Strengthening Leadership in Promise Neighborhoods

Posted December 17, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education

A recent­ly released report explores the role of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results Count® frame­work in help­ing fed­er­al Promise Neigh­bor­hoods grantees advance large-scale results for chil­dren and young adults.

The report, based on inter­views with peo­ple involved in the Results Count tech­ni­cal assis­tance pro­gram, describes the work of a unique imple­men­ta­tion part­ner­ship that includes the U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, the Urban Insti­tute, the Cen­ter for the Study of Social Pol­i­cy and the Foundation.

The Promise Neigh­bor­hoods pro­gram requires lead­ers who have the skills and tools for achiev­ing mea­sur­able, equi­table results for chil­dren and youth,” says Bar­bara Squires, direc­tor of Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment at the Foun­da­tion. This report shows the ben­e­fits and chal­lenges of using the Results Count approach to build lead­er­ship capac­i­ty in Promise Neigh­bor­hoods and oth­er com­plex, cross-sec­tor initiatives.”

An empha­sis on data

The Promise Neigh­bor­hoods pro­gram seeks to devel­op solu­tions that sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve edu­ca­tion­al and devel­op­men­tal out­comes for chil­dren and youth in low-income com­mu­ni­ties. Defin­ing fea­tures of the pro­gram include an empha­sis on data, evi­dence and a require­ment that grantees pro­pose and imple­ment solu­tions to improve 10 large-scale results — such as stu­dents suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion from mid­dle school grades to high school — span­ning cra­dle to career,” with each result mea­sured by one or more indicators.

Sev­en fed­er­al grantees, both urban and rur­al, par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Promise Neigh­bor­hoods Results Count pro­gram in 20182019. Each grantee select­ed five key part­ners to par­tic­i­pate in three two-day sem­i­nars over eight months that focused on lead­er­ship skills and strat­e­gy devel­op­ment and implementation.

To make the Results Count learn­ing expe­ri­ence more man­age­able, all teams were asked to focus on one result (stu­dents suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion from mid­dle school grades to high school) and its indi­ca­tors (the aver­age dai­ly atten­dance rate and the chron­ic absen­teeism rate for stu­dents in sixth through ninth grades).

Accord­ing to the report, the Results Count top­ics and skills most val­ued by sem­i­nar par­tic­i­pants included:

  • Data — using quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive data as a tool to under­stand the effec­tive­ness of strate­gies for var­i­ous pop­u­la­tions of stu­dents and how to improve those strategies.
  • Results in the Cen­ter — a process for iden­ti­fy­ing the sec­tors (such as edu­ca­tion and busi­ness) and the part­ners able to influ­ence a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion to high school.
  • Dis­tinc­tion between results for a pro­gram and larg­er-scale results for a whole group of peo­ple, or pop­u­la­tion”— rec­og­niz­ing that the achieve­ment of desired results for tar­get pop­u­la­tions goes beyond any sin­gle pro­gram­mat­ic inter­ven­tion and requires mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines, cross-orga­ni­za­tion­al work and com­mu­ni­ty involvement.
  • Fac­tor analy­sis — unpack­ing the pro­grams, poli­cies, sys­tems, beliefs and behav­iors that pro­mote or con­strain improve­ment in results.
  • Account­abil­i­ty Path­way — encour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pants to think about indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive account­abil­i­ty while keep­ing com­mit­ments and act­ing with urgency to improve results for chil­dren and families.

A valu­able experience

Oth­er less tan­gi­ble, but still impor­tant, ben­e­fits cit­ed by par­tic­i­pants includ­ed hav­ing local part­ners, par­tic­u­lar­ly school and dis­trict lead­ers, attend the sem­i­nars. One inter­vie­wee said that the site’s part­ners became almost like our cham­pi­ons when we came back home.… Any­body who’s pret­ty much joined us in the ses­sion, they go back with a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of and deep­er under­stand­ing of what a Promise Neigh­bor­hood is.”

Too much con­tent and too lit­tle time” were among the chal­lenges cit­ed by pro­gram par­tic­i­pants and imple­men­ta­tion part­ners. Many inter­vie­wees said six days of sem­i­nars was an insuf­fi­cient amount of time to ful­ly grasp and inter­nal­ize all of the Results Count tools, con­cepts and skills. More­over, the time con­straints severe­ly lim­it­ed dis­cus­sion of Results-Based Facil­i­ta­tion™, one of Results Count’s two foun­da­tion­al skills.

Despite these and oth­er chal­lenges, the report con­clud­ed that many par­tic­i­pants found the Results Count pro­gram a valu­able expe­ri­ence that con­nect­ed them with col­leagues doing sim­i­lar work, pro­vid­ed impor­tant tools and frame­works to sup­port Promise Neigh­bor­hoods pro­gram imple­men­ta­tion, and encour­aged them to think dif­fer­ent­ly about their ulti­mate goals (i.e., large-scale results) and how to achieve them.”

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