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August 14, 2017

States Look at Chronic Absenteeism as Measure of School Performance

Children can’t perform well in school if they aren’t there. In fact, a May 2017 Policy Update from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), argues that chronic absenteeism should be considered a primary indicator for low-performing schools. “Chronic absenteeism” is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, excused or unexcused.

According to the update:

  • Children who are chronically absent from preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade.
  • They are then four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.
  • By high school, irregular attendance is a better predictor of school dropout than test scores.
  • One Utah study showed that students who were chronically absent during just one year between grades 8 and 12 were seven times more likely to drop out of school.

Fortunately, states are paying attention to chronic absenteeism in their ESSA plans. Twelve of the 17 states that submitted ESSA plans in the spring of 2017, plus the District of Columbia, included chronic absenteeism as an indicator for school performance. Another 15 have indicated their intention to include it among indicators in their fall 2017 ESSA plan submissions.

The Policy Update encourages state boards to push for data collection, but to be clear about how many absences will be considered “chronic,” and to be intentional about including both excused and unexcused absences, as well as class time missed because of in-school suspensions, in measures of attendance.  The update notes that students who are low-income, of color, disabled or who have had contact with the criminal justice system are more likely to be chronically absent. In addition, homelessness and ensuing student mobility is also a contributing factor to chronic absenteeism that must be considered in evaluating school performance.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) conducts advocacy and strategic communication for The Ohio 8 Coalition to strengthen the eight largest school districts in Ohio and improve academic performance, increase graduation rates and close the achievement. The Ohio 8 Coalition is a coalition of the state’s eight urban school district superintendents and union presidents. Read The Ohio 8 Coalition case study here.  ACS is also committed to providing updates on ESSA implementation and its impact on students and their families.

 

 


August 1, 2017

GOOD PUBLIC POLICY MAKES A TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCE TO HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF CHILDREN, REPORT SAYS

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book report released this month by The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in areas of economic wellbeing, education, health, family and community in all 50 states.

The KIDS COUNT data shows progress in some categories between 2010 and 2015, but also highlights areas of concern. Of particular note, according to the report:

  • Parental employment and wages are up, and a record number of children have health insurance.
  • Teenagers are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Child poverty rates remain high (21% across the nation), and more families live in neighborhoods with a high concentration of poverty.
  • Far too many children are below grade level in reading and math.

“Even where we see improvements, deep racial and ethnic disparities remain,” the report states. “Although trends in child well-being are shaped by many forces, it’s indisputable that good public policy makes a tremendous difference. We know that a failure to invest wisely — or to not invest at all — negatively affects children’s opportunities to reach their full potential.”

The purpose of the report is to highlight to policymakers areas of need and to encourage them to continue to support targeted investments that help the nation’s children. Decades of research has shown that children who are given access to early childhood education and other social support services are more likely to be healthier, to graduate from high school, and to become gainfully employed.

“By not prioritizing poverty reduction and by failing to adequately ameliorate its effects when children are young and intervention has the biggest payoff, we waste an unconscionable amount of individual human potential,” the report stated. “A decade ago, researchers found child and youth poverty cost the country an estimated $500 billion a year in reduced economic output and increased health and criminal justice expenditures. These costs are undoubtedly higher today. But far beyond wasted dollars, failing to provide children with opportunities to reach their potential jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and economic position in the world.”

In this year’s report, New Hampshire ranked first among states for overall child well-being, moving up one from 2016. Massachusetts and Vermont filled out the top three. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the three lowest-ranked states. Data are available for all states.

Want to know more about ACS’ work with children? Our success with clients such as PRE4CLE, Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services, and First Things First Arizona highlight ACS’ work with systems that support children and youth a priority in communities across the nation.


July 10, 2017

Mental Health from a Youth Perspective: New Report Provides Insight From Youth in Poverty Facing Mental Health Challenges

Recently released by The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP),  “Everybody Got Their Go Throughs”: Young Adults on the Frontlines of Mental Health summarizes findings from focus groups and analysis of data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The report’s major findings are a call to action, underlining the importance of an assets-based approach to mental health supports for youth and young adults. Such an approach recognizes and validates strengths, resilience, and young adults’ drive to fully achieve their education, employment, and life goals.

Young adults living in poverty face high exposure to “go throughs”: lived experiences of structural disadvantage and trauma with lasting implications for educational, economic, and other life outcomes. They frequently “get through” these challenges without formal mental health supports, relying on community-based programs and peer networks to cope with their experiences.

In the context of the current federal health care fight, “Everybody Got Their Go Throughs” highlights the racial and economic justice implications of the Medicaid expansion and full implementation of the mental health parity and prevention provisions of the Affordable Care Act for low-income young adults. Beyond the current political moment, the report also outlines a set of principles for framing mental health policy and practice.

Check out the report and some interesting info graphics from the research including how youth interviewed define mental health and statistics about youth and mental health in our nation today.

Want to know more about ACS work with youth? Check out the case study regarding The City of Little Rock’s Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Family, which ACS led and developed along with community partners or the media coverage (News 5 Cleveland, Cleveland Magazine, ideastream, and Cleveland.com) ACS secured for A Place 4 Me (AP4M) 100-Day Challenge which focused on securing housing for 103 homeless youth ages 15-24 in Cleveland/Cuyahoga County in the fall of 2016.


June 20, 2017

National Model for Early Childhood, Cleveland’s PRE4CLE Plan Shows Continued Success in Year Two Annual Report

PRE4CLE released its second annual report last week showing that Cleveland has continued to make strides toward expanding access to high-quality preschool for all of its children. PRE4CLE is Cleveland’s plan to expand high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the city, as part of Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools. PRE4CLE’s work to expand access to high-quality preschool targets neighborhoods where there are not enough high-quality preschools available to meet the need in the community.

After PRE4CLE’s second year, 4,277 children in Cleveland are enrolled in high-quality preschool, —a 50% increase in preschool enrollment since 2013. Additionally, 22 out of 33 neighborhoods have increased their high-quality preschool supply, including 16 neighborhoods that now have enough high-quality preschool seats to serve at least 50% of the neighborhood population, up from 11 when PRE4CLE started. Children enrolled in PRE4CLE classrooms also made strides toward kindergarten readiness.

The preschool expansion plan was launched in 2014 and has garnered $8.9 million in public and private support from Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cuyahoga County, PNC Bank, The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, The Abington Foundation, Bruening Foundation, Thomas H. White Foundation, and The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation. ACS’ deep knowledge in early childhood issues across the country, as well as expertise in facilitation, communication, advocacy, and strategy development, helped guide Cleveland, Ohio’s plan for preschool, PRE4CLE.

PRE4CLE’s annual report was reported on by WVIZ Ideas and Cleveland Crain’s Cleveland Business.

To learn more about how ACS works with early childhood clients like PRE4CLE and ACS’ expertise in early childhood education, see the case studies by clicking here.


June 13, 2017

Seven States Highlighted as Leaders in Preparing Next Generation Workforce

Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia were recently highlighted by Business Facilities as homes for some of the nation’s leading workforce development programs. The article focuses on the connections between business and education institutions to create job-specific vocational learning in high schools, community colleges and universities. Highlighted programs include:

  • Accelerate Alabama, a strategic plan to bring economic development and education interests together to accelerate workforce training across the state.
  • WorkSource Georgia, the High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) and Georgia WorkSmart, which collectively help to improve the quality of job training and marketability of Georgia’s workforce for the economic growth of the state.
  • The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership and the Job Training Incentive Program operated by the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development.
  • New Mexico’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP), that provides up to six months of  classroom and on-the-job training for new jobs in expanding businesses.
  • The Pennsylvania Combined Workforce Innovation and Opportunity State Plan, which goes hand in hand with cross-department collaboration at the state level.
  • Tennessee’s Drive to 55 Alliance, which brings together public and private sector partners who want to see 55 percent of Tennesseans achieve a college degree or certification by 2025.
  • Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), a 50-year-old program that provides consulting and funds to companies that are creating new jobs or adapting to new technologies.

Programs like these are critical, says the article, to supply the necessary workforce as new companies emerge and existing companies reshore their operations in the US. But the challenge of a qualified workforce is a global one, so competition for skilled workers will be global as well. Read more about these programs and others here.

The needs, priorities, and value workforce development training programs provide to the economy are workforce development training is familiar work for Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS).   ACS has partnered with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW), which catalyzes nationwide transformative change in education, economic, and workforce development through research and action.  To learn more about how ACS works with clients like CSW and ACS’ expertise in workforce development, click here.


June 8, 2017

Austin Receives Recommendations to Combat Institutional Racism

On April 4, 2017, a task force created in November 2016 by Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler delivered its recommendations for reducing institutional racism and ensuring equity in that city. The 70-page report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and System Equities, co-chaired by Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz and Huston-Tillotson University President Colette Pierce Burnette, includes recommendations in five areas: education, health, criminal justice, housing and finance.

Sample recommendations include:

  • Acknowledgement of racial inequities in city policies
  • The use of racial equity impact assessments on all new codes and ordinances
  • Training for public leaders, city and school district employees, and law enforcement
  • Greater transparency in law enforcement
  • Developing a local fund to address institutional racism in housing, and offer planned upgrades to deteriorating market-rate housing to families of color
  • Addressing gentrification in East Austin, a neighborhood populated mostly by communities of color
  • Regular reporting of health disparities
  • An anti-predatory lending campaign

The report release was covered by Austin’s NPR affiliate, KUT, and by the Austin Chronicle. How the City will receive and address the recommendations is yet to be seen.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) understands the importance of addressing institution discrimination in all systems, especially the education system.  ACS authored Better Than Zero, a paper on how alternative discipline is breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, particularly for young people of color.  The paper takes a high-level look at national conversations and policy changes surrounding the school-to-prison pipeline and how zero-tolerance policies are changing national and in several states.  Download Better Than Zero here.

 


May 25, 2017

The Challenges of Professionalizing Early Childhood Education Workforce

Research shows that childcare workers and preschool teachers with college degrees or certifications can improve outcomes for children, but many questions arise about whether those findings would hold true absent other factors like higher wages, classroom resources, and positive workplace conditions. Two recent articles – one in the New York Times and one in Inside Higher Ed — take a look at the thorny issues surrounding the professionalization of early childhood education.

Part of the challenge is in the scope of existing research. As the NYT story explains, “Studies of public early childhood programs, including in New Jersey and Oklahoma, have found positive outcomes for children when the teachers had college degrees. But since they all had degrees, it’s unclear whether the degree is what helped, something else or a combination.”

Teaching quality is also affected by the leadership and culture of an early childhood center, the availability of resources in classrooms, and – of course – the low wages that typically accompany early childhood education. Those who do pursue degrees for early childhood often move to higher-paying elementary education jobs.

One potential path forward may be for early childhood education to follow a path similar to nursing, according to Inside Higher Ed. “In the 1950s, nurses learned on the job and weren’t required to hold as many degrees or certifications as they do today. But that shift in the nursing profession to requiring more education eventually led to better compensation.”

This would mean parallel development of both training and certification requirements and increased compensation growth. According to NAEYC, the early childhood workforce needs to have a unified framework for credentials and qualifications in order to receive the public investments necessary to increase compensation, but in order to make the case for the increased compensation, evidence for comparable education, accountability and preparation must be shown.  Therefore, conversations around compensation and training requirements must happen simultaneously.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud partner of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  NAEYC is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. NAEYC recently launched a two-year initiative called Power to the Profession (P2P), which seeks to unify the early childhood profession and develop a consistent structure for competencies, qualifications, standards, and compensation for all those who work in the early learning field. ACS currently provides technical assistance for five NAEYC state affiliates across the country that were chosen by NAEYC to conduct outreach and engagement with the early childhood field and inform the P2P process. More information about NAEYC’s work to expand the early childhood profession can be found here.


May 19, 2017

Report Published by Measure of America Finds Decline in Rates of Disconnected Youth, Racial Disparities Still Persist

Disconnected youth are people between the ages of 16 and 24, who are neither in school or working.  This group is 65% more likely to be poor, four times as likely to have a child, and three times as likely to have a disability in comparison to their counterparts who are in school or working.  Measure of America, a non-profit research council, hosted a webinar in April 2017 to address the decline of disconnected youth nationally, and the remaining challenges this group faces in light of their recent report.

Nationally, 12.3% of youth are considered disconnected, which is down from the rate of 14.7% during the 2010 Great Recession.  On the local level, rural areas have the highest rates of disconnected youth, with 20.3% of youth considered disconnected between 2010-2014.  While the overall number of disconnected youth is declining, disparities by race and ethnicity among disconnected youth persist.  25% of Native American youth are disconnected, and 19% of black youth are disconnected.  Even if incomes level were the same among races, the probability of disconnection is still greater for black, Latino, and Native American youth in comparison to Asians and whites.

While the rates of disconnected youth are declining, there is still more work to be done, especially considering the disparities of disconnection along race and ethnicity.  Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) understands how communities can engage children, youth, and families to better address their needs.  The City of Little Rock turned to ACS to develop the city’s first ever three-year Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families in February 2015.  Little Rock’s Master Plan was completed in June 2016 and provided a clear roadmap for a coordinated, citywide approach relevant to the needs, desires, and expectations of its residents. Read the full case study here to learn more about how ACS used facilitation expertise, strategy development, research, and community engagement to build capacity and create new city processes and a strategic roadmap for children, youth, and families.


May 12, 2017

First Things First Named Among Top 25 Innovations in American Government by Harvard University

On May 2, Harvard University acknowledged First Things First (FTF) as one of the Top 25 Innovations in American Government as part of a nation-wide awards competition that recognizes creative and solution-oriented governing.

The Top 25 Innovations in American Government were selected by a team of policy experts, researchers, and practitioners at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University.  The initiatives chosen represent the work of city, state, and federal governments, and address policy issues like economic development, environmental and community revitalization, public health, equal access to education, criminal justice, and healthcare.

First Things First’s application focused on an innovative, citizen-led governance structure that engages Arizonans as volunteer leaders to ensure that Arizona’s early childhood development funds are invested in strategies that improve outcomes for young children statewide.

“First Things First’s innovative governance model reflects the very essence of citizen engagement,” Chief Executive Officer Sam Leyvas said. “Our unique structure empowers communities, ensuring that public programs reflect their unique needs and making them an integral part of enhancing school readiness for the children in their area.”

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has partnered with FTF and organizations like them to initiate and advance a holistic approach to helping our nation’s young children get the best start in school and life. Learn more about ACS’s successes with First Things First here and read the press release about FTF’s recognition from the Ash Center here.


May 5, 2017

Partnership Effort in Phoenix Finds Success in Reducing Number of Disconnected Youth

According to a Measure of America report released on March 8, nearly 100,000 youth in Phoenix, AZ ages 16-24 were “disconnected” in 2010— neither enrolled in school nor employed in work. In less than a decade, however, the community has decreased its disconnected youth population more than any other metro area, by 26%, down to 74,000 currently.  A great deal of the credit for this drop goes to a collective effort of nearly 100 businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, schools, and political leaders, who joined together to create Opportunities for Youth, a partnership working towards reducing the number of disconnected youth in Phoenix.

Opportunities for Youth provides connection and support for participating organizations to help them coordinate services to disconnected youth. It also helps raise awareness of the issue and advocates for policies at the local and state level to underwrite efforts to reduce the number of disconnected youth. In addition, the organization works with local employers to create job pathways for youth and hosts several youth job fairs each year.

“I’m giving them a big thumbs up,” said Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America, a national organization that produces youth-disconnection reports. “We’ve been watching Phoenix closely. They really brought together all of the key players. They took it on in such a serious way, saying, ‘We can’t be last.’”

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) recognizes that many cities want to collaboratively address the needs of children, youth, and families.  The City of Little Rock turned to ACS to develop the city’s first ever three-year Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families in February 2015.  Little Rock’s Master Plan was completed in June 2016 and provided a clear roadmap for a coordinated, citywide approach relevant to the needs, desires, and expectations of its residents. Read the full case study here to learn more about how ACS used facilitation expertise, strategy development, research, and community engagement to build capacity and create new city processes and a strategic roadmap for children, youth, and families.


April 26, 2017

Former ACS client Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health finds success with communication and advocacy efforts

Former Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) client Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health (WI-AIMH) has found recent success with their communication and advocacy efforts.

WI-AIMH Executive Director Lana Nenide recently appeared on a panel hosted by Milwaukee PBS and Milwaukee Area Technical College called What Matters Most: Your Child’s First Five Years, a program designed to help parents of young children and family caregivers understand the vital role they play in a child’s development.  This discussion aired on April 9, 2017.  In addition, WI-AIMH has been increasing their advocacy efforts by writing and meeting with members of the Wisconsin state legislature to discuss the importance of the early years for children.

WI-AIMH strives to promote social and emotional wellness of infants, young children in the context of the most important relationships. Given the small size of the organization, Lana understands that strategic communication is the key to WI-AIMH’s success statewide.

In 2015, WI-AIMH asked ACS to develop communication materials and a strategy to raise the organization’s profile as a content expert and increase awareness about infant mental health in the state of Wisconsin among policymakers, the professional community, and families. ACS did this by leading a strategy session with WI-AIMH staff and board to inform communication goals, strategies, and activities, as well as an actionable timeline. ACS also developed messaging guidance to improve communication to target audiences. Armed with an intentional communication plan, WI-AIMH has begun to raise their profile in Wisconsin and nationally with media appearances like this on PBS.  To learn more about ACS’ work with WI-AIMH, click here.


April 14, 2017

Legislature urged to address needs of New York’s growing senior population

As the number of maturing baby boomers continues to grow nationally, hundreds of advocates in New York state gathered in Albany on to request that lawmakers “Step up for Seniors” by making older residents a budget priority, according to a report from WBNG News on February 7th, 2017.

“The growing population of older New Yorkers should get everyone’s attention,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D), who chairs the New York State Assembly Aging Committee. “We need to ensure that adequate services are in place for those who want to remain in their homes for as long as possible; providing critical services for those in need. We also need to acknowledge that seniors want to stay actively engaged in their communities for as long as possible. Aging services and programs need to be prioritized in this year’s budget.”

According to Lupardo, the State Office for the Aging is facing the largest cut of any state agency at almost five percent. She and her colleague, New York State Senate Aging Committee Chair Senator Sue Serino (R), called for more investments in community services to support the elderly, such as meal delivery, transportation, in-home health and elder abuse prevention.

Some funders in the aging field are paying close attention to state budgets, and recognize a growing gap. One Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) client, the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York (HFWCNY), understands this gap and works for lasting change in health and health care across western and central New York with a special focus on young children, older adults and the systems serving them.  To learn more about how ACS works with clients like HFWCNY, click here.


April 10, 2017

Creating A New Future for Little Rock’s Children, Youth, and Families

Supporting children, youth and families is never a done deal – and plans that worked well 20 years ago don’t fare so well in today’s world. That’s what city leaders in Little Rock, Arkansas realized in 2015, when their system for supporting prevention, intervention and treatment programs for youth, created in 1994, wasn’t holding up so well in the face of the stresses and demands on young people and families in a 21st-century world. To reassess their current reality and reinvigorate their approach to serving children, youth, and families, Little Rock needed the help of a firm with expertise in community engagement and strategy development, but also was extremely knowledgeable about the needs of families and the possibilities for youth, in particular within communities of color.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) was the perfect choice. In 2015, the firm began to work with the City of Little Rock Department of Community Planning to create the Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families.

Little Rock’s Master Plan has provided a clear roadmap for a coordinated, citywide approach that is relevant to the needs, desires, and expectations of its citizens. Since the plan was completed in June 2016, the city already has worked closely with partners and community to make significant strides in implementation.

Read the full case study here to learn more about how ACS used facilitation expertise, strategy development, research, and community engagement to build capacity and create new city processes and a strategic roadmap for children, youth, and families.


