Spartanburg Selected for National Early Childhood Impact Intiative



Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) Selected for Impact and Improvement Network Focused on Child Development from Birth to 3 along with select group of 5 organizations across the U.S.

 L-R (top):  Keisha Gray, Mary Black Foundation Early Childhood Program Specialist; Dr. Nur Tanyel, Director of Early Childhood and Family Studies Program, USC Upstate; Barbara Manoski, Quality Counts Director, Spartanburg County First Steps  (bottom) Lisa Soenen, Program Coordinator for Help Me Grow, Greenville Health System, Child Advocacy; Ida Thompson, Program Manager, Spartanburg Academic Movement

L-R (top):  Keisha Gray, Mary Black Foundation Early Childhood Program Specialist; Dr. Nur Tanyel, Director of Early Childhood and Family Studies Program, USC Upstate; Barbara Manoski, Quality Counts Director, Spartanburg County First Steps

(bottom) Lisa Soenen, Program Coordinator for Help Me Grow, Greenville Health System, Child Advocacy; Ida Thompson, Program Manager, Spartanburg Academic Movement


Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) joins five other communities selected from across the country to participate in the Prenatal to Age 3 Impact and Improvement Network being led by StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to improve education for every child. Launched in partnership with the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ), this special initiative will improve kindergarten readiness by focusing on child development from birth to age 3.

"SAM is honored to be selected among this highly competitive national field to participate in the "Prenatal to 3 Impact and Improvement Network."  Research makes clear that brain development leading to kindergarten readiness has begun at birth.  SAM's selection for Network inclusion will position us to provide developmental screenings for all pre-K children county-wide, thus increasing the probability that those exhibiting developmental delays can be connected with early intervention services.  Engaging with the Pritzker Institute for Children, the National Institute for Child Health Quality, and StriveTogether will push us closer to our county-wide goal of ensuring that all children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed," said Dr. John Stockwell, SAM's Executive Director. 

Kindergarten readiness is one of the seven key educational outcomes tracked by StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities. The StriveTogether Prenatal to Age 3 Impact and Improvement Network will increase the number of children meeting critical early milestones by promoting targeted, evidence-based strategies and building the capacity of local leaders and practitioners.

Over 16 months, this network will help the six communities improve kindergarten readiness and accelerate progress for local students through an approach that combines leadership development, continuous improvement tools, peer-to-peer learning, design thinking and data use training. Participating communities include Albuquerque, New Mexico (Mission: Graduate); Memphis, Tenn. (Seeding Success); Norwalk, Conn. (Norwalk Acts); Salt Lake City, Utah (Promise Partnerships of Salt Lake); and Tucson, Ariz. (Cradle to Career Partnership).

“The first few years of a child’s life are critical in determining future success,” StriveTogether CEO and President Jennifer Blatz said. “It’s our obligation as Americans to provide every child with opportunity through a quality education, but each year an estimated 3 million children in the U.S. are at risk of being woefully unprepared for kindergarten. By partnering with NICHQ, we will help to drive policies and investments in core services proven to improve educational, economic, health and social outcomes for children and families.”

“Improving the health and development of infants and toddlers has long-term benefits for children, families and our society. It also sets the stage for the way kids learn throughout their lives,” said Dr. Jill Sells, clinical director of Early Childhood Initiatives at NICHQ and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We are thrilled to partner with StriveTogether and these six communities, whose focus on this age group makes them pioneers in testing strategies for kindergarten readiness.”

The Prenatal to Age 3 Impact and Improvement Network is part of an effort with three other organizations — the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and the Center for the Study of Social Policy — to improve the lives of infants, toddlers and families. The partner organizations will equip communities with tools and resources to build strong early childhood systems and share best practices with other cities, counties and states. This critical work is being funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

This is StriveTogether’s third national Impact and Improvement Network. The StriveTogether Postsecondary Enrollment Impact and Improvement Network boosted completions for federal student aid applications through a data-driven, collaborative model derived from the health care field. Participants supported nearly 31,000 students to complete applications in 2015-16. Five of the six communities increased their yearly completion rates at the school level, four increased district-level completions and three tallied school-level gains of 10 percent or more.


