Strengthening Cross-Sector Collaboration

The Grinnell Education Partnership is a replicable model which aligns and interconnects resources and organizations in the public, private, and social sectors to gain measurable progress in literacy achievement. With Grinnell College and the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation performing administrative duties and coordinating an AmeriCorps team, our community organizations are empowered to make a lasting difference in the lives of local kids and families. The Partnership develops short-and long-term action plans, pilots projects that 'move the needle' in a variety of focus areas, and identifies sustainable ways to ensure that our most promising interventions can continue for years to come. Examples of sustainable projects in each focus area include: School Readiness initiatives: An expanded 'preschool fair'ť was piloted by a Grade Level Reading Taskforce in the first year of the program (2015-16), offering activities and information to area families on a variety of preschool and daycare options, community resources (hospital, public health, parks and recreation, etc.), as well as providing take-home literacy enrichment activities. For future sustainability, the event has now been adopted by a standing workgroup of all community preschool/early childhood centers building on the programming established that first year. Attendance initiatives: Thanks to the Grinnell Education Partnership's focus on attendance issues, the community has become committed to combating chronic absenteeism in our local schools. In particular, with the support and guidance of the Partnership, the Grinnell-Newburg School District has begun to build positive relationships with students and their caregivers to ensure kids get to school on time every day. The district hired a full-time Family Engagement and Attendance Coordinator in the fall of 2017 to ensure this effort is sustained, and the district has developed a clear attendance policy for its schools, regularly collecting and analyzing attendance data to identify areas in need of improvement. The Grinnell-Newburg School District has also begun to operate a 'late bus'ť for students who miss the first bus and are unable to get to school otherwise. Summer & Afterschool Learning initiatives: The Grinnell Education Partnership has made great strides in infusing existing community summer programs with engaging, high-quality literacy enrichment programming. By harnessing the power of AmeriCorps and unifying resources, the Partnership is able to offer students a rich depth and breadth of literacy options, allowing them to pursue their own interests. The Partnership also catalyzed the creation of SLICK, a district-wide school-based summer program with an emphasis on preventing summer learning loss. It offers safe, free programming to students below their reading targets and provides access to nutritious meals. The program has achieved immediate success, with 92% of students enrolled in SLICK during the summer of 2018 maintaining or gaining reading skills (Fountas and Pinnell assessment). Additionally, after three years of piloting SLICK, the school Superintendent is now working to adopt the program directly into the district's programming and budget for sustainability. The Partnership also added capacity for literacy enrichment to existing afterschool options for area students by infusing literacy enrichment programming into daily activities. All of these initiatives contribute to future summer and afterschool learning sustainability. Auxiliary Grade-Level Reading initiatives: The Grinnell Education Partnership has undertaken several auxiliary measures to improve grade-level reading rates in our local schools and ensure achievement in literacy. First, we have used the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's healthy readers initiative as a template for change in our own community. In our local schools, for example, we piloted Wellness Wednesdays, an initiative that brought volunteers into elementary classrooms to read books related to health and wellness and provide fruits and vegetables as snacks. The Partnership also focuses on interacting with families through episodic events held around town, such as a community bike ride that toured our city's community gardens and a library event which parents and kids tried and stamped various fresh fruit vegetables together. Additionally, the Partnership is exploring pilot options for a new online resource that facilitates connections between area nonprofits and volunteers based on time commitment, talent, and interest. Given that small local organizations often lack substantial 'people power,'ť this effort hopes to bolster the community's collective ability to sustainably work toward literacy achievement goals. The Grinnell Education Partnership's collective impact approach has catalyzed immense change in our community since its inception several years ago, piloting a number of promising new initiatives poised to make lasting change. Using 'backbone'ť support, the Partnership has alleviated administrative burdens and provided a substantial volunteer workforce (AmeriCorps) for community nonprofits. Most importantly, the Grinnell community has witnessed great improvements in literacy achievement, summer and afterschool learning, and attendance among its youth, all thanks to strong and sustainable interagency collaboration between the public, private, and social sectors.