April 6, 2017

Northeast Ohio agencies prepare for booming ‘silver tsunami’

By 2030 – just 13 years from now –those age 60 and older in Cuyahoga County will grow from 21% to 31% of the population. In the wider region, that percentage will grow to 40%. For the first time ever, the percentage of older residents will be larger than the percentage of those under age 20.

These figures, reported on February 9th, 2017 by Freshwater Cleveland, signal a need to shift in community attention and priorities, according to some. Poverty rates among seniors in the county are as high as 38.7% in some areas, further complicating the problem. Organizations that serve seniors are already struggling to meet the growing demand, especially those that assist with food and housing needs. Ohio ranks among the ten worst states in the nation for food insecurity among seniors, and is the worst in the Midwest. In terms of housing, private sector developers report that they cannot keep up with the demand for senior nursing homes, assisted living communities, and independent senior apartments.

Yet, area nonprofits point out that little is being done to prepare for the “silver tsunami” that is bearing down on the region. “We need to get our heads out of the sand and realize we have a major issue on the horizon,” said Richard Jones, director of Cuyahoga County Senior Adult Services. “Our community needs to recognize that older persons helped build a strong city and county,” he says. “They worked hard all their lives. There is a moral and ethical imperative that we make sure they live their lives with dignity and purpose, and feel valued as persons who have made contributions over their lifetimes.”

Communities across the country face similar challenges. Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) is proud to partner with the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York (HFWCNY), which sparks lasting change in health and health care across western and central New York with a special focus on young children, older adults and the systems serving them.


March 30, 2017

Employers, workforce developers align in Indiana to address workforce skills gap

“Indiana manufacturers, which represent 30 percent of the state’s economy, may not be able to fill 60 percent of their open positions in the next decade,” said Brian Burton, president and CEO of the Indiana Manufactures Association, in a written statement to the state’s General Assembly.

To help address the skills gap, high schools and colleges are adapting their curricula and degree programs to meet the needs of employers. This includes the addition of courses such as industrial maintenance and an emergency medical technician program in area high schools, and the development of a series of ” stackable and portable credentials at the college level. Stackable credentials are credits earned in certificate programs that can be applied to associate degree programs. Credentials can be earned in phases and the student does not have to be continually enrolled in a long-term program.  Portable credential means they can be applied at different educational institutions. This allows workers to pursue their education in “manageable chunks” that align with their career stages.

“It is really being driven by jobs that are in demand and will be in the future, and by the specific skill sets required,” said Linda Woloshansky, president of the Center of Workforce Innovations, regarding the transformation of workforce programs in Indiana.

State investment in Indiana’s workforce programs is modest, and interest groups are calling for more. The Indiana Manufacturers Association is one of several organizations that called on the state to provide a tax credit to employers who partner with schools and career centers to offset training expenses. Currently, the Indiana Commission on Higher Education is considering policies that will encourage workers to pursue occupational certifications in sectors like health care and business, which would provide another option to a 2- or 4-year degree.

Communicating value is necessary for successful advocacy for any issue. The needs, priorities, and value workforce development training programs provide to the economy are workforce development training is familiar work for Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS).   ACS is a proud partner of Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW), which catalyzes nationwide transformative change in education, economic, and workforce development through research and action.  To learn more about how ACS works with clients like CSW, click here.


March 23, 2017

Medicaid’s Role for Medicare Beneficiaries

According to a new W.K. Kellogg Foundation issue brief released on February 16th, 2017, Medicaid fills important gaps in coverage left by Medicare, particularly for seniors, including long-term care in both nursing homes and community settings.  Medicaid also helps low-income seniors afford some or all of their Medicare premiums.  This issue brief helps to inform the national debate around potential changes and reductions in Medicaid financing.

Seniors who receive both Medicare and Medicaid often have more intensive healthcare needs, according to the Foundation. In health care policy circles, these individuals are known as “Dual Eligible”.  With regard to those who are dual eligible, the issue brief points out that:

  • Nearly three in four Medicare beneficiaries who receive Medicaid have three or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, which can require regular doctor appointments, medication, and/or medical tests.
  • More than 60% of Medicare beneficiaries who receive Medicaid need help with daily self-care activities, such as eating, bathing, or dressing, which are important for independent living.
  • Nearly six in 10 Medicare beneficiaries who receive Medicaid have a cognitive or mental impairment, such as dementia, which can create the need for supports to live safely at home.

More intensive healthcare needs mean Medicare beneficiaries spend more on Medicaid. For example, although Medicare beneficiaries make up 15% of Medicaid enrollment nationally, they account for 36% of national Medicaid spending.  In nearly three-quarters of states, more than 30% of the total Medicaid spending is devoted to Medicare beneficiaries, and in six states, spending for Medicare beneficiaries comprises more than 45% or Medicaid budgets.   The needs and cost of care of the dually enrolled Medicaid and Medicare populations leave them particularly vulnerable to potential changes and reductions in federal Medicaid spending.

The brief goes on to say that President Donald Trump and other Congressional leaders have called for changes in Medicaid financing that could limit federal funding through a block grant or per capita cap, which may affect Medicare beneficiaries who receive Medicaid.  Changes to Medicaid’s financing structure could have significant consequences for enrollees and states and the possible changes necessitate careful consideration regarding their impact on Medicare beneficiaries.

The coming weeks and months will allow the public to understand how the story related to those who are Dual Eligible will unfold.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has worked on Medicaid policy since the firm’s inception in 2004 and has helped non-profits and government navigate health-related policy at the state and federal levels. ACS client HMS, is the nation’s leader in cost containment, program integrity, and coordination of benefits solutions for government-funded and commercial healthcare entities.  HMS works with state Medicaid agencies to help detect fraud as part of its contract to provide program integrity services, which allows for government to save millions within their Medicaid programs.

Read more about how ACS works with clients like HMS here.


March 13, 2017

Medicaid Expansion Still Embraced by Republican Governors

Several Republican-led states are including expanded Medicaid coverage in their state budgets, according to a report by NPR. These include both Indiana, where Vice President Pence expanded Medicare when he was governor, and Ohio, where Governor John Kasich has included sustained Medicare expansion within his state budget proposal, which was announced on January 30, 2017.

In Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb, who assumed office on January 9th, 2017, applied for a federal Medicaid waiver that would extend coverage until January 1, 2021. Without federal approval, funding for Indiana’s Healthy Indiana plan will cease in January 2018.

The article quoted Holcomb’s statement: “Indiana has built a program that is delivering real results in a responsible, efficient, and effective way. I look forward to maintaining the flexibility to grow this remarkably successful tool and to preserve our ability to respond to the unique needs of Hoosiers.”

In addition to filling for a waiver for current services, Indiana also hopes to expand coverage for substance abuse treatment and support preventative services that help individuals quit smoking, manage chronic disease, and even train for jobs.

Ohio, Kentucky, and other states are considering plans similar to Indiana’s.

The unanswered question, however, is what happens if federal funding for Medicaid is discontinued through Congress’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; a conversation that ACS is monitoring closely.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has worked on Medicaid policy since its inception and has helped various organizations navigate health-related policy at the state and federal level. A long time client in this work is HMS, the nation’s leader in cost containment, program integrity, and coordination of benefits solutions for government-funded and commercial healthcare entities.  HMS works with the state Medicaid agencies to help detect fraud as part of its contract to provide program integrity services. For several years, ACS has helped HMS identify and pursue growth opportunities for its business in Ohio. As a result of HMS’s work, clients like the State of Ohio are able to recover millions of dollars every year and save billions more through the prevention of erroneous payments. That’s a win-win for everyone! Learn more about how ACS works with clients like HMS here.


March 2, 2017

Addressing the Root Causes of Homelessness

In a time of uncertainty for America’s social safety net, programs like Solutions for Change located in San Diego, CA offer a ray of hope for homeless families.

A recent article in the “Opportunity Lives” section of Forbes.com highlights the work of this San Diego nonprofit that is making family homelessness a thing of the past. Since its inception in 1999, the organization has helped more than 800 families, including more than 2,000 children, permanently end their homelessness.

Solutions for Change provides support that goes deeper than emergency or short-term assistance. Instead, it uses a “transformational housing model” that provides a wide range of services to address root causes of homelessness – from financial instability to mental health issues, to addiction and more. Transformational housing provides the supports to ensure that families have the job skills, job placements, parenting assistance, mental health supports, financial management, personal accountability and other skills to survive solidly in their own homes and avoid any repeat experiences with homelessness. Participants attend “Solutions University” for up to 1,000 days, get on-the-job training at businesses run by Solutions for Change, pay rent for their housing, and give back to the community as soon as they are able.

For this organization, programmatic success is measured by the number of families who stay permanently out of homelessness, rather than those who receive short-term assistance.  Solutions for Change’s success model is important because it makes their client’s independence the measure of success for both families and their program.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud to partner with A Place 4 Me (AP4M), cross-sector initiative that harnesses the strengths and resources of its partners to prevent and end homelessness among young adults age 15 to 24 in Cleveland/Cuyahoga County. A Place 4 Me is a collaboration led by a steering committee consisting of the YWCA Greater Cleveland; Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, including the Division of Children and Family Services and the Office of Homeless Services; FrontLine Service; the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative; and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.  AP4M secured housing for 103 homeless youth by using a “by-name” list to track and evaluate the needs of homeless youth, deploying team of 12 navigators to work directly with youth, creating a resource guide to help youth connect to needed services, expanding the pool of age-appropriate options, and ensuring that youth leaving the foster care system receive extra support.  Learn more about how ACS works with non-profits, government agencies, and foundations here.


February 24, 2017

Housing Advocates Oppose Criminalizing Homelessness

A January 9th, 2017, New York Times article explored the attempts of several cities to issue citations for homeless people living on public lands, and the backlash that can cause among advocates for the homeless. At issue is whether policies such as citations are criminalizing homelessness. The article features a video of police taking away tents and sleeping bags from homeless individuals living outdoors in the city.

While homelessness is declining overall nationwide, some cities – particularly in the Western U.S., are seeing increases in homelessness due to soaring housing prices and the lack of affordable or subsidized alternatives. In some cases, homeless individuals do not wish to stay in shelters because of the conditions there.

Challenges for housing the homeless abound, but Cleveland recently provided a powerful demonstration of what is possible by securing housing for 103 homeless youth in 100 days between September 9th, 2016 and December 18th, 2016. Cleveland’s effort was led by A Place 4 Me is a cross-sector initiative that harnesses the strengths and resources of its partners to prevent and end homelessness among young adults age 15 to 24 in Cleveland/Cuyahoga County. A Place 4 Me is a collaboration led by a steering committee consisting of the YWCA Greater Cleveland; Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, including the Division of Children and Family Services and the Office of Homeless Services; FrontLine Service; the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative; and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.  AP4M secured housing for 103 homeless youth by using a “by-name” list to track and evaluate the needs of homeless youth, deploying team of 12 navigators to work directly with youth, creating a resource guide to help youth connect to needed services, expanding the pool of age-appropriate options, and ensuring that youth leaving the foster care system receive extra support.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) partnered with A Place 4 Me (AP4M) on maximizing media coverage for the 100-Day Challenge.  The 100-Day-Challenge work in Cleveland was reported in a number of local media outlets, including News 5 Cleveland, Cleveland Magazine, ideastream, and Cleveland.com.   Learn more about ACS’s work with non-profits, government agencies, and foundations here.


February 16, 2017

Mayors Make Aging A Priority

Mayors across the country have named aging as a top priority for their cities as the number of persons aged 65 and older in the US is anticipated to double by 2050, from 46 million to 92 million, according a recent article on the Yahoo Finance website.

These statistics are from the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM)/American Association of Retired Person (AARP) Report on Aging in America, which surveyed 108 mayors – 92% of who said that aging issues are of high importance. In addition, sixty percent of mayors surveyed currently have an aging-related task force or initiative underway in their cities.

The report also details the top six priority issue areas that mayors identify as facing older Americans in cities across the country: health and wellness, housing, transportation and infrastructure, neighborhood and public safety, social activities, and workforce development.

Older Americans will have a significant impact on communities. As lifespans in the United States have gradually increased, so have the numbers of older people who wish to remain engaged in the workforce and in community. In addition, trends show that more people would like to remain in their homes as they age.

“It is critical for cities to make it easier for people to remain in their neighborhoods and communities as long as they want. As this report demonstrates, mayors and city leadership are actively and strategically developing their cities to support all of their citizens, including the nation’s rapidly growing population of older adults,” Mayor Frank Ortis, Mayor of Pembroke Pines (FL) and Chair of the USCM Taskforce on Aging, stated in the article.

How communities continue to address aging populations is of particular interest to several Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) clients, such as the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York (HFWCNY). In 2017, ACS is helping HFWCY communicate about their “Triggers of Decline” framework for aging adults. Triggers of Decline are an event or change in the physical, cognitive, or mental health of otherwise healthy older adults living in the community that can lead to functional decline or limit their daily activities and ultimately, result in the loss of independence.


February 2, 2017

Unifying the Early Childhood Profession

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recently launched a two-year initiative called Power to the Profession (P2P), which seeks to unify the early childhood profession and develop a consistent structure for competencies, qualifications, standards, and compensation for all those who work in the early learning field. This work intends to positively impact the quality of child care and early education settings, as well as academic and social emotional outcomes for the children they serve.

P2P is based on NAEYC’s public opinion research, which sought to understand public perceived value of the profession, identify what obstacles prevent educators from committing to the profession long term, and develop messaging to increase support for early childhood education and educators. This research, which was published in a 2015 report, Early Childhood Educators: Advancing the Profession, details opinions from educators, potential educators, and American voters.  NAEYC’s research found that voters are convinced of the value of early education and also believe that educators are underpaid for the valuable work that they do.  This research also indicated that low pay and benefits are the largest obstacles to the recruitment and retention of early educators.   The messages that resounded the most with those surveyed were around brain development, importance of educators as role models, and ensuring readiness for K-12 education.

Concern for well-compensated and highly trained workforce is further supported by a report released in June 2016 by the US Department of Health & Human Services and the US Department of Education called High-Quality Early Learning Settings Depend on a High-Quality Workforce. According to this report, low wages for child-care workers, preschool teachers and Head Start teachers is undermining interest in and efforts to improve the quality of early childhood education in every state.  In 32 States, the median annual earnings for a child care worker is below poverty for a family of three (i.e. $20,090 according to the 2015 poverty threshold). In all states, child-care workers with median annual incomes qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits. Wages differ based on setting and the age of the child.

At the same time, required credentials for early childhood educators have increased. Currently preschool initiatives in 32 states require a Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in early childhood for all lead teachers, and 45% of all preschool teachers hold a Bachelor’s degree. But, as the report points out, “Without a significant increase in annual earnings for teachers working with our nation’s youngest children, there is little incentive for attaining higher credentials and seeking higher levels of education.”

The report calls for greater parity in compensation for all of those who work to shape young minds, and provides a look at some examples of state efforts to improve parity in pay as well as assist teachers in attaining Bachelor’s degrees. It also includes useful state-by-state infographics about compensation to help early childhood advocates make the case.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud partner of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  NAEYC is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. The association comprises nearly 70,000 individual members of the early childhood community and more than 300 regional Affiliate chapters, all committed to delivering on the promise of high-quality early learning. ACS currently provides technical assistance for five NAEYC state affiliates across the country that were chosen by NAEYC to conduct outreach and engagement with the early childhood field and inform the P2P process. More information about NAEYC’s work to expand the early childhood profession can be found here.


January 19, 2017

How to Get Your Congressperson’s Attention

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get your issue noticed by your Congressional representatives? Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) provides advocacy planning and implementation to bring awareness to your issues at the local, state, and federal policy levels. We have several tools on our website to help you get started.

Sometimes, it’s good to get a sneak peak on the inside. Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) who served as district staff for two Utah Representatives, posted a series of tweets that were picked up by The New York Times, CNN, and The Huffington Post. As a district staffer, Emily worked in the state offices, not in DC, and she says that communication with the local office and staff is key to getting attention for your issue. So is using the phone.

“But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone number on air. He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones. It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action,” Ellsworth said in a triad of tweets.

In addition to calling, Ellsworth also encourages nonprofit or advocacy groups to invite staff on “field trips” to learn more about the work going on in constituent communities. “If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings. I loved getting out of my office and meeting with advocates in immigration, healthcare, education, science, and every type of work,” she says.

You can learn more about how ACS engages policymakers on behalf of The Ohio 8 Coalition, PRE4CLE, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and more here.


December 7, 2016

Quality Makes the Difference in Long-term Pre-K Results

A new study from Duke University shows that high-quality early childhood programs deliver benefits that increase or hold steady at least through fifth grade. The study followed more than one million children in North Carolina through two state-wide early childhood programs: Smart Start, which provides state dollars to support services for children ages birth to four, and NC Pre-K (formerly More at Four), which specifically funds pre-K programs for 4-year-old who are considered “high risk.” (NC Pre-K defines “high risk” as children from families that are at or below 75% of the state median income, children with low English proficiency, or children who are disabled, chronically ill, or who have developmental needs.)

Furthermore, researchers found that those lasting benefits accrued to children no matter what their race or family income level.

Having a high-quality program is key, said Kenneth Dodge, director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy and the lead author of the study, in a November 17 NPR interview. “The long-term impact,” he says, “depends entirely on quality and how well elementary schools build on the foundations set in pre-K.”

This study on the impact of a large-scale, statewide approach is important, because it helps to better understand earlier studies, like the one conducted in Tennessee, that found a “fade out” of the benefits of early education by the time children reached third grade. In that study, the quality component was notably absent.

Duke’s findings can also serve as further evidence of the need to create preschool programs with quality at the forefront. As more states consider creating or expanding early education initiatives, they must remember that quality is key.

Working in partnership with organizations such as PRE4CLE, First Things First Arizona, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC emphasizes high-quality and taking the whole child (and all their developmental needs) into consideration, when designing, improving upon, and advocating for investments in early childhood. To learn more about our work, see the ACS PRE4CLE case study here and these articles from 2016:


October 13, 2016

Ending Youth Homelessness in the 100 Day Challenge

ACS has been honored to help the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County spread the word about their participation in the 100-Day Challenge to end youth homelessness.

In September 2016, A Place 4 Me launched a 100-Day Challenge to end youth homelessness and set an ambitious goal: to house 100 homeless youth (aged 18-25) in 100 days and strengthen systems to prevent homelessness for youth aging out of the foster care system. ACS is helping A Place 4 Me initiative plan and implement communication for the 100-Day Challenge, including developing materials, coordinating media outreach, and planning a symposium in early 2017.

Cleveland was one of only three cities selected by A Way Home America, and rose to the top in a competitive process because of the work already accomplished through A Place 4 Me, a collaborative initiative of more than 30 partners to prevent and end homelessness among young adults ages 15-24. A Place 4 Me’s 100-Day Challenge addresses the unique needs of youth who experienced foster care

With the help of ACS, the Cleveland/Cuyahoga 100-Day Challenge have received news coverage, including stories in IdeasStream and FreshWater Cleveland. Check out the press release here: http://socfcleveland.org/Story/clevelandcuyahoga-co-to-house-100-homeless-youth-in-100-days/


September 28, 2016

Improving Employment Prospects for Special-Needs Students

What does it take to prepare special-needs students to find success in the workforce? According to Erik Carter, special-education professor and researcher at Vanderbilt University, it’s early employment opportunities, involved families and supportive community employers.

“I’m most excited about programs that provide real-life, hands-on work experiences for students at some point throughout their high school that’s not simulated, that’s not ‘pre-vocational,’ that’s not [simply] preparatory but that puts them in a real place where they’re doing real work that matches their interests,” Carter said recently in The Atlantic Monthly article, “Escaping the Disability Trap.

