College advisors from Cedar Hill ISD, DeSoto ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Education is Freedom, and Academic Success Program came together as an Impact & Improvement Network to strengthen their continuous improvement skills and impact postsecondary enrollment through growing the number of seniors completing FAFSA applications. Communities achieve results more quickly when they have a chance to work together and learn from each other. Collectively, the districts participating helped 1,686 seniors complete FAFSA applications by July 1, 2017. This represents a collective 63% FAFSA completion rate (compared to a 55% completion rate by non-participating districts) and is up from 48% last year. True continuous improvement means you are tracking the data, identifying whether or not an intervention was successful or not and folding that information back into what you do. The Impact & Improvement Network participants shifted their use of FAFSA data from reporting to identifying practices and strategies that move outcomes. In partnership with Commit!'s postsecondary team, participants practiced: Identifying which step in the financial aid process causes themost challenges for the most students using their experience and student and parent input Refining strategies to help students overcome those challenges Charting FAFSA data bi-weekly to see how effective their strategies were Actively adjusting practices based on strategy efficacy Those who attended the Dallas County College Completion Alignment Council meeting on August 30, 2017 collaborated on effective FAFSA/TASFA completion practices with participants and college advisors. The meeting included a FAFSA/TASFA Showcase with resources, tools, and an "effective practice" gallery walk from ocal campuses with high year-over-year growth in FAFSA completion rates. The Alignment Council meeting also included space to learn and discuss effective practices for supporting DREAMer/DACAmented students from local college bound advisor, Ann Marano, and the North Texas Dream Team.
The Commit! team is excited to announce the addition of Taylor Toynes to fill the role of Community Impact Associate. In this position, Taylor will be focused on building lasting strategies to improve early childhood outcomes in Dallas’ South Oak Cliff community through neighborhood and family engagement. A native of South Oak Cliff, Taylor brings a deeply personal commitment to the students and families in the community where he was born and raised. He has served as a 4th grade teacher at W.W. Bushman Elementary School and as the Urban Specialist at Sarah A. Zumwalt Middle School, while also organizing the “For Oak Cliff” back-to-school festival last August. “It has been my mission to improve education for students and families in Oak Cliff,” says Taylor. “I look forward to serving as the Community Impact Associate with Commit! in the community that I was born and raised in. In order for us to make real strides in educational equity we have to start with early childhood. I am fired up and ready to work with everyone this upcoming year.” Taylor’s position is made possible with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and will build upon the ongoing work of school district, nonprofit, and community-based organizations in South Oak Cliff, where a collective impact approach has already started to yield results for the community’s youngest learners. If you’d like to connect with Taylor, he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recognizing the critical role the community can play to support local students, an anonymous donor – through the Commit Partnership – generously purchased classroom literacy resources for over 230 K-2 literacy teachers at 17 Dallas ISD elementary schools in the South Oak Cliff (SOC), Molina, and ACE elementary schools reaching approximately 4,500 students. Valued at over $200,000, the donation includes a classroom library of 150 books for every Kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade classroom, an oral language-reading program, reading rugs, and teacher professional development. On Saturday, December 12th, over 100 community volunteers came together to write holiday cards and gift-wrap these literacy presents so that teachers could walk into their classrooms on Monday, December 14th with this wonderful surprise waiting inside. At Mills Elementary and Holland Elementary, community volunteers from the Dallas Police Department, Promising Youth Alliance, Leadership ISD, and Dallas County Community College District accompanied Santa Claus personally in delivering these gifts to students and teachers. Jolee Healey, Executive Director of the ACE campuses, is excited about the positive impact this gift will have on students: “We are so grateful for this donation to support literacy development in our schools. Studies have shown that access to printed materials, even more than poverty, is the most critical variable affecting reading acquisition. Up to 60% of families living in poverty lack books in their homes, a stark comparison to the average middle-class family with access to an abundance of books. Our schools strive to bridge the gaps, but classroom libraries are costly and may take years to acquire. That is why this donation is so important; we know that when children have access to a variety of high interest books within their classrooms, they actually spend more time reading and developing a love for reading. We feel very lucky to know our students will find their classrooms filled with reading joy this holiday season and for months to come.”