StriveTogether leads a national movement of nearly 70 communities to get better results in every child’s life. We coach and connect partners across the country to close gaps by using local data, especially for children of color and low-income children. Communities using our proven approach have seen measurable gains in kindergarten readiness, academic achievement and postsecondary success. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network reaches 10.4 million students, involves 10,800 organizations and has partners in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) is a mission-driven nonprofit dedicated to driving sustainable improvements in the complex issues facing children’s health. We provide deep expertise in developing the pathways and partnerships for catalyzing change to achieve better outcomes for children and families. Learn more at


Milliken Leadership joins Spartanburg Academic Movement Board

 Craig Haydamack, Milliken Executive, Joins SAM Board of Director

Craig Haydamack, Milliken Executive, Joins SAM Board of Director

Spartanburg, SC — Craig Haydamack, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Milliken & Company has joined the Board of Directors of the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM.)

 “To have senior level executives from our local corporate community is key to our success.  There are so many standards of excellence and expertise in the for profit sector that can be applied to advance our educational achievement efforts. We look forward to benefiting from Mr. Haydamack’s expertise and passion for academic success in Spartanburg County and South Carolina,” said Jennifer Evins, Chair of the SAM Board of Directors.    


National Investment in SAM launches new Collaborative Action Network

April, 2017

Spartanburg, SC — The Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) is one of five national partnerships selected this year to receive coaching and funding to accelerate its county-wide academic achievement goals through an Accelerator Fund Award. The award will speed the rate at which SAM’s efforts positively impact educational outcomes for children in Spartanburg County. SAM is part of the seventy member national StriveTogether learning network that provides support for implementing effective change across the cradle-to-career educational continuum.

“Our goal as an organization is to prove that we can achieve consistent and sustained improvements in student outcomes at scale,” StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson said. “The Accelerator Fund is designed to help communities reach educational goals faster while building the strength of the partnership to accelerate their progress over the long term. We believe these five communities will identify and spread practices that achieve results, particularly for the most vulnerable children, and capture lessons that will advance other collective impact partnerships across the country.”

SAM, along with partnerships in Seattle, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C. and Redwing/Northfield (Minnesota) were selected for their proven ability to impact outcomes for students. They join 2015 awardees from Dallas, Portland, Tacoma, Racine, Memphis and the two-state partnership in Cincinnati/North Kentucky. These now lead an exclusive Accelerator Fund “community,” a network of schools, business partners, community support agencies, government, and faith agencies committed to work together to improve educational effectiveness.

Accelerator status came after a competitive application process during which SAM outlined its current success strategies and support for increasing its impact for Spartanburg County students. The Accelerator Fund was created to increase the rate at which StriveTogether partners implement the nationally recognized collective impact approach known as the Theory of Action. Accelerator Fund investors include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Metlife Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others. The award will allow a group of five Spartanburg County leaders to receive intensive training in the StriveTogether strategies including continuous improvement methods, data use, and results-based leadership. This Collaborative Action Network (CAN) team will focus their efforts to impact Early Grades Reading achievement.  

 Collaborative Action Network director Beth Thompson leads the new Early Grades Reading CAN in a Data and Strategy dive before they head to their first intensive work session in Charlotte, NC. Throughout the year, the team will work with groups across the country to define, implement, and assess impact strategies to improve student outcomes.

Collaborative Action Network director Beth Thompson leads the new Early Grades Reading CAN in a Data and Strategy dive before they head to their first intensive work session in Charlotte, NC. Throughout the year, the team will work with groups across the country to define, implement, and assess impact strategies to improve student outcomes.

Engagement: the new C.A.N. activates

SAM staff members Dr. John Stockwell, Executive Director and Dr. Glen Carson, Director of Data Management were joined by: Argyl Brewton, Principal of Woodruff Elementary School; Marquice Clark, Assistant Principal of the Cleveland Leadership Academy; and Heather Witt, Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of the Piedmont for the launch of the Early Grades Reading focus.   The team brings many decades of experience to their focus area along with passion for impacting the success of students across Spartanburg.

 Argyl Brewton, Principal, Woodruff Elementary School

Argyl Brewton, Principal, Woodruff Elementary School

         Argyl Brewton is the data-driven and purpose driven principal of Woodruff Elementary School. Having a mind for results and having been embedded in a single community for many years, she adds a perspective of how a community changes over time to the team’s work.