The article explores the pros and cons of workforce academies, such as the new River Terrace Special Education Center in Washington, DC. The challenge, the article points out, is that many academic and job training programs for people with disabilities tend to keep students separated, and often destined for jobs that are primarily held by people with disabilities. Instead, says Carter, whether through inclusion in mainstream programs or through sparate systems, students with disabilities should be prepared for jobs in more inclusive settings.

“If we can show that whatever experiences we’re doing actually lead students to attain the kinds of jobs they want and not the kind of jobs we think they ought to fit into then I get much less worried about what the path was,” Carter added. “The problem is that most of the things we do under the auspices of being vocational training [don’t] actually lead to integrated community jobs.”

There’s also the prospect of college, that is often overlooked for many special-needs students who could actually thrive there with the right supports.

Although researchers have shown that special-needs children in workforce prep programs tend to finish high school sooner than those who are not, the jury is still out on how those program impact longer-term economic outcomes.

Advocacy and Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud to partner with Towards Employment, which has helped more than 122,000 people prepare for a job, get a job, keep a job, and move up the career ladder through job readiness training, placement, retention and supportive services provided in a comprehensive and responsive manner. Learn more about ACS workforce clients here.


September 22, 2016

College or Bust? Don’t Forget the “Soft Skills”

A recent story on NPR’s All Things Considered caught our attention for two reasons. First, it opened with a report from a coffee bar in Willamette High School in Eugene, Oregon.  (Seriously, a coffee bar inside a high school? How cool is that?) Second – and much more importantly – it made the point that whether college is in the cards for students or not, schools can and should do a better job at preparing high school graduates for the world of work.

At the Willamette coffee bar, students learn how to work a cash register, handle money, juggle multiple orders, adhere to food safety and quality standards, and provide quality customer service. These are all the “soft skills” that more and more employers expect, according to the report.

“Roughly seven out of 10 high school grads are headed to college every year — but that leaves hundreds of thousands who aren’t. And survey after survey shows that employers are demanding — even of college-bound students — some level of job skills and professionalism: punctuality, customer service, managing people and teamwork,” says reporter Claudio Sanchez.

The story highlights the school alliance with DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) a program that has exposed high schoolers to real-world work skills since the 1940s. It covers multiple industries, from manufacturing to etail sales to entrepreneurship to graphic design – all of which supply skills students can eventually apply to careers, whether they attend college or not.

Given the rising cost of higher education and the blossoming number of careers that rely on more technical skills, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare students for college and career instead of one of the other?

Advocacy and Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud to partner with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW), which catalyzes nationwide transformative change in education, economic, and workforce development through research and action. Learn more about ACS workforce clients here.


September 15, 2016

Do We Really Value Boys and Young Men of Color? Enough to Embrace Systems Change?

“I have not time to mince words nor to sugarcoat the truth.  Truth is truth and the truth is that many Americans do not see value in investing in boys of color.” 

These words from Nikkia Rowe, principal of Renaissance Academy High School in Baltimore, were published by The Washington Post on June 25th, and they reflect what we see as a building sense of awareness and frustration among those who do indeed care – and care deeply – about the plight of boys and young men of color in our nation.

Rowe, who obviously does not mince words, points directly to antiquated systems as key factors in keeping boys and young men of color from achieving their potential.

“There are schools all over the country fighting, just like Renaissance, to save the lives of children that society has consistently undervalued, hidden, and avoided…” she writes. “[This] devastating hardship and struggle is the creation of those who control systems. Outcomes for young men of color will only truly change when we all have the courage to make radical change to challenge and restructure the current systems.”

The potential of every newborn black male is shaped by compounding factors of societal complacency, antiquated systems, and lack of investment, Rowe explains. She calls upon city and state leaders to make key changes, starting with deep and intentional investment in the population she serves:

“We have a choice. We can invest on the front end in quality educational experiences, college access, and employment and career pathways, or we shall certainly pay on the back end with our children’s loss of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

At Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS), we couldn’t agree more. We encourage everyone to read the full post, and consider how your work can support boys and young men of color in your community. For our part, we pledge to continue to make this a key area of focus and help build knowledge about needs and solutions. Visit our website to see other news posts about boys and young men of color, a case study about how ACS helped five communities strategically communicate and organize for action, and research about the 10 key elements for successful efforts to raise the bar for boys and young men of color.


September 7, 2016

Urban Institute Study Urges Schools and Community Leaders to Create a Better Fit for Boys and Young Men of Color

Harvard economist Ron Ferguson says, if you want to understand why black male students lag behind white ones in our nation’s schools, you should ask them. A recent NPR story, “What Young Men of Color Can Teach Us About The Achievement Gap,” contains an interview with Ferguson in which he explains the findings of his latest report, Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color.

Boys and young men of color often enter an education system where the deck is stacked against them. They come into kindergarten behind their peers, and gradually learn from peers that they are expected to behave and achieve differently from other students. Even teachers can reinforce lower expectations in terms of achievement and behavior. There are also conditions in homes and communities that attribute to both the preparedness level of boys entering school and the expectations for them as they grow.

Instead, says Ferguson, we should work to create a better person-environment fit between boys and young men of color and the schools they attend, and work to foster conditions in homes and communities that help enable rather than stifle boys and young men of color.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) continues to highlight issues that boys and young men of color face on a daily basis. Visit our website to see other news posts about boys and young men of color, a case study about how ACS helped five communities strategically communicate and organize for action, and research about the 10 key elements for successful efforts to raise the bar for boys and young men of color.


August 30, 2016

Report Examines Legislation Passed in All 50 States

The third edition of “The 50 State Project” by Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call was issued in April. This report reviews the tens of thousands of bills passed by state lawmakers during each session and examines trends across the country and what drives a bill to receive the most attention.

The report found trends in these 10 areas:

  1. Budget
  2. Education
  3. Healthcare
  4. Energy/Environment
  5. Transportation
  6. Economy
  7. Elections
  8. Prisons
  9. Taxes
  10. Drugs

As the most recent sessions of state legislatures came to a close, budget and tax issues continued to remain the top priority in 13 states. California, Minnesota and Tennessee are focused on spending budget surpluses; while other states, including Alabama and Louisiana, are recording large deficits and looking for ways to turn their state budgets around.

Other notable budget highlights include:

  • While Alaska will close the year at a $3.8 Billion deficit, its large cash reserve means it is likely not to see any negative backlash.
  • Arizona was able to lower the tax rate as was promised by the state’s newest governor, Doug Ducey.
  • In lieu of a tax hike, Connecticut is reviewing the approval of a $500 million reduction in state spending that includes workforce reduction and cuts to the state’s social safety net.
  • With no agreement between parties, Illinois still stands without a budget for 2016.
  • The best case scenario for Kansas’ fiscal year, ending June 30, is a $50 million deficit. The state is looking to make cuts to agency spending including highway projects and delaying payments to the state’s pension program.
  • North Dakota experienced a $1 billion shortfall in the budget cycle ending this February. The Governor made a 4.05% cut to all agencies receiving state funding.
  • Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion deficit has forced two sets of spending cuts across all agencies, three percent in December 2015 and four percent in March 2016.
  • After an 8-month budget impasse, it still remains unknown whether or not Pennsylvania will raise or lower their tax rates.
  • Falling energy prices mean a $145 million budget deficit for West Virginia.

Education remains an important topic of discussion in many states. Of all important issues identified in the 50 states, 10 percent were centered around education. Colorado has some of the lowest per student funding in the country, dropping well below the line legally allowed by the federal government. Massachusetts has some of the best schools in the nation, but there is a continued disparity between wealthy and low-income areas.

Other notable education highlights include:

  • In Arizona the state’s school system was illegally underfunded for several years.  After a lengthy legal battle, the state has been ordered to pay $3.5 billion in restitution.
  • Georgia is looking to cut -back its state sponsored HOPE scholarship program as demand continues to exceed the dollars designated.
  • Idaho’s legislature has approved a 7.4 percent increase in funding for the state’s education system.
  • A tough sell to Iowa’s legislature, Governor Terry Branstad reallocated tax dollars allocated for school infrastructure project to water quality control projects.
  • In Kentucky¸ Democratic leaders continue to clash with the Governor over a proposal to provide scholarships to students attending community and technical colleges.
  • Louisiana continues to rank one of the worst states for K-12 public education in the country. A 40 percent cut to all higher education budget since 2008 does not help and students are being expected to pay 65 percent more than the 2008 tuition rate.  As a result, many students are leaving the state, causing an inability to meet workforce demands in many high-demand fields.
  • Now the ninth largest state, North Carolina continues to struggle with education issues because state spending lags greatly behind the state’s growth, and re-segregation of school continues to cause disparity issues.
  • Pennsylvania continues to see a need for more money to be put into public schools. Much of the public school costs are put on the individual districts; thus wealthier areas are still succeeding academically but poorer areas have seen class sizes balloon and cuts to staff such as nurses and guidance counselors.
  • In Ohio, the pendulum continues to swing on the use of state testing to track results and accountability. Ohio’s one-year experiment with the PARCC tests ended after complaints across the state. Meanwhile, officials are waiting to see if new charter school oversight laws improve performance. More recently, questions have arisen about attendance at online schools.
  • South Dakota lawmakers approved a half-cent raise to boost teacher pay, which is currently the lowest in the nation.
  • Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has included education improvements in his school agenda. These include pay raises for teachers, additional dollars toward school maintenance projects, and additional dollars toward getting students to obtain a college degree.
  • Washington’s underfunding of schools was reviewed by the Supreme Court, and the state must come up with a plan to fully fund schools by 2018 lest they be given a $100,000 per day fine.
  • Michigan’s unemployment rate is now below 5 percent, which is considered a solid number by The 50 State project. Despite that number, the economy is still under scrutiny because of the state’s heavy reliance on manufacturing.
  • The state Supreme Court in South Carolina ruled in November 2014 that the General Assembly had not done its job to ensure all students received a basic education, and gave policymakers until the end of their session to address the issue.  Bills were working their way through the legislature but reforms had yet to become law.
  • In New York, Governor Cuomo proposed a program that would grant 12 weeks of paid family leave, which would be the most generous leave policy in the country.  Senate Republicans are resisting this proposal.
  • Wisconsin’s roads are the fourth worst in the nation, and lawmakers have been lacking in a long-term solution to fix the problem.  Options currently under consideration include raising the gas tax, upping vehicle registration fees, and implementing a toll system.

A final major trend uncovered in this report is the rising opioid abuse in at least seven states. Pennsylvania has made prevention of abuse a top priority, and Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Maine are all working to develop public awareness campaigns to empower law enforcement to combat the issue. West Virginia is being hit the hardest by the opioid crisis and continues to face high death rates, stiff hospital costs, and increased crime.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC is proud to partner with organizations committed to improving outcomes for our early childhood education, workforce development, K-12 education, health and human services system, and Medicaid.  Learn more about ACS’ clients here.


August 24, 2016

The Center for Community Solutions releases Human Services 101: A Straightforward Guide to the Social Services in Ohio

The Center for Community Solutions, a non-profit and non-partisan think tank based in Cleveland Ohio, released Human Services 101: A Straightforward Guide to the Social Services in Ohio in June 2016.  This guide provides comprehensive and easy to understand information on social service systems (such as employment and literacy, health care, food assistance, children’s services, and others) that support Ohioans, and details the impact of social services on many communities in Ohio.

Income support services that provide cash assistance to families in need, such as Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), is just one of the several social services available to children and families across the country. The impact of social services often goes unnoticed or misunderstood. The services explored in this guide support children, women, job seekers, the disabled, the elderly and many more.  By describing the wide impact of social services on Ohio’s communities, this guide illustrates how social services affect all Ohioans by proving that they are a critical component to the stability and success of Ohio’s families.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is a proud partner to organizations that support social services, such as A Place 4 Me, a initiative to end youth homelessness in Cuyahoga County Ohio; the City of Little Rock Arkansas, which is now implementing their Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families; and the Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health, which builds professional capacity and partnerships that support policies which are in the best interest of infants, young children and their families. We understand how social services impact our communities and families, and work to strengthen that impact through our clients and partners.


August 17, 2016

ACS Secures Critical Editorial for client PRE4CLE Seeking to Overturn Decision that will Cut Millions of Dollars for Child Care

In a multi-pronged effort designed and deployed by Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS), PRE4CLE and partners throughout the state have urged Ohio Governor John Kasich, to reverse a decision that prevents the strategic use of child care funding streams. This effort in building awareness around this issue has resulted in a Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial calling on the Governor to reverse the decision. Saturday’s Plain Dealer editorial states, “Combined state and federal funding ensures that poor children can attend facilities with high ratings, places where they can learn more and grow. It’s a model that wasn’t broken until the state intervened.”

You can read the rest of the editorial here:

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/08/ohio_officials_ought_to_change.html

PRE4CLE is a comprehensive plan to ensure all 3- and 4-year old children in Cleveland have access to high-quality preschool by increasing the number of quality preschools in Cleveland; helping preschool providers improve their quality ratings; and connecting families to quality preschool programs.


August 9, 2016

Newsletters and Social Media Aren’t the Same

Does this sound familiar? You create an eNewsletter, send it to your mailing list, hoping for a 25% open rate. Then, you post it on social media as a way to reach other audiences. Could you be doing more to marry these two channels to further your communication strategies? Chances are you could be.

Just remember: Social media and newsletters are effective tactics to complement your communication strategies. If you need help with honing your communication strategy, consider checking out Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) tools: 10 Tips for an Effective Communication Approach or pointers to Leverage Social Media.

A recent article, “Newsletters and Social Media Aren’t the Same- So Why Do So Many Marketers Treat Them That Way?, offers suggestions on how to make newsletter content and social media work hand-in-hand. Below are some highlights:

Pay to reach the hard-to-engage: Many social platforms including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn give you the ability to upload subscriber lists and target those specific individuals. You can target content to all of your eNewsletter subscribers or to the segment that has not opened a particular article. If you want to grow the size of your subscriber list, you can upload the same subscriber list and have Facebook create a “lookalike” list that shares characteristics and target these individuals with paid content.

Create Complementary Social Content: Don’t expect the same piece of newsletter content to be pulled verbatim and work well in social media.  When it comes to social, the audience expects content to be visual and engaging. Pull out an interesting quote from a newsletter article and create it into a visual graphic to share on your social media channels. Have an article filled with statistics? Pull them out and create a graphic for your social audience to react to!

Spotlight Social Sharing Opportunities: You can utilize high-performing social media content to feed your newsletter. Have a post that was particularly well received? Pull it out and put it in your newsletter! Encourage your readers to share on their own social media channels.

Reach your audiences most effectively by thinking through your communication strategies first, taking into account your purpose, target audiences, and core messages. Use the tips above to allow your target audiences the ability to engage with your content in different ways across multiple platforms. Please feel free to contact us anytime to discuss how ACS can help you with your communication!


August 3, 2016

What You Say is Important, So Make Your Message Clear

In the non-profit, philanthropic, and government sectors, it is easy become engrossed in industry jargon.  Organizations and individuals in these fields understand one another when using jargon and there is comfort in this ‘short hand’ manner of communication.  What Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) has seen over the years, however, is that those habits of using jargon internally among colleagues are rarely jettisoned when it comes to communicating to the outside world.  As a result, many organizations fall flat in their ability to clearly and effectively communicate even about simple concepts and issues.  “The Chronicle of Philanthropy” recently asked readers to share the jargon that bothered them most and the highlights are below. If some of these terms are familiar then take a shot at filling out the ACS’ tool to help you give jargon the boot in your daily communication. ACS has been told this is one of the toughest but most productive tools to help sharpen your communication skills and hone your message – without industry jargon.

Better partnerships or strategic partnerships Long frame analysis Sustainable/ scalable/ replicable
Leverage Deep dive Impact/ results/ outcomes/ outputs
Continuous improvement Synergy/ synthesize/ synergistically Promising practices or best practices
Collective impact Capacity building Innovative/ dynamic
Lapsed/ reactivated Funding Gift levels/ ask amounts/ ask ladders/ gift handles
Soft credit/ recognition credit Sound science Acronyms: WASH, MEAL, DRRM, LYBNT, SYBNT

 


July 26, 2016

Babies Lives More Complex Than People Think

A new documentary streaming on Netflix called The Beginning of Life focuses on the complex lives of babies and seeks to dispel the myth that babies are “empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge of the world around them.”

In fact, three decades of research by leading scientists suggests this is “patently untrue,” according to an article about the documentary in The Atlantic. “If more people recognized that fact, the way communities and policymakers think about and invest in the early years of life might be different,” the article says.

The documentary interviews several experts in the field of early childhood development, and the findings echo what many in the early childhood community – including some of Advocacy & Communication Solutions’ clients –  have been saying for years. Key takeaways from the article include:

  • The first five years matter. Kids who spend the early years in loving and enriching environments are more likely to stay in school and become productive adults. They are likely to be healthier. But when babies don’t have adults who engage with them, pathways in the brain that form a child’s foundation can disintegrate.
  • Learning happens through play. Helping children thrive doesn’t mean providing the best toys or the most expensive gadgets. Learning happens when children create their own play worlds. A child who sees a ruler and a pen and turns them into an airplane is often using more of her imagination and stimulating more of her brain than a child who is handed an already-put-together toy, according to Jack Shonkoff, the director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
  • Self-esteem is important. Children with high self-esteem who feel loved and supported are willing to try new things and to fail a lot in the process, said Andrew Meltzoff, co-director at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, because they know they’ll be safe. Even preschoolers who shout “no” at tired parents are testing the supportive boundaries of their environments.
  • Strong parent-child relationships are critical. The documentary points out that parents who are able to cultivate strong relationships with their children are ultimately helping shape more productive adults. “That love is an important part of the economy,” said the economist James Heckman.

For more than a decade, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has been enmeshed in the creation of early childhood learning systems in states, such as First Things First in Arizona, and in cities, such as Cleveland’s nationally recognized PRE4CLE and many other early childhood efforts across the country.  ACS continues to work in local communities, with state government, national non-profits, and thoughts leaders across the country to encourage a holistic approach to helping our nation’s young children get the best start in life through early childhood programs and policies which address health, nutrition, parent support, social services, as well as high-quality preschool. Learn more about ACS’s successes with First Things First and PRE4CLE here: http://www.advocacyandcommunication.org/successes/


July 20, 2016

City of Little Rock passes resolution to implement Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families

After Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) successfully presented Little Rock’s Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families to the city’s Board of Directors on June 7th, the 9 city board members unanimously approved the plan. Following this initial approval by the Board of Directors, formal approval in the form of a resolution was passed on June 21th, 2016. The resolution allows for the implementation of the Master Plan, starting immediately.

The Master Plan sets out to create safer and healthier communities for families, and increase educational, employment and wellness opportunities for children and youth.

The three-year Master Plan will serve as a framework for the city to implement the following goals that lay the foundation for city programs and services for the next 10 years:

  1. Use data to prioritize programs and services (such as academic assistance, job training, mentorship, counseling, and substance abuse treatment) and work with partners across the city to fulfill unmet needs such as housing and food assistance;
  2. Create a set of standards that will increase program quality for children youth and families and create benchmarks and indicators that ensure accountability;
  3. Create a plan to increase communication with the community;
  4. Fund additional programs that provide employment skills; and
  5. Integrate greater youth participation in the decision-making.

ACS was honored to be part of the Master Plan process for the past 16 months, convening and working with local stakeholders in the city to help develop this critical plan for the youth of Little Rock.

Learn more about the Little Rock Youth Master Plan here.

 


July 14, 2016

How Funding Helped Massachusetts Turn Around Its K-12 Education

How did Massachusetts schools go from the middle of the pack to first place? The answer is school funding.

A recent report from WGBH Boston explored the impact of the state’s 1993 legislation to overhaul how the state pays for its schools. The state poured money into districts that educated low-income kids, districts that historically struggled to raise funds through local property taxes. The funding enabled these disadvantaged districts to hire and keep good teachers, give them better training and improve curriculum in the classroom.

