Strategic Partnerships: A Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since our launch. During this past year, we have strengthened our collaborative work with a number of key, external partners that share our commitment to helping all people succeed in education and the workplace.

We’ve joined forces with the American College Application Campaign (ACAC), an initiative of the American Council on Education, to help nearly half a million high school seniors navigate the college admissions process. We are also pleased that through our strategic partnership, state-level ACAC initiatives have been highlighted at 22 ACT State Council meetings this spring and summer with more to come. At this week’s ACAC National Convening in Washington, D.C., we will be highlighting the development of a national calendar of college-going activities, a new, important tool for school counselors and academic advisors to easily access critical information on college-going deadlines such as FAFSA. In March, the Center for Equity in Learning convened a working group of national organizations to develop a national calendar of college-going activities that link up our efforts, from ACAC to College Signing Day to Form Your Future to better coordinate our efforts to support students through the transition to college. The goal is simple: a rising tide that lifts all boats (and elevates all of our individual messages), and supports college-going students on the path to success. We want to thank ACAC, the National College Access Network, the Better Make Room Campaign, and the National Consortium for School Counseling and Postsecondary Success for working together to create this calendar.

We also partner with Delaware State University’s First in the World grant for the Access to Success study (A2S), along with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).  The purpose of the A2S study is to increase the number of low-income and/or first-generation students in Delaware who apply to post-secondary institutions that align with their academic and non-cognitive credentials as well as increase the number of students who enroll in and persist in post-secondary education. The ACT College Match and Fit Toolkit serves as the intervention and was used by students in last fall’s treatment group to identify a list of colleges for which they are academically prepared, socially aligned, and likely to be accepted.  During Delaware’s College Application Month, students in the treatment group were encouraged to apply to at least one of the colleges identified by the ACT College Match and Fit Toolkit. The research questions focus on the effect of the ACT College Match and Fit Toolkit on low-income and/or first-generation high school students’ postsecondary application, enrollment, and persistence compared to low-income and/or first-generation high school students who apply to college in the business-as-usual condition (control group). The A2S continues this fall with a second cohort of Delaware seniors who will participate in the study.

Furthermore, we are proud of our ongoing collaboration with our partner at Univision Communications, with whom we are working to close the achievement gap in the Hispanic community, increase awareness of the importance of post-secondary education, and share information on how to navigate the education system. Communicating in both English and Spanish via online resources, education fairs, TV, radio, and social media events like Facebook Live, ACT and Univision ensure maximum reach into the Hispanic community. Our most recent Facebook Live event, for instance, reached more than 80,000 people nationally. In the past year, more than 25,000 Hispanic families across the country benefited from  hosted by the Center and Univision, which bring much needed education information to Hispanic families. These joint efforts empower parents to engage with and advocate for their children, and provide relevant information and tools to support college access and readiness from an early age. In 2018, we will continue to build on these efforts, including getting information and resources to school district leaders to train others.

We continue our enthusiastic support for Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room Campaign, which aims to “inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school” and loved the opportunity to don our college gear in celebration of College Signing Day. What’s next? This summer, ACT is proud to fuel Roadtrip Nation’s Beating the Odds Roadtrip, with advisory support from Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room. This road trip will feature three college students driving a bright green RV on a journey of discovery, a subsequent documentary special and a Share Your Road platform. This three year collaborative partnership will support the overall goal of strengthening underrepresented communities and empowering youth to explore postsecondary education and career opportunities.

We also believe that what school leaders and teachers do makes a difference. That’s why we work closely with the Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (ALAS) and support the ALAS Superintendent Leadership Academy (SLA)  The SLA plays a pivotal role in helping aspiring superintendents develop, focus, and enhance their leadership potential to improve the quality of education for Latino and Hispanic students – along with all students – to ensure student success in the global economy. Seventeen SLA graduates now serve as Superintendents in school district across the U.S. This year-long leadership program, which now includes  is the first of its kind in the U.S to focus on preparing the next generation of school system leaders with the skills necessary to address the needs of our increasingly diverse student population. The SLA trains school system leaders to become superintendents of school districts whose Latino population is 25 percent or higher. Through the work of its graduates, the program has shaped educational programs that reach more than 8 million students each year, and provides ongoing opportunities for these leaders to continue to grow together across the country in key educational convenings. Through our work with ALAS, the Center seeks to understand ways that ACT can better support the teachers and school leaders we all depend on to help our students thrive and succeed.

Many of the issues faced by students, families and communities can seem too big and too complex to change. Access to high speed internet and technology in rural areas, and for families with lower incomes, is one of those issues. It is reality of modern life that education, banking, and employment opportunities, among other things, often require computer and broadband access. So, how can we develop solutions to improve access to broadband and technology for those who are often left behind, including those who are low-income, older, disabled, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or living in rural communities. We think that one option is collaboration and the ability to leverage available resources, which is why we have been working with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas to address the needs of the residents of Texas Colonias, communities that are among the poorest in the nation, and lack some of the most basic living necessities. The goal of the DO4RGV Demonstration Project is to design and implement an effective model to close the homework gap and increase digital equity for underserved families in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas through a community-led partnership between the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, CEL, the University of Texas RGV, Capital One Bank, Region One Educational Service Center, La Joya ISD, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJ) ISD, City of Pharr, City of McAllen, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Health and Human Services Commission, the Small Business Administration, Verizon, Dell, and other partners. We are proud to facilitate and support a community impact project that helps address digital equity and in 2018 is looking to involve the surrounding communities into this project.

ACT’s commitment to diversity includes our commitment to inclusion and our desire to keep learning. To that end, the Center works in partnership with ACT’s Talent Strategy department to create experiential learning trips that bring ACT staff into schools and colleges to better understand the experiences of students. In the past year, ACT staff have traveled to meet with students, educators and community organization leaders in Chicago, and in community colleges in Iowa that serve large numbers of students from families with lower incomes, working learners, and who are the first in their families to attend college. Each visit has provided insights and perspectives on the challenges underserved students face on a daily basis, and ways that ACT can adapt to improve educational opportunities for these students.

When we launched the Center for Equity in Learning one year ago, we knew that we were taking the first steps in a long, challenging and rewarding journey. We took those first steps in the company of people and organizations that share our commitment to create a more just and equitable world. And as we look back on the road we have traveled, we want to thank our partners and collaborators for all that they have done to help us learn and grown, and for the work we have done together to make a difference in the world. We have more to do, together, so let’s get ready for our second year and the adventures that await! In each of these partnerships, we are happy to work with partners who believe, like we do, that every person deserves a fair chance to succeed.