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Dallas County Pre-K Registration Campaign

This year’s Early Pre-K Registration campaign featured the combined efforts of nine local districts—Cedar Hill ISD, Coppell ISD, Dallas ISD, DeSoto ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Irving ISD, Lancaster ISD, Mesquite ISD, and Richardson ISD—making it the largest district-level effort to date. The commitment of four additional districts, collaborative planning efforts and assorted outreach strategies greatly expanded the reach well beyond that of the 2015 campaign. In order to achieve a goal of 14,500 early Pre-K registrants across the County, districts aligned on a common registration week of April 4th. To share why early childhood education is important and how to register for Pre-K districts hosted Pre-K awareness events, launched social media campaigns, posted billboards, sent flyers home with students, provided immunization services to families, and much more. Registration and outreach efforts were also greatly supported by community partners and stakeholders. Over 100 organizations, businesses and individuals were equipped with 105,000 flyers! Libraries, community centers, food pantries, clinics, churches, local nonprofits and other stakeholders have championed the importance of early learning to families across Dallas. Thank you to Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas for making this possible! To learn more about the campaign and registration efforts, check out Pre-K mentions in the media: "Editorial: Pre-K works, register your kids April 4-9" - Dallas Morning News "North Texas School Districts Push To Enroll More Children In Pre-K" - KERA News "Editorial: Pre-k es crucial para el desarrollo académico de los niños" - Al Dia Dallas Be on the lookout for official updates and campaign results in our Bright Spots Blog post toward the end of April. For more information about Pre-K and quality early childhood programs around the County, please visit Commit2Dallas.org/PreK2016. If you have any feedback or questions, please email Whitney Holman at Whitney.Holman@commit2dallas.org

By |January 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Dallas County Pre-K Registration Campaign

Early Matters Dallas

Early Matters Dallas (EMD) is a broad-based coalition dedicated to working together to raise awareness about the importance of quality early education, coordinate advocacy efforts, and increase funding for quality early learning to ultimately ensure a strong workforce of tomorrow. The goal of EMD is to increase Kindergarten Readiness to 80% by 2025 (from 57% in 2014) and 3rd grade literacy to 60% by 2025 (from 34% in 2015) across Dallas County. To reach these goals EMD has developed an action plan, with the input of more than 70 early childhood experts, to guide efforts across the County from birth to 3rd grade. Furthermore, contributing indicators will be tracked annually to measure progress. The Early Matters Dallas Policy Group provided substantial input to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on the rules implementing the HB4 high quality Pre-K grant. This group is beginning to prioritize legislative initiatives and will have a joint meeting with the Early Matters Houston policy group in May to begin aligning on legislative priorities for the 2017 session. Early Matters Dallas and Early Matters Houston will jointly represent 1 in 4 students in Texas this legislative session. In addition to aligning advocacy agendas, a key priority for EMD moving forward is to develop an online mapping tool to serve as central platform for data on and services for young children and their families. This will be released in Q2 2016. To learn more about why early childhood matters, check out the recently released infographics or read this editorial in the Dallas Morning News written by EMD Governing Board members Peter Beck and Clint McDonnough. If you’d like to get involved with Early Matters Dallas, please sign up here or email questions to info@earlymattersdallas.org.

