Perspectives: The Early Literacy Action Network

By Christine Hammes and Gordon Goodwin, MAP for Nonprofits
Early Literacy Action Network Facilitators

MAP for NonprofitsWhat happens when a region that prides itself on a responsible business sector, a mobilized nonprofit sector, excellent schools, responsive government and a smart and caring citizenship discovers a large divide between what white children are achieving and what students of color are achieving?

In the case of the Twin Cities, Generation Next is what happens. Generation Next is the Twin Cities’ all-in approach to addressing the divide, a divide that is the worst in the nation and a divide that all involved agree is an educational and community crisis.

As facilitators of the Early Literacy Action Network, we’re excited to play a part in closing the divide. The action network we facilitate will bring together a large group of community stakeholders dedicated to accelerating the educational achievements for all of our children. The Early Literacy Action Network will be responsible for analyzing local data and developing action plans to identify, replicate and scale best practices to ensure kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading success for all children.

Here’s what excites us about this work.

  • The imperative, the absolute mandate we share to give this our all. As facilitators, our role is to harness the energy of a wide range of smart, diverse people in focusing on results.
  • The bold goals. The Early Literacy goals are that every child will be ready for kindergarten and will meet key benchmarks for 3rd grade reading success. These literacy goals are nationally accepted and well researched standards that clearly contribute to success in later life. We will tirelessly pursue approaches and programs that are working in Twin Cities schools and shine a light on these efforts for replication.
  • The shared understanding that children’s educational success is the result of complex adaptive systems. There’s no formulaic or simple fix, but data can help us better understand what is working and shine a light on these efforts for replication.
  • The incentive. The incentive is that our children, our families, our communities will benefit from this work. There’s no promise of additional financial resources at the end of this rainbow. The discipline of working to leverage existing resources will be the mother of everyone’s invention.
  • The envisioned process, with the right amount of structure and an emergence mindset. We’ll ask participants in the Early Literacy Action Network to stay rigorously grounded in the data while remaining curious and inventive in addressing the gaps.


A New Model of Collaboration

Our Early Literacy Action Network will employ a new model of collaboration, based upon the successes of the National Strive Network, which programs produced positive results in more than 20 metropolitan school districts. During Strive’s first five years in Greater Cincinnati, it achieved positive improvements in 40 of 53 educational outcomes, including a 9 percent rise in kindergarten readiness; an 11 percent increase in high school graduation and a 10 percent increase in college enrollment.

With the Early Literacy Action Network, we’ll be creating a space where many multidisciplinary and multicultural partners can come together and use proven methodology. We’re likely to start small, aim for early wins, measure results and foster continuous improvement.

Closing the Achievement Gap

Will it work?

There’s good reason to believe it will. The Generation Next Partnership has assembled all the right ingredients. This is an unparalleled initiative with dedicated partners. We’re likely to have as many as 40 partners in our Early Literacy Action Network. The partners bring a wide variety of gifts and dedication. They want all of our children to succeed.

We’ll be working side-by-side with a proven model, Strive. We’ll have the benefits of their experience.

As facilitators, we’ll help participants understand the framework and criteria, prepare their own charter and problem statement, make sense of data, and follow lines of inquiry. Finally, we’ll help them to create an action plan that includes continuous improvement.

The gap we seek to close isn’t small. But the partnership assembled and the initiative launched isn’t small either. We don’t expect simple solutions. But we do expect solutions that will be implemented, measured, and improved upon. There’s no reason we can’t achieve it. Our kids count on that level of determination.

Meet the facilitators:

Christine Hammes

Christine Hammes

Goodwin Gordon

Goodwin Gordon

SIF 2015