Evidence in Action: Moving America Forward With Evidence and Innovation

America Forward’s Evidence in Action blog series highlights the voices of social innovation organizations, including those in the America Forward Coalition and our network partners, the results-driven solutions our community has to our country’s most pressing social problems, and the evidence-based federal programs that are critical to scaling the impact of this work. Follow along on Twitter using #EvidenceinAction to stay updated on the series.

Compiled by Jessica Crawford

The organizations that make up the America Forward Coalition champion innovative, effective, and efficient solutions to our nation’s most pressing social problems. As a result of this work, our Coalition members are achieving measurable outcomes in more than 14,500 communities nationwide, touching the lives of 8 million Americans each year, and driving progress in education, workforce development, early learning, poverty alleviation, public health, Pay for Success, social innovation, national service, and criminal justice reform.

As policymakers make important policy and funding decisions, it is critical to understand where innovative, evidence-based programs are having a positive impact on individuals in communities throughout the country. Here are five #EvidenceinAction stories highlighting how evidence and innovation help deliver results to measurably improve lives.

  1. Career Pathways: Non-Profit replaces Disadvantaged High Schoolers Backpacks with Briefcases [Houston Public Media] – “[Kevin Leija] moved to Houston 10 years ago from Mexico and he came knowing no English. At the beginning of his high school career, he wasn’t motivated…Things changed when he got an internship through a program called Genesys Works. It’s a nonprofit organization that allows underprivileged high schoolers to experience career opportunities they may not have thought was possible…It places them in a one-year internship with hands-on experience where they receive above minimum wage…Kevin says Genesys Works showed him a future that he didn’t know was possible. ‘I feel ready that I could just flat out of high school go and get a job and work in an office,’ says Kevin. On average, students five years out of the program are now making close to $45,000 a year.”
  2. College Access and Success: Four College Possible Grads on Track to Beat the Odds [Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service] – “In spring 2013, the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service started an occasional series of stories about four graduating high school students who participated in a program that helps students from low-income families get into college and earn a degree. Four years later, they checked back in to see how they are doing…College students who come from a low-income family have to overcome so many obstacles to graduate, that, nationally, only 11 percent do so in six years, according to Kelly Schaer, program director at College Possible, an organization that provides such students with coaching and support to get into college and earn a degree. All four high school seniors who Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service started following in 2013 are likely to beat those odds, earning bachelor’s degrees in four or five years…All four students said that if they had not participated in College Possible’s high school program, they would not have gone to college.”
  3. Community and Economic Development: LISC Celebrates two Decades of Community Service [Business North] – “When the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) opened a Duluth office in 1997, it unleashed a broad collection of community and economic development tools…Two decades later, Duluth LISC is celebrating a long list of accomplishments that have served to enhance the community. They include $89.7 million in financial investment, 1,553 jobs created, 1,684 housing units developed or preserved, nearly 148 blocks of lighting and streetscape improvements and 186 childcare spaces created.”
  4. Early Learning: Literacy Program Uses Volunteers to Help Preschoolers Get Ready for Kindergarten [Ed Dive] – “Jumpstart is a national early education organization, committed to helping all children enter kindergarten prepared. It partners with 70 universities and recruits a small army of volunteers who serve in close to 650 classrooms across 14 states and Washington, DC. Volunteers receive stipends through AmeriCorps and spend about 350 hours with the program per year, between classroom time and training. Abby Weiss, chief program officer at Jumpstart, said a significant number of children in the program grow a full developmental level or more over one academic year. And based on data from the 2014-2015 program year, 63% of students started the program in the fall with below-average language and literacy skills. By spring, a much smaller 21% fell into that category. Jumpstart measures progress in oral language, phonological awareness, and book and print knowledge…The program doesn’t cost anything for preschools, as Jumpstart services are provided free of charge thanks to federal grants and money from private foundations, individual donors, and corporate sponsors.”
  5. Teacher and Principal Recruitment: How to Recruit Black Principals [The Atlantic] – “Several studies have demonstrated pronounced benefits for black children with same-race teachers, ranging from better math performance to higher graduation rates…New Leaders, with its Aspiring Principals programs in six cities and the San Francisco Bay Area, is not the only nonprofit that has focused on this challenge, but its success has been notable. The program’s network of educators and district leaders recommend teachers who might be interested in pursuing school leadership via the summer training, monthly classes, paid principal apprenticeships, and two additional years of professional support that New Leaders offers. Since its inception in 2001, New Leaders reports that 1,083 principals have successfully completed the program, 64 percent of whom are people of color – more than triple the national average…Nonprofits and school districts across the country have been working to increase the diversity of school teachers and leaders.”

Jessica Crawford is America Forward’s Director of Coalition Engagement and Communications.

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