Something to Watch in Virginia

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2013-09-13 07:00

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.

Categories: Blog

Community Engagement in Collective Impact: Emerging Gateway

Posts from Strive - Thu, 2013-09-12 14:19

This is the fourth 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.

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!


Categories: Blog

Expanding the Pie: Social Impact Bonds

Posts from Strive - Wed, 2013-09-11 14:11

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[1]. 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.

[1] Alden, William. “Goldman Sachs to Finance Early Education Program.” New York Times. 12 June 2013.


Categories: Blog

Helping Students Be Their Very Best

Posts from EdWorks - Wed, 2013-09-11 09:49

EDWorks President Harold Brown partnered with KnowledgeWorks on the creation of a video discussing the great work we’re doing.


Categories: Blog

How to Turn the 'College and Career Ready' Mantra into Reality

Posts from NewTech - Tue, 2013-09-10 18:56
You hear it daily -- the mantra "college and career ready."

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.

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Categories: Blog

Putting Scholars at the Center

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2013-09-10 12:50

For the past several years, we’ve been referring to students as “learners” in our strategic foresight publications as one way of making the point that we need to rethink not just how, when, and where learning occurs but also what relationships exist in relation to it. As I’ve worked with education stakeholders around the country to envision their ideal future learning ecosystems, the structures and details have varied, but the designs have consistently put learners at the center.

When the staff of NC New Schools approached this task last month, one of the groups decided that “learners” didn’t go far enough in conveying the change that needs to take place. Instead, they deliberately placed “scholars” at the center of their learning ecosystem map in order to make the point that young people need to become active agents of their own learning.

Putting Scholars at the Center

Their map placed self-directed scholars at the center of the future learning ecosystem surrounded by and moving seamlessly across physical, virtual, and community-based learning experiences. Their map also depicted a whole host of learning agents supporting each scholar toward success. Those learning agents ranged from parents and friends to life coaches, healthcare providers, advisors and learning mentors, policymakers and budget managers, community organizers, and business liaisons.

Both the emphasis on the word “scholar” and this broad view of future learning agent roles underscore the need to expand our mental models about every aspect of teaching and learning. As we face the exciting and monumental task of transforming learning to make best use of the disruptive forces shaping our future, we need to question every assumption. Redesigning learning around learners – or scholars – means reconsidering every aspect of it and being willing to discover multiple good solutions. It also means questioning and spanning boundaries and getting far more granular than we have been about how to support each individual in reaching his or her full potential.

As our recent infographic highlights, it’s looking possible for learning to adapt to each child instead of each child trying to adapt to school. But we have to be willing to let learning look quite different than it did when we were in school, and quite different from one scholar to another.


Categories: Blog

How to Turn the 'College and Career Ready' Mantra into Reality

Posts from NewTech - Tue, 2013-09-10 04:18
Posted by Lydia Dobyns on September 10th, 2013
Categories: Blog

Alumni Thank Teachers for “Enduring Understandings”

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-09-06 17:54
Posted by Lydia Dobyns on September 6th, 2013
Categories: Blog

Alumni Thank Teachers for “Enduring Understandings”

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-09-06 17:54
Jolie and Astrid talked about the “bridges they crossed and those they built” and how New Tech helped them be ready for college and career.

With the start of a new academic school year, we thought teachers and directors would like to hear from New Tech alumni as they continue post-secondary journeys.

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Categories: Blog

Aware, Eligible & Prepared for College

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-09-06 13:54
Posted by Andrew Holly on September 6th, 2013
Categories: Blog

Aware, Eligible & Prepared for College

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-09-06 13:54
As our profession undertakes the task of redefining college readiness, I think the paradigmatic shift will come from broadening our focus from college “eligibility” to a more inclusive definition. One of the most interesting ideas coming out of this week’s College Readiness Assessment (CRA) sessions is the idea that all of our students should be aware, eligible, and prepared for their postsecondary plans-- be it the working world or college. This expanded definition of readiness is important, because as the Michigan example illustrates, college readiness is about a lot more than simply eligibility.As educators, part of our job is certainly to ensure that our students are eligible for their postsecondary plans, but more importantly, we need to help them make informed decisions about where they want to be and what skills they’ll need once they get there.

