Increased Investment Contributing to Partner Momentum and Gains in College Access

The Partnership’s efforts aligned with a growing community investment in Postsecondary Attainment are leading to strong momentum for Dallas County student achievement. While priority indicator data lags one to two years for this postsecondary area of the student pipeline, we are seeing strong progress with early indicators trending positively: 5 partner districts met or exceeded Dallas County’s ambitious 46% financial aid application completion goal, including a stand-out performance by Cedar Hill ISD which grew 14% points year over year. Commit! supported our partner districts and campus leadership with regular data analysis to targetedly prioritize and increase FAFSA completion, lifting up effective practices such as using student leaders as campus champions for FAFSA completion, and by supporting a continuous improvement process to learn and replicate what works. These encouraging student outcomes are a result of the dedicated work of district leaders, counselors, college and career advisors, and nonprofit service providers. For these districts, the FAFSA increases demonstrate the power of community alignment around priorities and goals, and deeper and collective investment of time and resources to improve college access and success. These efforts are producing momentum among partners going into 2016-17: four districts that collectively serve 3,508 seniors have joined the Partnership’s Impact and Improvement Action Network to receive results-based leadership coaching to strengthen their use of data to guide their decision-making – allowing them to better identify students who need support and to increase FAFSA completion rates. Additionally, Commit! is facilitating the strategy development of 22 local colleges and school districts to prioritize increasing dual-credit enrollment and reducing remediation by 5% by 2020, helping more and more college students persist and obtain a 2- or 4-year certificate. Since the Partnership’s inception in 2012, Dallas County seniors have been impacted by growing investment targeted at improving College Access and Success in Dallas County, impacting thousands of under-resourced students through awareness campaigns and strategic interventions like financial aid workshops and Summer Melt text message reminders. These investments of public and private monies grow the number of seniors enrolling and persisting in postsecondary education and already has yielded a return for a better tomorrow for Dallas County kids. Investments from the private and philanthropic sectors in Postsecondary Attainment and the positive impact already produced are changing the conversation and catalyzing additional funding, leading North Texas and the kids who need additional resources the most to a shared prosperity.

Analytics Update

What has The Commit! Partnership's backbone Analytics Team been up to? Data Infrastructure: Harvard’s Government Performance Lab is in the process of establishing the first collaboration with a collective impact backbone in the country, selecting Dallas ISD to place a Fellow to enhance data analytics for Early Childhood and/or College & Career Readiness outcomes. Data Capabilities: The 9-month education focused D3 (Data Driven Decision-Making) Institute, led by the Communities Foundation of Texas with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and The Commit! Partnership, has selected 16 nonprofits and will commence in October, providing training and coaching resources. Data Partnerships: The Commit! Partnership is providing analytics support and strategic assistance to nascent collective impact efforts in Harris and Tarrant Counties, together with Dallas County representing more than 30% of students in Texas. Here’s some exciting Dallas County news: Did you know that Dallas County reduced the number of struggling (Improvement Required) campuses by over 50%? In the last year alone, 13,000 (of which 95% are economically disadvantaged, 35% are Black, 62% are Hispanic, and 51% are English Language Learners) students no longer attend a struggling campus! This progress is a testament to the collective efforts of the community to address our region’s greatest education challenges.

Early Matters Dallas Update

Joint Policy Update The Early Matters Dallas and Houston Policy and Legislative Committees held a joint meeting in May to prepare for the upcoming 2017 Legislative Session by developing a policy agenda aligned to the core principles of both communities. During the meeting the committees agreed to advocate for the following: Sustaining HB4 high-quality Pre-K grant funding at $118 million per year and ideally, expand funding to incorporate full day Pre-K via formula funding for those districts that choose to offer it. Authorizing the Dallas County Community College District to offer a 4 year B.A. early childhood teaching degree to address the shortage of high quality early childhood teachers in the region. Coordinating data sharing between Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Education Agency to ensure that policymakers, school districts, and the public have access to transparent data on children transitioning from subsidized child care programs to public Pre-K. Increased data reporting and transparency for the Texas Rising Star Program to provide parents, policymakers, educators and other stakeholders with clearer information about the quality of child care paid for by state and federal funds. Additional policies continue to be considered, and four separate working groups were established with members from both policy committees to gather additional research, further develop policy specifics and encourage others to act in the crucial months leading up to the 85th Texas Legislative Session. These working groups will explore HB4, TWC policies that could strengthen quality of childcare providers, an EC teacher certification, and an EC provider registry, among others. Mark Your Calendars! On November 1st, Early Matters Dallas will be hosting a summit in conjunction with the University of Dallas McDermott Lecture Series, featuring General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.). The summit will take place from 8:00 - 9:00 pm at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Early Matters Dallas Alignment Council Meetings for the remainder of 2016 will be held from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas on August 18, October 12 and December 7.

