Casey Fellow in Focus: Helping Kids Meet Early Milestones in Michigan

Posted October 30, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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Six­teen diverse, vision­ary lead­ers recent­ly grad­u­at­ed from the Casey Foundation’s Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Fel­low­ship®. Their expe­ri­ences demon­strate what Fel­lows can accom­plish when they apply the tools and com­pe­ten­cies of Results Count™ — the Foundation’s results-based lead­er­ship approach — to achieve mea­sur­able results in child well-being.

Meet one of the grad­u­ates: Kris­ten McDon­ald, a CEO with a mis­sion in Mid­land, Michigan.

McDon­ald just wrapped up her first year at the helm of Greater Mid­land, a non­prof­it and net­work of com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters devot­ed to build­ing health­i­er lives through recre­ation, social ser­vices and well­ness expe­ri­ences. From the get-go, she has encour­aged her col­leagues to think about their work in terms of how it improves people’s lives. She’s also giv­en the com­mu­ni­ty a voice — and an open ear.

We invit­ed com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to share their hopes and dreams for their chil­dren,” McDon­ald recalls. Our shared tar­get — that all chil­dren at the fam­i­ly cen­ters are healthy and thriv­ing — res­onat­ed with everyone.”

As a Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Fel­low, McDon­ald was deter­mined to help more of the chil­dren in her fam­i­ly cen­ters meet devel­op­men­tal mile­stones. In eight short months, she did just that, increas­ing the pro­por­tion of kids who hit pre-kinder­garten mile­stones from 85% to more than 95% by June 2017.

The Fel­low­ship gave us a frame­work to be laser-focused on our result, a com­mon lan­guage among staff, par­ents and ser­vice providers, and a way to approach data that wasn’t threat­en­ing and didn’t take the heart out of our work.”

McDon­ald and her team tracked teacher and stu­dent atten­dance as well as stu­dent achieve­ment, and they reviewed the data every two weeks. By iden­ti­fy­ing who was lag­ging, they built deep­er part­ner­ships with those stu­dents’ fam­i­lies. They also indi­vid­u­al­ized home­work bags, devel­oped teacher plans for each class­room with emer­gent learn­ers and tar­get­ed pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment — among oth­er strategies.

As a results cul­ture was tak­ing hold at Greater Mid­land, McDon­ald coached her staff through the basics, such as set­ting pro­gram-lev­el results, per­for­mance mea­sures and mea­sure­ment vehi­cles. She shared three rules to her make her peo­ple more com­fort­able with change: 1) accept that it’s going to be messy; 2) accept that it’s okay to make mis­takes; and 3) just dive in and try it.

Meet the rest of the class: Includ­ing McDon­ald, 16 lead­ers took part in Class 10 of the Fel­low­ship. Learn about all of them.

Like the Fel­lows who have pre­ced­ed them, these 16 women and men are dynam­ic lead­ers who share a mis­sion and a pas­sion to make things bet­ter for young peo­ple using a results frame­work,” says Bar­bara Squires, the Foundation’s direc­tor of Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment. It’s sat­is­fy­ing to help them set their sights even high­er and real­ize their vision for the chil­dren and fam­i­lies they serve.”

The Foun­da­tion will begin select­ing the next Fel­low­ship class in August 2018.

Learn more about the lead­er­ship lessons of the Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Fellowship

Watch videos about lead­ing for results

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