In an online article posted July 8th, 2013, the Grand Rapids Press (my local paper) reported that nearly 47% of high school graduates in the state of Michigan are taking remedial courses at the college level to get their abilities up to par with their universities’ expectations. In plain English, that means that nearly half of the students in my state are graduating from high school without the fundamental skills (typically in math and reading/writing) that post-secondary institutions are expecting them to have.

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Categories: Blog

Building States’ Capacity for Transformation

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2013-09-06 12:51

At the Council of Chief State School Officers’ deputies’ meeting in July, I shared the big story of our forecast on the future of learning, Recombinant Education, as a way of situating a conversation that Education Delivery Institute was leading on building state education agencies’ capacity. The forecast served as a frame for encouraging deputies to examine their strategies and operations in the context of aspirational visions for learning in their states.

In addition to underscoring the possibility of enabling radically personalized learning that prepares every child for college or career, the conversation raised the need to manage against potential negative outcomes of future trends. As with any future forecast, it is possible with ours to draw out scenarios that we would not wish to see realized. For example, there is a plausible future in which no child with means remains enrolled in public education. There is another in which personalized learning opportunities and supports are only available to learners whose families have the time and resources needed to customize their learning journeys.

When addressing how we might manage significant issues such as equity, quality, common learning outcomes, and helping learners know about and access options in a more diverse and more student-driven learning ecosystem than exists today, I usually raise two questions:

• Is the public education system meeting the needs of all learners today?
• How could the public education system position itself in relation to other nodes within a diverse learning ecosystem such that it provided safeguards against socioeconomic gaps and disparate outcomes?

In addition, I see the potential for state education agencies to take a leadership role in working with the full range of future learning providers to establish new ways of ensuring equity, establishing quality, agreeing core outcomes, and ensuring that every learner knows about and can access learning options. State education agencies can also play a key role in establishing shared infrastructure that enables learners to move seamlessly across learning experiences regardless of geographic boundaries (including state lines).

Some areas where state education agencies might enable the shift toward an expanded learning ecosystem include:

• Creating space for innovation within the current public education system
• Working with other stakeholders to waive seat-time requirements
• Encouraging multiple pathways toward personalized learning
• Encouraging learning solutions, such as regional schools, that meet specific learning needs apart from traditional boundaries
• Supporting the development of a shared inter-state technical infrastructure that enables the data about learners’ experiences to flow appropriately across learning experiences
• Enabling mechanisms for learners to gain credit for informal or community-based learning experiences
• Exploring with other stakeholders new funding mechanisms that can help learners cross traditional boundaries.

Whether state education agencies explore these or other paths toward a future that realizes the best possibilities for all learners, they have a key role to play in building not just their own organizational capacities but also the capacity for education transformation in their states.


Categories: Blog

Tweets of the Week #PBLChat

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-09-06 05:00
Posted by Theresa Shafer on September 6th, 2013
Categories: Blog

Tweets of the Week #PBLChat

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-09-06 05:00
We chat each week at 8pm EST via Twitter about project based learning.

During #PBLChat this week we talked about Workshops, how to move them beyond lecture. We had some great student input and great strategies shared by experienced PBLChatters. The archives are here on our Storify channel

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Categories: Blog

Community Engagement in Collective Impact: Exploring Gateway

Posts from Strive - Thu, 2013-09-05 15:12

This is the third blog in a six-blog series on community engagement.  To read the first blog, click here. To read the second blog, click here.

With the recent launch of the Theory of Action, we have gotten clearer than ever on what building civic infrastructure actually looks like.  The Theory of Action consists of a series of quality benchmarks organized vertically by the four pillars of the Strive Framework: [1] Shared Community Vision, [2] Evidence-based Decision Making, [3] Collaborative Action and [4] Investment and Sustainability; and horizontally by four Gateways: [1] Exploring, [2] Emerging, [3] Sustaining, and [4] Systems Change. The benchmarks serve as a detailed guide for the steps that a community should take in order to build and sustain a partnership that achieves improved cradle to career outcomes.


Community engagement, while called out very intentionally in specific benchmarks, is really a theme that is inherent in the work across the Theory of Action. The ways and strategies to engage the community will look differently depending on the progress of the partnership and the purpose of the engagement, but the intention to involve the community in present in every gateway in the Theory of Action.   See below for where community engagement is specifically called out in the Exploring Gateway.

