Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability

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The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act ushered in a new era of accountability in American education: for the first time, schools were held responsible for improving student achievement across all demographic groups.

Yet there has always been a concern about holding only the schools themselves accountable for student success — especially given the profound impact of poverty on student achievement.

Instead of putting the entire achievement burden on schools, what would it look like to hold a whole community responsible for long-range student outcomes? How can accountability for youth development, health, and safety — as well as for academic achievement — be shared by non-profits, public non-school agencies, foundations, cities, corporations, and others?

In Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability, authors Kelly Bathgate, Richard Lee Colvin, and Elena Silva look at communities that are working to create these shared accountability systems. In particular, the authors highlight the work of the Strive Partnership of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky.

Made up of more than 300 civic groups, businesses, nonprofits, colleges, public agencies, and philanthropies, Strive “coordinates every service and support that children and adolescents need, at every stage of their education and development,” the authors write. Put simply, these organizations are all dedicated to seeing students succeed, from cradle to career. Although many communities provide these services, what’s different about Strive and other such partnerships is their shared goals—and the acceptance of joint responsibility for meeting those goals.

Already, the results of the Strive effort are impressive. In one particularly bright finding, the authors report that the percentage of children who come to kindergarten ready to learn has risen substantially in Cincinnati as well as in Newport and Covington, the two Kentucky communities that are also part of Strive.

The Obama administration’s Promise Neighborhoods program, which encourages communities to build a continuum of services for children and youth, is centered on this sort of comprehensive, community-wide approach to student success. Perhaps the best known example is the Harlem Children’s Zone, which links a variety of children’s services, including schools, in a 100-block area in New York City. A growing number of other communities are establishing community partnerships, as well.

But, as the authors note, no one should underestimate the work involved in making such programs succeed. “Making shared accountability more than notional poses technical, operational, political, and financial challenges,” the authors write. “Such systems require engaging multiple players in decisions about priorities, resource allocation, performance measures, responsibilities, and consequences for participating organizations if performance lags.”

This report provides an in-depth look at where shared accountability works, and on how other communities can use this approach to help all students succeed.

This report was funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Education Sector thanks the foundation for their support. The views expressed in the paper are those of the authors alone.