. They are located in large urban areas like New York City and small, rural communities like Fort Defiance, Arizona. While the AIR report reviews a sample of the BMGF Early College High Schools, it is reasonable to expect similar outcomes from all 250 schools, since all schools were established with the same set of Core Principles and design elements.
The expansion of Early College high schools definitely couldn’t hurt.
Note: Deborah Howard is the Chief Innovation Officer for EDWorks, whose parent organization, KnowledgeWorks, was among the initial Early College grantees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, EDWorks and KnowledgeWorks have launched or supported nearly 35 Early Colleges – with even stronger results than the schools in the AIR study. In EDWorks / KnowledgeWorks Early College sites, 97% of students graduate from high school; 79% earn at least 1 year of college credit while in high school; 1 in 3 earn an associate degree or 2 years of college credit while in high school; 95% continue in higher education and 87% persist to a 4-year degree.
2. NCES, NAEP, EPERC (most recent CPI graduation rates), NELS 1988-2000. Note: Data for minority students only include Black and Hispanic students and does not include other minority ethnicities. Note: Data estimated by applying historical longitudinal rates to current estimates of the high school cohort. Low-income young adults defined as 26 year olds who had a family income of less than $25K when starting high school (i.e., qualified for free/reduced lunch)
We hosted our New Schools Training for the schools joining our network for 2013 in Grand Rapids Michigan the week of July 23rd. It was a very exciting event bringing together schools from all over the country who are ready to re-imagine teaching and learning. It is an intense week of learning that results in much sharing of resources, reflections and ideas.
The key to community engagement is the ability to pay forward. Akron Buchtel Community Learning Center recently hosted a career day for students to practice their interview skills, communication skills and engage in the qualities required for work readiness. The US Department of Education is transforming the educational landscape by encouraging more female students to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). It is great to see private businesses, such as Parker Hannifin, participate in the national STEM initiative.
Guest post by Randall G. Sampson, PhD, a former Technical Assistance Coach with EDWorks.
At EDWorks we believe that every child can succeed in college and in the workplace with the right tools, preparation and support. We work closely with school leaders, staff and students building systems which will enable first-generation college-goers and traditionally under-served students to graduate from high school better prepared for college. Through this work, our team spends a significant amount of time working in schools and neighborhoods most of the nation has already thrown away. When we walk into many of these schools the first thing we notice broken fences, high weeds and uncut grass, graffiti and trash in the yard and halls. When we ask why the school grounds haven’t been cared for we are told budget cuts cause some of the problems and kids don’t care so they continually trash the school.
In our New Start work with turnaround schools, we focus both on Quick Wins (visible changes which can be implemented quickly and show positive results) and Long Term Results (less visible changes which result in statistical changes in academic achievement). Improving the physical atmosphere is a great way to earn a quick win but many school leaders fear such changes take too long and are too expensive.
Here is a process for engaging youth in building the foundation for a safe, clean and welcoming school environment. This process is directly aligned with EDWorks’ K-TECH framework. K-TECH is EDWorks’ framework for integrating characteristics of a safe and purposeful school environment into overall school improvement.
Know | Trust | Empower | Care | Honor
K- Know Your Students
- Ask around the school and identify which students seem to be pretty handy and/or who really like to work with their hands. Invite them to join your Building and Grounds Team. Your team should also have a couple faculty members and custodial or maintenance staff.
- During the first meeting, find out what kinds of hands on work they like to do and what kinds of work they wish they knew how to do. Learn about their interests, hobbies and ideas for making the school safer, cleaner and more welcoming.
- If you are at an elementary, invite the students and their parents / grandparents together. This can be a great way to involve parents in school and to help kids and families bond together.
T- Trust (Develop a Sense of Trust)
- Building and Grounds Team should conduct a School Facility Walk-through. I recommend that you break your team into pairs with 1 adult and 1 youth in each group. Ask students to lead the Walk-through since they have the best knowledge of their school. This activity will help students and adults learn the strengths and areas of improvement for their school.
E- Empower Students in Authentic Ways
- The most important part of the Walk-through is the debrief. Engage students and their adult partners in identifying the strengths and areas of improvement needed at the school. Ask each pair to report on the 5 most important strengths and areas of improvement.
- As a team, rank the reported strengths and areas of improvement. There may be some areas of improvement which are very costly and/or beyond your control (at least in the near future). Talk about what those are and set a goal for how to move forward to fix them.
- Identify areas of improvement which can be addressed quickly or inexpensively. Brainstorm strategies for how students can lead the effort to make improvements in your target areas.
C- Connect Students in Meaningful Ways
- After the brainstorm activities, ask students to identify one to two strategies they feel most comfortable addressing. Ask a custodian, maintenance person or other interested faculty member to collaborate with them on a student-led project. If funding is an issue, reach out to local hardware businesses for support. Many businesses will offer schools free or discounted items. In fact, Lowes and Home Depot provide grants to schools for this type of work. These businesses also will oftentimes provide employees to partner with your school to actually do the work and/or teach your students who to do the work.
- For more grant ideas, check the EDWorks Facebook page where we share education grant opportunities exclusively for our fans. You can also follow me on Twitter for daily opportunities, @TimmonsMichele.