One school district received a $5 million increase in funding annual for a decade. The district used the money to support new teachers, new classes and new standards, eventually implementing new graduation standards, honors programs, and A.P. classes. Math textbooks that had been in place since the 1950s were updated, too. The funding also allowed the district to hire reading coaches and a technology team. Some schools lengthened the school day.

As a result of the changes, student test scores and graduation rates improved. In this specific district, 90% of its high-school graduates further their education after high school, up from 70% before the new funding laws passed.

In the past few years, the state’s funding of schools has slowed, and some districts are working to keep the funding strong because they have seen the benefit to their students. Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) works with some of Ohio’s largest urban districts through The Ohio 8 Coalition to advocate for equitable funding for the state’s neediest school districts so that all of Ohio’s children have the best possible public education.


July 6, 2016

Efforts to Curb Youth Homelessness and Increase Student Success Gain National Attention – Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) helps raise awareness in Cleveland.

Student homelessness is a growing epidemic in the United States, according to a recent report by GradNation. The report showed that more than 1.3 million students in the United States were homeless during the 2013-2014 school year, and that these students are 87 percent more likely to drop out of high school than students from stable homes.

That’s the reason Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and A Way Home America Initiative are aimed at bringing a new focus on the issue of homeless youth and working to both prevent and end this issue.

The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Obama in December 2015, is a federal education law that requires performance and graduation rates of homeless children to be reported separately. Advocates of the law hope this will motivate school districts and states to develop new ways to support homeless youth and help them stay on track. In the summer of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to send school districts guidance, based on student responses to best serve the homeless student population and ensure they graduate high school and go to college or careers.

Also this summer, A Way Home America (AWHA) officially launched. This national initiative aims to prevent and end homelessness by 2020. A team of homeless youth advocates, researcher, government agencies, and philanthropists behind AWHA will present a policy platform to the presidential campaigns to address homeless youth funding and develop best practices across policy areas.. It will also look at ways to reach out to communities who have had a direct impact on reducing the homeless youth population.

Working with Health & Human Services; Housing and Urban Development; Raikes Foundation; and Melville Charitable Trust & Casey Family Programs, AWHA has invited three communities to support national learning through launching a 100-Day Challenge to identify and execute best practices and end youth homelessness.

The GradNation report also set a goal: A 90 percent graduation rate for homeless youth – the same rate set for high school students who have stable housing.  The Every Student Succeeds Act and A Way Home America initiative/100 Day Challenge are the first step towards that goal. ACS’s new client  Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (Ohio), is helping to bring more awareness to issues of youth homelessness and how Cleveland can support their success. ACS believes that we all must work together to make sure all of our country’s students have what they need to succeed, regardless of their access to stable housing.

 


June 27, 2016

What Can Teacher Evaluations Tell Us about Performance? Not Much, Study Findings Say

Teacher evaluations are often used as a way to identify poor performing teachers or areas for improvement. Yet a new study shows that teacher evaluation ratings may not reflect teachers’ true performance. The Washington Post reports that a study from February 2016 shows that despite 19 states having passed teacher evaluation reform measures, the median proportion of teachers deemed below proficient has ticked up from less than 1 percent in a 2009 TNTP study to less than 3 percent.

Researchers from Brown University and Vanderbilt University for the 2016 study surveyed and interviewed 100 principals in an urban district that adopted new evaluations in 2012-2013. The researchers found that on average in the first year, principals estimated that about 28 percent of teachers in their buildings were performing below proficient, but they also predicted that they would assign low ratings to just 24 percent, openly acknowledging that they would inflate some teachers’ scores. At the year’s end, however, it turned out that fewer than 7 percent of teachers actually received ratings below proficient, according to The Washington Post article.

What are the reasons for the discrepancy? Some principals told researchers they felt uncomfortable delivering bad news to teachers. Other principals told the researchers they didn’t have time to work through the documentation and support necessary to give teachers poor ratings. Still others said they were reluctant to give poor reviews to teachers who had potential or were working hard to improve, or they didn’t feel they could find a stronger replacement for the weak teacher in the classroom. Principals also said it was easier to encourage a poor teacher to find a job elsewhere than to go through the paperwork associated with a poor review.

Despite widespread changes to the teacher evaluation metrics across the country, there is evidence that adopting a one-size-fits all approach in teacher evaluations has been ineffective. There are still gaps in the process that prevent fair and objective evaluations across the board. ACS understands the importance of having high-quality teachers in all classrooms settings and helps clients like The Ohio 8 Coalition advocate for evaluation reforms that preserve local control and help districts do what is best for their schools, teachers and students.


June 20, 2016

Study Shows Race, Place and Education Matter in Success of Young Adults

Race, place and education all play a role in whether young adults find employment, according to a report released recently by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. The report, “Employment and disconnection among teens and young adults: The role of place, race, and education,” analyzes the employment and unemployment rates of teens, young adults, and prime-age workers in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States and provides data on disconnected youth.

The report found that young adults with lower levels of education are still reeling from the effects of the recession and continue to struggle in the labor market.

Nationally, an estimated 3 million young people aged 16-24 (7.6 percent) are disconnected, meaning they are neither working nor in school. The majority of these young people are aged 20-24, suggesting that the problem becomes more acute after young people are of an age to have graduated high school, according to the report.

Other key findings include:

  • Race plays an important role. Rates of disconnection vary widely by metropolitan area, and in some places, young African Americans and Latinos are up to 3-to-6 times more likely to be disconnected than young whites.
  • Education, or lack thereof, is even more important. According to the report, disparities by educational attainment are larger than disparities by race. People without post-secondary credentials do much worse in the labor market than those with higher levels of education.
  • Place is also impacts success. Employment and unemployment rates vary substantially by place; many of the best-performing metro areas are in the Midwest, West, or regions with highly educated residents, including state capitals and university towns, according to the report.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, has spent 18 months immersed in the issue in Little Rock, Ark., developing the Little Rock Youth Master Plan, which will guide the city and its community partners on how to provide programs for at-risk youth and appropriately fund those programs. We know there is a need for additional jobs for youth, but there is also a need for a focus on career awareness and preparation, including mentorships, apprenticeships, inventories for skills, and assessments, to help youth understand how to go to college and/or begin a career.

When implemented, the Little Rock Youth Master Plan will have an intentional focus on workforce development, build on existing partnerships with the business community, and increase opportunities for youth to gain valuable experience and skills so that youth are prepared for work and able to lead thriving, sustainable lives.

ACS can help communities develop a strategy to engage partners, and in particular businesses to increase opportunities for youth.


June 13, 2016

Heising-Simons Foundation emerging as a Major Player

The Heising-Simons Foundation (HSF) is hitting its stride with investments in three major areas and receiving national recognition for it. A June 2016 Inside Philanthropy article highlights the “start-up” mentality of the family foundation, and how giving in three major areas reflect its priorities: education, science, and climate and clean energy.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC assisted HSF in the early stages of its communication planning in 2015, including:

  1. helping the foundation ramp up its communication capacity and hiring its first communication staff;
  2. communication planning, including writing core messages about the foundation’s complex giving profile and conducting a website audit; and
  3. developing strategy around opportunities to introduce the foundation to the community.

ACS helped HSF successfully take their communication efforts to the next level, boosting HSF’s approach to communication to fellow grantmakers, partners in the community, and grantees.

Excerpt:

Since donor couple Elizabeth Simons and Mark Heising formalized their philanthropy a few years ago—they started a foundation in 2007 and started hiring professional staff in 2012—the Heising-Simons Foundation has moved fast, building a team of 23, setting up a 10,000-square-foot office in Los Altos, and making a splash in some niche areas.”

Annual giving has nearly doubled to $43 million since taking shape in 2013. In 2015, about half of its grantmaking went to education, a quarter to science, 12 percent to climate and clean energy, and the rest to trustee or other emerging interests.

“We believe there’s going to be continued growth. The family is really committed to the work that we’re doing, they’re committed to the foundation,” says CEO and President Deanna Gomby. 

ACS loves hearing about the successes of current and former clients. If you want to learn more about the capacity building, communication planning, and strategy development services ACS can offer your organization, please contact us!


June 8, 2016

Setting the Foundation for the Next 10 Years: ACS Completes the Little Rock Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families

On June 7th, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) successfully presented Little Rock’s Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families to the city’s Board of Directors. For the past 18 months, ACS has helped the city of Little Rock, Ark., develop a Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families that will guide City departments and its community partners to provide programs for at-risk youth. — That work was highlighted in a recent article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“It’s important work,” City Manager Bruce Moore was quoted as saying. “I think it’s going to have a significant, positive impact on our city as we go forward.”

To create the new Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families, the city of Little Rock turned to Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS). ACS joined with local partners, Philander Smith College’s Social Justice Institute and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, as part of a consultant team to lead national best practice research, facilitation of local stakeholders, robust community outreach, and development of the Master Plan.

The three-year Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families builds off an investment in positive youth development in the early 1990s by city leaders, called Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment, or “PIT”, funding.

The Master Plan provides the foundation for the next 10 years of programming for children and youth. When implemented, the Master Plan will create services that are more data-driven – paying attention to numbers and program success rates, for example – in meeting the needs of youths, increase the quality of programs, enhance communication about programs and services, focus on the future workforce and skills needed, and prioritize children and youths by giving them a more intentional voice in the programs and city leadership.

As a result of the Master Plan, Little Rock fully expects to create safer and healthier communities for families, and increase educational, employment and wellness opportunities for children and youth. ACS was honored to be part of the Master Plan process for the past 16 months, convening and working with local stakeholders in the city of Little Rock. You can view the Master Plan here.


June 3, 2016

5 Quick Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Email

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about how to maximize the effectiveness of your email strategy.  Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC highlights the best of the best from CoSchedule Blog, Connectivity, and Salsa Labs.

From knowing the best days and times to send emails and how to create an engaging subject line, to increasing your open rate –it is all about raising awareness about your organization through your email with these tips!

1.     How do I get my audience to pay attention to my email?

Although the timing of your email matters, what you write in your email and how your message is delivered will help your audience notice it and take action. Consider the following tips:

  • Write a catchy subject line. Your subject line should help your email get noticed so that your audience opens the email.
  • State why this email matters to the audience. Relevance, not frequency, is the most influential factor in keeping contacts on your email list. If the content is relevant, your audience will appreciate the email.
  • Personalize the email. When the emails address contacts individually by name, it is much more likely to get a response. If you are able to extract information about your contact’s personal preferences, send them emails that are relevant to those preferences. It could double your response rate!
  • Remember to include a call to action. Include a next step or encourage a specific response, such as sending a letter to a public official, signing a petition, or reading new research to learn more.
  • Use multiple channels to reach your audience and get noticed. Emails should be augmented with corresponding social media activity on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn alerting members to check their inboxes.

2.     Should everyone on my list receive all my emails? Ideally, you should segment your contact list based on audience preferences.

3.     What is the best day of the week to send email?

  • Tuesday is the undisputed best day to email to your contacts.
  • Thursday is also a good second day if you are sending two emails per week.
  • Wednesday is an option if you are not able to finalize your content by Tuesday.

4.     What is the best time of day to send email?

  • 10 a.m.-Late-morning send times are overall the most effective for getting your email noticed.
  • 8 p.m.-midnight – Catch your audience as they are winding down at the end of the day.
  • 2 p.m. – Your email may get noticed during a mid-afternoon break.

5.    How often should I communicate via email? As long as the content is relevant, you can send emails up to 6-10 times a month. Don’t rely on one-shot approaches, like only connecting with your audience to ask for money or to sign a pledge.  Communicate regularly and diversify your email content with your audience.   Be sure to send your updates about your organization, as well as making asks.

Advocacy and Communication Solutions, LLC provides comprehensive advocacy, strategy development, communication, and capacity building services to the non-profit, government, and foundation organizations.  To learn more about how we can help you maximize your communication efforts to meet your organization’s objectives, contact us.


May 17, 2016

Youngstown City Schools Sees Improvement in District Performance: Early College High School and K-3 Literacy scores see upward trends

Youngstown Early College (YEC), a Youngstown City School District high school on Youngstown State University’s campus that allows students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and college credit, boasts a 100% high-school graduation rate, compared to the state’s average graduation rate of 82%. Students enrolled at YEC complete their high-school graduation requirements in two years instead of four, and spend their junior and senior years working toward a two-year associate’s degree from Youngstown State University or Eastern Gateway Community College (up to 60 college semester hours).

This year, 60% of YEC’s graduating class received an associate degree while simultaneously receiving a high-school diploma; this is a 53% increase from 2015. Currently, 56.4% of graduates go onto to receive their four-year degrees; 89% of graduates continue on with their higher education effort after their first year of college.

For the much-watched K-3 literacy measure, Youngstown City schools improved from a previous score of 47.8% to 64.2%, narrowly missing a B rating by 0.7%. All elementary schools improved at least one grade level or sustained their performance of a B or C rating. Paul C. Bunn Elementary earned an A on the K-3 literacy measure, one of only three schools to do so in the Mahoning Valley. Choffin Career & Technical Center earned an A in Technical Skill Attainment Measures.

Youngstown City Schools still has their work cut out for them but these data prove that they are well on their way to even more positive outcomes with this positive upward trajectory.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) continues to work with Youngstown City School District and all of the districts in The Ohio 8 Coalition to advocate for collaborative solutions to improve academic performance, increase graduation rates, and close the achievement gap for urban children throughout Ohio.


May 11, 2016

States’ Pre-K Funding Increases for 4th Straight Year

Good news in the field of early childhood education. For the fourth year in a row, states’ spending on pre-k has increased, according to an April 2016 article on DistrictAdministration.com.

The article cites a report from the Education Commission of the States, which found that total state funding for preschool programs increased 12 percent over the prior year, to a total of nearly $7-billion. In the 2015-16 budget year, 32 states and the District of Columbia raised funding levels of preschool programs.

States’ support for pre-k seems to be bi-partisan as well. The report found that of the states that increased pre-k funding, 22 of the states had Republican governors and 10 had Democratic governors.

In 2015-16, five states – Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming – were the only states that did not provide state funds for pre-k, compared to 11 states just three years ago. Nine states decreased funding, and three stayed the same, according to the article.

The trends in state funding of pre-k mirrors what is happening at the federal level. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) increases funding for early childhood education through Title I, Title II and Preschool Development Grants, which will allocate $226 million to expand high-quality preschool for low-income families.

For years, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has been immersed in the creation of early childhood learning systems in states, such as First Things First in Arizona, and in cities, such as Cleveland’s nationally recognized PRE4CLE. ACS applauds the investment in high-quality preschool expansion programs across the country, yet understands it is just one piece of the puzzle. ACS will continue to work at local, state, and federal levels to encourage a broad, cross sector, holistic strategies to helping our nation’s young children get the best start in life through comprehensive early learning systems, which address health, nutrition, parent support, social services, as well as high-quality preschool.


May 4, 2016

New Report Shows Impact of FTF Oral Health Investments

A new study released by First Things First (FTF) shows Arizona is making significant strides in the area of early childhood Oral Health. The most common disease faced by young children, early childhood caries (a rapid form of tooth decay), can cause lasting harm to a child’s oral and general health, as well as impact their intellectual and social development. Oral disease nationally causes kids to miss 51 million school hours per year. There are additional costs of tooth decay for families and society. Treatment of severe ECC can initially cost $6,000 to $12,000, especially if children need to be hospitalized and treated under general anesthesia. On the other hand, the cost of a preventive dental visit is less than $200.

Since fiscal year 2010, FTF has invested more than $23 million in efforts to prevent ECC and promote positive oral health practices in families and communities. This includes providing a total of 177,950 oral health screenings and 162,240 fluoride varnishes to children birth to 5 years old through fiscal year 2015.

The study shows that FTF and its early childhood system partners’ prevention efforts are paying off. Since 2003, the percentage of Arizona’s kindergarteners with untreated decay has decreased from 35% to 27%. The percentage of Arizona’s kindergarten children with a dental visit in the last year increased from 54% to 77%. In addition, the percentage of young children who had never been to a dentist was cut by more than half, dropping from 25% to 10%.

ACS has been providing support to FTF leadership on strategy planning, facilitation, communication, and capacity building since in 2009. Read more ACS’s work with FTF here.


April 27, 2016

ACS to Present at 2016 Smart Start Conference

ACS Vice President Scarlett Bouder and ACS Senior Strategist Rebecca Cohen will present at the 2016 National Smart Start Conference in Greensboro, NC, May 2-5. At the nation’s largest conference devoted to early learning systems and strategies, the ACS team will deliver three presentations.

  1. Scarlett will moderate a featured session, “From Grassroots to Grasstops: Early Childhood as a Political Platform,” with a panel that includes Rhian Evans Allvin, Executive Director for NAEYC; Katie Kelly, Executive Director for PRE4CLE in Cleveland; and, Tom Lamb, Government Affairs Director, PNC Bank.
  2. Scarlett will later present “Moving from Buy-In to Ownership: Systems Change Through Authentic Collaboration,” which covers lessons learned from ACS’ work across the country.
  3. Rebecca will lead a workshop on effective messaging called “Be a Better Spokesperson for Infants and Toddlers.” 

If you’re at the conference, please be sure to say hello. If you have an interest in what we can offer at your next conference contact us!


April 20, 2016

Raising the profile of workforce development: ACS to present to local and state workforce leaders in Pennsylvania on the value of strategic advocacy and communication.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) will present to workforce development leaders at the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association Conference on May 18, 2016. ACS Vice President Scarlett Bouder and Senior Strategist Rebecca Cohen will join Michael Lawrence, Principal of Community Workforce Advancements, LLC to help workforce professionals:

  1. raise their workforce organization’s profile at both the local and state level,
  2. promote their value as strategic boards, and
  3. clearly articulate an agenda that includes policymakers, business, education, economic development and nonprofit stakeholders.

The workshop will include elements of the Advocacy 101 and Becoming a Great Spokesperson professional development trainings, as well as critical steps to be strategic in strategy and implementation. Participants will learn about the basics of advocacy and interact with each other to create their own messages.

With the new legislation of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Workforce Boards have an even greater opportunity to become more strategic, acting as catalysts and coalition builders, as they build career pathways, industry sector strategies, engage new target audiences and stakeholders, and have greater impact on their community. ACS, along with workforce partners Workforce Advancements, LLC and Workforce Systems Associates offers several opportunities to help local and state workforce entities build coalitions and their own strategic leadership to play an active role in workforce and community development.


April 14, 2016

ACS President and Co-Founder Meets with Foundation Leaders at the Grantmakers in Health Annual Conference

ACS President and Co-Founder Lori McClung met with foundation leaders at the 2016 Grantmakers in Health Annual Conference on Health in Philanthropy last month in San Diego, California.  Grantmakers In Health (GIH) is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to helping foundations and corporate giving programs improve the health of all people.

The theme of this year’s conference was Charting a New Course: Roadblocks, Breakthroughs, and Discoveries.  Sessions focused on the challenging aspects of grant implementation and management, and the critical role of communication, relationship building, and problem solving. Sessions highlighted the role that foundation trustees can take, and explored topics such as how foundation boards can prioritize long-term investments when faced with pressing short-term needs.

ACS is honored to work with philanthropic organizations both as clients and partners in implementation, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and their Forward Promise Initiative. RWJF’S Forward Promise initiative seeks to vastly expand the potential for boys and young men of color to grow up healthy, obtain a good education, and find meaningful employment.


March 28, 2016

Reports From Three States Show School Choice Programs Results Still Mixed

There’s an ongoing dialogue nationally about how school choice programs deliver better results for school students.  Three recent reports from Louisiana, Michigan, and Ohio call into question the effectiveness of K-12 voucher lotteries and charter schools.

