Scaling Two Proven Practices that are Making Positive Impacts

Posted on May 23, 2019 in CEO Updates

Dear Friends –

At the meeting of the All Hands Raised Partnership Council earlier this month, partners provided insights to move grassroots-driven proven practices to scale. The DNA of the Partnership’s work has always been about keeping kids at the center while empowering partners on the ground—teachers, counselors, mentors, and others—to test and measure practices and connect across buildings and organizations to align their efforts. All effective movements that improve culture and systems for the long run are informed by innovation and action on the ground rather than by traditional top-down mandates. 

The Council focused its time on two proven practices that are ripe for sharing across schools communities:

  1. Integrating college financial aid supports into high school class time 
  2. Building positive middle school culture through a start of day “homeroom” to reduce exclusionary discipline

First, they explored the work to improve post-secondary access by raising rates of completion of federal and state financial aid forms—the FASFA and ORSAA. Why focus here? FAFSA completion is one of the strongest predictors that students will actually enroll in college.

As a result of the hard work of teams in our partner high schools, Multnomah County has seen a 13 percentage point gain in FAFSA completion rates. This increase is fueled by the creation of:

  • Professional learning communities, facilitated by All Hands Raised, where FAFSA completion strategies are shared.
  • “How To Guides” for implementing practices that work.
  • A data dashboard sent to every high school principal in Multnomah County twice a month creating momentum and transparency.
  • A dedicated “FAFSA Champion” in every school community to advance the work.

The most compelling and impactful practice to emerge is setting aside class time in the fall for every senior to have dedicated support to understand and complete the FAFSA. High schools that offer in-class support to ALL seniors have a completion rate that is 7 percentage points higher than schools who offer no in-class support or only offer it to some seniors.

The Council also heard about the work happening to improve school culture and reduce exclusionary discipline at three partner middle schools: Centennial, George (PPS) and Reynolds.

Frank Caropelo, Deputy Superintendent of Reynolds School District and Mark Jackson, Executive Director of REAP, Inc., who co-chair the Partnership’s Equity in School Discipline Leadership Group, shared data and insights emerging from the implementation of morning homeroom/advisory periods. This non-academic time focuses on relationships and community building, which is critical for middle school students—recent surveys of Oregon teens found that 50-60% of middle school students report feeling a sense of belonging at school, compared with 70-85% of high schoolers.

After implementing an advisory period at Reynolds Middle School, the school saw a 21% overall reduction in behavior referrals, and a 22% reduction for students of color, who make up 74% of the student population. The team at Reynolds shared what they were learning with the team at George Middle School last spring, who as a result significantly adjusted its advisory period for the current school year. Since that time, George has experienced a 57% reduction in both overall behavior referrals and referrals for students of color, who make up 81% of the student population. Based on this success, and with the support of district leadership, this fall Centennial Middle School will begin implementing a morning advisory period. This is what we mean when we say, “scaling practice from the ground up.” This is also an example of what the Partnership is doing to create change by aligning resources.

Mark Jackson, Executive Director at REAP, shared: “As a black man, I am optimistic about this work. This is a proactive approach that disrupts the status quo in order to build stronger school communities. We have spent enough time focusing on what hasn’t worked, it’s time to focus on what does.”

The improvements we are seeing in FAFSA completion rates and disproportionate discipline are milestones in our shared work to improve outcomes for our kids. Our community is developing complex local solutions for complex local problems. This is what it means to put the needs of kids at the center.