H- Honor All Students
- Invite students to actively promote the school’s strengths through PA announcements and their own social media. Co-create tweets, announcements and other posts to show off what is great about their school.
- At the conclusion of each project, hold a media event to honor the students, staff, parents and community members who participated in making the school a better place.
- Ask Building and Grounds Team to create contests and award/reward opportunities to honor students and staff who go out of their way to make the school look and feel welcoming.
How does your school engage students in creating a safe, clean and welcoming environment? Please comment below to share what works in your school.
Guest Post by Michele Timmons, a former Manager of Partnership Development and Technical Assistance Coach for EDWorks.
Summer is here. Students are excited about swimming, sleeping in, hanging out and… going to school. Huh? The only kids who go to school in the summer are those who failed something, right? Wrong. Many schools are re-thinking summer and academic engagement by creating fun and educational learning opportunities oftentimes called Summer Bridge.
At EDWorks we define a Summer Bridge program as a program for transitioning students designed to:
- Improve academic skills for incoming students
- Build relationships with students and staff so they feel more connected to their school
- Better understand the expectations, culture and climate of the school
Why should your school consider creating a Summer Bridge program?
Building a Grad Nation (2012) identifies transition years (especially grades 8 to 10) as critical points in a child’s life when additional supports are needed if students are to remain on a path towards high school graduation. Disconnected students are significantly more likely to drop out of school. Summer Bridge programs are a great way to build those connections with students before school starts.
Do kids actually attend these programs?
Yes! Summer Bridge programs which are designed well and based upon the actual needs and interests of students are highly attended. Summer Bridge is not summer school with a new name. So, the key is in the programming. If the programming is active and engaging then kids will not only come to the program, they will love it. Many will then volunteer to help create future programs.
What happens in Summer Bridge?
There are as many designs as there are schools. Every program should be different and developed to meet the specific needs of the school and students. Here are a few examples of different types of summer bridge programs.
- Middle level STEM school: The focus for this school is teaching kids to develop their design thinking skills, improve their ability to work in collaborative teams and build relationships among staff and students. High school students worked with the middle school principal to create the program which is focused on STEM Design Challenges. The high school volunteers will actually run the design challenges so teachers can participate along with their kids.
- High school environmental STEM school: This program is co-developed by upperclassmen and teachers using a design challenge model. Staff and upperclassmen co-facilitate the program for incoming freshman and any new students. Program activities are mainly centered on team building, developing strong relationships among staff and students and introducing students to the STEM “way” of inquiry and collaboration in a fun non-threatening environment.
- Early College High Schools: EDWorks’ Fast Track early college high schools hold Summer Bridge Programs for incoming freshman. During the program, students take a college course and earn college credit. The course is typically focused on building college readiness skills so students are better prepared to succeed in high school and college. Other activities are focused on ACT / SAT readiness and understanding how to navigate high school and college systems.
- Urban/turnaround schools: Several schools offer opportunities for tutoring, mentoring, counseling and networking for each student to ease the transition between schools. One school’s program is targeted on building math and literacy skills. This program uses literacy strategies and hands-on activities to reinforce mathematical concepts. They also have sessions where students are doing team building activities learning more about collaboration and how to work as a team. Many schools also use this time to hold Activity Fairs during their programs where incoming students can learn about co-curricular activities and sign up to join the groups.
How do you fund Summer Bridge?
Summer Bridge doesn’t have to be expensive to be successful. Many schools set aside federal Title funds to help offset staffing costs. Volunteers from the community and upperclassmen can also participate to keep costs down. If your school participates in federal school lunch programs then you can also apply for summer food programs to cover costs of breakfast or lunch. Mini-grants from local businesses can help cover costs for supplies. Man businesses like to collaborate on projects with schools. They provide supplies and volunteers to work with your kids and families on specific design challenges or service learning projects. You can also partner with community based summer program providers to share space or share costs for activities and community based learning opportunities.
If you are looking at grants to fund your summer bridge program (or any other education program), Like EDWorks on Facebook for access to education grant opportunities.
Guest Post by Michele Timmons, a former Manager of Partnership Development and Technical Assistance Coach for EDWorks.
Being able to be a part of New Schools Training this past week was life changing. We were able to meet so many amazing educators from across the country and network with them as well. We were so privileged to be able to lead a Collaboration Clinic. As students ourselves, it was a great learning experience to flip the table and become the teacher. We were asked by Matt Thompson and Theresa Shafer to lead a clinic on students’ point of view, and our personal student stories.
Thanks to rampant flight delays all across the Mid-West, I finally have some time to post my final NST13 reflection. It was a bittersweet moment this morning sitting down to breakfast with my Cougar New Tech team for the final time on this trip. We have been working together on our New Tech launch since October, but it wasn't until New Schools that we became a team. Our team is made up of people from different backgrounds, different personalities and different points of view. Having varied past experiences makes us strong. Having shared experiences has made us united.
Thursday has been a mixed bag of emotions. I don’t think I have been this mentally fatigued since my undergrad years. Despite my brain feeling like oatmeal, I have never been more excited to work. Since first exploring New Tech this time last year, I kept trying to envision myself teaching in the PBL model. My undergraduate preparation introduced me to PBL and gave me a glimpse of what I wanted my classroom to look like, but until today I couldn’t see myself completely in the picture.