Louisiana, for example, has the fifth-largest voucher program in the country, which began in 2008 in New Orleans and expanded to the entire state in 2012. Students from families with incomes below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit are eligible for vouchers averaging $5,311 per student, as long as their public schools are low performing (about all of the state’s public schools). Researchers found that achievement scores of voucher lottery winners dropped significantly in their first year of attending private school in math, social studies and science.

The Brookings Institute, which analyzed the research, noted that “the results suggest that the participating private schools need to provide far more support for voucher students when they enter. If the voucher students continue to perform poorly, Louisiana needs to overhaul the criteria used for including schools in the voucher program—or shut down the program altogether.”

In Michigan, a report released by the nonpartisan Education Trust-Midwest, found the state’s charter school authorizers need performance-based accountability because Michigan’s charter schools’ performance remains “terribly low.” About 20 percent of Michigan charter school openings between fall 2011 and fall 2015 were by “D” and “F” authorizers. While some poor-performing schools closed recently, other failing schools continue to operate. The report found that 80 percent of Michigan charters demonstrate academic achievement below the state average in both reading and math; however, it applauded a handful of “high-achieving” charter schools at which African-American students excel at reading at or above grade level.

“Presently no one – not even Governor Rick Snyder – holds authorizers accountable for their academic performance, despite the fact that their authorized schools serve nearly 145,000 Michigan children, and charter schools take in more than $1 billion dollars of taxpayer dollars annually,” the report stated.

In Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch found that Ohio’s charter schools continue to struggle. Analyzing recent state report cards, the Dispatch said that more than 80 percent of Ohio’s charter high schools got an “F” on their ability to graduate students on time in four years; those schools enroll more than 42,000 students. No charter high schools were in the top 10 of schools graduating students on time, and only two charters were given an “A” rating. The median percentage of students graduating on time after four years at high schools in the Big 8 districts was 71.2 percent, compared with 56.3 percent at charters.

In terms of literacy improvement, about 8 percent of Ohio’s charter schools rated A or B. No charter schools in Ohio’s larger cities of Cincinnati, Canton or Youngstown were rated A or B for helping youngsters read, and all of Canton’s charter schools received F’s.

These three states are examples that are worth continued monitoring. The recent trend is that school choice programs have diverted funds away from public schools, with mixed results at best, and without the same standards and oversight that public schools face. The only way to ensure all children have the same opportunity at a high-quality education, regardless of where they live and where they choose to attend school, is to apply the same accountability standards to all schools – public charters and traditional public schools alike.

ACS has deep knowledge and expertise in this area and through its client work engages policymakers, media, and community members on the importance of accountability for all schools to help all kids succeed. Want to know more about our work in this area? Need a speaker for an upcoming conference or event? Contact us!


March 24, 2016

New ACS case study: Raising the Bar on Behalf of Boys & Young Men of Color

The new ACS case study, Raising the Bar on Behalf of Boys & Young Men of Color, spells out how a deep and customized approach to grantee technical assistance provided added value for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and five grantees in the Forward Promise initiative. The Forward Promise initiative addresses the fact that boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in unsafe neighborhoods, and attend schools that lack the basic resources and supports that kids need in order to thrive.

A customized technical assistance approach is especially effective for grantees who are working to build and leverage community relationships and rally new supporters around innovative ideas.  RWJF and its grantees received added value that went well beyond traditional technical assistance. “We were able to help grantees learn as peers from one another and share ideas that could feed into each others’ plans,” says Lori McClung, President of ACS.

To learn more about how ACS’s deeply customized approach to technical assistance delivers lasting value, read the full case study.


February 26, 2016

Challenges in Measuring High School Equivalency: GED Testing Service Lowers Passing Score, Thousands More Students Now Eligible for GED Credentials

In 2010, more than 757,000 adults worldwide took some portion of the GED test according to the GED Testing Service.  High school completion or equivalency has long been considered the marker of a student’s preparation for work or postsecondary education. Passing the GED provides youth and adults opportunities to pursue post-secondary education and work.

When Common Core Standards implemented a series of new tests to ensure students would be ready for postsecondary education in 2014, GED standards also became more rigorous, which meant that the numbers of students who passed the equivalency exam decreased.  After the GED became more difficult to pass, the passing rate for the 223,000 students who took the test that year was 62.8 percent, down from nearly 76 percent in 2013 according to US News and World Report. In response to this decline, the GED Testing Service lowered the high school equivalency exam passing score by 5 points (150 to 145) in January 2016, making thousands of students who previously scored above 145 but below 150 now eligible for a GED credential.  The company issued a recommendation that states grant retroactive passage to those who failed with the previous score of 150, but each state can make its own decision, according to Education Week.

So what score means a student is “ready” for college or work? This is murky, and, as education experts have debated, secondary education exit exams do not equate to college entrance exams, or even employer expectations. The recent changes to the GED exam mean that more students have greater opportunity to access college and job opportunities, but it does not necessarily mean they are prepared to excel.

ACS is proud to work with clients like The Ohio 8 Coalition, the City of Little Rock, and former client Towards Employment, which seeks to assist students and job searchers acquire the education and training they need to succeed in their chosen fields.


February 17, 2016

Measure Your Communication Impact With This Checklist

You know effective communication is important. With the right plan and execution, you can build awareness for your cause, strengthen your base of support, inspire action in others, and help bring about meaningful change. But how do you know that your communication efforts are delivering the intended impact?

ACS is pleased to share our latest online tool, Measuring Your Communication Impact. This checklist will help you figure out how to track communication efforts, which strategies and tools are delivering the best results, and where and when changes may be in order.

Measuring Your Communication Impact offers an eight-step checklist to help you:

1.      Understand your purpose for communication

2.      Build a roadmap for communication

3.      Identify potential impact

4.      Understand the difference between process indicators and outcome indicators for tracking     success

5.      Get a handle on what you’re tracking well and where you can do better

6.      Identify new ways to measure impact

7.      Tell stories of transformation with the data you collect, and

8.      Learn and adapt as you go

With clear examples of measurement and links to other helpful tools in the communication planning process, Measuring Your Communication Impact will give you new insight and direction for not only creating effective communication – but for proving that it works!


February 10, 2016

The State of Public Charter Schools: Has Competition Delivered Results?

Riding the national wave of coverage related to public charter school performance in Ohio, a recent Columbus Dispatch article calls into question whether charter schools in the state are having the intended results of increasing high-quality options, “Charter schools were originally intended to unleash free-market competition and innovation, but their overall performance is making the state’s “Big 8” urban districts appear more competent”.

As national conversation around the performance of public charter schools grows, policymakers in Ohio have experienced pressure to increase accountability for public charter schools. Following a recent scandal where a Department of Education official was found to have removed data in order to increase performance ratings for many charter school sponsors, questions pertaining to the evaluation and performance of charter schools have further increased among stakeholders and media outlets throughout the state.

ACS client, The Ohio 8 Coalition, is a strategic alliance composed of the superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s eight urban school districts – Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. The Ohio 8 Coalition’s mission is to work with policymakers to improve academic performance, increase graduation rates, and close the achievement gap for students in Ohio’s urban communities.

The Columbus Dispatch article highlights that of the 19 charter and urban schools rated an A for graduating students on time only two were charters. The other 17 were traditional public schools served by The Ohio 8 Coalition districts.

To further emphasize concerns regarding charter school performance compared to traditional public schools, the article highlights that every charter school in Canton, Ohio earned an F on the state’s K-3 literacy measure and no charter schools in Cincinnati or Youngstown received above a C. These results should call to question whether or not public charter schools are increasing quality options for families throughout the nation.

ACS works to support The Ohio 8 Coalition’s demand that public charter schools be held to the same standards as traditional public schools in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately to support the educational needs of students.


February 1, 2016

ESSA Passed, So What’s Next?

Recently the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed Congress, replacing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002. The U.S. Department of Education is now faced with the tricky task of regulating the law, which goes into effect for the 2017-2018 school year. ESSA will have significant implications nationally and at the state level for early childhood and k-12 education.

These articles from Alyson Klein (k-12 focused) and Christina A. Samuels (early childhood focused) in Education Week explores the challenges of turning the law into regulations that “strike a delicate balance between handing power over to the states and reining in the Education Department. . . while also ensuring there some ‘guardrails’ are in place to help struggling schools and traditionally overlooked groups of students.”

Among the many considerations are:

  • How the law will shift significant decision-making and authority from the federal level to states.
  • Whether the negotiated rulemaking process for standards, assessments, and rules regarding how federal aid can or can’t replace state and local funds will be successful or if Congress will need to review regulations before they take effect.
  • How the U.S. Education Department will go about the creation of the newly created literacy grant program that will help states develop or enhance comprehensive literacy-instruction plans that ensure high-quality instruction and effective strategies in reading and writing for children from early childhood through grade 12.

One thing is for sure: Congress will be watching closely to ensure that regulation and implementation are moving forward as the law intended. Regulators are considering concerns from state schools chiefs, teachers’ unions, child care providers, the civil rights community, and others. ACS advocates for equitable, high-quality public education for all students through its work through The Ohio 8 Coalition, which enrolls 11% of Ohio students attending public schools, and through the support of PRE4CLE’s efforts to rapidly increase access to high-quality preschool in Cleveland.

The advocacy experts at ACS are working with high profile early childhood and K-12 clients including The Ohio 8 Coalition, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and PRE4CLE. In the coming months we will monitor the continued evolution of ESSA to fully understand its policy and political implications of ESSA and to best define advocacy activities related to the legislation. If you need help having your concerns heard, or if you have questions on how ESSA will impact your school district or organization, ACS can help.


January 26, 2016

Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? How Federal Policy and Standardized Tests are Changing Kindergarten Curriculum

A new study conducted by the American Educational Research Association titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?” has garnered national media attention from NPR and the Washington Post. The study concluded that elementary schools are expecting more out of kindergarteners academically and providing less time to spend in self-directed and creative play.  The emphasis on academic performance in this age group reflects a shift on behalf of school systems and federal education policy to focus on standardized testing performance rather than social skills and creative development.

The study compared teachers’ responses to a survey conducted in 1998 and 2010. The study’s authors chose these years because in 1998, the federal No Child Left Behind law hadn’t yet changed the school landscape with its annual tests and emphasis on the achievement gap. By 2010, significant changes in school policies and kindergarten became apparent.

The response from teachers during these two years found the following differences:

  • In 2010, prekindergarten prep was expected. 33% more teachers believed that students should know the alphabet and how to hold a pencil before beginning kindergarten.
  • In 1998, 31% of teachers believed their students should learn to read during the kindergarten year. That figure increased to 80% by 2010.
  • In 2010, 73% of kindergartners took at least one standardized test. In 1998 surveyors didn’t ask kindergarten teachers that question.
  • The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped from 34% in 1998 to 16% in 2010.
  • The percentage of teachers who reported that their students participated in daily recess increased from 73% in 1998 to 82% in 2010.

ACS understands that now more than ever, preparation for kindergarten increases the chances for student success. ACS is honored to be working with initiatives such as PRE4CLE and The Ohio 8 Coalition and organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), that provide increased opportunity for high quality early learning experiences so that children may grow up healthy and ready to learn.

 


January 19, 2016

2016 Snapshot of Media Trends: Abundant Opportunities to Reinforce Your Message

Using digital or online approaches can give your organization a leg up and an opportunity to tell your story in a new or different way. Chances are you digest digital content everyday through online mediums like videos, podcasts, and twitter, to name a few. Why not leverage this for the benefit of your organization?

In light of the New Year, Atlantic Media Strategies posted their top digital and media trends for 2016 on medium.com, a blog-publishing platform. These media trends are especially relevant to anyone wanting to share, discover, and connect to digital or online options.  Here are some of the trends to watch in 2016:

  • Website vs. Social Media:

In recent years social media has expanded, but has been used as a secondary means to the more traditional website. But now, many organizations are increasingly investing in their social media as the primary means of communication.  While websites offer the opportunity to dive deep into content, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram offer the ability to instantly connect with your key or target audience.

  • On Demand Content:

For years, media, especially television, has focused on the anticipation of an event to draw in an audience.  The excitement surrounding a media event, such as a televised awards show, sporting event, or season premiere has been a surefire way to increase viewership. But how will the rising popularity of on demand content on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon affect television viewership?  The binge watching trend has shown no signs of stopping, and platforms are consistently adding new shows and creative ways to keep their customers on computers and off TVs. In 2016, this trend continues as we consider media as an event or as omnipresent content to consume when we want.

  • Opportunities for Storytelling:

Online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, offer tremendous opportunities for dimensional storytelling, which allows the user to incorporate varying levels text, pictures, and videos. These provide a richer and more visual story to share with your audience. Consider digging deeper on your website while weaving brief and interesting parts of your narrative into your social media content.  If your organization does not utilize social media, there are an array of opportunities to advertise or appear on popular podcasts relevant to your audience.  You could even create your own, tailor the discussion to your target audience, and upload it to SoundCloud, a free music and audio streaming site, so listeners can sonically survey your content. There’s no limit to how much you can reinforce your brand or message when using multiple online platforms.


January 7, 2016

Start your advocacy now for 2016!

Looking to building an advocacy strategy for 2016? Want to know how to make the most of this election year? Check out our newsletter for our best advice on how to elevate your message and work during an important election year.


December 30, 2015

Living On Two Dollars a Day

Every year around this time, ACS reflects on the impact our work has for our clients’ stakeholders and constituents. We take into account changing realities and policies that help, and harm, how our efforts help children, youth, and families grow, learn, and thrive.

Much like our annual reflections, John Corlett, Executive Director of the Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland, reflects on his work and the realities for families living on $2 a day in his article published in October for Third Sector Today.  Corlett explains that while the number of Clevelanders receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits was ten times higher in 2007 than it is today, the number of persons in the City of Cleveland living in extreme poverty has grown by 40 percent since 2007.

Corlett asserts that a growth in deep poverty has persisted even as the economy has improved. A decrease in public assistance coupled with an increase in poverty (an increase of roughly 30 percent of individuals below 50 percent of the federal poverty level in Cuyahoga County) has left many struggling.   For an individuals and families in these circumstances, they live on less than $16 a day.

Corlett introduces us to Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, who recently published $2 a Day, a book that reveals how economic hardships have gotten worse for many families despite the overall improvement of the economy.  Edin and Shaefer explain that there now are one and a half million American families living on $2 per day, and that these households include three million children. The authors visited Chicago, Johnston City, Tennessee, and Cleveland to interview families in an effort to put a human face on extreme poverty in the United States.

Corlett offers a number of solutions to lift families out of extreme poverty.  He proposes using accumulated unspent TANF dollars to create subsidized jobs for those unable to find work. He also advocates increasing investments in behavioral health services, as many of those experiencing extreme poverty experience higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and other forms of mental illness. Corlett also suggests investments in literacy and adult education that could help the 66 percent of Cleveland adults who are functionally illiterate.

ACS continues our deep commitment to improving social issues that impact children, families, and communities through our work on early childhood, K-12 education, workforce development, Medicaid, and health and human services. We are proud to be working with clients who share that commitment.


December 22, 2015

Indianapolis Public Schools Adopt Restorative Justice Practices and New Code of Conduct as Alternatives to Zero Tolerance Discipline

Restorative justice models are gradually replacing zero-tolerances discipline models in schools across the country as awareness of the school-to-prison pipeline increases. Zero-tolerance policies remove students from the classroom based on mandated predetermined minimum penalties (such as suspension and expulsion) for a wide degree of rule violations, and place them in the hands of the justice system.  ACS is a committed partner to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, as outlined in a recent report, ‘Better than Zero’ that details how alternative discipline can zero-tolerance policies to break the school-to-prison pipeline and through our work with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise grantees.

After coming under scrutiny through evidence that one in five students in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) was suspended during the 2013-2014 school year, school officials have moved toward restorative justice practices to replace their zero-tolerance discipline model.  IPS’ racial disparities around discipline came under investigation by Indiana University professor Brea Perry. Perry’s research on this topic was published in the American Sociological Review in November 2014. In September 2014, representatives from the Greater Indianapolis NAACP, the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana, and Indiana University spoke before a panel of Indiana lawmakers sitting on the Interim Study Committee on Education to report high suspension rates of black students.

Following the release of Perry’s research and the testimony of education experts at the Interim Study Committee on Education, IPS developed a new code of conduct, released in late July 2015, aimed at reducing the number of suspensions and expulsions and supporting positive student behaviors.

Some of the new discipline policies found in IPS’ code of conduct include:

  • Students will be prohibited from recording cell phone videos of violence of fights in school.
  • Students may be disciplined for serious inappropriate behavior off school property and during non-school hours if the behavior will interfere with teaching and learning at the school.
  • No student shall be restrained and/or placed in seclusion by school staff unless the student’s behavior poses an imminent risk of injury to him/herself or others. Previously, teachers had been encouraged not to involve themselves physically if students were fighting.
  • Talking back can get a student kicked out of class, but the out-of-school suspension is capped at two days

December 21, 2015

Gates Foundation Findings Confirm High Quality Early Childhood Education Impacts School Readiness for Young Children

The Gates Foundation released an extensive report in September 2014 titled Lessons from Research and the Classroom: Implementing High-Quality Pre-K that Makes a Difference for Young Children. This report explores what makes programs successful and how best to spend early education dollars. Most importantly, this report narrows in on the most effective way to invest in early childhood education; by directing dollars to high quality preschool programs for low-income children.

Findings suggest that not enough of the available funding is being spent on high-quality preschool programs. A critical finding, because the report finds that low and middle performing early childhood education programs have either a negative or no impact on school readiness for children.

The Gates Foundation’s Early Childhood Learning initiative works to ensure that every child has high-quality early learning opportunities that support kindergarten readiness and elementary school achievement to ultimately break the cycle of poverty.

ACS understands the significant impact of high quality early childhood education. Our client, PRE4CLE, works to expand access to high-quality pre-K to children in the City of Cleveland. PRE4CLE will work with the community to connect parents and families to available high-quality pre-K opportunities. Read more about PRE4CLE here.


December 16, 2015

PRE4CLE Shows Year One Success in Its First Annual Report

PRE4CLE released its first annual report yesterday showing that Cleveland has made major strides toward expanding access to high-quality preschool for all of its children after just one year of implementation.

ACS’ deep knowledge in early childhood issues across the country, as well as expertise in facilitation, communication, advocacy, and strategy development, helped guide Cleveland, Ohio’s plan for preschool, PRE4CLE. This roadmap is directing the City of Cleveland towards the implementation of a voluntary universal preschool program for all three- and four-year-olds throughout the city. The ACS team led and facilitated nine separate working groups, consisting of a total of more than 60 participants, to delve deeply into aspects ranging from finance, to teacher quality and transportation. Once the PRE4CLE plan was approved, ACS led, developed and implemented a multi-faceted communication plan, including media relations, website content development, social media strategy, and development of print collateral materials to help PRE4CLE reach its target audiences with the right message, vehicle, and outreach strategy.

After PRE4CLE’s first year, enrollment has grown by 10 percent with over 1,200 additional children enrolled in high-quality preschools; 80 percent of children in high-quality PRE4CLE classrooms are on track to be ready for kindergarten. Twenty-one preschool programs were newly-rated as high-quality, serving 750 additional students. ACS helped PRE4CLE share their success story through a national media pitch, including EdWeek, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.

If you want to know more about how PRE4CLE realized such success after just one year, contact ACS at info@advocacyandcommunication.org.


December 8, 2015

ACS named Weatherhead 100 Upstart Winner

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS), was named a Weatherhead 100 Upstart winner as one of the fastest-growing companies in Northeast Ohio. ACS is an all-female, minority-owned firm that has provided communication, advocacy, and strategy development services to early childhood education, K-12 education, Medicaid, health and human services, and workforce development organizations across the country for nearly 12 years.

