In 2014, thousands of Dallas-area children were at risk of falling behind in school before they even reached kindergarten.
Research has shown a connection between kindergarten readiness and long-term student success for years. The state of Texas had already committed $136 million in funding for free and subsidized pre-k programs for qualifying families. For Commit!, the challenge was to reach those who weren’t aware these programs were an option.
Commit! took that challenge head-on. The organization mobilized its network of 45 education and social-service providers to get more kids signed up.
Through the campaign, the organization helped 1,300 additional families enroll in these programs – giving their children a strong start on their education that they would have otherwise missed.
In the process, Commit! members also made “Hope Charts,” a student-achievement data framework. These visualizations help teachers and administrators keep students on track toward a meaningful career.
This type of data-sharing is critical for “Cradle to Career” programs, a student-support methodology that supports kids from birth through their entry into the workforce.
Commit! is just one of 65 community coalitions bringing StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Network to low-income communities across the United States. These programs create a continuum of services alongside education to help spot potential problems early and keep at-risk kids on course.
Image courtesy of strivetogether.org
“Data is the key to figuring out what is working and where help is needed,” says Geoff Zimmerman, associate director of data utilization at StriveTogether.
The success of Commit! and similar initiatives inspired StriveTogether and Tableau Foundation to launch a new nationwide Data Fellowship program to build data literacy throughout the network.
Selected from StriveTogether’s nationwide partner network, fellows in this train-the-trainer program learn Tableau skills and share them with peers across the country. The first cohort of 15 fellows is using real data from their work with local schools and service providers to quickly identify key insights. They are also developing new visualizations to help frame community conversations and allocate resources throughout the coalition.
And many are already finding value in the newly-formed peer group. Geoff described conducting a “gallery walk” with the fellows when the group met for the first time at StriveTogether’s 2015 National Cradle to Career Network Convening in Minneapolis.
“We reviewed vizzes that fellows had already done and talked about what they hoped to achieve,” he says. “Many of them immediately identified ideas they wanted to include in their work, and it really set a collective sense of what comes next.”
Image courtesy of the University of New Mexico Center for Education Policy Research
For the next year, the fellows will work with Tableau experts, thanks to our partners InterWorks and DecisionViz who will provide pro bono training. Then, after a year of training and experimentation, the fellows themselves will become the teachers. Each will provide peer training throughout the StriveTogether network on using data to better serve students and manage resources.
Timely, actionable information allows us to identify students at risk of falling behind and get them the help they need when they need it.
“Each of these communities is already working hard to close achievement gaps,” says Geoff, “With every meeting, it is exciting to hear about what they’ve been doing, what does and doesn’t work, and what they hope to do next.”