Community Partnerships in Pittsburgh Support Year-Round Student Learning

Data Systems That Work
Community Partnerships in Pittsburgh Support Year-Round Student Learning

Today is National Summer Learning Day, which shines a light on the important role summer programs can play in a student’s learning journey. Without high-quality summer learning opportunities, students lose important learning time that can leave them up to three years behind their peers. But when districts and states invest in strategic, data-informed partnerships with high-quality out-of-school time (OST) partners, they can help ensure that summer experiences give each student the individual learning supports and opportunities he or she needs.

In 2007, Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) made such an investment by partnering with the city to launch the Pittsburgh Promise, a citywide initiative to give all public high school graduates the financial support to pursue postsecondary education. To help ensure that PPS graduates would be “promise ready,” district leaders needed to maximize every hour of learning time possible, and secure, data-driven community partnerships were essential to doing that.

The PPS central office created a dedicated position to coordinate OST partnerships across the city and ensure every partner had the specific data they needed to serve individual students. This allowed community partners to provide learning support through PPS’ Summer Dreamers Academy, a summer learning camp offering both academic lessons and enrichment opportunities to students in grades K–8. With this support, students stayed on track throughout the summer and were better prepared to enter the classroom in September. Today, PPS has formal data-driven partnerships with over 100 community organizations that provide year-round programming to students.

District leaders in Pittsburgh understood that learning inside and outside of the classroom could be aligned and supported when trusted OST partners had secure access to specific data about the students they served. So what did it take to make a data-driven collaboration like this successful?

  • Strategic Partnerships. Summer and afterschool partners go through a formal approval process, which includes a review by cross-functional teams within the department and final approval by the district’s board of directors.
  • Detailed data-sharing agreements & secure data sharing. Approved OST partners sign a data sharing agreement that gives them secure access to a select set of student-level data on a quarterly basis. Student data is only accessible via a password-protected page on the district website and program leaders can only access information about the students they currently serve. Data is shared as a raw data set and as an OST report card for each student, which facilitates tailored instruction and programming.
  • Transparent commitment to collaboration. District leaders engage OST partners to understand what information they need (e.g., which measures would be most helpful to include in the data profiles), demonstrating a clear commitment to partnerships and a collaborative approach to improving student outcomes and meeting district-wide learning goals.

How Can States Support This Work?

While this story is local, state policymakers also have a critical role in building secure, data-supported OST partnerships. By celebrating districts’ successes, improving existing data systems, and removing barriers to data-informed partnerships, state leaders can help support student-centered collaboration. More specifically, state leaders can take the following steps:

  • Build on previous data system investments and determine how existing data infrastructure and processes can help districts and schools forge partnerships.
  • Use the bully pulpit to highlight successful partnerships in their state and help district and school leaders understand the value of data-driven collaboration.
  • Ensure that the necessary protections are in place to safeguard student data privacy.
  • Review existing state legislation to identify any potential barriers to secure data sharing and ways state policy can better support data-driven partnerships.

For more information on school-community collaboration and data sharing, check out these DQC resources:

  • An infographic showing what is possible when schools and OST programs collaborate and securely share information to support student learning.
  • A policy brief highlighting the value of school-community collaboration and data sharing and the unique role that state policymakers play in making these partnerships possible.
  • A summer blog series showcasing examples of effective school-community collaboration from across the country.

Also published on Medium.