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How Many Meetings Would You Go to for $40 million?

December 11, 2012

You know those really long planning processes that drive everyone crazy? Where you sit there and wonder if this is a good use of everyone’s time? Where you’re building partnerships that you’re sure will be valuable, well, sometime maybe – because there doesn’t seem to be any immediate impact?

Sometimes those pay off. This week it paid off big for a consortium of seven school districts in the Seattle area, who had spent the past two years together planning a common agenda, setting up meetings between district leaders, increasing their communication, and planning for how to share data. Those seven districts, under the banner of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, won the largest award possible in the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top – District competition: $40 million.

Those seven districts are part of The Road Map Project, a collective impact cradle-to-college and career initiative working across sectors to dramatically improve educational outcomes for students. This collaboration, of hundreds of education and non-education sector players, started working together long before RTTT-District was announced; and their work building trust was the key to quickly putting together a high quality regional plan that everyone could back.

The granted project has three major components:

Start Strong – Support early learning, including helping districts and preschools work together to get children Kindergarten ready

STEM Strong – Dive deep on science and math ability, and encourage careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields

Stay Strong – Help more students prepare for and be successful in postsecondary education

The grant also meets minimum federal requirements:

  • Strong focus on personalizing education
  • Stronger teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations by 2014
  • Implementation of Common Core State Standards complete by the 2014-15 school year
  • Transparent reporting of data and school-level expenditures

Additionally, the consortium’s commitments go beyond the minimum federal requirements:

  • Provide all high-need elementary students with a summer reading plan
  • Double the number of students taking algebra or higher by the end of eighth grade
  • Help all eighth-grade students complete a personalized plan to be college- and career-ready

The foundation, in partnership with over a dozen Seattle-area local funders, is proud to support this work and applauds the hard work that’s gone into this collaboration.  As says the African proverb, which is printed boldly on the walls of the Gates Foundation offices: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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