Supporting Youth Organizing: A Tale of Unexpected Insights


In August 2016, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) commissioned Algorhythm to conduct an evaluation of eight (out of the twelve they were funding at the time) Amplifying Student Voice and Leadership (ASVL) grantees so they could learn more about their efforts supporting youth organizing work over a five-year period. Through this study, we have gained three key insights, many unexpected, that might support other grantmakers as they consider how to support youth-led social change initiatives.

Thanks to the Algorhythm study—and several other simultaneous studies it commissioned, in which racial equity emerged as a core theme—NMEF is realizing that it will need to address equity more directly, specifically when it comes to supporting youth organizing work. We have developed this issue brief for funders who support youth organizing groups or those considering doing so, and we hope the insights shared can help any donor trying to develop effective youth-adult partnerships.

Supporting youth organizations means creating space for youth to name and advance their own agendas.

Youth Organizing: A Model for Change


In August 2016, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation launched an evaluation of our Amplifying Student Voice and Leadership (ASVL) grantees to learn more about their efforts over a five-year period. This evaluation is representative of eight youth organizing groups. Through this study, the Foundation learned that different types of youth organizing models the grantees were using were producing distinct results and promoting various levels of leadership.

These findings—summarized in this brief report—helped the Foundation learn about different models of organizing and their potential for sustainable change. We have developed this issue brief for youth and their adult allies in youth organizing groups, as well others who are interested in learning more about youth organizing. We hope this will help you reflect on your youth organizing model so that you can continue to grow and improve it.

The success of movements around the world is the result of skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate individuals who have been prepared to assume the responsibility to lead.

The Better Math Teaching Network: Lessons Learned from the First Year

American Institutes for Research

Far too many students are disengaged in understanding algebra. Since Algebra I is the gatekeeper to advanced math and science coursework, this seriously limits their future educational and career opportunities.

The Better Math Teaching Network (BMTN) is a networked improvement community of New England researchers, teachers, and instructional leaders who are using improvement science principles to increase the number of students deeply and actively engaged in understanding algebra. The BMTN’s quick-cycle testing allows teachers to refine and share student-centered instructional routines across the network. This report details the findings from the BMTN’s first full year of implementation. 

BMTN is firmly committed to creating student-centered algebra classrooms in which students are actively and deeply engaged in understanding the content.

Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education


Competency-based learning is on the rise in high schools across America. This new report outlines four key issues issues – quality, equity, meeting students where they are, and policy – that are critical to enabling competency education to scale with quality and sustainability.

Designing for equity and quality is the only path forward to creating an education system that is effective for every student, not just for some. If we fail to do so, students will not receive the education they so deeply deserve and as a movement competency-based education may falter.

The Landscape Analysis of Personalized Learning in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech (MAPLE) Consortium

Personalized learning seeks to accelerate student learning by tailoring the instructional environment – the what, when, how and where students learn – to address the individual needs, skills and interests of each student. This Landscape Analysis will provide a baseline on which to develop metrics to measure progress in personalizing learning in Massachusetts districts, identify school exemplars to share successful practices with educators, inform public discussions about educational priorities, and assist organizations in supporting the transformation of learning and teaching practices in Massachusetts to better prepare all students for their futures.

Massachusetts districts are embracing strategies to personalize learning in order to differentiate instruction, better engage students, and meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body.

Leadership Competencies for Learner-Centered, Personalized Education

Jobs for the Future and the Council of Chief State School Officers

The Leadership Competencies for Learner-Centered, Personalized Education (Leadership Competencies) serve as a first step in identifying the knowledge, skills, and dispositions leaders must master in order to build and sustain learner-centered, personalized schools and learning environments. The hope is that these competencies serve as a helpful step toward building present- and future-focused systems of education in which each student can fulfill their learning potential and head into postsecondary life ready to succeed in their careers and communities.

To develop and support effective leaders in education today, we must renew and refocus our attention on learning and the learner. While this may not sound radical, if we scratch the surface of this call, we'll find a need for transformational leadership.

How Family, School, and Community Engagement Can Improve Student Achievement and Influence School Reform

Lacy Wood and Emily Bauman

Family engagement is increasingly recognized as a critical link in advancing school reform efforts, and the current emphasis on successful strategies for school turnaround necessitates research-based information and practices on effective family and community engagement approaches that support student achievement and school improvement.
To assist in the goal of understanding how family and community partnerships can promote school improvement efforts, this literature review strives to address the following questions:

1. What are the key components (practices, challenges, conditions, goals, and outcomes) of promising family-school partnerships that support school- and district-level reform?

2. How do promising partnerships involve families and communities in education reform?

These findings reveal that there is a demonstrable connection between family engagement, school improvement, and student outcomes. Schools and districts should focus not only on family engagement, but also on establishing strong partnerships and relationships with families and communities.

An Introduction to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education

Chris Sturgis and Susan Patrick

As our understanding of competency-based education has grown, so has our understanding of critical issues that must be addressed in order to ensure high quality implementation and equitable access and outcomes. To chart the course for the next wave of innovation, implementation, and expansion in competency education, CompetencyWorks will convene the second National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. In advance of the Summit, they have released new draft reports exploring key issues challenging the field of competency education:

The issues of equity, quality, policy for the long-term, and meeting students where they are, are all important to expanding the field of competency education.

Online Courses For Credit Recovery In High Schools: Effectiveness And Promising Practices

UMass Donahue Institute

Two important trends in American high school education are providing new opportunities for underserved students to access a high school diploma. Over the past decade, credit acceleration and recovery programs have become increasingly popular as schools seek ways to help struggling students catch up and graduate. Second, online learning has quickly gained traction as an alternate means of instructional delivery for high school students. Online credit recovery represents the convergence of these two innovations, offering flexible learning options for students with diverse learning needs.


How effective is online credit recovery at increasing student engagement and achievement? This study examines 24 Massachusetts high schools that developed credit recovery programs, and provides insights and best practices for teachers and districts looking to implement them.

High schools and programs participating in the MassGrad initiative have demonstrated that offering online courses for credit recovery can improve key educational outcomes for underserved students.

Low-Stakes Completion-Based Funding: A New Approach to Financing Competency-Based Education

Florida SouthWestern State College

While many states do not view online charter schools as an area for innovation within existing charter school regulations, New Hampshire has leapt into uncharted state policy and experimented with new pathways towards increasing student success by developing a unique funding system called “low-stakes completion-based funding”. This report looks to explore this model and inform state and school leaders of new possibilities for financing student learning in their virtual school sectors. 

New Hampshire has developed a unique approach to performance-based budgeting—called completion-based funding (CBF) —that seeks to improve student outcomes by funding schools when students complete assignments rather than when they enroll in or attend classes.