Community Engagement in the Exploring Gateway:

 -Representation in accountability structure: Designing an accountability structure is a unique opportunity to build community voice into the structure of the partnership. Cradle to career partnerships have incorporated community voice in different ways, such as the intentional inclusion of a community leader at the leadership table. A leadership table is a group of cross-sector executive-level leaders that participate in setting the direction of the partnership. This allows for a representative of the community to be involved in decision-making and strategic direction-setting, a potential form of transformational engagement.

-Informing community about the partnership through ‘call to action’ and ‘messages’: Clarity and consistency are extremely important when trying to communicate and inform the community about this complex work. By developing messages that are understandable by a broad audience and identifying clear ways for the community to plug into the work, the partnership can keep the community adequately informed and engaged. Developing resonating messages and a process for communicating effectively is an example of transactional engagement.

 -Engagement in vision: The community not only needs to be informed of the vision and work of the partnership, but they also need to own it and feel partially accountable for the progress the partnership makes in improving student outcomes. The only way to ensure that this work is supported by the community in this way is to authentically engage the community in the vision and work of the partnership. This has looked differently in communities across the network, but one important lesson to note is that an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of past engagement efforts is key to building an authentic relationship with the community going forward. Setting clear expectations about the role of the partnership (and its limitations) and making sure the engagement is purposeful and actionable are important pieces to building an authentic relationship. Depending on the strategy, engaging the community in the vision and work of the partnership could be a transactional or transitional form of engagement.

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 blog in the series, about community engagement in the emerging 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!


Categories: Blog

ESEA Waiver Renewal

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2013-09-04 11:34

As someone who has read every approved No Child Left Behind waiver application, last week was bitter sweet.  Sweet because the Department of Education announced the long-awaited process for waiver renewal.  Bitter because, well, that means there will be 35 more renewal applications to wade through. The renewal process will begin January 2014 for the 34 states and the District of Columbia, who received waivers for the 2012-2013 school year, to extend the waivers through 2016.

According to the Department’s press release, states must demonstrate that, through their renewal applications, they are:

  • On track to meet current commitments and requirements under ESEA flexibility
  • Have a plan for implementing ESEA flexibility through the 2015-2016 school year
  • Meeting the high bar set to protect all students and support all teachers and principals under ESEA flexibility
  • Identifying schools and subgroups in need and ensuring they receive interventions and supports
  • Have resolved any outstanding monitoring findings or compliance issues in ESEA flexibility or related programs.

This Politics K-12 blog post by Michele McNeil takes a look at some of the additional strings the Department is attaching to the renewals given the guidance released last week.  The highlights include states:

  • Reaffirming their commitment to college- and career-ready standards and tests
  • Implementing differentiated accountability systems that focus on closing achievement gaps
  • Continuing to develop new teacher-evaluation systems by the 2014-15 school year,
  • Using teacher-evaluation data to ensure that underserved students are not being taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers
  • Developing a “high-quality plan” for holding districts accountable for their efforts in turning around struggling schools

esea-flex3There is one line in the Department’s press release that is really interesting to me, “… (the Department’s renewal process) will also provide an opportunity for states to make necessary adjustments to their approved plans for improving student learning and the quality of instruction.”  This is interesting to me because I wonder how far the Department will let states go with those adjustments.  Will they allow waivers within a state’s waiver for programs like Kentucky’s Districts of Innovation?  What about enabling states interested in moving towards competency education, like those in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network, to pilot parallel assessment and accountability systems for a subset of districts?  It seems to me that if the Department is interested in allowing states to be truly innovative in the way we deliver education to our students, this waiver renewal process may be an important, and maybe their last, opportunity to do that.

Categories: Blog

#PBLChat Tweets of the Week

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-08-30 14:21
Posted by Theresa Shafer on August 30th, 2013
Categories: Blog

#PBLChat Tweets of the Week

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-08-30 14:21
Each week we gather via Twitter to discuss aspects of project-based-learning.

This past week for #PBLChat we discussed the physical aspects of space in a classroom that lend themselves to project-based learning.  The archive, complete with some photos, is here. 

Here are a few of our favorite tweets with our hashtag from the past week.