 Marquice Clark, Assistant Principal, Cleveland Academy of Leadership 

Marquice Clark, Assistant Principal, Cleveland Academy of Leadership 

·         Marquice Clark brings experience in addressing learning disparities to the effort, putting his experience as a teacher and assistant principal at Cleveland Academy of Leadership to the group’s effort to improve early literacy across the County. He has experience in identifying barrier-breaking strategies, having recently received the 2017 Call Me MISTER Trailblazer award. The program seeks to increase the diversity in professional educators focusing on “Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.”

 Heather Witt, Vice President for Community Impact, United Way of the Piedmont

Heather Witt, Vice President for Community Impact, United Way of the Piedmont

Heather Witt has led the charge for building community collaboration through her work with as vice president for community impact with United Way of the Piedmont.  She brings a capacity to  draw the county’s non-profit resources together to impact early grades reading.

“The Spartanburg Academic Movement and Spartanburg County are fortunate to have individuals who are qualified, able and ready to impact change,” SAM Executive Director Dr. Stockwell said. “We have undertaken significant work on both ends of the cradle to career spectrum and are well poised to begin our work on the collective community concern around Early Grades Literacy.”   With the support of the Accelerator Fund, we will be able to make strategic decisions contributing to the success of all Spartanburg County students.

Brewton, Clark, Witt, Stockwell, and Carson begin the Strive Together Leadership Program in Charlotte, NC on April 12. They will continue the program with intensive training taking place over the coming year in San Francisco, Austin, Nashville, and Miami, bringing strategies home to involve others in implementing and impacting Spartanburg County students.  In addition, their work will serve as a model for other communities seeking to improve their early grades reading achievement.

“This represents a major step forward for our work here at SAM, but more importantly for our Spartanburg County students. We are jumping into the middle of a county-wide collective effort to make sure all our children are reading well by third grade,” Stockwell said at the team’s first local meeting where excitement set the tone for the hard work to come.

Value of a College Degree : References change, Value holds

In May of 2014, SAM shared a New York Times article highlighting the value of a college education and degree. When it comes to one of the greatest investments of time and financial resources an individual makes in preparing for their future, the question Is College Worth It? is considered not once, but repeatedly. In an effort to keep our data and information valid on the topic, we now share an updated view of the topic written by Dr. Peter Osborne.  His review of the question Do College Grads Really Earn More Than High School Grads comes to the same conclusion: a resounding YES.  

 Dr. Peter Osborne serves as Vice President for adult learning at Cornerstone University and an associate professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary 

Dr. Peter Osborne serves as Vice President for adult learning at Cornerstone University and an associate professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary 

Do College Grads Really Earn More Than High School Grads?

By Peter Osborn on November 29, 2016  

(reprinted with permission by author)

We've all heard stories about people dropping out of college to start multi-million dollar businesses. People like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell and Steve Jobs who threw off the chains of higher education and got right down to making money.

These stories lead some people to conclude that a college education isn't necessary. That all you really need to succeed is grit, grind and old-fashioned street smarts. That college is just a waste of money.

Additionally, many graduates have had difficulty finding employment in their field of study. This leads people to believe that obtaining a degree doesn't guarantee a higher paying job.

Porter Stansberry recently wrote:

I'd tell any teenager today the same thing: Forget about college. Instead, travel for a year. Go to several major cities. Work and intern in many different industries. Get a sense of the world. Meet people from other cultures. Learn what makes people tick. Learn history and geography.

Are these people right? Is college just for suckers who don't know any better? Are those who don't obtain a higher education just as likely to succeed as those who go straight into business after high school?

To answer those questions, we need to look at the data. Anecdotal stories are often misleading, and can be more inspiring than informative. 

So what do the numbers actually say?

The Rising Cost of Education

Before we can answer the question of college, we need to acknowledge that it's costly.

There's no disputing that the cost for college tuition is increasing. When adjusted for inflation, the average cost of tuition has more than doubled since 1986.  (Image via

  Image via

Additionally, attending college costs a larger percentage of household income, making it more difficult to attend without incurring significant debt.

But does that mean you shouldn't attend? Let's look deeper.


