Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Community Engagement 2009 in Review

As thousands of students, teachers, and staff enjoy winter break and many families finalize their plans for the holiday season, I wanted to share a few highlights with you on the Alliance’s community engagement effort.

Through our initial 10-month effort and outreach the community engagement task force has:

· Increased our understanding of the current educational issues and community organizing efforts in Seattle
· Created a community engagement strategic plan for the 2009 – 2010 school year
· Began community dialogues on improving the graduation rate with over 300 participants
· Supported community conversations on teacher quality

This work is truly a collaborative effort between the Alliance and the broader community. I want to extend a huge thanks to some of our community based partners including Seattle University, Youth Ambassadors, City of Seattle Mayor’s Youth Council, YMCA of Greater Seattle, West Seattle High School, Garfield High School, Urban League Scholars, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, the Mockingbird Society, Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition, Refugee School Impact Grant Partnership, and WAPI Community Services for their involvement in our engagement. Each of these partners has provided us the opportunity to interact and create a meaningful conversation on student academic success. We have gained tremendous insight on the concerns of the public, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Our community partners are committed to hosting dialogues, informing and enhancing our outreach, and even planning the upcoming Youth Education Summit over the next few months.

It is our hope that efforts like the Education Summit will ignite Seattle youth and adults in community engagement and empowerment around key issues of student academic achievement, education reform, and social justice.

In the next six months we have made the commitment to:

· Continue community dialogues on graduation rate (at least 15 events district wide)
· Use school performance data to drive our community dialogue
· Coordinate the work of a Youth Advisory Council to host the Seattle Youth Education Summit
· Complement the work of the Seattle Public Schools Family and Community Engagement effort through participation with the School Family Partnership Advisory Committee
· Continue to share information with and between our community partners

As the Alliance moves forward with this work, it will be important to consider opportunities for program sustainability and effectiveness. We are confident that this campaign will be a tremendous benefit to the Seattle community.

I encourage you to lend your support, comments and ideas on our community engagement efforts. Our dialogue is even more powerful with your voice and action at the table. Happy Holidays to you and your families. See you in 2010!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

Monday, December 21, 2009

School and Community Partnerships

Here's a quick update on our work.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are working with community partners and SPS staff to explore the potential of a Community Schools initiative here in Seattle. There are already two schools within SPS that are recipients of a federal grant to implement a community schools model, and the leaders of those programs are closely involved in our work of looking at this on a larger scale.

I mentioned previously how many resources we have in our city, and although there are some exceptions, most are not delivered in a coordinated structure. Last year we did an initial piece of work, identifying approximately 300 providers. We surveyed those and about 50% responded and shared where they are in schools across Seattle. The results of that survey were not comprehensive, but showed a lot of resources for students. You can find that information here:

We are building on that previous work and have now identified upwards of 500 potential service providers for students in SPS. A new survey has gone out and we will follow up in a variety of ways to put together as comprehensive of a picture as we can.

Over the next couple months we'll share this on our Web site and through community partners. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strengthening Seattle Partnerships for College Access and Success

College Access and Readiness has recently become a significant component of the Alliance for Education's program offerings. Since the spring of 2009, we have been convening a network of SPS staff, and college access providers and representatives which we refer to as the Seattle College Access Network (SCAN). This network is committed to ensuring expanded, and more efficient, delivery of college-preparation programs for students in our target populations including first generation college-goers, low-income and students of color. Participants of this network include and not limited to:
  • Seattle Public School System
  • Local Education Fund - Alliance for Education
  • The Funding community - Collegespark, Gates Foundation, College Success Foundation
  • Higher ed institutions - University of Washington, Seattle Community College Districts, Seattle Pacific
  • Policy and Advocacy groups - Seattle Education Access, League of Education Voters, and El Centro de la Raza
We recognize the vastly different opportunities and resources available to students across the city and our network commits to targeting this population that has not been well served in getting the resources they need to obtain postsecondary education opportunities. We define all college access to include trade school, technical college, two- and four-year colleges, and other educational choices.

This past year, the network primarily focused on building sustainable relationships within the network and beginning to build a structure within SPS high schools and middle schools that have the highest population of low-income and students of color.

Our four key areas of work include:
  • Building capacity with SPS
  • Identify and engage community partners
  • Build a sustainable structure including metrics for collaboration between schools, community organizations, and families in supporting all students for college access and success
  • Push areas of policy that have an impact on the success of this effort

Since the network began, all providers have been energetic, enthusiastic, and committed to the network mission. It is apparent that we are resource rich around the issue of college access and readiness. Coordinating our efforts in a way where we can eliminate inefficiencies and work in concert will be the task ahead.

We welcome your thoughts and participation!!

Mark Yango, AFE

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Submit your Responses - NCTQ report

This week we sent a copy of the NCTQ report to all teachers in Seattle Public Schools. We truly want to hear from you. Please click on comments below to provide feedback and participate in the online conversation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More about the Alliance - Why we are involved in the teacher quality discussion.

I want to continue the conversation about our priority areas of work at the Alliance for Education. In a past blog I outlined four priority areas:

  • Community Schools
  • College Access (includes all post-secondary educational opportunities)
  • Support for Teachers and Teacher Quality
  • Community Engagement

For this blog I want to share a bit more information about our work in supporting teachers and teacher quality, adding to information previously posted. During the past several months, we have been working with Seattle Public Schools, parents, and a variety of community organizations and individuals to engage in a dialogue about how we sustain strong teaching in every classroom.

The primary goal of this work is to help Seattle Public Schools support strong instruction throughout the city. A system that nurtures new teachers, supports continuous learning, and encourages strong educators to work in high needs school.

As you may know we contracted with the National Council on Teacher Quality to conduct a report on how Seattle is doing in recruiting and retaining effective teachers. We held a public event, and you can read the summary in a previous post. The recommendations that resulted from this report are listed in a link on our web site and we have created a summarized document here:

Here are the activities we are currently engaged in:
· With the help of an in-kind grant, we sent a copy of the full report to every teacher in SPS. We included a cover letter stating that although we contracted with NCTQ we don’t agree with all the recommendations, but believe it’s a great opportunity to start the conversation.
· We invited teachers to provide feedback as to their areas of priority for this work. For example, is compensation the most important issue? Evaluation? Tenure?
· Community groups are having the same conversations and sharing with us priority areas for us to focus our efforts.
· We will be conducting teacher focus groups to ask additional questions.
· We are compiling responses from all of these activites and we will ultimately share all this information with the district partners, the union and the greater community.

We know that teachers are the most important component of a classroom. They are there to teach our children and are a vital part of student academic growth. But they are also part of a child’s human growth from helping dry tears in Kindergarten to connecting students to college access resources in high school. It’s a tough and complex job and we’ve got to figure out a way to support and provide partnership so we can really all serve all students in the city.

As a parent, my two daughters have overall had great experiences in Seattle Public Schools. My eldest daughter’s first connection to school in Seattle was at Lafayette Elementary after we moved back here from Portland. She had an incredible teacher, one who truly paved the way for her to love school and learning from an early age. Graduating from college this month, she still loves learning. Being a first-generation college graduate, who received my degree much later in life, I’m pretty excited about that.

And I want that for all students in our city.