ACS was awarded the number 16 spot in the “Upstart” category at a ceremony on December 3rd. Sponsored by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio, the Weatherhead 100 awards ceremony recognizes Northeast Ohio’s fastest-growing companies based on revenue from the past five years.  Upstarts are fast-growing companies with fewer than 15 employees and net sales of less than $5 million last year. In the past five years, ACS has increased its staff from two to six employees and has grown revenues from $600,000 to nearly $1 million a year.


December 2, 2015

Don’t Confuse Access with Excellence: Why Quality Matters in Pre-K Investments

Recent research from Vanderbilt University regarding an evaluation of Tennessee’s voluntary preschool programs has prompted commentary from both early childhood champions and critics across the nation. This unique national attention presents an opportunity to set the record straight regarding what the results of the Tennessee study really mean. In response to this commentary, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) developed a briefing document that will help cut through the jargon and misconceptions, and provided a set of talking points that can be used to elevate this important dialogue among a broader audience.

We encourage you to review and share the response with your partners, internal audiences, colleagues, friends, policymakers, philanthropic leaders, and social networks in an effort to ensure that the crucial facts regarding high quality preschool are more broadly understood.

Download a pdf of the response and the talking points, both of which are also available on the ACS website under Special Reports.

 


November 30, 2015

Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Springfield, IL

Increasingly, individual stories have come to light about punitive and subjective zero tolerance policies that contribute to the school to prison pipeline. As we outlined in our recent Better than Zero report and through our work with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise grantees we know how powerful stories can be to highlight an issue. This is one of those stories.

In NPR Illinois Public Radio’s series Black and White, education reporter Dusty Rhodes explores racial disparities in school discipline through the lens of student Paris Taborn.  Paris, who was a straight A student athlete in Springfield, IL, was frequently sent home from school as a result of tardiness and dress code violations.  She missed so much class that her grades began to fall.  As a result of this discipline policy, Paris chose to transfer to the Springfield NAACP Back-to-School/Stay-in-School Alternative Education Program, where she graduated in May.

Paris is not alone. According to the article, black students at Franklin House Middle School in Springfield, IL, for example, were five times more likely to get an in school suspension than white students in 2011.  In 2014, the likelihood of black students receiving in school suspensions increased, and black students were nine times more likely than white students to receive an in school suspension.  It is clear that black students in Springfield are being disproportionately disciplined at school, and as a result are at risk of falling behind in their studies.

This story is part of NPR Illinois Public Radio’s six part series Black and White, which was dedicated to exploring racial disparities in school discipline.


November 25, 2015

ACS prepares early child childhood professionals to advocate in 2016

This November, ACS president Lori McClung and policy associate Cassie Gaffney, attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida to provide technical assistance to 14 state affiliates around NAEYC’s Early Ed for President campaign.

NAEYC’s goal is to make sure that early learning and the early childhood profession is a priority issue for all presidential candidates during the 2016 campaign season.

ACS worked with 14 early primary and battleground states to identify opportunities to develop and enhance their existing electoral advocacy activities.

For nearly ninety years the NAEYC has been the voice of high quality early learning in the United States and around the globe. Among its many accomplishments, NAEYC is known for developing a global standard for early childhood programs and professional development for early childhood providers.


November 17, 2015

ACS Policy Associate Cassie Gaffney Named National ‘Up And Coming Advocate’ By Professional Women In Advocacy

We are pleased to announce that ACS policy associate Cassie Gaffney received the 2015 Excellence in Advocacy by an Up and Coming Practitioner Award at the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., for her work as an early childhood education and K-12 policy advocate. This year’s competition had more than 100 nominees.  We are proud to have her on our team!

To see the press release about this award, please click here: Cassie Gaffney Named 2015 Up and Coming Advocate.

To learn more about Professional Women in Advocacy, visit http://womeninadvocacy.com/


November 11, 2015

Advocacy & Communucation Solutions Honored with International Communication Award

We are pleased to announce that Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS), was honored with a Platinum Award in the Communication Plan category of the MarCom Awards for its two-year strategic communication plan for PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s plan to expand high-quality preschool to all children in the city of Cleveland. An international creative competition that recognizes outstanding achievement by marketing and communication professionals–this year’s MarCom awards had 6,000 entries from 34 countries. Only 16% of winners across all categories achieve Platinum status. We are honored to take on issues that are close to our hearts, and to be internationally recognized for our work.  See the press release about this award here: marcom awards press release


November 3, 2015

Ohio 8 Coalition Announces Recent Accomplishments for their Community of Students

ACS client, The Ohio 8 Coalition, released their 2015 Year-at-a-Glance Infographic that highlights the accomplishments and activity of Ohio’s eight city school districts. This year-at-a-glance document reflects The Ohio 8 Coalition’s commitment to support the unique educational needs of every student in each of their districts, no matter where they came from, the amount of money their family earns, the languages they speak, or the physical or cognitive challenges they face. One significant highlight is the fact that The Ohio 8 Coalition represents 11% of Ohio’s students attending public schools, nearly 200,000 students.

Other highlights include:

  • The graduation rate for students enrolled in The Ohio 8 Coalition districts students is almost 72%.
  • Ninety percent of third grade students enrolled in The Ohio 8 Coalition districts represented met the third-grade reading guarantee and were promoted to fourth grade in 2014.
  • The Ohio 8 Coalition serves 15% of the state’s disabled student population and 30% of the state’s English Language Learners (ELL).
  • The Ohio 8 Coalition represents more than 45% of the state’s multiracial, American Indian, Alaskan, Asian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander students.
  • Last year, The Ohio 8 Coalition invested more than $33 million in preschool opportunities for more than 8,000 children and provided more than 36 million meals to students.

The Ohio 8 Coalition is a strategic alliance composed of the superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s eight urban school districts – Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown.  The Ohio 8 Coalition’s mission is to work with policymakers to improve academic performance, increase graduation rates, and close the achievement gap for students in Ohio’s urban communities.

See the Year-at-a-Glance Infographic here and visit www.ohio8coalition.org for more information about The Ohio 8 Coalition.


 


October 27, 2015

ACS Team Member Cassie Gaffney Finalist for Excellence in Advocacy Award

Cassie Gaffney, Policy Associate at ACS, is one of three finalists in the running for the Excellence by an Up and Coming Advocate Award presented by Professional Women in Advocacy, a national organization that strives to connect women in the advocacy field and promote excellence in their work. The winner of this award will be honored during the Excellence in Advocacy Reception and Awards event in Washington, D.C. on November, 15th, 2015. More than 130 women were nominated for advocacy awards in five categories

To learn more about Professional Women in Advocacy, visit http://womeninadvocacy.com/


October 20, 2015

What Happens to Public Schools When Neighborhoods Gentrify?

What is the effect on urban neighborhood schools when a critical mass of well-educated, well-off people move in? That’s a topic The Atlantic tackled last week, citing a variety of news articles around the country.

Unfortunately, in many neighborhoods around the country, gentrification, it turns out, usually stops at the schoolhouse door, according to the article “When Neighborhoods Gentrify, Why Aren’t Their Public Schools Improving?” Because newcomers tend to send their kids outside of the local system, often to private or charter schools, gentrification tends to have a neutral or even negative effect on neighborhood schools, at least in the short term, the article states.

When local governments prioritize better-integrated schools for everyone, all students benefit. Hartford, Connecticut, is one example where strong urban magnet schools attract students from outside the city. Nearly half of Hartford’s students now benefit from integrated K-12 education. “How exactly did Hartford do it? The city persuaded patrons to buy in,” the article explains. “It wooed children of diverse backgrounds. And instead of having students learn science through worksheets, the city gave students access to a planetarium, an outdoor garden, a butterfly vivarium, a trout pond, and a LEGO lab.”

ACS understands the value of a high-quality public education for all students. Through our work, we help local communities improve their public K-12 education systems in ways that work for them. ACS strives to support students from all backgrounds so all students can love learning, be inspired to graduate high school, pursue a career, and improve their futures.

Want to know hear about ACS’s K-12 education work? Click on our testimonial from one of our K-12 clients.

 

 


October 16, 2015

ACS Provides Closing Comments at National Early Childhood Conference

ACS Vice President Scarlett Bouder provided closing comments for the  BUILD Initiative’s national conference in Cleveland, Ohio on October  9th. She provided an outline of best practices when communicating to  parents, policymakers and the community about early learning issues as  well as perspective on the rapid growth of the early childhood field  during the past 30 years. Attendees from 10 states and the District of  Columbia were present. Interested in a similar presentation about early  childhood messaging and related history?  Contact Cait@advocacyandcommunication.org


October 6, 2015

As Arizona’s child welfare backlog cases continues to grow, PCA Arizona urges the prioritization of prevention

Child abuse and neglect is on the rise in Arizona: in 2013, there were more than 22,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in a six-month period of time, up from 16,000 in 2009. Despite this increase, child abuse is completely preventable.  As of June 30, 2015, the backlog of child welfare cases sits at 14,946 and there is estimated to be 52,000 new child welfare cases in the next year.

While other states are investing in prevention programs to address this issue before it starts, Arizona’s system focuses on remediation, with more than 18,000 children in foster care across the state.

That’s why ACS is helping Prevent Child Abuse Arizona (PCA Arizona)  to shift the public conversation about child maltreatment so prevention is prioritized as the lead strategy in the child safety system in Arizona.

As part of this effort, ACS helped PCA Arizona develop resonant messaging to clearly and consistently communicate the value and importance of child abuse prevention. ACS also equipped PCA Arizona with the tools and resources they need to become a key player and trusted source of information to the media on issues of child abuse and neglect, and the impact of child abuse prevention. Just last week the Daily Courier published a Letter to the Editor  by PCA Arizona Executive Director Becky Ruffner calling for the state of Arizona to invest in evidence-based prevention programming to reduce the number of cases of child abuse across the state.

Much is at stake; and PCA Arizona’s strong communication effort aims to make a huge impact on child safety.

 


September 28, 2015

Immigration brings New Students, and Languages to Akron

NPR recently highlighted a story out of Akron Public Schools, which is not uncommon to many districts throughout the state of Ohio, particularly Ohio’s urban districts.

Akron, and other urban districts across Ohio have been seeing more and more students who have immigrated with their families as a result of U.S. foreign policy decisions supporting refugees from around the world. As a result, the face of Akron’s student population is changing and Akron Public Schools has embraced this change.

The NPR broadcast, which can be accessed here, highlights the positive impact that this enrollment shift has cause for both the district, the students they serve, and the community.

Today, Akron Public Schools strives to keep up with the unique needs of English as a Second Language (ESL) students who are eager to learn and hungry for knowledge.

In addition to enriching classroom opportunities Akron Public Schools offers athletic opportunities for students. Today the soccer team at North High School, the most diverse high school in the state, is composed of 40 students, mostly refugees, speaking 5 languages. The team made it to the City Series Championship last year and hopes to do it again this school year.


September 22, 2015

ACS & The Ohio 8 Coalition Working to Close the Achievement Gap

ACS, through its work with The Ohio 8 Coalition, strives to support students from all backgrounds in an effort to level the playing field and help all students graduate high school, start a career, and make positive life choices. The Ohio 8 Coalition, with the support of ACS, works to impact K-12 policy at the state level to close the achievement gap and create greater opportunities for students to succeed in school and in life, regardless of race.

A recent Brookings article shows the significance of ACS’ work in helping to close the achievement gap.

The article “Following the success sequence? Success is more likely if you’re white” ultimately concludes that, “black Americans who meet traditional markers on the pathway to the American Dream are still less likely to get there than white Americans.”

The authors use researchers’ Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins argument that the likelihood of economic success conditional upon achieving the “success sequence”, a series of the following three middle class “norms”:

  • Graduate from high school;
  • Maintain a full-time job or have a partner who does;
  • Have children while married and after the age of 21.

Research shows that, even when black Americans follow the success sequence their economic prospects are worse than whites. Data shows about 73% of white Americans who follow the sequence will find themselves with income above 300% of the federal poverty line while only 59% of black Americans fare equally well. The article focuses on national data and the authors suggest that there is likely to be significant variation between geographic areas, particularly in cities.

For more information about ACS’ work with The Ohio 8 Coalition, please contact info@advocacyandcommunication.org.


September 15, 2015

Study finds younger workers need experience to succeed

A recent study by Brookings found that statistically younger workers (up to age 24) experience higher unemployment rates and less job stability than more experienced workers. This was exacerbated by the Great Recession of 2007-2009, which saw job opportunities drop substantially, especially for younger workers. Why is this important? Because work experience in the younger years provides a critical foundation for an individual’s workforce trajectory for life and sets the tone for overall success.

At ACS we’ve helped the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forward Promise grantees develop strategies to help connect young boys and men of color, particularly those that are or at-risk for being disconnected, to school and work.  ACS understands that collectively a broad group of stakeholders, such as employers, schools, non-profits, and government entities need to work together to create change for today’s youth.

To help communities successfully engage with stakeholders, ACS created a simple 8 step process. You can find this tool on our website here on our website.

What else did the Brooking report say?

In short, that while many employers appreciate the flexibility, energy, and tech-savviness of younger workers, they identify academic and soft skills, dependability, and ability to fit into the workplace culture as both fundamental requirements and pervasive weaknesses among younger workers. It also found that a diverse group of stakeholders (employers, government, education, and training organizations) need to work together to improve youth job outcomes. The study notes that to improve outcomes for young workers and businesses:

  • Employers need to identify more clearly the skills necessary to execute their business plans and improve their strategies to recruit, assess, and train for those skills;
  • Stakeholders need to support and participate in workforce intermediaries or employer partnerships that meet regional labor market needs;
  • Educators and employers need to strengthen their information flows and increase their use of industry-recognized competency-based credentials; and
  • Educators and employers need to work together to expand work-based learning opportunities.

 

 


September 8, 2015

Every Day is Literacy Day at ACS

Today is International Literacy Day – and as we reflect on the importance of literacy to the careers, quality of life, and future to the individuals our clients serve, ACS continues to prioritize early childhood education and K-12 education in our work.

The Center for Community Solutions published an infographic this morning showcasing the need for continued attention to literacy in Ohio:

1.    1 in 11 Ohioans aged 25+ lack basic prose literacy

2.    1 out of 9 Ohio adults do not have a HS diploma

3.    45% of Ohioans below basic literacy have completed high school or received a GED

As we know, high-quality early childhood education is an essential component to preparing a child to succeed in school, and in life. Many studies have shown that students who attend high-quality preschool score better on their 3rd grade reading tests, and are more likely to graduate high school. Through our work with PRE4CLE, ACS has helped build a roadmap that will bring voluntary high-quality preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds in the City of Cleveland. ACS continues to support making this plan a reality by helping PRE4CLE build the communication infrastructure and strategic approach to inform families, providers, policymakers and the community about the importance of high-quality preschool as well as engage policymakers on the local, state, and federal levels to support early education.

We know that in addition to high-quality early education, quality K-12 education is just as essential to improving literacy in the state. That’s why ACS works closely with the eight largest school districts in Ohio through The Ohio 8 Coalition to advocate for policies that lead to better school outcomes for all of Ohio’s students.

Please join us in celebrating International Literacy Day as we continue our efforts to raise awareness about critical building blocks for learning.


September 4, 2015

PRE4CLE Helps Cleveland’s Children Thrive

Two recent news articles highlight new accomplishments for PRE4CLE , Cleveland’s high-quality preschool expansion initiative. ACS has worked with PRE4CLE from its’ very beginning – from facilitating the development of a roadmap to bring high-quality preschool to every child in Cleveland by 2020, to developing and managing the implementation of a two-year strategic communication and advocacy plan.

Following CMSD’s CEO Eric Gordon’s  State of the School Address in Cleveland last month, the Plain Dealer (Cleveland’s daily newspaper) recognized PRE4CLE for fulfilling one of the pillars of the Cleveland Plan – and being a roadmap to bring high-quality preschool for all three- and four-year olds in the City.  PRE4CLE plays an important role in preparing Cleveland’s children for academic success and bolstering their social skills through connecting families to high-quality preschool programs and accelerating the expansion of the number of high-quality preschool options available.

This summer, PRE4CLE announced that it has awarded Preschool Classroom Expansion Grants  to help increase the number of high-quality preschool openings in the Union-Miles, Buckeye-Shaker, and Glenville neighborhoods. These grants represent a major milestone for PRE4CLE - marking the first preschool expansion dollars awarded by PRE4CLE to high-quality providers in Cleveland.

The purpose of these grants is to increase the number of high-quality preschool programs (having at least 3-stars through the state’s Step Up to Quality rating system) in the Cleveland neighborhoods that currently don’t have enough high-quality preschool seats to serve the children who live in those neighborhoods. In the Union-Miles and Buckeye-Shaker Square neighborhoods, preschool enrollment is at 80 percent of capacity and expansion is necessary to meet families’ demands. In Glenville, there are preschool programs, but few are high-quality.  These grants are a first step towards implementing a key element of the PRE4CLE plan to focus new resources in the highest need areas of the city.

“From ensuring our staff stay up to date on the latest in child brain development, to making sure our kids are eating healthy and get to experience the music, culture, technology, and resources our community has to offer, we take high-quality early learning seriously. With PRE4CLE as a partner, we are now able to expand that cultural exposure to more children who need it most,” says Fundamentals Academy Director Lisa Ogletree, whose family has been providing quality education to children in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood for over 20 years.

“The grants cover things like furniture, small tables, chairs and shelves,” says Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director, adding interactive toys, enrichment activities, books, puzzles and blocks to the list. “It’s all the basic — but very critical — parts of a high-quality early childhood classroom.”

You can read both of the articles here:


August 19, 2015

Lead More Effective Meetings

At ACS we facilitate hundreds of small, medium and large meetings each year. This list from SmartBlog on Leadership provides a check-list of 15 items to make your meetings more effective and productive. ACS offers complimentary tools to take your meetings to the next level:

  • Facilitation checklist – ACS’s facilitation checklist provides will help a facilitator design, plan for, and prepare a facilitated session from start to finish.
  • Facilitation challenges –Common facilitation challenges includes challenges a facilitator may face, and ways to overcome them.
  • Active listening techniques – This sheet helps you build your skills to be able to listen and respond appropriately in meetings.

August 11, 2015

ACS is Growing!

ACS is delighted to welcome the newest member of our team, Christina Graw, who has joined ACS staff as an Office Administrator. Christina will play a critical role in keeping ACS running smoothly, and supporting ACS clients in meeting their goals. She will be responsible for writing and editing content for ACS’ newsletter, and managing website updates. She will also provide administrative support to the ACS team by scheduling meetings and coordinating all travel needs for staff.

Christina has four years experience in marketing for government and non-profits, including the creation and management of successful social media campaigns and the development of a variety of marketing materials. She also volunteers as social media manager for the Malachi Center in Cleveland. Welcome, Christina!


August 4, 2015

Individual vs. System Leadership: ACS translates this from theory to practice

When most people talk about leadership they are referring to it in a very traditional sense. A traditional leader has the ability to bring people together to accomplish a goal they could not complete as individuals. This is the core of training and professional development sessions developed by ACS. Another component of ACS’ work with local, state, and national organizations, however, focuses on leadership-system leadership.

System leadership refers to the way organizations collaborate with each other, engage their constituents across social and economic boundaries, and improve upon their challenges and weaknesses. System leadership also contributes to the growth of a system. Many of ACS’ clients are working with complex problems that require system coordination and collaboration. Whether its creating change in the way that child care operates in a country or state, working with communities to ensure that youth have the tools and resources they need to succeed in school and in life, or working with national organizations to improve systems in several different states -ACS fully understands how to cultivate and implement system leadership within an organization.

How is your organization working toward system leadership? The Stanford Social Innovation Review recently published an article by Peter Senge that talks about the importance of system leadership and how to cultivate it.

Check out this video where leaders from Boston organizations gathered to hear Peter Senge (author,  The Fifth Discipline), John Kania (managing director, FSG), Molly Baldwin (CEO, Roca), and Alan Khazei (Founder and CEO, Be The Change, Inc.) reflect on what it takes to be a system leader and offer their perspective on the importance of this thinking when working on critical social issues.

