The Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County recently hosted a day-long event to explore “community data sharing”. The meeting was organized by the Measurement Action Team (MAT) of the Coalition and was facilitated by Dr. Frank Ridzi of the CNY Community Foundation and Jeff Craig, Assistant Superintendent of Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES. Apter & O’Connor Associates led the initial formation of the Coalition back in 2006 and has been excited to see the organization implement many activities since then designed to improve literacy rates across the County. The purpose of this meeting was to consider a shared data mechanism for improving literacy services and position the community for funding opportunities. Dianne Apter attended this invitation-only meeting which featured over forty representatives from key “data keepers” and “data needers”. The Syracuse City School District, Onondaga County Department of Social Services, the Central New York Regional Information Center Data Warehouse and Childcare Solutions each shared the data they have available and the processes for accessing and potentially sharing that information. Following lunch, participants heard a presentation by Dr. Serge Lossa about the Comet System ® a web-based data management tool developed by Children’s Institute of Rochester, NY and their technology partner SophiTEC. The platform has capabilities for individual and aggregate analysis and reporting for a wide variety of child and family variables, using different levels of data sharing complexity. Participants were very positive in their reflections about the meeting and the Literacy Coalition is committed to building on this momentum. It could prove to be the beginning of a community-wide data platform that could provide valuable information for evaluation and program improvement efforts as well as strengthen collaborations and funding applications.
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and Literacy Powerline teamed up earlier this month to host the National Conference on Family Literacy at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville KY. This event hosted educators, administrators, literacy advocates and community leaders and funding organizations for two and a half days of knowledge sharing and strategizing on how to reach 100% community literacy. Cynthia O’Connor and Dianne Apter were pleased to attend as part of the Literacy Powerline team. They presented two workshops on Evaluating Coalitions. Both workshops were well received and have resulted in ongoing discussions with several groups from across the country working to utilize coalitions and collaborations to strengthen their local literacy programming.
Conference key-note speakers included:
- James Patterson, best-selling author and founder of ReadKiddoRead.com
- Eepy Bird, the dynamic duo behind the “Mentos and Diet Coke” viral videos
- Susan Pimentel, lead writer of the Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy
- C.C. Chapman, author, speaker, motivator and digital dad
An exciting highlight of the conference occurred at the closing banquet celebration when NCFL and the U.S. Department of Education announced a partnership to advance family engagement in education across the country. The partnership will extend the Department of Education’s efforts on family engagement and NCFL’s track record of more than 20 years of providing tools and resources for educators and parents to create engaging lifelong learning opportunities for the entire family.
“Increasing family engagement is key to improving schools and neighborhoods across the country. Parents who play an active role in their children’s education – at home, at school and in the community – have a tremendous impact on factors like school readiness, motivation to learn, and study skills, as well as on high school graduation rates and college preparedness,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We hope this partnership with NCFL will provide much needed support for efforts that will increase family and community engagement in local schools and prepare our children for lifelong success.”
Throughout the yearlong partnership, the Department and NCFL will work to develop and implement strategies to create effective family and community engagement in education and to promote community-wide collaboration to improve student engagement and learning.
The Salvation Army has received a funding award from the Central New York Community Foundation to develop an internal evaluation plan for the Family Place Visitation Program. Family Place was established 6 years ago to reduce the length of stay for children in foster care by providing the necessary supports parents need, including supervised visitation and parenting skill development. The needs of the families and the services provided are quite variable and complex which presented a challenge to determining feasible performance measures. Apter & O’Connor has been asked to facilitate a series of conversations with a stakeholder group to develop the organizational capacity for Family Place to systematically track, measure and report program implementation and its impact on children and families. A&O will lead the group in developing a logic model of Family Place that communicates the relationships between needs, activities outputs and outcomes including benchmarks indicating progress. From there A&O will lead the group in creating an ongoing internal evaluation plan designed to provide reliable information to determine fidelity, impact and areas in need of improvement.
The Addison Central School District has selected Apter & O’Connor to conduct the evaluation of their newly funded Innovative Approaches to Literacy, the Read to Learn Project. Addison is one of 46 school districts in the county to be granted this federal Department of Education 2-year grant designed to improve student literacy. The Addison Project began January, 2013 and will serve children in PreK through grade three, including Head Start and focus on reading comprehension and achievement of the Common Core Standards. Apter & O’Connor will use both quantitative and qualitative analysis to determine progress toward goals and ultimate impact of the project.
A&O is pleased to announce it has been granted status as a Women Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) by The NY State Department of Economic Development, Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development. The Certification is used to encourage and assist state agencies to award a fair share of state contracts to Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises. The WBE Certification will give A& O competitive advantages for future contracts and serve as an investment in the future of the firm.