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Categories: Blog

Community Engagement in Collective Impact: Transactional, Transitional, Transformative

Posts from Strive - Thu, 2013-08-29 13:45

This is the second blog in a 6 blog series on community engagement.  To read the first blog, click here.

It is clear that engagement of the community at all levels is important for the success of a cradle to career partnership, but the ways to effectively engage the different sectors of the community in collective impact work are a little less obvious. To help us think about how engagement looks differently depending on who you are engaging and for what reason, we often refer to the Community Engagement Continuum. This continuum categorizes engagement strategies into three different categories: Transactional, Transitional, and Transformational.


Transactional engagement is about informing the community and bringing about awareness of the partnership. It typically involves one-way communication through the dissemination of information and it has the potential to reach a broad audience, however the depth of engagement is very limited. An example of a transactional engagement strategy would be holding a community information meeting to inform the broader community about the work of the Partnership.

Transitional engagement is a more active form of engagement that is about involving the community in activities within the Partnership. This type of engagement typically involves two-way communication; however the Partnership often still determines the purpose which the community is mobilized around. An example of transitional engagement would be a campaign that mobilizes community members to become tutors, a strategy that data shows helps improve 3rd grade reading- a community level outcome.

Transformational engagement is the deepest level of engagement and involves integrating the community into the decision-making and problem-solving of the Partnership. This type of engagement involves equal communication from the community and the Partnership; however the number of people who can be involved in this type of deep engagement is limited. An example of transformational engagement is involving community experts and practitioners in the collaborative action networks to use data and expertise to identify what is working and build strategies to continuously improve the work. Additionally, collaborative action networks often have feedback loops to test whether their identified strategies resonate with community members who are impacted by the work, engaging both community experts and community members in the decision-making, and problem-solving functions of the partnership.

It is important to note that while it is often necessary to build trust and relationships through transactional and transitional engagement strategies before getting to transformational strategies, a combination from across the categories should be considered in building a comprehensive engagement approach.  Since the different categories of engagement include varying levels of depth, reach, and involvement, this combined approach can also provide the necessary flexibility to involve the right individuals, at the right level, for the right purpose.  A major lesson learned in this work has been around making sure the purpose of the engagement is appropriate for the audience and at the appropriate depth.  A partnership would be able to engage a small group of teachers at a much deeper level around curriculum alignment than they would a large group of business leaders around the same subject.

Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about community engagement in the exploring 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!


Categories: Blog

Districts Shifting to Competency Education

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2013-08-29 08:15

OK, so the last time I wrote about one of the American Youth Policy Forum’s webinars on competency education, I apologized for being a little late in getting the information out there.  This time, I am way late.  But, I thought the webinar was so good I wanted to amplify it even if it is six weeks after the fact.

AYPFOn July 16, AYPF hosted Promising Practices and Considerations for Districts in Competency-Based Education, a super interesting session featuring Linda Laughlin from RSU 18 in Maine and Tom Rooney from Lindsay Unified in California sharing some useful information about how their districts made the shift from a time-based system to a competency-based system.  In addition to the district administrators, Matthew Lewis and Jennifer Steele from RAND Corporation highlighted some policy changes that states and districts should consider as they transition to competency education.

A couple of things really stood out to me about the information presented.  First, there are a lot of similarities between RSU 18’s journey and Lindsay’s.  There are also differences, to be sure, and I don’t believe there is one single blueprint making the time-to-competency-shift across all districts but listening to Linda and Tom could give any district administrator a great set of ideas about how to get started and a high-level path forward.

The other thing that was intriguing was the six enablers RAND has identified for a proficiency-based pathways approach:

  • Clearly defined learning progressions (linked closely to Common Core State Standards)
  • Diverse learning experiences with frequent assessment and feedback
  • Anytime/anywhere learning
  • Widely accepted credit for demonstrated proficiencies
  • Information infrastructure, rich data collection, and analytics
  • Enabling policies and conditions

Again, I don’t think there is one single blueprint that can be applied from one district to the next but if you’re thinking about these six ideas as you’re making the competency transition, you’re probably well on your way to success.

As you watch the webinar, I would be interested to hear you about what information stuck out as extra important.  Please feel free to share in the comments!

Categories: Blog


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