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.
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 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 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 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.