As students head back to the classroom each fall, school and district leaders are preparing for the year ahead. This includes goal setting around important student outcomes, including improving attendance and graduation rates. To reach these goals, many education leaders collaborate with trusted community partners to use school and program data to better understand and serve their students.
In New York City, leaders have invested in the community school strategy to ensure that the city’s highest-need students have access to academic and social supports outside of the classroom. During the 2017-2018 school year, 227 schools partnered with 62 community-based organizations to serve 117,000 students. And this model is already showing signs of success: in just three years, the chronic absence rate for participating schools has decreased by 9.4%, while the graduation rate has risen by over 11%. In comparison, during that same time period, the citywide chronic absence rate decreased by 1.8% and the citywide graduation rate increased by 5.8%.
This success was made possible through a powerful data-driven partnership between trusted community partners and schools. District leaders developed a secure data-sharing system that provides community partners and schools with the information they need to best support students in their individual roles. Under a confidentiality agreement, the district allows Community School Directors, who are hired by the Lead Community-Based Organization partnered with each school, to have secure access to real-time, specific information that is needed to support student learning—including attendance, behavior, and coursework. Together with teachers and principals, Community School Directors use that data to inform conversations about student interventions and next steps to best support each student.
But how have leaders in New York City ensured that community schools are sustainable, data-driven partnerships? To do this, they have prioritized the following:
- Guaranteeing access to real-time, easy-to-use data
When data is spread out across many different systems or only exists on paper, those closest to students cannot quickly access the information they need to make decisions. That is why community partners have access to a single, secure data system where different types of information can be viewed side-by-side. This allows school leaders and community partners to collaboratively examine trends and track interventions alongside outcomes.
- Sparking data-informed conversations
Principals are key leaders when it comes to using data to support students, but they can’t go it alone. Principals and their staff, Community School Directors, Success Mentors, and other key members of the community are all encouraged to meet regularly to review data trends in real time. Together, school leaders and community partners quickly identify student and community needs and find ways to keep each student on track for success.
- Providing tools and supports for effective data use
District leaders help ensure that schools and community-based organizations have what they need to use data for continuous improvement. The city’s Office of Community Schools provides training on how to facilitate meetings neutrally, which allows for inclusive decisionmaking, increased productivity, and clear action steps for all participants. Also available to participating schools are optional supports and trainings tailored to their needs including webinars, online training, and assistance with recruiting data coaches.
How Can States Support This Work?
While this story is local, state policymakers also have a critical role in building secure, data-supported out-of-school time (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.