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

Financial Aid Workshop Attendees Qualify for $511,000 in Pell Grant Funds

Debt. The dreaded four-letter word of paying for college. So much so, one of the four state goals for increasing Texas’ postsecondary completion rates is to maintain a moderate ratio of student loan debt to first-year earnings. This fear of taking out any loans is one reason some families don’t complete the FAFSA/TASFA application. But this misunderstanding of the financial aid process also prevents students from receiving grant aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Last year low-income seniors missed out on $30 million in Pell Grant funds alone. Commit! partners have long recognized the link between college affordability and degree completion. Over the past three years, Dallas County school districts and higher education partners have come together to promote a better understanding of how and why to pay for higher education. 2016 partner accomplishments to date include: Increasing awareness of college affordability through news coverage, in-school marketing materials, YouCanAffordCollege.org and the HelpChris.org campaign thanks to the support of Ad2Dallas; Creating grassroots support by training 100 high school juniors and seniors to serve as peer-to-peer campus ambassadors for college affordability and to inform marketing messages; Empowering 140 high school counselors, advisors, and after school providers through training from uAspire, a national leader on coaching families to make wise college financial decisions; Assisting 431 families at five community-wide financial aid workshops, 218 of whom submitted their FAFSA application the day of the workshop and accessed just over half a million dollars in Pell Grant aid. The Dallas County Financial Aid Action Network is preparing for two big changes to the financial aid process in 2016-17. Next year the FAFSA application will be available three months earlier than usual and will be able to be submitted using previous year’s tax information. These changes will eliminate barriers for families but will also require additional awareness and marketing efforts. Dallas County will align on a common FAFSA awareness month for next year to ensure information and support is widely available.

By |January 1st, 2016|College Access, Newsletter|Comments Off on Financial Aid Workshop Attendees Qualify for $511,000 in Pell Grant Funds

Tackling Summer Slide: Reaching Students Where They Are

Nationally, low-income students lose two months of reading proficiency in the summer. And every year, this “summer slide” loss adds up; research finds that two-thirds of the achievement gap among high school students is attributable to summer learning loss in elementary school. This 2-minute video (in English and in Spanish) demonstrates this long-term impact. Last summer, in response to local data, Istation and the Tackle Tomorrow Foundation generously donated Istation licenses to five summer program providers in the South Oak Cliff area. Over 120 elementary grade students received individualized support through Istation’s online reading curriculum. At two of the sites, experienced reading specialists also delivered targeted, small group instruction to students. The results: Across all five sites, 60% of students grew in their reading proficiency or stayed on grade level. At the two sites with additional teacher support, nearly 75% of students improved their reading proficiency or stayed on grade level. For this upcoming summer, Dallas ISD (DISD) has partnered with Istation, the Tackle Tomorrow Foundation, the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, Dallas Afterschool and Commit! to expand this combination of supports to 10 sites serving 400-500 students entering grades K-3. Site selection is near completion and will be announced soon. Leslie Haas, Director Kindergarten – 2nd Grade Curriculum and Instruction at DISD, is excited about the potential of this partnership: “Reaching our students wherever they’re at during the summer will be critical in reversing the summer learning loss trend locally and nationally. I’m excited about the results from our initial pilot and looking forward to developing this partnership to reach more kids.” To learn more about this innovative partnership, please contact Jonathan Feinstein, Director of Community Engagement, at Jonathan.Feinstein@commit2dallas.org

By |January 1st, 2016|Early Literacy, Newsletter|Comments Off on Tackling Summer Slide: Reaching Students Where They Are

Philanthropy Update – National Funders Contribute more than $1,000,000!

Recognizing the achievements and momentum of our region’s collective impact for education, several national funders have recently pledged or contributed more than $1,000,000 in funding support over a three-year period toward the Commit! Partnership’s goals in educational collective impact.  These funders include the Strive Accelerator Fund, The Schusterman Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Bezos Family Foundation and the College Football Playoff Foundation. This is an affirmation of our nationally-leading work.  Specifically, as we work with our partners in education to measurably impact key student performance indicators for kids throughout Dallas County along the cradle-to-career continuum, the national funders are investing in our (1) Shared ownership of a common vision (particularly in Early Childhood and Postsecondary Attainment); (2) Capacity and alignment of community-based partners, (3) Data access and usage for continuous improvement, and (4) Quality educator pipelines.  This is the essence of the collective impact model upon which the Commit! Partnership is built. And we are an emerging national leader. Much is being achieved for the kids and students of Dallas County through the Commit! Partnership.  More than a hundred local funding partners additionally contribute to the data-driven, cradle-to-career impact of the Commit! Partnership.  We thank everyone.  Just as our educational work and outcomes are achieved collectively, so is our funding support.  Together, we are all making a positive impact on the lives and futures of our kids, families and our region through improved education attainment, workforce readiness, economic development.

