Achieve Hartford! is an independent, nonprofit organization of business and community leaders that focuses on student achievement and supporting effective and sustained school reform in the Hartford Public Schools. With a commitment to education excellence, we work in partnership with the business and civic communities and the school district toward a shared vision of improving overall student performance in the Hartford Public Schools.
Collaborative provided Achieve Hartford! with trusted advice and researched recommendations on developing an effective strategic and communications plan for this emerging local education fund.
Public Education Network (PEN) is a national association of local education funds (LEFs) and individuals working to advance public school reform in low-income communities. PEN believes an active, vocal constituency is the key to ensuring that every child, in every community, benefits from a quality public education.
Collaborative has supported PEN in a number of ways over the past 10 years, including the design and redesign of local education funds in Hartford, CT, Newark, NJ, and the District of Columbia. In addition, Collaborative has facilitated planning teams for the organization’s annual conference; designed, facilitated and documented leadership symposia, initiative convenings and conference sessions; supported partnership development with national funders; and written extensively about the impact of local engagement efforts.
The San Francisco Education Fund (now merged with San Francisco School Volunteers) believed that strong public schools are critical to San Francisco's viability and that the community must take action to ensure their success. By acting as a bridge between the community and the classroom, the Education Fund increased the availability and impact of resources for students and teachers throughout San Francisco public schools.
The San Francisco Education Fund (now merged with San Francisco School Volunteers) enlisted Collaborative to provide knowledge and expertise on community engagement and mobilization issues. Collaborative was challenged to supply research and analysis of information and data to produce a set of recommendations for the Education Fund.
Collaborative partnered with the San Francisco Education Fund (SFEF) to develop a discussion guide for a parent engagement process on the issues of student enrollment, retention and recruitment. Collaborative helped to write, edit, design and test the implementation of this guide, as well as analyze findings gathered from conversations that will help shape decisions about school consolidation and enrollment policies.
The Newark Community Foundation offers donors the opportunity to become part of a 21st century renaissance. Newark today is fast becoming a revitalized place. The economic and cultural development currently under way is especially gratifying to those with strong ties to this city, who have long recognized the potential at its vibrant heart.
As the Newark Community Foundation sought ways to make a difference in their city, they enlisted Collaborative’s services to help facilitate a community engagement process that they hoped would result in an organizational design for a local education fund.
Collaborative facilitated and led discussions with a team of local leaders who acted as decision makers on this project. Additionally, Collaborative interviewed key stakeholders in education in Newark and national thought leaders on LEFs; mapped the organizations working in education in Newark; benchmarked national best practices of high-impact LEFs; and developed an organizational design and strategy for an LEF to operate in Newark.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to help all people—no matter where they live—get that chance. They believe they can have the most impact by focusing their work on a few areas. To find those areas, the Gates Foundation looks for problems that cause great harm but get too little attention. Then they search for ways they can help close those gaps, using their resources, expertise, and ability to bring people together.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sought out Collaborative to serve as lead strategic and organizational planner for a local education fund whose goal was to ensure excellence in Washington, DC public schools. Collaborative worked with the DC Education Compact (DCEC) to determine how best to ensure that students in the city's public schools achieve excellence with the support of their community. Collaborative’s efforts included shaping the mission, vision, priorities and strategies for the organization's work.
The MetroHartford Alliance is Hartford’s Chamber of Commerce and the Hartford Region’s Economic Development Leader. The Alliance brings together 1,000 businesses, education and healthcare institutions, municipalities, non-profit organizations, and government leaders who are invested in the Hartford Region’s future economic growth and its viability for robust business development.
The MetroHartford Alliance needed a knowledgeable firm to serve as strategic planner on issues of civic infrastructure, including the development of a new local education fund (LEF). They called upon Collaborative to take the lead in research, development, and implementation of the LEF. Collaborative led the research and discovery process, benchmarking of comparable local education funds (LEFs), design and facilitation of the Hartford Education Collaborative’s meetings. Collaborative also developed an initial business plan for the potential LEF, now in place, called Achieve Hartford.
The Kettering Foundation wanted to know how local education funds (LEFs) in six American cities implemented community forums to determine how the achievement gap is defined and expressed in public education systems, and the causes and possible solutions for closing this gap. The Foundation had created tools for moderators and participants of community forums, and sought to understand how these tools in practice surfaced important themes.
By supporting forums in six cities-Washington, DC; Corpus Christi, TX; Minneapolis, MN; Bridgeport, CT; New Orleans, LA and San Francisco, CA, the Foundation sought answers to the following key questions:
How do people in communities rename the issue known as the academic achievement gap?
What is happening in the six communities as a result of the public dialogues?
What are the challenges associated with using public dialogue to engage communities to address the achievement gap issue?
Since late 2007, there have been 25 community forums about the achievement gap in these six cities, engaging over 1,500 participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including those of Somali, Hmong, Hispanic, Korean, Native American, White, African American and Chinese descent. Educators, superintendents, principals and teachers participated in the conversations.
Collaborative attended at least two forums in each of the six participating cities and also conducted more than 20 follow-up interviews with educators, parents and students impacted by the achievement gap discussions.
Collaborative analyzed findings and compiled a report of key themes and future potential steps for the Kettering Foundation to take when seeking to engage communities in deliberations about aspirations and actions for educational quality.
Collaborative's efforts helped to reveal the nuances and understandings used in different communities when it comes to deliberations on the achievement gap. We found that communities repeatedly narrowed the focus from a broad academic concept of an achievement gap to more personal and local framings.
For example, minority students in Bridgeport compared the actions of White students to their own. Administrators in Minneapolis noted that members of ethnic groups who participated in conversations expressed a concern that the White power structure did not understand or honor their stories and did not help their children reach their full potential. This resulted in conversations around how to help all children reach their full potential.
Ultimately, the Kettering Foundation received a thoughtful analysis of themes from nationwide discussions, and an understanding of how their materials worked in practice to support local dialogue that leads to change.