By |May 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Early Matters Dallas Update

Doing More with Data

This time last year, a group of 14 partner organizations were wrapping up the inaugural Data Learning Cohort, supported by The Commit! Partnership and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. In an effort to build even greater capability with data, The Commit! Partnership and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas are teaming up with Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) to bring their Data Driven Decision-making (D3) Institute to the education space! The D3 Institute is an intensive, 9-month commitment that includes a series of workshops along with one-on-one coaching focused on using data and evaluation to inform organizational decision-making. CFT previously offered this learning opportunity to three cohorts of nonprofits working to improve the financial stability of working families. Now, with the additional support of The Commit! Partnership and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, a fourth D3 Institute will provide education-focused nonprofits that serve the needs of youth (ages 0-18), their educators, and/or their families the power to accelerate development of enduring service solutions that have greatest impact on students’ academic and social-emotional wellbeing. To learn more about the Institute and previous participating agencies, visit A cohort group of up to 15 nonprofits will be selected to participate through a competitive process already underway. Selected nonprofits will be announced in September and the Institute will run through June 2017. Participating agencies will also have the opportunity to help co-design a follow-up program tailored to support them in achieving their results beyond the Institute.

By |May 1st, 2016|Data, Newsletter|Comments Off on Doing More with Data

Summer Learning Takes Off

Summertime is when the opportunity gap grows widest; some children have access to summer learning experiences while far too many do not. And these hours of learning loss add up, year after year. In Dallas, however, there is a growing movement to reverse this trend. Powered by Dallas City of Learning, hundreds of partners are providing in-person and online educational experiences to our most underserved neighborhoods. The Tackle Summer Slide initiative, piloted last summer in South Oak Cliff, is part of this movement focused specifically on preventing summer reading loss among students entering grades K-3. The initiative combines small group instruction from an experienced reading specialist twice a week and individualized support through Istation’s online reading curriculum, along with incentives to encourage consistent participation. The following organizations/sites are participating this summer: • Boys & Girls Club (Oak Cliff and Roseland Clubs) • Catholic Charities (Santa Clara Community Center) • Circle of Support • Dallas Park & Rec (Cummings, Nash-Davis and Samuell Grand Recreation Centers) • Frazier Revitalization Inc. • Heart House • Jubilee Park & Community Center • Readers 2 Leaders • Trinity River Mission Two of these sites, Circle of Support and Readers 2 Leaders, are also piloting a parent workshop series this summer. Parents are invited to attend weekly hour-long workshops where they learn how to better support reading at home. Each workshop features a different content expert from the following organizations: Tackle Tomorrow, Istation, SMU Simmons School of Education, and The Concilio. The Tackle Summer Slide initiative is a collaborative effort convened by Commit! and Dallas Afterschool, managed by Istation, and supported by Dallas ISD and Big Thought.

By |May 1st, 2016|Early Literacy, Early Math, Newsletter|Comments Off on Summer Learning Takes Off

“For Oak Cliff” Back to School Festival

Organized by Taylor Toynes, Community Impact Associate, the 2nd annual For Oak Cliff Back to School Festival will take place on August 13, 2016 at Glendale Park in South Oak Cliff. With the support of partners United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Texas Instruments, Dallas Parks and Rec and Celanese, the goal is to impact over 2,000 children and families within the Oak Cliff community. Last year’s inaugural Festival impacted over 1,000 students by providing them lunch, school supplies, uniforms, and raffle prizes. This community-wide event will again jump start a fantastic 2016-17 school year by empowering and supporting community members through voter registration, a job fair, a college fair, and early childhood and Pre-K registration. In addition to family-friendly activities, entertainment and food, 2,000 students will receive the school supplies they need for the upcoming school year. Organized by students from Zumwalt Middle School, South Oak Cliff High School and TAG at Townview, a peace march will start at 8:00 am from Zumwalt proceeding to Glendale Park, where the Festival will kick off at 9:00 am. You can help make the For Oak Cliff Back to School Festival a yearly tradition that brings together family, friends, and the Oak Cliff community. For more information and opportunities to donate or volunteer, please visit our website or contact Taylor Toynes at

By |May 1st, 2016|College Access, Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on “For Oak Cliff” Back to School Festival

