The Providence Children and Youth Cabinet
By 
Angela Romans and Rebecca Boxx
Angela Romans is a principal associate in district redesign and leadership at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR). Rebecca Boxx is a principal associate at AISR and director of the Children and Youth Cabinet in Providence, Rhode Island.

While the battle rages at the national and local level about education reform and the most effective way to introduce change, a diverse group of stakeholders in Providence, Rhode Island, are collaborating in innovative ways to address the issue of college and career readiness. 

The Providence Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC) is a coalition of more than seventy agencies and institutions dedicated to improving results for the city’s youngest residents from cradle to career. One of the CYC’s work groups, High School to College and Career (HSCC), represents higher education, community-based youth development and college access organizations, business/workforce development, the public school district, the state education department, and other stakeholders. Led by AISR’s Angela Romans and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT’s Stephanie Geller, HSCC’s goal is to generate real-world solutions to support college readiness. The group has supported the district’s participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA Completion Project and developed communications tools for a district campaign around new, more challenging and controversial state high school graduation requirements. With the CYC housed at AISR, Providence is able to learn and apply lessons directly from the College Readiness Indicator Systems project, described in this issue of VUE.

VUE 38 author Angela Romans shares existing College Readiness models that use the case management strategy and examples of how data sharing would work for an individual student.

Two innovative approaches gaining traction in Providence have implications for other communities embarking upon a collective college readiness strategy. The first is a unique mechanism to share student-level data in order to tailor community-based and school-based supports for college-bound students. For decades, the inability of youth-serving agencies to understand the needs of their clients has lead to a “spray and pray” approach to programs and services with limited impact. Under a partnership service agreement with Providence Public Schools (PPSD) and using a new district data platform developed by Richer Picture, a software developer that helps schools to use technology to personalize teaching and learning, a consortium of HSCC members will not only be able to access data in real time to provide services, but will also reciprocate by providing the school department information to evaluate the effectiveness of different interventions. 

VUE 38 author Rebecca Boxx describes what it would take to execute the case management model at scale and whether she's encountered any resistance to either the case management strategy or data sharing.

This approach has allowed another innovation to emerge: a case management strategy for college readiness. Often employed in a mental health or family stability context, case management is also effective in bringing together partners to provide wraparound supports for students. In this system, HSCC members will intentionally provide specific supports aligned to students’ personal graduation plans, focusing on college readiness. The vision for a case management model for college and career readiness at PPSD came initially from Superintendent Susan Lusi. In its execution, the case management model will build the framework for what AISR refers to as a extLink.png​ smart education system – a school district and multiple cross-sector stakeholders working in partnership to provide a comprehensive web of opportunities and supports for its students, inside and outside of schools – focused on college readiness. 

The potential benefits of the innovations are many. With real-time data and a case management system, organizations can tailor their services more effectively to meet students’ needs, prioritize delivery to the neediest students and schools, and better document and quantify their impact.

The school district can finally understand which students are being served by the wide range of community organizations working in schools, evaluate which services are working well for kids, and identify and fill gaps in student supports and interventions. The model puts the district in a position to truly achieve college readiness for all by equitably matching school and community supports and interventions with student needs across the district. 

We do anticipate challenges with these innovations. PPSD, like most urban districts, is stretched thin in many ways and may face capacity issues around coordinating the case management model at scale. Funding to support the ongoing use of Richer Picture data past a one-year pilot is still being sought. And many in the district are feeling the strain of the new high school graduation requirements, which could be seen by some as a competing priority to preparing students for college. 

As a cradle-to-career collective, however, CYC’s HSCC work group members are helping keep the conversation focused past the immediate urgency in the district around high school graduation rates toward a broader vision for college and career readiness for all. Through pioneering college readiness case management buttressed by access to real-time, student-level data, we are building a system to ensure that our children and youth have equitable access to myriad community resources to prepare them for post-secondary opportunities and life in the twenty-first century.