The mission of the Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network is to improve birth outcomes and the region’s overall maternal, child and family health. In partnership with the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, the Network has hired A&O to lead their membership through an 18 month process to develop a plan and measurable indicators for enhanced access and coordination of perinatal services to support their mission. The full Network Kick-off is set for October 2012 with a Leadership team working before hand with A&O to identify current barriers and needs and map existing services. The result of the process is expected to be a multi-year plan to enhance communication, collaboration and coordination among all of the involved stakeholders, including providers of health and supportive services for the community’s most vulnerable families. http://www.newfamily.org/
The Onondaga County Health Department (OCHD) administers the Early Intervention (EI) and Preschool Special Education (PSE) programs within their county. EI and PSE are both mandated programs guided by federal and state legislation, regulation and policy to provide education and therapeutic evaluations and services for children birth to age 5 with disabilities and developmental delays. OCHD released an RFP in late 2011 and awarded a contract A&O for an operations review to identify steps to improve overall accountability, operational effectiveness and staffing efficiencies within these two important programs. The scope of work included a thorough review and analysis of documents that guide the programs at the state and local levels, interviews, focus groups and surveys with key stakeholders; comparisons of EI/PSE administration and program operations between Onondaga County and other like counties and structured observations of key functions. Data and findings emerging from the all activities were analyzed and synthesized into an exhaustive and coherent set of conclusions and recommendations and presented to the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Fiscal Officer of the Department as well as program directors and staff.
Elaine M. Wolf, PhD, and Renie Kehres, Ph.D join the team at Apter & O’Connor. Dr. Wolf is a sociologist with 25 years of experience in research and evaluation, primarily in the areas of criminal justice, juvenile justice, and health-related interventions. She holds an M.A. and the Ph.D. in Sociology from Temple University and an A.B. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Her professional experience includes the Director of Research at the Center for Community Alternatives (Syracuse and New York City) (1999-2010); Adjunct Professor in the Sociology Department and School of Social Work at Syracuse University (1994-99); Senior Research Associate at the United States Sentencing Commission (1988-92); and Senior Associate at the Institute for Law and Justice (1985-86). Her research has been published in Evaluation Review, Crime and Delinquency; Journal of Drug Issues; and in James Nolan’s edited volume, Drug Courts: In Theory and In Practice. One of Elaine’s first projects with A&O will be the evaluation of the Neighborhood Action Initiative of the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York. She will lend her expertise to the team in evaluation design, qualitative methods including conducting focus groups and interviews , and in the analysis and presentation of data.
Dr. Kehres has a master’s degree in psychiatric mental health nursing and a Ph.D. in Child and Family Studies. She has over thirty years of experience working with children, adolescents and families in various settings. Her specialty interests include youth development, resiliency and strength-based practices and bullying. Before joining Apter and O’Connor, Renie had her own evaluation practice which included a U.S. Department of Education grant (Partnerships in Character Education) with the Utica City School District, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs for the Syracuse City School District, YMCA, Contact Community Services and the School of the HeARTS, and the Genesis Health Project. Renie is currently the Assistant Dean for Student Services and a Professor of Practice in Child and Family Studies in the Falk College at Syracuse University.
We are excited to welcome these two Associates as they bring a wealth of knowledge and evaluation expertise to our firm.
Both Dianne Apter and Cynthia O’Connor enjoyed presenting to graduate students at Syracuse University. The students were hoping to become future entrepreneurs. Cynthia spoke to the class of Dr. John Torrens, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice at the Whitman School of Management. Dianne addressed a graduate student program entitled: How Can You Become an Entrepreneur? Using Your Graduate Education to Start a Business or Non-Profit. Lively discussion and questions followed the presentations and both were very well received. The Associate Director of Graduate Student Career Services, Dr. Rosanne Ecker noted, “I think everyone will remember your declaration of, ‘Passion, professionalism and pragmatism’ as the mantra of starting a small business”.
Driving with Data: How to Strengthen Programmatic Planning
Apter & O’Connor adds their real world experience and training expertise to New York State’s effort to improve accountability among child welfare organizations. In light of the today’s difficult economic climate, agencies and local governments are being held to high standards to demonstrate impact and effectiveness of the programs they deliver. This project is funded by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and is led by the Professional Development Program of Rockefeller College SUNY Albany. Apter & O’Connor has worked with PDP on previous state-wide quality improvement initiatives and as a result of those successful contracts, was asked to join this training team. Cynthia O’Connor and Dianne Apter have traveled across the New York State for the last nine months providing trainings and technical assistance to county departments of social services and their children’s preventive service providers. The curriculum and TA is designed to develop a capacity for evaluation and continuous program improvement. The trainings focus on the three elements of Program Accountability – Quality, Efficiency, and Effectiveness – and offer an introduction to tools and skills necessary for program planning based on actual performance and impact. The results are improved program plans and contracts that include measurable outcomes with specific benchmarks and reporting systems to track progress.