Evidence-based programs alone will not allow us to reach our goal of 80% third grade reading proficiency by 2025. We also must pay attention to the systems conditions in which these programs operate. Systems are not broken. They are perfectly aligned to get the results we are achieving now. If we want to get different results we have to understand and shift the system dynamics.
A system is comprised of three elements: the parts, the connections, and the purpose. A focus on programs alone (“the parts”) fatally ignores the impact of the rest of system (the connections and the purpose). According to the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to focus on program adoption without addressing the whole system limits our programmatic impact to about 5%-15% of the population we seek to serve.
We use the ABLe Change Framework to identify systems issues that must be addressed in order to reach our goal of 80% of third graders reading on grade level by 2025. In January 2016 we brought together over 100 people for a two-day workshop to train them in systems thinking. In March and April we partnered with three-dozen nonprofit agencies to survey over 3,000 families, students, educators, nonprofits and funders to do a “system scan.” The United Way of Central Carolinas held over 30 small group “community conversations” with families, educators, and students to dive deeper into these issues.
In May we brought back the participants from the January workshop for another two-day training to make sense of the system information we collected. In June we convened our working groups to identify five systems change goals. In July we solicited feedback from the local community on these goals. In August 2016 we worked with our working groups to finalize our initial set of systems change goals and objectives.
OBJECTIVE 1: Early learning programs and schools provide regular information to families about their child’s reading progress in a timely manner.
OBJECTIVE 2: Early learning programs and schools provide families with specific information about their child’s reading development needs and possible supportive actions to take at home.
OBJECTIVE 3: Early learning programs and schools offer culturally responsive family language and literacy activities at times that are convenient for families.
OBJECTIVE 4: Families provide early learning programs and schools with questions or information about their concerns related to their child’s reading progress in a timely manner.
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