Commit! Partners Represent at National Cradle to Career Network Convening

On Oct. 7-9, the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network brought together more than 350 educators, elected officials, community leaders, business executives, nonprofit professionals and policymakers for its sixth annual national convening in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Represented were more than 60 community partnerships from 32 states and Washington, D.C. As a member of the StriveTogether Network, the Commit! Partnership had the opportunity to share the work taking place in Dallas County with this national audience. Joining Commit! staff to learn and present were Patricia Arvanitis (Leadership ISD), Lanet Greenhaw (Dallas Regional Chamber), Jerry Hawkins (Zero to Five Funders Collaborative), Regina Nippert (The Budd Center @ SMU), and Martha Rodriguez (Bachman Lake Together). You can link to each of the presentation decks below and reach out to the staff contacts provided to learn more. o Developing a Collective Advocacy Agenda: Strategies and Tools, presented by Gretchen May and Lanet Greenhaw o Driving Digital Marketing Performance: Tools for Increased Equity and Engagement, presented by Andres Ramos o Implementing a Comprehensive Data Strategy: Pushing Towards Systems Change, presented by Ashwina Kirpalani and Regina Nippert o Nothing Moves Without Engagement: Community Development in Collective Impact, presented by Jonathan Feinstein, Jerry Hawkins and Martha Rodriguez o Tackling the Teacher Pipeline: A Strategy for Systems Change, presented by Gretchen May o The “How” of Equity: Doing What We Do… Better, presented by Patricia Arvanitis on a panel with 3 other communities

Introducing Vroom: The Brain-Building App

In the Fall of 2014, only 55% of Kindergarteners entered school ready. Dedicated to improving Kindergarten Readiness rates across the county, members of the Early Childhood Family Empowerment Action Network (ECFEAN) joined together last Fall to equip and empower Dallas County families, parents, and guardians of children ages 0 to 5 as their child’s first teacher. To increase awareness surrounding early brain development and the immense learning that occurs in a child’s first five years of life, more than twenty five members are now coordinating a pilot to share Vroom, a free mobile app, with families. Vroom uses easily digestible tips to help caregivers turn everyday interactions with young children into brain building moments. Vroom’s initial pilot in Seattle, Washington demonstrated a 12 point increase in caregiver awareness of brain building behaviors and an increase in caregiver engagement with children. This year, Dallas County joins Seattle and 3 other geographies (Los Angeles, and the states of Colorado and Oregon) as a part of a national effort to increase awareness and application of brain building behaviors. Incorporating key learnings from Seattle, the Dallas Pilot is sharing Vroom through a surround sound approach—ensuring that parents hear about Vroom multiple times and from multiple sources. By utilizing trusted messengers who are already doing great work in the community and sharing Vroom in the communities where families shop, worship, play and live, we hope to measure a 15 point increase in parent adoption. Pilot partners range from school districts, child care centers, health clinics, libraries, community centers and even home visiting services. A media campaign including ads on DART, Facebook and Google will reinforce messaging shared by partners. In order to gain insight into the level of adoption and implementation of brain building activities in the home, partner organizations have collected over 1,500 pre-pilot surveys from families. These pre-pilot surveys, which collect data about families’ beliefs about the importance of early learning and the daily interactions they have with their children, will be compared with post-pilot surveys to be collected in February. If you would like to learn how you can share Vroom with families or participate in the Early Childhood Family Empowerment Action Network please email Jaime.meyers@commit2dallas.org

By |August 10th, 2015|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Introducing Vroom: The Brain-Building App

Fall Update: The Partnership Takes Root

If you’re familiar with the student achievement data we’ve been sharing over the past several months, then one thing is probably clear: no single entity can solve the education crisis facing our region. We are impacted as a community, and we must address it as a community.

