Alliance College-Ready Public Schools was founded in 2004 by a group of Los Angeles educators, civil rights activists, and community leaders on the belief that all children––regardless of ZIP code, income, ability, or background––are capable of achieving at high levels. The founders were driven by a belief that scholars from underserved communities should be given a chance to excel academically, gain college admission, and graduate from college.
Alliance is now one of the largest and most successful nonprofit public charter school networks in the nation, operating 28 high-performing, tuition-free middle and high schools in Los Angeles communities that are systemically oppressed.
93% of incoming 6th graders enter Alliance reading below grade level, yet they outperform California state and local districts on state standardized testing.
The main goal that Alliance has in order to create a lasting impact in the communities it serves is to ensure that one day, 75% of its graduating students will attain a bachelor’s degree. But in general, the district has also wanted to become more strategic in the way it has historically tracked and used data. So the district began tracking KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to get a sense for how many students were hitting academic milestones, and then connecting that to long term graduation rates.
Before implementing Naviance, Alliance did not have a streamlined system for tracking data. And because of this, the data they did have wasn’t always of the highest quality. In some cases there was no data at all. KPIs were reviewed once or twice a year, often causing certain goals and tasks to become rushed or done out of order.
Alliance students also face roadblocks that made it difficult for counselors to help them stay organized. “We are predominately low income, people of color, first generation,” and students face a number of roadblocks to the mechanics of applying to college, says Amanda Parada Villatoro, Alliance’s Director of College Counseling. Many students, for example, may have responsibilities at home, such as caring for siblings or other family members, or cooking meals. “Just because they’re not in school doesn’t mean they’re not busy,” she said.
Now, Naviance is one of the key ways that Alliance tracks college readiness milestones for its high schoolers. “It’s instrumental in gaining access to college and being successful in college,” Ms. Parada Villatoro said.
For their ninth graders, Alliance focuses on identify exploration and exploring strengths and uses the Naviance strengths explorer tool. Tenth graders also use the strengths explorer tool, and many of the college and career activities in Naviance, so that they can begin checking some of these things off their list with their counselors. “That’s how we know they’re engaging,” Ms. Parada Villatoro said. In 10th grade students also begin using the resume builder tool. 11th graders also use resume builder and the college search tool, and begin writing essays using the essay tool. For 12th graders the Naviance resume and applications functions are key.
Since implementing Naviance, Alliance has been able to streamline its data collection, tracking, and usage. Students are now able to search and apply to the full range of schools they’re interested in, instead of just one or two because they don’t have enough time to stay organized with the many tasks required to apply. “We want them to be able to exhaust their options,” Ms. Parada Villatoro said, and having Naviance’s search and other tools has allowed them to create more structure to students’ college readiness process. Having Naviance also has made it easier for counselors to stay abreast of their students’ progress.
“Without Naviance, she said, “that search piece would be really difficult. “The reality many of our students face is not having the time, that’s a big obstacle.”
Leveraging the KPIs helps Alliance make sure its students are on track to get to college, and it helps them get ahead of roadblocks.
Naviance helped create a culture centered on data, Ms. Parada Villatoro said, “to normalize metrics in a way that is less punitive-feeling and more strategic and proactive.” By sharing KPI metrics on a regular basis with its counseling teams, schools within the district are empowered to access and examine their own data on their own time and to make strategic pivots as needed as well as celebrate successes.
Teams can see progress over time as well as identify students in need of more support. “Meetings with our teams have become less about crunching metric numbers,” she said, “and more support-centered, where the data is used a starting point to discuss support needs and strategies. Naviance has been helpful in helping us understand the game-changing milestones to get into college.”