ACS has tools in place to help your organization implement system leadership. The first tool we offer is our set of Collective Impact Questions. These questions take planning strategy from a single organization and allows multiple stakeholders to work together on a shared agenda in a community.

The second tool ACS offers is our coalition building tool. This tool will provide you with the basic structure and strategies needed to carry out a grassroots coalition.


July 28, 2015

NAEYC Issues a Call to Action for Early Childhood

For nearly ninety years the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been the voice of high quality early learning in the United States and around the globe. Among its many accomplishments, NAEYC is known for developing a global standard for early childhood programs and professional development for early childhood providers.

With the help of ACS, NAEYC is doubling down on its policy work for young children by issuing a Call to Action, which outlines NAEYC’s commitment to guaranteeing that all young children thrive in learn in a society that is dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential. The Call to Action encourages NAEYC affiliates to support the organization’s efforts to ensure that children birth through age 9 have equitable access to developmentally appropriate and high quality early learning, and that the early childhood education profession exemplifies excellence and is recognized as a vital and critical role in our communities.  The NAEYC Call to Action includes a number of specific actions that advocates can take.


July 27, 2015

PRE4CLE Announces Expansion Grants – A Major Milestone for High-Quality Pre-K in Cleveland

PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s high-quality preschool expansion initiative, announced last week that it has awarded Preschool Classroom Expansion Grants to help increase the number of high-quality preschool openings in the Union-Miles, Buckeye-Shaker, and Glenville neighborhoods. ACS has worked with PRE4CLE from its’ very beginning – from facilitating the development of a roadmap to bring high-quality preschool to every child in Cleveland by 2020, to developing and managing the implementation of a 2-year strategic communication and advocacy plan. These grants represent a major milestone for PRE4CLE – marking the first preschool expansion dollars awarded by PRE4CLE to high-quality providers in Cleveland.

The purpose of these grants is to increase the number of high-quality preschool programs (having at least 3-stars through the state’s Step Up to Quality rating system) in the Cleveland neighborhoods that currently don’t have enough high-quality preschool seats to serve the children who live in those neighborhoods. In the Union-Miles and Buckeye-Shaker Square neighborhoods, expansion is necessary to meet families’ demands. In Glenville, there are preschool programs, but few are high-quality.  The grants, a key element of the PRE4CLE plan, focuses new resources towards the highest need areas of the city.

“From ensuring our staff stay up to date on the latest in child brain development, to making sure our kids are eating healthy and get to experience the music, culture, technology, and resources our community has to offer, we take high-quality early learning seriously. With PRE4CLE as a partner, we are now able to expand that cultural exposure to more children who need it most,” says Fundamentals Academy Director Lisa Ogletree, whose family has been providing quality education to children in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood for over 20 years.


July 21, 2015

Ohio Educator Spells It Out for State’s Policymakers

Valerie Strauss, a reporter with the Washington Post recently featured a very poignant and honest blog post by Scott Ervin, who has worked as a teacher, principal and discipline specialist over the last 15 years throughout Ohio. The post, entitled Teacher: I’ve loved my ‘very difficult’ job. But now Ohio has made it ‘impossible.’ Highlights many of the challenges that ACS hears regularly from teachers and administrators across the state — all amplified by a juxtaposition of cuts to funding and increases in mandated compliance, paperwork, and accountability measures.

Ervin addresses Ohio’s policymakers directly, explaining that increasing mandates prevent him from doing the things he believes to be crucial to support students, “I used to be able to do things that are absolutely necessary when working with at-risk kids: home visits, calls home, and taking time with kids outside of school.” Now, he says, “I literally do not have a single second to get things together so that I can attend one of the meetings you have mandated that I attend.”

Ervin also calls attention to Ohio’s new A-F report card, which has been of concern to many teachers, administrators, and parents throughout the state. “My school, even with our 60 percent poverty rate, was listed as ‘excellent’ with your old rating system. The next year, with almost the same scores, in your new rating system, we received an ‘F’. How does that make sense? I hope you can understand the position of many educators who feel that you all don’t even want us to succeed.”


July 15, 2015

Need to Speak Out? Check Out These Tips

At ACS, we’ve helped many of our clients learn how to be better spokespersons for their organizations and causes. In our opinion there is nothing better than in-person training and coaching, but we were happy to see a recent article in Education Week entitled, “Becoming a Better Public Speaker: Tips from the Greats.” When we read this article, it was almost as if the writer had attended our spokesperson training! There are great tips and tricks summarized here such as telling a story and showing your own passion for the topic. There’s also the author’s more subtle reminder to practice a presentation many times before you give it.

 

Those kinds of basics are always important, but we also take it a step farther. In our spokesperson trainings and one-on-one consultations, we help our clients decide what to say, create a message frame, and pivot away from distractions and stay on point under pressure­ — even in the most challenging situations. Want more help building the skills that will make your next speaking engagement a hit? Contact Scarlett Bouder to schedule a spokesperson training for yourself or your team, and check out these three tools on our website:


July 6, 2015

ACS Client, PRE4CLE, rapidly accomplishing high-quality preschool goals

On July 2, 2015 Freshwater Cleveland featured  ACS client PRE4CLE, which in just 16 months, is nearly halfway toward their goal of enrolling 2,000 children into high-quality preschool. ACS has developed the communication and advocacy plan that drives PRE4CLE local, state, and national activity.

PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s plan to rapidly expand access to high-quality preschool opportunities for the city’s three and four-year-olds, is raising the bar for high-quality preschool. Seven hundred existing preschool slots were improved to PRE4CLE’s high-quality standards. Another 450 high-quality slots were created to meet the demand.

At the heart of PRE4CLE’s success is the unique collaboration of Cleveland’s public, private, business, philanthropic, and faith-based community. The Cleveland community is putting its money where its mouth is. To date, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cuyahoga County, and philanthropic partners have contributed more $9 million in public funding to support high-quality preschool opportunities for the city’s three and four-year-olds.

You can read the full article here: http://www.freshwatercleveland.com/features/pre4cle070215.aspx

Learn more about PRE4CLE’s efforts on their website: http://clevelandmetroschools.org/pre4cle

 


July 1, 2015

Buzzsaw Gives Jargon the Boot

With new words and phrases being developed seemingly every day it can be easy to fall prey to peer pressure and lead a life of jargon filled emails, reports, and presentations. Fortunately, Hamish Thompson, managing director of London public-relations firm Houston PR has created a simple online tool for shaming your colleagues and clients alike.

When presented with questionable English, simply copy and paste the offensive statement into Buzzsaw and you’ll be presented with an analysis verifying your suspicions…your co-worker just sent you a jargony sentence.

So, next time your boss sends you a sentence like this, “It’s critical that our firm streamline our ‘outside the box’ approach to client interfacing so that we can become an industry frontrunner among thought-leaders”, simply “reply all” with the prbuzzsaw link. www.prbuzzsaw.com. We then suggest you pack up your desk.

ACS works with our clients to develop powerful and succinct messaging (without the jargon). Click here to view ACS’ communication tools and resources including, Tips to Remember- Give Jargon the Boot.


June 23, 2015

The Ohio 8 Coalition Steps Up for Special Student Populations

Despite the increasing numbers of students across the state who are gifted, economically disadvantaged or who have limited proficiency in English, the Ohio House’s and the governor’s versions of the state budget, as well as the Senate’s version, propose no additional funding for these students. With ACS by their sides, members of The Ohio 8 Coalition have spent hours in the Ohio House and Senate advocating for a 2 percent increase ($43 million) in funding for these students, equal to the lowest increase in funding proposed for other student services. This tiny increase would result in significant support for students and come at a cost that is a mere pittance in the House’s proposed $71 billion budget.

The Ohio 8 represents the largest urban public school districts in Ohio, which serve nearly half of the state’s gifted students and more than 30 percent of the state’s students with limited English proficiency. In addition, 86% of students served by the Ohio 8 are economically disadvantaged. To read more about The Ohio 8’s stance on funding special student populations, read this June 14th Letter to the Editor in the Akron Beacon Journal.

HMS Helps Ohio Combat Medicaid Fraud

Ohio delivered more indictments for Medicaid fraud than any other state in the last year — thanks in part to the work of ACS client HMS. “The Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is doing as good or better than any (other unit) in the country,” said Lloyd Early, special agent in charge of Medicaid fraud, in a June 5th article in the Dayton Daily News.

HMS works with the state Medicaid agencies to help detect fraud as part of its contract to provide program integrity services. For several years, ACS has helped HMS identify and pursue growth opportunities for its business in Ohio. As a result of HMS’s work, clients like the State of Ohio are able to recover millions of dollars every year and save billions more through the prevention of erroneous payments. That’s a win-win for everyone!


June 17, 2015

ACS releases Infant and Toddler Messaging Guide

Early childhood advocates and supporters need a set of clear, compelling messages to differentiate infants and toddlers from traditional prekindergarten through grade 12 issues. Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS), in partnership with ZERO TO THREE,  analyzed messages most often used for birth to age 3.  The Infant and Toddler Message Guide provides explanation of when and how to use different kinds of messages, ways to make them more effective, and guides users through the process of developing more for their own use. It is available on ACS’s website at www.advocacyandcommunication.org/tools-resources and ZERO TO THREE’s website at www.zerotothree.org/itmessaging.


June 15, 2015

ACS Helps Enhance Great Start Provider Recruitment

ACS Senior Associate Rebecca Cohen was a featured presenter at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) Training Institute that took place in Troy, Michigan on May 21. In her session, entitled “Reaching More Providers Through Promising Practices, Cohen helped 60 Great Start to Quality outreach specialists increase their confidence and competence in using Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) to distinguishing target audience needs and align message and approach to meet those needs. As a result, these outreach specialists are now armed with more effective strategies for recruiting new providers for the Great Start program in Michigan.


June 9, 2015

A Comprehensive Look at How Communities are Closing the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The notion of breaking the school-to-prison pipeline has been gaining a great deal of national attention recently and the conversation has gained traction. ACS’s new analysis, Better Than Zero: How alternative discipline is replacing zero tolerance to break the school-to-prison pipeline:

  •  Provides an overview of the current national conversation;
  •  Highlights a sample of state actions to end the school-to-prison pipeline; and
  • Offers a closer look at how research is proving the flaws in zero-tolerance policies.

Check out the resources here on our website.


June 2, 2015

Preschool Growth Steady, But Not Enough

Are we content to wait another 75 years to enroll 50% of our nation’s four-year-olds in high-quality pre-K? What about 150 years to enroll 70%? That’s the current pace of change, according to the newly-released annual State of Preschool Yearbook, from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Across the nation, only 29% of four-year-olds and 4% of three-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded pre-K.

NIEER reports that total state funding for pre-K increased by more than $116 million ­– just 1% – in 2014, the equivalent of $61 per child on average. State funding per child for pre-K increased by at least 1%, but that’s still well below pre-recession levels. While these small increases in investment may indicate that state pre-K funding is turning the corner, there is still a very long way to go in ensuring a quality pre-K start for every child.


May 25, 2015

PRE4CLE Honors First 90 Providers in Cleveland to be Part of High-Quality Preschool Expansion Efforts

In May 2015, PRE4CLE honored the first group of 90 early childhood education centers, Head Start programs and Cleveland Metropolitan School District preschools that have chosen to be a part of Cleveland’s preschool expansion initiative, which aims to provide high-quality preschool to all of Cleveland’s three and four-year-old children.

“We want to acknowledge the commitment these centers and schools have made to provide high-quality preschool to Cleveland’s children by being some of the first organizations associated with PRE4CLE,” said Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director. “Through their participation in PRE4CLE, these providers play an important role in preparing Cleveland’s children for academic success. The preschool years are a crucial window of time to show children how to be successful students and inspire their love of learning.”

In total, these providers can serve 4,378 children in 226 high-quality preschool classrooms across the city.  These providers are private providers, Head Start programs, and Cleveland Metropolitan School District preschool classrooms.

ACS uses its strategic communication and advocacy expertise to help PRE4CLE expand awareness of the importance of high-quality preschool and the demand for high-quality education in Cleveland.


May 22, 2015

Elevating Work for Boys and Young Men of Color

Team members Lori McClung and Rebecca Cohen are busy traversing the country to help grantees in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise initiative develop powerful communication strategies and outreach tools. Lori and Rebecca have led strategy sessions with Little Rock, Chicago, New Orleans, Minneapolis, and Phoenix.  “ Much of what we are doing with them is helping with their communication strategy and supporting efforts to solidify their active partnerships, with goals that range from developing internal protocols and keeping accountability as a backbone organization to publicly launching their effort, to showcasing their work nationally to help with sustainability and policy change,” says Rebecca.  Each grantee organization is participating in a collective impact approach with other organizations in their communities to fundamentally change how their neighborhoods or cities engage with and provide services to young men and boys of color. Approaches range from restorative justice to college preparation, and ACS is there to help groups define their messages, identify promising practices and strategies, and setting the tasks and timelines to ensure the work is impactful.


May 19, 2015

The Ohio 8 Coalition Testifies at the State House

On Wednesday May 13, 2015 David Romick, President of the Dayton Education Association presented The Ohio 8 Coalition‘s testimony on HB 64 to the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Education. The Ohio 8 Coalition’s testimony highlighted concerns and recommendations related to:

  1. Funding for special populations,
  2. Inclusion of transportation directors on the new Transportation Taskforce,
  3. School funding stability, and
  4. Measures to increase charter school accountability and transparency.

The Ohio 8 Coalition brings a shared administrator – teacher voice to help shape state education policy. Comprised of the superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s eight urban school districts, the coalition’s mission is to work with policy makers to improve academic performance, increase graduation rates and close the achievement gap for urban children throughout Ohio. The Coalition carries out its mission by working closely with legislators, educators, parents, labor and community officials.


May 12, 2015

The Ohio 8 calls for school district representation to study current funding and policies related to student transportation

The Ohio 8 Coalition has long advocated for a special commission to study the best approach to ensure students are transported safely and efficiently, while addressing funding gaps and policies that drive costs up for every school district in Ohio. In her letter published April 29, 2015, in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mary Ronan, Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and member of The Ohio 8 Coalition, calls for school district representation on the proposed Transportation Taskforce.

Transportation costs are a reoccurring concern for public schools across the state, and the schools in The Ohio 8 Coalition are no exception.  State funding that supports student transportation has not kept pace with actual costs, and currently no school district is fully reimbursed for what they spend to transport students. To help address the gap between transportation costs and reimbursement levels, the Ohio House of Representatives established a Transportation Taskforce, which will study the state’s existing funding approach and policies related to student transportation. While the study is a significant step in the right direction, The Ohio 8 Coalition calls on the Ohio Senate to take it one step further by making sure transportation directors from urban, suburban, and rural school districts are represented.


May 4, 2015

Study Shows Attachment Fosters Independence

Can early attachment lead to later independence? Yes, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The results of the study were recently highlighted by The Brookings Institute, raising the profile of a long-held belief among early childhood specialists and practitioners: “secure attachment,” the critical early bond formed between infant and caregiver, has lifelong impact. The longitudinal study followed children from infancy through the teen years, and found that those with secure attachments to caregivers in the first 18 months ended up more confident and comfortable in kindergarten and beyond. In addition, those with secure attachments were less likely to suffer from depression as teenagers. Many of the study’s findings can be found in the book The Development of the Person (The Guilford Press, 2009).

 


April 28, 2015

Creating an Effective Screening and Treatment System for Arizona’s Youngest Residents

Last week, ACS’s Heather Lenz led a group of Arizona’s early intervention stakeholders toward system coordination. Right now parents and families in Arizona face many barriers when it comes to identifying and addressing developmental delays in children from birth to age two. Things that should be simple – like finding information on screenings for hearing, vision, and developmental delays, or actually receiving these services – can be difficult for parents. Through a federal Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) grant, First Things First seeks to coordinate these services and others to improve both the rate at which children are screened for developmental delays and the process by which those children and their families are connected to the services and supports that address these concerns.

It’s a complicated undertaking involving many different stakeholders in a collective impact approach, but ACS is there on the ground, leading quarterly stakeholder group meetings in a drive to coordinate improvements statewide. Currently, the group is focusing on standardizing a set of screening tools, creating a standard referral form for physicians and providers, and mapping the system of screening and treatment services currently available to children. Heather and the ACS team have been working with First Things First on the ECCS project for more than a year, helping to establish priorities, develop a three-year workplan, and move forward on some of the most critical pieces of systems coordination.

When all is said and done, many Arizona parents will be more aware of and have more access to vital early screenings for their infants and toddlers, potentially addressing developmental delays earlier and more successfully.

 

 


April 21, 2015

StrivePartneship’s Cradle to Career approach shows positive results for children and youth in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

The Cincinnati Inquirer  reported findings released in April 2015 that examined the StrivePartnership of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. StrivePartnership focuses on the success of children: every child, every step of the way, cradle to career, with a focus on kindergarten readiness, fourth grade reading, 8th grade math, high school graduation, and college completion. StrivePartnership unites more than 300 cross-sector representatives and providers around shared issues, goals, measurements and results. These findings show the power of uniting stakeholders around a shared goal and shared measurement system.

Comparing 2014 to 2005 baseline data of public, parochial, and postsecondary schools, the report found that across the region, scores have improved. Results indicate:

  • Cincinnati Public Schools saw an 8% increase in high school graduation rates;
  • All districts show improvements in 27 of the 30 indicators.
  • Kindergarten readiness has increased since the baseline year (57% of children are prepared vs. 44% in 2005).
  • Of children prepared for kindergarten, 85 percent are on-track with reading by third grade.

However, indicators also showed room for improvement. Results show:

  • More than 1,720 children showing up for kindergarten unprepared, not knowing their colors, shapes, letters or numbers. Of these children, roughly 87% were from economically disadvantaged families and 74% were non-white.
  • Children are showing up for kindergarten without the necessary social and emotional components to succeed; they don’t know how to sit still and follow directions, or they struggle communicating with their teacher or working in groups.
  • Of those unprepared for kindergarten, only 43% are on-track with reading by third grade, showing the importance of kindergarten readiness on later school success.

April 14, 2015

Making Performance Metrics Meaningful

At ACS we are always on the lookout for fresh ways to think about the work we do. We recently came across a blog by Aubrey Daniels that is not only spot on about the importance of meaningful performance metrics, but also helpful in providing guiding questions for your effort or collaborative to shape the development of those metrics.

Here is an excerpt from the blog:

Measurement changes nothing unless it is associated with meaningful consequences to those being measured. When you understand behavior and how habits are formed and sustained, measurement will become a useful tool.  Without such understanding it is a waste of time and money, upsetting more people than it pleases.

Below are some things to consider in making measuring behavior or other variables meaningful:

  1. Plan a positive consequence for the activity that is being measured.
  2. Reinforce the behavior without waiting for the result.
  3. Rewards (incentives, as some call them) should be considered necessary but not sufficient.
  4. Rewards should be relevant to the performer—know what is reinforcing to the person or variable being measured (Fitbit Awards Badges—I have no idea how many I have or for what.)
  5. Track behavior since it will provide many more opportunities to positively reinforce improvement as reflected by the measure.

See more at: http://aubreydaniels.com/blog/2015/01/13/measurement-friend-foe/#sthash.0Va3DaPL.dpuf

 


April 7, 2015

ACS’s Scarlett Bouder Helps Leaders “Give Jargon the Boot” in Franklin County

ACS Vice President, Scarlett Bouder presented before  Franklin County Jobs and Family Services (FCDJFS) “emerging leaders” program on Monday April 6th. Emerging Leaders is an effort by the agency to provide professional development opportunities to a select group of employees that seek to be supervisors and/or managers in Franklin County. Bouder presented Advocacy & Communication Solutions’ “Give Jargon the Boot” workshop about how participants can better communicate about themselves, their skills, and what they seek in the future as leaders at the agency.


