Insight from recent White House, U.S. Department of Education forum

Published:
Topics: Community Partnerships, Future of Learning

Guest post by Mary Tighe

The forum, which took place last week, focused on “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”

It’s no secret that communities can boost education initiatives through innovation and community partnerships. For years, we’ve been doing this work through our subsidiaries.

And now, the White House and U.S. Department of Education (ED) are not only noticing, but also expanding efforts in this work. They are calling on communities to work together toward ambitious college success goals through shared plans and commitments.

Last week, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Officer for the Advancement of Underserved Learners Harold Brown and StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson traveled to D.C. to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and attend an ED working session, “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”

albany and duncan
The Albany Promise, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member, talks with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about their on-the-ground work.

The session invited 10 communities, including three StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members, to Washington, D.C. for breakout sessions and conversation, all revolving around college access, continuous improvement and collective impact. They discussed how to break down silos and barriers to collective impact, ensuring that school districts aren’t working in isolation, but rather collectively with the entire community. Communities were asked to take what they learned during the event to identify goals and key commitments that will help their community improve college access and success.

“The event highlighted challenges and opportunities in bringing together K-12, higher education and community leaders to focus on key objectives and priorities,” Brown said.

Visiting with community partnerships during the day, including several StriveTogether cities, Duncan heard about their on-the-ground work. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell also participated throughout the day.

Here are some insights from the day in D.C.:

  1. Collective Impact | There is a growing awareness that we need to move from collaboration to collective impact. To deepen resources to help them understand the complexity of moving to true collective impact communities learned more about tools like the StriveTogether Framework and Theory of Action.
  2. Data to Inform Continuous Improvement |Data can be empowering if used correctly. The White House and ED are stressing the use of data – not to “admire the problem,” but to improve outcomes over time. “They didn’t speak of evaluation, but of continuous improvement,” Edmondson said.
  3. Cross-sector Leadership | Everyone recognizes the need to work together toward common goals. Attendees were an impressive cross-sector of community leaders, including superintendents, business leaders, and college leaders. “There was a strong presence of cross-sector leadership that could really begin laying some important groundwork,” Pace said.

Participating communities included: Albany, New York; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Providence, Rhode Island; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Camden, New Jersey; Rio Grande Valley/McAllen, Texas; Riverside County, California; and Baltimore, Maryland.

KnowledgeWorks plans to work with the White House and ED to support communities, while helping to mobilize additional communities to join the nationwide effort to improve college access and attainment.