Several members of the Commit! Partnership team had the pleasure of attending StriveTogether’s annual National Convening, this year held in sunny San Diego October 15-17. Coming off last year’s convening right here in the Big D, the theme for this year was “Making Waves” to move outcomes. With more than 50 communities in attendance representing more than 5.5 million children, the convening provided an ideal opportunity to learn what’s working elsewhere and surface ways we can continue to improve our work to help drive student achievement in Dallas County.
A few key areas of action came out of the convening:
- Modeling the Courage Needed to Focus AND Act on Equity: A big theme emerged around equity, with a diverse panel and several workshops centered on “the head, heart, and hand” of addressing race and equity in education collaboration. We learned about communities disaggregating data further to identify key local challenges (e.g., White students with non-college-educated parents achieving higher than Hispanic students with college-educated parents) and reviewing school suspension data disparities by race with district superintendents and key community leaders together. We return committed to continue making equity even more of a focal point back home—and will seek to learn from the application of concrete tools that have helped partnerships address equity in a way that respects community readiness. We look forward to continuing this learning as Dallas hosts the national Facing Race conference November 13-15.
- Using Data to Improve Action Every Day: The description of continuous improvement – adopting processes that ensure we meet and exceed the expectations of those we serve – really hit home for us, particularly given the partnerships we’ve established focused on early grades literacy and math. In particular, Superintendent Pat Greco of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, led a riveting workshop speaking to the rigorous change management she’s helped lead in her district to reinforce excellence in instructional process at her schools. We hope to use this learning not just to identify what works, but to improve those best practices over time – in other words, to become “the best at getting better.”
- Building Ownership among Partners for Change: Another theme focused on keeping partners fully engaged, especially as the work matures and roles and responsibilities change. Several communities shared themes around ensuring voice is valued with follow-up, getting neighborhood-level input to expand opportunities for new partners to engage, and innovating to reach new constituents (e.g., creating performances by parents and for parents to act out the difficulty of getting student to read at home). Given the common challenges heard across communities, the StriveTogether network is committed to providing actionable tools and identifying and lifting up ways to build broader ownership with partners to create lasting change.
In addition to engaging in convening workshops, Commit! staff facilitated three well-attended workshops respectively around the IQ and EQ of continuous improvement at the action network level, creating and using a Giving Profile to engage funders in collective impact, and collaborative action towards Kindergarten Readiness. Dallas was also represented by Ed Meier of Big Thought, who co-led a workshop on launching Cities of Learning.
We were inspired by our experience at the National Convening and gained several ideas to improve our work in Dallas County, with intentions to integrate several before next year’s convening in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Thanks goes to the StriveTogether team for putting together yet another highly engaging convening.