Teachers Drive Family Engagement through Home Visit Project

In July 2013, Stand for Children launched the Texas Educator Network, a grassroots organization that provides public school educators a platform to use their unique and valuable perspective to inform and shape key decisions, both at the local and state levels, which affect educators and students. In Fall 2014, 40 Dallas educators participated in a yearlong fellowship and identified parent engagement as a key to student success. From there, members from the Educator Network and a group of Dallas ISD staff, teachers and community organizations connected with the national Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – which advances a simple concept: rather than blaming each other, teachers and school staff come together with families, in a unique setting, as equal partners, to build trust and form relationships. A recent study of 12 Washington, D.C. elementary schools and more than 4,000 students found that students whose families received a home visit had 24 percent fewer absences and were more likely to read at or above grade level than similar students who families who did not receive a visit. Despite the fact that funding for stipends had not yet been secured (teacher compensation is a core practice of the model), 46 teachers and staff from 10 campuses in the North Dallas and Pinkston feeder patterns volunteered to be trained for the 2015-16 school year. This pilot group conducted 328 relationship-building home visits during the year. With a grant from Communities Foundation of Texas, stipends were awarded and the project was set to grow to approximately 170-190 participants for 2016-17. After sharing the opportunity with Executive Directors and principals, campuses from four additional feeder patterns were invited to apply. By the application deadline, over 750 teachers and staff from 48 campuses in the North Dallas, Pinkston, South Oak Cliff, Bryan Adams, Thomas Jefferson and W.T. White feeder patterns had applied. Summer training with teachers is currently underway and additional funding is being sought to ensure all participating educators are compensated upon completion of the home visits in Spring 2017. The Dallas Parent Teacher Home Visit Project is a collaborative effort between Stand for Children, Dallas ISD and Commit!, supported by Communities Foundation of Texas, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Harold Simmons Foundation. You can follow the Dallas project on Twitter: @DalHomeVisits.

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Community Rallying Around 0-3 Brain Building

Aristotle once theorized that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is how the notion of synergy was created; it also forms the basis of collective impact and the priorities of The Commit! Partnership: by working together, we are able to achieve greater outcomes than we would as individuals in isolation. Funders are an active part of this formula. This past year, 100 foundations and funders supported 40 cross-sector partners as they engaged over 2,800 parents and 4,500 children in brain building activities. This synergy around the importance of and investment in early childhood education pays dividends today and down the road: children who start school kindergarten-ready, a key pillar on the cradle-to-career continuum, are much more likely to graduate from high school and earn $10,000 more annually than their peers who do not. These successes and potential for continued impact motivate us to expand the ecosystem by growing our impact, strengthening and innovating current partnerships, and engaging new partners in innovative ways all in an effort to optimize impact on the life trajectories for more and more Dallas County kids. More and more partners and funders from all sectors are recognizing the sound investment of time and money in brain building activities and equipping parents as their child’s first teacher: in its second year, the Early Childhood Family Engagement Action Network will empower 65 partners to engage 4,500 families and 7,200 children in brain building activities. This synergy, this collective impact—powered by community partners giving both time and money—is ultimately leading to a sea change in thinking around early childhood education and resultant life-changing benefits to the children of Dallas County who need us most.

By |May 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Community Rallying Around 0-3 Brain Building

End of School Year Campaign

By |January 1st, 2016|Newsletter, Partner|Comments Off on End of School Year Campaign

Funders Make Data Impact Possible

Funders are doing so much to enable Commit! to compile, analyze and share the right education data throughout Dallas County and to assist our community in acting upon the data to meet our greatest needs and opportunities for our kids. You’ve seen our comprehensive, actionable, easy-to-understand data analysis: whether through The Partnership’s annual Dallas County Community Scorecard, through our new Bright Spots Blog Series (bi-weekly stories highlighting education data and specific school sites, districts, or non-profit service providers who are achieving great student outcomes) or through the Texas Cradle-2-Career Education Data Dashboard (an online tool providing stakeholders with ready-access to actionable, easy-to-understand data analysis). We use these tools and data analysis to inspire and empower more and more education stakeholders to access, use and act upon data and data analysis to guide strategy, to direct resources, and ultimately to change behavior in order to achieve greater impact on our Dallas County student outcomes. Commit!’s work providing quality data analysis is constantly evolving. With input from partners and stakeholders, we continue to enhance the Data Dashboard, to expand and further disaggregate our multi-dimensional data analysis, and refine our methods to share, activate and replicate best practices as shown by real data. Here’s a quick example of how The Partnership’s work performing, sharing, and activating data usage to guide strategy is leading to programs and organizations shifting strategies to achieve greater impact on student outcomes. Our data analysis and partner convening on “Summer Melt” (the time between high school graduation and a student’s first day of college) uncovered a need for more counselor supports for our Dallas County college-intending high school graduates. As such, District partners aligned on a “Summer Melt” texting intervention where participating seniors and high school graduates received important college enrollment notifications on their phones and they could directly text their counselors with questions. The program increased partner districts counselors’ capacity and resulted in program participants enrolling in college at a 13% higher rate than their peers! Our work together – its impact, its expansion, and its future efforts - are made possible by investors. More and more funders are becoming a part of, and are needed for, these growing, targeted initiatives impacting our kids’ education and future.

By |January 1st, 2016|Newsletter, Partner|Comments Off on Funders Make Data Impact Possible