As we continue to work together in a new way to improve outcomes for all students in our community, we must constantly remind ourselves that attached to every data point are individual kids and families that need our systems and our behaviors to change. Children of color now account for the majority of youth in Multnomah County, and together with youth in poverty and those from immigrant communities, the children that we have chronically failed also represent our community's greatest opportunity for overall improvement.
The three initial Collaboratives have begun to meet and are focused on addressing the top priorities established by our Council. The Collaboratives, or cross-sector work groups, are currently engaging participants in a focused and deliberate process to drive toward shared action plans and on-the-ground results. They are:
- Eliminating Disparities in Child and Youth Success, convened by the Coalition of Communities of Color;
- Communities Supporting Youth, convened by the SUN Service System and PSU's Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services; and
- Ready for Kindergarten, convened by Social Venture Partners Portland and the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families and Community
These meetings feel different - and are different - than our collective efforts of the past. Perhaps Keith Thomajan, CEO of United Way said it best, "In my 20 years in the education and social service sectors, I have seen many well-intended community initiatives 'come and go.' This is the first effort that has all the right players behind it from the outset and embeds this community's commitments to its young people along a continuum of aligned services, opportunities and supports, and impels the critical players to engage differently and toward better outcomes. That is a huge step forward."
Ninth Grade Counts: A Playbook for Results-Driven Collaboration
As we launch into new territory together, I'm grateful that we are not completely reinventing the wheel. For four years Ninth Grade Counts has been a shining example of our community's ability to build deep partnerships across organizations that realign their work to meet a common goal - and the effort has shown results for our students in the classroom. For the past six months, Ninth Grade Counts has also served as a testing ground for the rigorous continuous improvement approach that we are using to guide all of the new Collaboratives.
Frances Hall, Youth and Family Services Manager at Neighborhood House, and a Ninth Grade Counts partner since the beginning, recently had this to say, "The continuous improvement structure of the Ninth Grade Counts Collaborative has been a catalyst for hard and real conversations about coordinating services across school districts and nonprofit organizations. Efficiency and improved outcomes are the result." (Ninth Grade Counts is gearing up for the coming summer, this document will help you get connected.)
Measuring Our Success
In addition to the work of the Collaborative work teams, the Data Team and Steering Committee are driving toward establishing a set of community-wide Indicators to serve as an anchor and guidepost for all our efforts. A streamlined set of roughly 10 Indicators (down from the 42 Indicators in the initial report) will encompass academic and social measures that reflect our top priority of equity for all students, while also aligning with our districts' milestones and the emerging Oregon Achievement Compacts.
Thank you for your commitment to our county's young people. I look forward to sharing the streamlined community-wide Indicators next month and continuing to report on the progress of our collective work.
P.S. I invite you to take a look at our new video, This is All Hands Raised, to learn more about the evolution of this organization and our expanded vision of success for all students. This debuted at our annual Roast Festival on February 29th.