East St. Louis school district working to become catalyst for community improvement
- Since the last-place school district in the impoverished city of East St. Louis, Ill., was taken over by the state, results are gradually improving. Over the last three years, pass rates on Common Core-aligned national math and reading tests has increased from 3% to 6%, pass rates on the NWEA has doubled, and the graduation rate has grown from 65% to 71%, according to The Hechinger Report.
- Locals are crediting the improvement to the efforts of the East Side Aligned initiative, which uses “collective impact” reform strategies to connect students and families to a network of support systems and nonprofit agencies in the area — many of which were formerly ineffective because they were little-known.
- East Side Aligned and the school district’s new Family and Community Engagement Center are partnering with local business, nonprofits and colleges to offer better educational and job opportunities to families and high school students, as well as better access to services that families need to survive and thrive.
The notion that schools benefit from partnerships with local businesses and non-profit organizations has been acknowledged by many school leaders. Universities, non-profit organizations and businesses can also benefit from such collaborations, as the interests of schools and the emerging workforce are intertwined. The quality of a school affects the quality of the businesses that are drawn to a community, and the quality of education is often directly affected by the kinds of investment a community makes in the school district.
While collaboration between these entities is beneficial, in some cases, it is not enough on its own to bring about the social change that is desired. In these situations, collective impact strategies rather than simple collaborations may do more to move the needle in terms of impact.
According to "Improving Student Outcomes through Collective Impact: A Guide for Policymakers,” this approach “replaces competing agendas, siloed funding streams and duplicative programs with a shared vision for education reform.” The authors of this report define collective impact as “a process that occurs when a broad set of cross-sector community partners come together in an accountable way to implement the following four principles for successful collective impact: a shared community vision; evidence-based decision making; collaborative action; and investment and sustainability.”
This more focused and defined approach may help improve schools and communities that desire to work together to create a more viable future for their citizens. For administrators interested in learning more about this approach, a toolkit is available.
- The Hechinger Report Using schools to bring a dying Rust Belt city back to life