Northern Kentucky - For a young person on the exciting but risk-strewn path to adulthood, the odds of success can be altered by many things: a mentor, a life skills class, an apprenticeship, a chance to dip a toe in college courses … even being in a safe school where every adult cares enough to greet you by name.
A growing number of youth in Northern Kentucky are getting all of that and more.
That’s because educators, business leaders and service providers are using powerful new data tools to get a more complete picture than ever of the region’s youth – and to craft services and supports that better meet their needs. The goal: Help all young people succeed in school and be ready for college, career and life.
"We’re using data to develop targeted strategies for improving outcomes for our youth," says Polly Lusk Page, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Education Council (NKYEC). "Public and private organizations are aligning their efforts so they can fill gaps, measure progress and make adjustments based on data-driven decisions."
This fundamental shift in how the region works with its young people began four years ago, when the education council expanded its mission beyond traditional classroom concerns. Its new focus: serve as a catalyst for improvement of all educational services, from birth to career, through more effective collaboration among the myriad organizations that work with young people.
To do that, the NKYEC helped Northern Kentucky win one of six coveted slots in the Ready by 21 Southeast Cities Challenge. Ready by 21® is a set of collective impact strategies that guide communities to determine the impediments to getting all young people "ready for college, work and life," craft solutions, implement change and measure results.
Page says the tools and technical assistance gave the council the support it needed to expand its focus "beyond the academic day" and follow Ready by 21’s Insulated Pipeline approach: wrapping coordinated, high-quality family and community supports around the traditional education pipeline.
Two major moves in the council’s overhaul: 1. Recruiting members from other fields, such as social services, juvenile justice and out-of-school time, and 2. Creating six action teams, each focused on a goal (such as College and Career Readiness), to develop strategies and work with partners – from schools and businesses to nonprofits and government agencies – to carry them out.
Because of the council, "All the teams understand what they need to be doing," says Leshia Lyman, co-chair of the team on Reducing Barriers to Student Learning. "There’s more focus."
That focus is producing important changes for:
Scores of schools are getting new data about their students beyond academics, and are using that data to overcome barriers to student success.
Through Gallup’s partnership with Ready by 21, more than 80 Northern Kentucky schools over the past three years have administered an enhanced version of the Gallup Student Poll, which measures hope, engagement and well-being. The Forum chose Northern Kentucky as the pilot for a new version of the poll that connects the results to individual student identifiers. This past fall alone, more than 20,000 Northern Kentucky students completed the poll.
School leaders value the information provided through this poll because they know that some young people struggle with challenges that slip under the school radar – like health problems, personal conflicts and feelings of isolation. "We did not have a good measure that was valid and reliable to identify students that may be in need of extra assistance, not just academic," says Connie Pohlgeers, director of school improvement for Campbell County Public Schools.
Schools get an analysis of the Gallup data, which they combine with academic and other data to identify the need for individual student interventions and school-wide initiatives.
"We find that there are some needs that we had no idea the student was struggling with," says Associate Superintendent Shelli Wilson of Campbell County. "From that, we can start putting various measures in place."
Among those measures:
The College and Career Readiness team used Ready by 21 strategies to refocus its mission. Its members "weren’t on the same page about what college and career readiness meant," says action team co-chair Karen Cheser, deputy superintendent of Boone County Public Schools.
The team determined that "we didn’t mean college entrance test readiness. We wanted people to be ready for a career, to be excited about a career, to compete in the global economy, to be confident in the digital world."
To meet that goal, the team:
Students miss school for lots of reasons. The Reducing Barriers to Student Learning action team is helping schools take a closer look at those reasons and explore new solutions.
The team guides schools in using multiple sets of data to pinpoint chronically absent students, explore the reasons and develop individual plans to overcome the barriers. "When you go deeper to find that a core group of students are chronically absent, that’s a different way to look at the data in terms of really boosting attendance rates," says Lyman, the team co-chair. "In some cases, you could be talking about only 15 or 20 kids. That’s much more tangible and easier to get your arms around."
For example, Lyman notes: "When you start looking at why students are not reading on grade level and you match those students with their attendance, you begin to see connections in the data."
Last fall the education council helped to launch the Read On! Campaign for Early Grade-Level Reading in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The campaign, with more than 70 partners, aims to spread evidence-based best practices in literacy, build community awareness and advance public policies to help the cause.
Two ambitious efforts are underway to help organizations see data like never before so that they can assess the impact of their efforts and fine-tune those efforts to meet actual youth needs.
| January 2014
For more information, visit www.readyby21.org
The Forum for Youth Investment is a nonprofit, nonpartisan action tank dedicated to helping communities and the nation make sure all young people are ready by 21 – ready for college, work and life. Ready by 21 was created by the Forum based on more than a decade of work with state and local leaders interested in broad scale change. Ready by 21 is a registered trademark of the Forum for Youth Investment. www.forumfyi.org.
The Northern Kentucky Education Council (NKYEC) serves as the overarching organization for the alignment of education initiatives that support our population from birth to career. The Council serves as a catalyst for collaboration, change, and progress toward regional educational goals. www.nkyec.org.