Over 230 Dallas ISD K-2 Teachers and 4,500 Students Surprised by Santa!

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.”

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

Partners Host Out-of-School Community Conversation

On May 15, a number of partners joined together to host a conversation about out-of-school time, its importance and local efforts to build a coordinated system to ensure more students and families access high-quality summer and afterschool learning opportunities. Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles and a number of national foundations were on hand to lend their voices in support of increased investment in the learning that happens outside of traditional school hours. "The 80% of time spent outside of school needs to be filled with enriching experiences provided by a number of partners across the city,” said Mayor Rawlings. The national data presented by Kari Pardoe, visiting from the Mott Foundation, drove home the point with this research showing that quality afterschool programs are proven to impact student attendance, behavior and coursework. Pardoe also drew attention to out-of-school learning as a critical equity issue: due to the lack of affordable programs, high income families invest over $90,000 more than low-income families on afterschool enrichment by age 12, leading to a 6,000 hour gap in learning activities. (You can access Pardoe’s full presentation here.) So, what is our community doing to address this challenge? The Mayor and Big Thought previewed the second summer for Dallas City of Learning, an online platform for youth to find the activities, camps and virtual learning opportunities that match their interests. Superintendent Miles and Ann Stone from the Wallace Foundation shared progress and lessons learned as the district has worked to improve its summer schools. Beyond these critical efforts, event organizers shared ongoing work to build a comprehensive out-of-school system that addresses advocacy and funding, community engagement, quality improvement and data sharing. “The system building work around OST that Dallas-area stakeholders are engaged in is absolutely critical for sustainable, long-term solutions to our society's problems,” said Molly Clayton, Executive Director, Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST). This systems-building work, led by Dallas Afterschool, will take place in phases, beginning with four communities: Bachman Lake, Fair Park/South Dallas, South Oak Cliff and West Dallas. Stay tuned for a post that will share in more detail how the Commit! Partnership, Dallas Afterschool and Istation are working together with five providers in South Oak Cliff to confront summer learning loss.

How Can an Equity-Led Approach Improve Student Outcomes in Dallas County?

That’s the fundamental question a cohort from Dallas County is addressing through participation in StriveTogether’s inaugural Equity Fellowship. Running from April through October, the Equity Fellowship involves four communities chosen from more than 60 across the nation. The purpose is to help increase the capacity of partnership leaders and staff to integrate equity into their work, eliminate locally defined disparities, and mobilize communities to improve outcomes. The Equity Fellowship kicked off April 14-16 in Atlanta with a series of workshops on equity and community engagement. The content focused on having difficult conversations around equity, increasing community representation and participation, and framing disaggregated data to develop strategies that drive outcomes. Highlights included: In his keynote presentation, Dr. Ronald Ferguson illustrated how data can be used to illuminate inequities and identify actions to take. For example, one chart showed few differences by race or parent education levels in children’s development in their first year of life, but significant differences in children’s second year – thus emphasizing the importance of disaggregating data to prioritize and strategize. Dr. Patricia Moore Harbour facilitated a day-long workshop about cultivating authentic community engagement at partnership council and network tables. In sharing personal stories and mapping local challenges, we began to better understand the connection between the individual and collective in “collective impact.” As the lead fellowship facilitators, Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz and Jarrod Schwartz did a terrific job engaging attendees, providing expertise, and sharing tools applicable to our community work. From sharing a social construction matrix to a “Who’s at the Table? Whose Table is It?” analysis tool, JuanCarlos and Jarrod made an equity-led approach real, complementing their personal perspectives from their own lives and work with practical tools for us to use. Next steps for the Dallas County contingent are to develop an equity action plan that identifies one priority area (e.g., early reading or college access) and outlines a related work plan with milestones going forward. More broadly, we intend to integrate this work and leverage our learning with the rest of the community so we can move together as one. Many thanks to the Dallas County contingent, which includes, along with Commit! staff, Patricia Arvanitis of Leadership ISD, Amber Sims of LIFT, and Miguel Solis of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. More to come as the Fellowship continues; the next series of workshops takes place May 26-29. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Kyle Gardner ( at the Commit! Partnership to learn more.

By |April 23rd, 2015|Partner|0 Comments

Education at the Heart of Racial Equity Movement in Dallas

Dallas Faces Race, a forum that brings together organizations to actively build their capacity to address racial equity and create change, hosted its Spring Partner Convening last week. The education sector was well represented among attendees, hardly a surprise as more than 60 DFR partners are also members of the Commit! Partnership. Among the rich content discussed, particularly surprising and noteworthy was some local polling data, with several data points standing out: 91% of Dallas residents agree we need to do as much as we can to end racism for the sake of our children 47% of Dallas residents believe local school districts should lead the way on racial justice issues 54% believe public school teachers should lead the way on racial justice issues These three data points all seem to point in one direction: our children are a powerful uniting force in our community and educators are positioned to lead when it comes to racial equity. Palpable energy exists among numerous education partners to do more intentional work to lead with equity. While much more work is to be done, we look forward to sharing more Partnership news on this topic. Meanwhile, a few related events/opportunities are worth checking out: Stand for Children is partnering with Border Crossers to invite K-12 educators and school personnel across Dallas to participate in a day of professional development about fostering racially equitable learning environments for students and engaging in conversations about race in the classroom. Three sessions will be offered: June 6, 8, and 9. Learn more and register here. First United Methodist will host a lunch-and-learn on Sunday, April 26 on the topic: “Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline.” State advocacy group Texas Appleseed will present, followed by an optional catered lunch provided by Café Momentum. Learn more and register here. AVANCE Dallas will host its Latino Street Fest on Sunday, April 26 from 8AM-8PM in the Downtown Arts District. The inaugural event will feature a talent competition, food, games and music. More information, including the talent competition application form, is available at

By |April 22nd, 2015|Partner|0 Comments