Frequently Asked Questions
Students in the City of Rochester face serious, ongoing challenges. In 2011, outcome indicators such as third-grade reading and high school graduation rates continued to show our community’s many efforts were not creating community level academic success for City of Rochester students. Students who are not reading at grade level in third-grade will be less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to pursue higher education, and less likely to be productive members of our community’s workforce.
Academic achievement or delay is influenced by individual, family, and community factors beginning before conception. Community leaders began to realize we needed a community approach to address community concerns about achievement.
MCC and United Way joined together with the Rochester City School District and other local partners to create the ROC the Future initiative in an effort to align existing initiatives and resources while providing data and information to strengthen performance and accountability. The effort is working with the nationally recognized StriveTogether framework, dedicated to improving student outcomes through collective impact.
The StriveTogether framework originated as the StrivePartnership in Greater Cincinnati in 2006. During its first five years, StrivePartnership noted positive improvements in 40 of the 53 educational outcomes it measured. As examples, that community realized a 9% increase in kindergarten readiness, 11% increase in high school graduation and 10% increase in college enrollment. StrivePartnership didn’t create a new program or raise more money. Instead, they agreed on a common set of goals, outcomes, and success indicators. They aligned resources, and continuously analyzed and shared data to track progress. They used continuous quality improvement, a methodology often used in engineering and healthcare, to coordinate practices and direct resources to what works for kids.
To share this success, the national StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network was launched in 2011 as a way to connect communities that are building cradle to career collective impact initiatives using the StriveTogether framework. The network enables members to share expertise, identify and adapt programs that work, and develop effective tools and resources that can be brought to bear on specific challenges. To date more than 60 communities are part of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, including eight communities in the New York State Cradle to Career Network.
What is collective impact?
Collective impact results from the coordinated commitment of key partners from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Unlike most collaboration, collective impact initiatives involve backbone organization(s), a dedicated staff, and a structured process.
Five principles for successful collective impact include:
- Shared Community Vision or Common Agenda All participants have a shared vision for change, as well as a common understanding of the problem and how they will work collectively to solve it.
- Shared Measurement and Evidence-Based Decision Practices Partnerships make decisions based on promising practices that are already working for kids and local data that shows areas of need.
- Continuous Communication and Mutually Reinforcing Activities Community members come together to use data to collectively move outcomes.
- Mobilizing Resources Partnerships initiate or redirect resources (time, talent, and treasure) toward evidence-based practices on an ongoing basis and engage the community to ensure long-term sustainability.
- Increasing Equity Often examining data and identifying disparities in achievement by gender, race, income, and neighborhood is key to improving outcomes.
How does this endeavor differ from previous community efforts?
Previous large-scale initiatives to improve educational outcomes in the City of Rochester have met with varying levels of success. We have learned from the experiences of those previous initiatives: both what worked and what did not. Two key lessons from previous efforts are: capitalize on existing community resources and scale up gradually and intentionally based on results. ROC the Future gathers those in the field into networks to identify barriers to academic achievement at different points along the continuum. The networks are responsible for developing and implementing action plans to achieve identified goals through collective impact. While focused on using existing time, talent, and funding, the StriveTogether framework does require sustained funding for managing the coalition including its communications and measurement efforts. The framework can also be an effective catalyst for attracting new investments.
What is evidence-based practice and why is it important?
Simply put, evidence-based practice means using what has been demonstrated to work. It involves the integration of professional expertise and data to assess the impact of practices and make informed decisions about how to prioritize a community’s efforts to improve student outcomes.
As an example, third-grade literacy is directly linked to high school graduation. After third-grade, kids move from learning to read to reading to learn. Without that level of literacy, all academics can suffer. There is also evidence that certain key areas, such as attendance, kindergarten readiness, and extended learning, can improve third-grade literacy. This approach utilizes evidence to focus work and measure outcomes. Focusing a community’s efforts on proven practices increases the potential to improve performance. Then, once the work is started, we can use the results to improve, refine, and even scale up the efforts that demonstrate positive outcomes. Importantly, we also share those practices with network partners to help them be more effective, as well. Ultimately, evidence-based practice seeks to apply limited resources to have the greatest impact on children.
What is the organizational structure of ROC the Future?
- The role of the Conveners Group
ROC the Future is guided by a Conveners Group. This group is composed of representatives from community organizations that represent a cross section of sectors with a stake in student success. Representatives from early childhood organizations, K-12 schools, higher education, community organizations, government, philanthropy, faith-based institutions, and corporate partners all volunteer their time and contribute institutional resources to further the collective vision, provide strategic guidance, promote and report data, and provide the leadership necessary to advance the project.
- The role of the Outcome Teams
The primary responsibility of these teams are identifying and prioritizing our community-wide focus on factors that make the most difference, identifying key stakeholders, and monitoring progress towards achieving improvement. These core outcomes are key measures of well-being for children and youth, not at one school or one neighborhood, but for our entire city.
- The role of Collaborative Action Networks
Within the cradle to career pathway are a series of key benchmarks that indicate our community’s progress toward achieving our goals as children progress along the pathway. There are currently five networks of volunteers with expertise and resources to achieve key benchmarks for our children. The networks are charged with identifying and tracking indicators for a benchmark; integrating successful, evidence-based strategies into practice; and sharing progress and effective practices across the network and with the Conveners Group.
Does ROC the Future provide financial support for ideas or programs?
ROC the Future is designed as a catalyst for improving academic achievement by promoting alignment and focusing resources. It is not a funder or service provider.
How do I get additional information?