Our End of Summer Update

We recently issued our End of Summer update, available in full here. Here are a few of the many highlights included:   The Dallas County Community College (DCCCD) agreed to become a partner in the Commit! initiative, becoming the first higher education entity to formally do so. DCCCD serves more than 80,000 students, representing 45% of all students accessing post-secondary education in our region. The Boone Family Foundation and the Harold Simmons Foundation made multi-year funding commitments, joining a growing list of financial supporters who believe in the power of collective impact. Our region (Region 10) enrolled more childcare center students in the Kindergarten Readiness System (KRS) than any other region in Texas and is second only to Region 1 (Brownsville) in the number of ISD students enrolled. The summer's Mayor's Intern Fellows Program came to a close having created three times as many student jobs as last year. Through a partnership between Education Is Freedom, Mayor Rawling's Office, Commit!, Bank of America, AT&T and more than 100 businesses and nonprofits, 173 rising high school juniors and seniors from across Dallas County gained invaluable workplace experience which will help them with college applications and in choosing the right career path.   For even more news and events, read the full newsletter and sign up to receive future updates.

School’s Out, and so is our May Newsletter!

Yesterday Commit! issued its May monthly newsletter. In it, we recap our progress from the prior month, share our priorities for the month ahead, spotlight other collaborative action initiatives, and share relevant news and resources. You can find a text copy of the newsletter below:   Dear Friends, First and foremost, a note of gratitude and congratulations to all of the educators, parents, and students who are bringing their school year to a close. We have heard many success stories within Dallas County education, and we are here to support your hard work. In this newsletter, we are pleased to share meaningful recent progress in our efforts. We are sensing momentum in conversations across the community as we've continued to define our role and those of our partners, increased our staff capacity, and taken a lead in growing both student intern opportunities and enrollment in the State's Kindergarten Readiness System (see below). As always, we welcome your feedback, especially as we begin to narrow in on our strategic priorities, and appreciate your continued support. Sincerely, Todd Williams Executive Director, Commit!   A quick glance at what we've been up to this month: 1. Updating and learning from the Commit! community. During the month of May, we were honored to meet with and gain feedback from several education and leadership groups, includingHead Start of Greater Dallas, Hispanic 100, North Texas TxCAN, University Crossroads (a P-16 Council affiliated with Dallas ISD), and Dallas Social Venture Partners. We also had the unique opportunity to contribute to the public conversation about education at a briefing of state and federal legislators, an SMU symposium, and an appearance on Krys Boyd's Think (click on the link for the full podcast). As a result, we've steadily expanded the size of this movement with over 1,500 individuals on our distribution list! 2. Launching a campaign to encourage early childhood providers to participate in the State's Kindergarten Readiness System (KRS) by July 31. KRS represents an important first step in demonstrating the commitment of our community to providing quality early childhood services and education. KRS will identify PreK Centers of Excellence by linking student success on Kindergarten literacy testing to the preK provider that prepared the student. Thus far, 17 District campuses and 49 licensed child care centers have enrolled online, with many more in progress. To learn more, please read the kick-off letter sent earlier this month and read below for information about our next steps in support of this important effort. 3. Continuing to build out the Commit! team and Strategy Committee. In the coming weeks, we are excited to welcome three new team members to our staff! We are also pleased to welcome Trisha Cunningham and Michele Bobadilla to our Strategy Committee. Trisha, from Texas Instruments, has replaced Arturo Sanchez, who recently joined NASA in Houston. Michele, a provost from UT-Arlington, will serve as a liaison for University Crossroads, a third P-16 council in the Dallas area. She will also represent the fifth higher education institution on the Committee (UNT, Paul Quinn, DCCCD, TWU and UTA).   What's next on the horizon ... 1. Pursue more formal District support. Having had introductory conversations [...]