A recent blog post by researchers Jason Abel and Richard Deitz dug into the post-college careers of those who graduated from college between 2009 and 2013. Their findings are somewhat startling, at least on the surface.

45% of the graduates are working in a "non-college job," meaning a job that doesn't necessarily require a bachelor's degree. On the surface, this seems to show that a college education isn't necessary after all. If you're going to end up as a barista, why spend 4 years and thousands of dollars at college?

But, as usual, there's more to this story than meets the eye.

When you break the 45% down by job type, half are working in relatively high-paying jobs, like information processing and sales. Another 25% work in modest-paying jobs, such as office and administrative support. Only 20% of all recent graduates are working in low-skilled, low-paying service jobs. And in these categories, graduates are making more money than those with no college degree.

Additionally, those with degrees are much more likely to transition to much higher paying jobs. As Abel and Deitz say:

In addition, the composition of jobs held by recent graduates changes within the underemployed occupation categories as workers age. The percentage who are employed in the low-skilled service category drops by half, suggesting that these jobs were temporary for a good number of young graduates. By age 26 or 27, only 6.6 percent were still working in these low-paying jobs. The other two groups with the most significant declines include office and administrative support, and sales.

BOTTOM LINE: Underemployed graduates don't stay underemployed for long. These jobs are usually stopping points before better paying jobs.

More Lifetime Earnings

A recent study from Georgetown University found that, on average, college graduates earn $1 million more in earnings over their lifetime. Another recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the median yearly income gap between high school and college graduates is around $17,500.

By choosing not to go to college, you are essentially forfeiting $17,500 per year and $1 million over your lifetime.

That's $1 million less in retirement and $17,500 less in disposable income every year. Before you don't go to college, consider what you would do if you had an additional $1 million available when you retire. Would you buy a home? Create a fund for your children? Travel Europe?

BOTTOM LINE: Not attending college costs a lot. Much more than people think.

Less Unemployment

Finally, the unemployment rate for those with college degrees is significantly less than those without. Consider these statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The unemployment rate for those with a high school degree or less is three times higher compared to those who did attend college.

BOTTOM LINE: You are far less likely to be unemployed if you have a degree.

So Why Are So Many Underemployed?

Of course, these statistics raise the question: why are so many recent college graduates underemployed?

There are several reasons for this. First, and most obviously, the number of workers with degrees has increased over the last forty years. Since 1965, the percentage of graduates has tripled, rising from 10% to 30%.

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More graduates in the workforce means more competition, fewer available jobs, and less pay. 

Second, the U.S. economy has been in the Great Recession since 2008, and recessions always lead to higher unemployment among recent graduates. As the Economic Policy Institute says:

Unemployment of young graduates is extremely high today, but not because of something unique about the Great Recession and its aftermath that has affected young people in particular. Rather, it is high because young workers always experience disproportionate increases in unemployment during periods of labor market weakness—and the Great Recession and its aftermath is the longest, most severe period of economic weakness in more than seven decades.

It's not that there is a problem with higher education or that college degrees are somehow a waste of money. The economy as a whole has been hurt, which in turn contributes to unemployment and underemployment.

From the data, it can be tempting to conclude that trying to make it without a degree might be a valid solution, but this isn't the case.

While it's true that that it's currently challenging for graduates, it's even harder for those without degrees. Paul Taylor, the executive Vice President of the Pew Research Center says:

"The driver of that widening [gap between income] is not so much that today's college graduates are doing better than yesterday's college graduates are doing; it's that today's high school-only graduates are doing worse than yesterday's high school-only graduates," he says. "The real story is the collapse in economic opportunity for people who do not continue their education beyond high school."

Yes, college graduates are facing more challenges than before, but it's even more difficult for those who have never attended college. Ultimately, not going to college is a decision that sabotages you for the rest of your life. Your income and earnings will always be lower and you will always have to fight harder for a job.

It's trendy for people to advise against college. They say things like, "If Richard Branson didn't go to college, why should you?" And while there's obviously a little bit of truth to this question, it misses the main point: most people aren't Richard Branson.

If you want to be a rogue entrepreneur who relies on no one and clears his own path, then maybe college isn't for you. But the percentage of people who shouldn't get a degree is very low.

If you want to set yourself up to succeed, a college degree is clearly the way to go.

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