Category: Education Matters

Designing Advisory to Strengthen Student Pathways

The All IN! Coalition steering committee – with members from Hartford Public Schools, city of Hartford, Hartford Consortium for Higher Education, Hartford Promise, Capital Workforce Partners, Metro Hartford Alliance and Achieve Hartford – always recognized that its goals are ambitious, and that each is dependent on the previous one.

Post-secondary completion goals cannot be reached without major progress towards post-secondary enrollment goals, which in turn are unlikely to be reached without major progress towards high school graduation goals.

For months, members discussed what the district highlighted as a challenge of ensuring all students have a high-quality student success plan. An idea began to form around how neighborhood high schools could tap external resources to ensure students had a plan for succeeding in high school through post-secondary completion.  In response, the Advisory & Student Success Plan action team was launched.

All IN!’s newest Advisory action team is ready to utilize the high school advisory block as a vehicle for relationship building, academic success and overall college and career readiness.

Advisory programs are not new, but they often go unsupported or not well-organized, leaving some to believe the dedicated block of time could be better spent on instruction. During advisory, teachers meet with small student groups – usually for a shorter time than a typical class- to advise them on academic, social, or future-planning topics.

The broad purpose of advisory is to strengthen connectedness between adults and students to ensure every student has someone they can count on in order to access the support they need to graduate on time, connected to their learning and their futures.

Planning and research of best practices has been underway from the start of fall 2018 with implementation planned for January 2019 at the co-located Journalism and Media Academy and High School Inc., on the Barbour Street campus.

The team being led by co-chairs, Susan Johnston, teacher at JMA and Kevin Timbro, financial analyst at United Healthcare and industry advisory board member at High School Inc. is focused on bringing private sector resources – nonprofit, corporate, and higher ed – to support and complement what teachers have the time and capacity to do.

Building this out in one school with one group of students can pave the way for getting the support to every high school student later on.

With an early objective of scaling the pilot to reach all high schoolers at the new Weaver in August of 2019, the program this winter/spring will provide students with academic interventions, social/emotional supports, cultural competency training, financial literacy, career exposure, and other preparation for standards-based internship experiences.

An intentionally designed advisory with a developed vision statement, strong partnerships and collaboration are hoped to be the key elements in increasing student college- and career-readiness outcomes.

We’ll keep you posted on the team’s progress as the initiative gets underway.

Newest Team Launch: The Work-Based Learning Network

Despite all the providers knowing each other, internship programs still operate in silos with their own sets of career competencies, and employers still feel students are not as prepared for internships as they ought to be. That’s why the ALL IN! Coalition recently launched a work-based learning network that’s asking all providers to agree on one set of career competency standards.  Here’s an update.

A work-based learning environment links workplace tasks to academic and non-academic skill-building in the hopes of moving students up the ladder of college and career readiness.  Internship experiences bridge the divide between classroom learning and its application in the workplace, while also cultivating soft skills and post-secondary aspirations. For the employers that take on high school students during the summer or school year, the benefits are stronger connections to a pipeline of future skilled workers, deeper employee engagement, and ideally valuable interns.

But creating rich environments for work-based learning experiences that benefit the student and employer is easier said than done. Employers often cite concerns about their commitment to high quality and efficiency competing with their capacity to develop a raw and inexperienced young person, while high schools note that there is not enough time in the day to better prepare students.

Addressing this problem is the focus for the new All IN! Work-Based Learning Network that is bringing together a group of private sector leaders to agree on one set of standards to govern all internship programs for in-school youth in the city. The first major goal is to produce a toolkit that internship providers and employers can utilize. Once quality is being addressed, the goal will be connecting more young people with high quality work experiences.

Capital Workforce Partners is convening the network that right now consists of nonprofit providers and a handful of employers and that will soon begin working with another ALL IN! team setting up an advisory period during one high school’s day that can focus on career competencies directly.

The silo-breaking on this key issue of work-based learning program quality has begun, and if you are not part of it but would like to be, please reach out to the ALL IN! Coalition via [email protected].  More updates to come.

Who is Hartford’s Private Sector: Vicki Gallon Clark

Hartford Public Schools (HPS) and Blue Hills Civic Association (BHCA) formed an unprecedented partnership about a year and a half ago to co-lead the Weaver High School Steering Committee in order to engage the community in school design work more deeply than ever before. Phase I of the Weaver Redesign work produced recommendations that were developed by the school district, nonprofit organizations, higher ed, parents, students, and the business community. Four teams were asked to develop a bold vision and a set of recommendations for the highest quality high school students in North Hartford deserve.  Why is this important?

When a Weaver High School valedictorian arrived at UConn, he discovered he wasn’t as prepared for college as he, a straight-A student, expected. He struggled and considered dropping out. Instead, he received support and persevered. He’ll be graduating and heading to medical school next year. He told leaders of the Weaver 2019 steering committee that no student should graduate from a Hartford high school being so ill-prepared for college-level work.

This young man’s plea drives Vicki Gallon-Clark, co-chair of the Weaver 2019 steering committee and deputy director of the Blue Hills Civic Association. Clark, along with other private sector volunteers from the corporate, higher education and nonprofit communities, is has looked at best practices in high schools nationwide.

Despite a demanding full-time job, Clark says her volunteer work with Weaver 2019 has been rewarding and fulfilling.

“We’ve gone through an intensive process. Each of the four work groups has found new practices that if implemented can turn high school in Hartford around,” she says. When it reopens in August of 2019, “Weaver High School can serve as the model to other city high schools and the surrounding areas and towns. It can even get to the point where it’s a national model.”

“Because so many of the recommendations approach the school from a holistic standpoint, there is room for a lot of private sector folks to engage in the work going forward,” she says. Health professionals could contribute ideas that embed health and wellness practices right into the school for students, families and teachers. Other professionals could design ways for every Weaver family to navigate the daunting and complicated college and financial aid application process. The need is great but so is the capacity of our three sectors to develop solutions.

One piece of the vision is for Weaver to act as a community hub that offers resources and services to the entire community, Clark says. This includes a safe place for students to get help with homework, college applications and life skills. It should also provide a place for families to eat meals together, followed by classes for parents and enrichment activities for students.

“In this process so far, we’ve learned from each other,” Clark says. “It’s understanding our differences that makes this thing work. I’m driven by a need to do this. I’m going to make a positive contribution to this process.


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