March 31, 2015

The Ohio 8 Coalition Letter to the Editor Calls for Increased Transparency and Accountability in Ohio’s Charter Schools

On March 27, 2015, The Columbus Dispatch published The Ohio 8 Coalition’s Letter to the Editor in response to the paper’s editorial “A big step forward” that called on members of the Ohio House to further support efforts to ensure financial transparency for public charter schools. That editorial noted the national ridicule the Ohio’s charter-school system has been attracting because of its accountability loopholes and steps that Ohio House Bill 2 should include to address charter school accountability and transparency. As also mentioned in the editorial, The Ohio 8 believes that the legislation is a good start but should go a few steps further by requiring chapter school operators to disclose how they spend millions of tax dollars to run their schools (as is also required of traditional public schools).

As House Bill 2 moves on to deliberation in the Ohio Senate without inclusion of components that The Ohio 8 Coalition recommended, ACS will continue to push this critical legislative reform and engage local media to keep such reform at the forefront.


March 25, 2015

ACS Prepares the Junior League of Cleveland for Foster Care Advocacy

On March 23, 2015 ACS Policy Associate Cassie Gaffney prepared approximately 75 members of the Junior League of Cleveland to engage with elected officials. The two-hour training covered the basics of Ohio’s legislative process, what is and is not lobbying, and how to effectively engage policymakers.

The Junior League of Cleveland, Inc. is a group of women volunteers dedicated to community change. The group is composed of diverse, creative, compassionate, and action oriented women who are committed to promoting the League’s mission of promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action of trained volunteers.

The Junior League of Cleveland is supporting the passage of HB 50, which is currently in the Ohio House Community and Family Advancement Committee. The bill would expand foster care and adoption assistance to persons up to age 21 who meet a number of qualify criteria.

This training served to prepare members who are interested in engaging advocacy efforts with the tools they need to connect with policymakers related to HB 50.


March 18, 2015

The ACS Team Shows Advocates New Skills at NAEYC Public Policy Forum

Two hundred NAEYC members from 39 states gathered in Washington, DC for the annual Public Policy Forum on March 8-10, 2015 to prepare to meet with elected officials about the importance of early childhood. On March 8, 2015 ACS president Lori McClung and policy associate Cassie Gaffney, along with Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign, presented a four-hour interactive pre-conference session. More than 100 early childhood stakeholders from across the country, most without previous advocacy experience, came to the session to learn about the federal legislative and budget process, rules for nonprofit lobbying, and strategies and tactics for effectively engaging policymakers. The pre-conference day concluded with a policymaker-meeting workshop where participants had the opportunity to practice and hone their new skills alongside their colleagues. Participants reported that information at the pre-conference was new and helpful, encouraged their colleagues back home to participate next year, and invited ACS to do similar trainings in their states. All resources from the pre-conference can be found here: http://www.naeyc.org/policy/advocacy.


March 10, 2015

National Charter School Reform Conversation Goes Local: The Ohio 8 Coalition Testimony Gains Editorial Page Recognition

This week’s Columbus Dispatch editorial highlights The Ohio 8 Coalition’s testimony on Ohio House Bill 2 that calls for greater transparency and accountability for public charter schools. The Ohio 8 Coalition’s common sense reform provisions reflect a national trend with Ohio at its center to help ensure that all schools meet the same expectations on behalf of kids. The Ohio 8 Coalition will continue this dialogue and ACS will be there to ensure media outlets continue coverage on this critical issue.


March 3, 2015

Reducing the Ridiculous Practice of Pre-K Suspension

New America Foundation’s Ed Central blog recently shone a spotlight on communities that are working to reduce pre-K suspension rates. As in K-12, pre-K suspension affects young children of color at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. This is most unfortunate, as it puts suspended children further behind their peers and helps them form early negative opinions of school overall. Fortunately, some cities are taking steps to address the issue. For example, the District of Columbia has introduced legislation to prohibit pre-K suspension within public and charter schools in almost all cases. Minneapolis and Chicago have banned pre-suspensions, and in Baltimore, principals must first gain approval from central office before suspending a pre-K or kindergarten student.

“These are good steps, but they are not widespread enough,” the blog author Shayna Cook writes. “It is promising that some cities and districts are making strides in this area and creating policies to eliminate the use of suspension in pre-K and the early grades. More should follow their lead, and then take the next step of investing in greater access to early childhood mental health professionals.”


February 16, 2015

PRE4CLE Helping Parents Find Quality Child Care in Cleveland

PRE4CLE is highlighted among these recent Cleveland Plain Dealer articles that help parents understand what to look for in quality child care settings

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/01/state_ratings_point_to_preschools_that_are_really_schools_not_just_child_care.html#incart_story_package

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/01/what_makes_a_good_preschool_state_inspectors_tell_parents_what_to_look_for.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/01/finding_a_preschool_a_guide_for_parents_on_how_to_start.html#incart_story_package

You can find our more about PRE4CLE here: http://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/pre4cle.

 

 


February 10, 2015

Ron Haskins Shares 5 Programs That Work

As a co-author of Show Me The Evidence and key driver of 1996 welfare reform policy, Ron Haskins knows a thing or two about finding programs that work. Now, as co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families and Budgeting for National Priorities Project, Haskins’ recent blog post, “Social Programs that Work,” highlights five evidence-based programs that “have produced big and lasting impacts on social problems.” These programs are:

  • Career Academies – small learning communities of 150-200 students that result in an 11% increase in average annual earnings for graduates and significant increases in family stability.
  • Nurse-Family Partnership – a home visitation program for at-risk new parents that shows impressive reductions in child abuse and neglect, reductions in subsequent births, less time spent on welfare, and better cognitive, academic and social outcomes for children.
  • Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program – a youth development program for economically disadvantaged teens that not only reduces pregnancy rates by 40%, but shows participants are 30% more likely to complete high school (or GED) and 37% more likely to enroll in college.
  • Success for All ­­– a comprehensive reform program for high-poverty elementary schools that shows significant improvements in grade-level reading outcomes for second graders.
  • Small Schools of Choice ­– A model that replaced 31 large, failing NYC high schools with more than 100 smaller schools with specialized curricula and philosophies. Students in SSCs were more likely to graduate and more likely to enroll in college.

One more fact worth mentioning: the cost of all of these programs is far less than that of the government programs successful participants would likely require later in life.


February 2, 2015

Ohio’s 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee Infographic Highlights Reading Success Of Urban School Districts

Recently the Ohio Department of Education released this link* to promote the initial results of the state’s 3rd grade reading policy. Several school districts from ACS client The Ohio 8 coalition are featured as examples of success! Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee ensures that every struggling reader gets the support he or she needs to be able to learn and achieve. This year, 95.8% of eligible 3rd graders met Third Grade Reading Guarantee promotion minimum.

*http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Early-Learning/Third-Grade-Reading-Guarantee/TGRG-Infographic.pdf.aspx


January 27, 2015

Federal Proposals call for Comprehensive Early Education

Early childhood education has become a higher priority for federal policymakers in 2015, which means good news for ACS, our clients, and young children across the country. The first month of 2015 has been a promising one, as new voices promise to integrate early education into their plans.

Early learning is becoming a top priority in education reform as Congress considers reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for Congress to improve access to high-quality preschool through ESEA.

Last week early childhood was a prominent theme in the President’s State of the Union address and the White House released two fact sheets as part of the President’s ongoing efforts to improve child care quality, access, and affordability for working and middle-class families. The first fact sheet outlined the President’s priority for a tax code that invests in middle-class families. The “Making Child Care, Education, and Retirement Tax Benefits Work for Middle-Class Families” section discusses ways that this proposal will simplify and expand childcare tax benefits. The second was a comprehensive plan to make affordable, quality childcare available to every working and middle-class family with young children.

We look forward to working with our clients this year to help more young children access quality early learning and development opportunities.


January 20, 2015

Here’s More Proof for Pre-K Cynics

Are you facing community leaders or legislators who say there’s still not enough research to prove that high quality pre-K is effective — even imperative? A new article from The Washington Post provides new firepower to help you push back. In fact, this article debunks a poorly contrived “October surprise” policy brief from the Cato Institute, authored by David J. Armor. The Cato piece proposes that the success of some key programs can’t be generalized to pre-K overall, findings from other pre-K research projects are flawed, and the effects of pre-K fade out over time.  In the Washington Post article, author W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, takes on – and knocks down – each of Armor’s claims. “If all the evidence is taken into account, I believe that policy makers from across the political spectrum will come to the conclusion that high-quality pre-K is indeed a sound public investment,” Barnett asserts.


January 12, 2015

ACS continues discussions to support the coordination of Arizona’s early intervention system

On Thursday January 8th, Scarlett Bouder, Vice President, and Heather Lenz, Policy Associate, facilitated discussions with Arizona’s early intervention stakeholders to refine strategies and start determining benchmarks to measure the success of the state’s early intervention system. Led by First Things First (FTF), these discussions are part of the federal Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant (ECCS), received by First Things First for 2013-2016.  Arizona’s ECCS grant focuses on increasing developmental screening of young children to identify and treat problems early among children birth through age two.

ACS is entering their second year providing support to FTF leadership on strategy planning and facilitation to fulfill the grant requirements and goals of the ECCS grant. Last year, ACS worked with FTF to develop and adopt a three-year workplan with specific goals and strategies led by other statewide early intervention stakeholders in Arizona.


January 9, 2015

Ohio Charter School Performance Lag Other States

A recent study from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Educational Outcomes (CREDO) examines Ohio’s charter school performance has gained attention around the state. The Akron Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer reports the CREDO’s findings that Ohio’s charter schools rank 23rd out of 26 states where charter schools had been in operation long enough to produce measurable results. In a state like Ohio, where for-profit companies dominate the charter school landscape, that means families, students and taxpayers may not be getting their money’s worth.

“After a year in a charter school, Ohio students typically lag behind district school students by weeks in reading and months in math,” the paper reports. Only Michigan and Texas surpass Ohio in the number of charter schools run by for-profit companies.

On December 10, 2014, Macke Raymond, Director of CREDO, outlined key findings from their newly released report before a group of education advocates and state leaders at the Cleveland City Club.

While the report highlights increased positive performance of Ohio’s charter schools, it also reinforces the need for increased oversight of charter school sponsors and boards in order to ensure that charter schools are providing quality educational opportunities for all students.

The Beacon Journal also shares data from its own study of charter school performance management, which found that:

  • Charter schools that hired no company, as a group, performed the best academically; those managed by nonprofits showed the best student academic growth; and those managed by for-profits scored lowest in both categories.
  • Of the 16 lowest performing networks, 14 were managed by for-profit companies.
  • The online charter schools Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and Ohio Virtual Academy, which account for a quarter of all charter enrollment, averaged the lowest student growth in the state.
  • Of the 12 highest-performing charter school networks, eight hired nonprofit management organizations.
  • $503 million of $920 million in public funding went to charter schools managed by for-profit companies. A little over half of the $920 million went to out-of-state companies.
  • Out-of-state and for-profit companies enrolled 74,458 of the 119,271 Ohio charter school students.
  • The 10 highest performing companies managed schools with above-average revenue, many propped up by private philanthropists who invest in successful academic models. Others got a boost from Cleveland voters, who approved additional local aid (about $1,000 more per pupil) for high-performing charter schools. A similar local levy failed in Columbus. The state offers no financial incentive for top-performers.

 


January 4, 2015

NAEYC makes NPR’s 2015 Education Predictions List: Implementation of Kindergarten Entry Tests

Rhian Evans Allvin, Executive Director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) appears in this year’s edition of NPR Education Blog’s 2015 Education Predictions List by predicting kindergarten entry assessments will be implemented as a key transition into elementary school.


December 21, 2014

Nation’s First County-Level Pay for Success Program Aims to Reconnect Foster Children with Caregivers in Stable, Affordable Housing

ACS organized a press conference on December 19, 2014 to launch a national model that will help more than 130 homeless families and their children find stability in Cuyahoga County. Here are two stories from the press event, one from Cleveland.com and the other from Ideastream. With funding from The Reinvestment Fund, The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, and Nonprofit Finance Fund, Front Line Service and several local and national partners will provide comprehensive services to reduce the length of stay in out-of-home foster care placement for children whose families are homeless.  More information about the program may be found here: http://www.thirdsectorcap.org/our-work/cuyahoga-county-pfs/


December 16, 2014

How Will We Meet President’s Ambitious Pre-K Goal?

At the end of September, President Obama announced a goal to enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool programs. However, says EdCentral blog author Clare McCann, the way in which we can accomplish that goal is still unclear. Pre-K classrooms will have to grow by about 50%, says McCann, assuming both public and private programs are part of the plan. (If the President was referring to public programs only, those will have to double.) In addition, Mr. Obama’s call specifically for high-quality pre-K, a hurdle for many existing programs, and the question of half-day versus full-day programs as new pre-K seats are created. But perhaps the most pressing question is that of federal and state investment. While the President’s proposal includes helping states expand and improve their pre-K programs, Congress must approve such an expenditure. However, McCann points to a recent poll in which 64 percent of Americans said “it’s time for the federal government to do more to help ensure kindergarten readiness.” Who knows, maybe the President’s ambitious goal might become reality.


December 11, 2014

First Things First Captures Federal Grant to Support High Quality Preschool

ACS client First Things First of AZ is given credit for helping the state capture $20 million in federal funds to support high quality preschool. Funds will support First Things First’s flagship program, Quality First, the state’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), and help grow partnerships with institutions of higher education to increase the number of high-quality early childhood professionals.

Staff in ADE’s Early Childhood Education unit finalized the grant application earlier this year with support from the Governor’s Office, First Things First, and other early learning stakeholders. – See more at: http://azednews.com/2014/12/10/arizone-received-20-million-grant-to-support-high-quality-preschool-development/#sthash.xDjYZNMi.dpuf


December 8, 2014

Anthony Trotman Named 2015 Champion of Children

We are delighted to share the news that ACS client Anthony Trotman, Director of the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, has been named the 2015 Champion of Children by the United Way of Central Ohio. It’s a well-deserved honor. Mr. Trotman oversees a budget of more than $72 million and a team of 630 people to fund high-quality childcare, engage and support more than 6,000 youth in meaningful afterschool and summer programs, and provide Medicaid coverage for more than 145,000 kids. He also helped create “More Than My Brother’s Keeper” — a place-based, collective impact model that helps boys ages 10 to 14 stay on track for success in both post-secondary and career settings. And as if that’s not enough, Mr. Trotman serves as a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer mentor to a young man in the community. We love our clients, and we’re ecstatic when other people love them, too! Congratulations, Mr. Trotman!


December 2, 2014

Advancing Success for Boys and Men of Color

Seven academic centers at major universities have produced a Collective Policy Statement that includes recommendations to advance the success of men and boys of color in all levels of education, from Pre-K to post-graduate. These recommendations are of particular interest to ACS because of our work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise Initiative grantees. The Statement, Advancing the Success of Boys and Men of Color in Education: Recommendations for Policymakers, offers six policy recommendations specific to the preK-12 arena, four policy recommendations for the postsecondary environment, and five recommendations for the overall pre-K to doctoral education pipeline as a whole. Recommendations range from on-the-ground practice (such as increasing the presence of men of color among teachers, principals and counselors) to data collection (such as tracking and scorecards for schools with high suspension or special education placement rates, or creating a national dataset to track males of color from pre-K to postsecondary). Download the full report for free here.


November 25, 2014

Two Promising New Congressional Actions for Youth and Families

The 2013 Census Report on poverty rates told us what we already knew: far too many Americans – particularly children and those of color – live in poverty. But recent Congressional actions could take small steps to help poor children, youth and families. Our friends at CLASP have done a great job of summarizing the needs and the Congressional actions in this blog post.

The first is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), passed this summer. It’s the first reauthorization of workforce training programs in 16 years and received bipartisan support. WIOA helps state and local workforce leaders heighten their focus on and services to those struggling in the workforce, such as those with limited skills or education, which often means those living in poverty. WIOA also helps make it easier for these workers to juggle the demands of ongoing education and jobs to improve their overall skills, employability and outlook.

Congress also has supported the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program which provides home visits to high-risk families to support infant development and parental skills. It also funded Early Head Start-child care partnerships to support high-quality pre-K programs. And the House has passed a reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) fro the first time in 18 years, with Senate action expected in November.  CCDBG funds help keep families stable by supporting work and childcare for low income families.

While MIECHV expires in April 2015 and will hopefully be extended, and funding levels for WIOA and CCDBG are not yet sufficient to meet these programs’ goals, the level of bipartisan agreement to support all of these programs is hopefully a signal of more poverty-focused policies to come.

 


November 17, 2014

ACS Helps Put PRE4CLE in the National Spotlight

During his visit to Cleveland on October 28, HUD Secretary Julian Castro praised the efforts of PRE4CLE to expand affordable, accessible pre-K programs throughout the city, saying “Cleveland gets it.” Securing a visit from Secretary Castro was especially relevant, since he led the charge for another highly-praised universal pre-K effort in San Antonio, Texas, when he served as mayor there.  Thanks to ACS, the event received coverage in the Plain Dealer and NPR ideastream, as well as an op-ed in the Plain Dealer by Paul Clark (the regional President of PNC Bank) that was picked up by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Our team coordinated all the event logistics, including security protocols. We also coordinated messaging between PRE4CLE and White House staff, and invited, prepped and followed up with local media before, during and after the event.


November 11, 2014

Every Child Succeeds Featured in NYT Blog Post

New York Times reporter and author David Bornstein featured ACS client Every Child Succeeds in an October 16 blog post about addressing postpartum depression. Specifically, Bornstein highlighted Every Child Succeeds’ Moving Beyond Depression program, which trains therapists to treat depression in conjunction with home visitation. In a 2013 clinical trial, mothers participating in Moving Beyond Depression experienced significant improvements in depression, which makes them better able to focus on their infants. The model has now been adopted in at least four other states. The bottom line? Treating depression in women before, during and after pregnancy can improve outcomes for both mother and baby.


November 7, 2014

What the 2014 Elections Could Mean for Your Organization

Shortly after the polls closed in Ohio on November 4, 2014, it became clear that Republicans had secured significant victories across the state with significant super-majorities in both houses of the General Assembly and nearly twice the number of state school board representatives.

What does this outcome mean for key issues that affect ACS clients?

Early Childhood: Expect to see continued conversations about policies and funding driven by Senator Lehner (R-Kettering), Chair of the Senate Education Committee. We also expect discussion about Ohio’s recent application for federal funding to expand access to high-quality early childhood programming across the state.

K-12 Education: We anticipate continued discussion related to the funding guarantee, community learning centers, student testing, graduation requirements, academic distress commission qualifying criteria. Also look for an increased focus on early childhood policies within K-12 purviews, and zero-tolerance policies (see Juvenile Justice below).

Juvenile Justice: With the Governor’s expressed commitment to break the school-to-prison pipeline, we expect to see funds for this work in his proposed operating budget. Watch the activities of the statewide working group hand-picked by Gov. Kasich, as their recommendations will inform his policy positions and proposed reforms around zero tolerance, student suspension and expulsion policies and alternative disciplinary models in schools.

• Local Government: Look for further conversations on levy renewal caps, traffic cameras and municipal income taxes and a further emphasis on regionalization (which is likely to cause municipal budget woes).

Health and Human Services: “Welfare transformation” will continue through the Governor’s Office of Human Services Innovation, with emphasis on coordination across programs, employment services, case management and standardized and automated eligibility processes.

Medicaid: Tensions will likely rise among House and Senate majorities as they budget for the continued Medicaid expansion embraced by Gov. Kasich.

For more updates and insights, contact one of our staff.


November 5, 2014

NAEYC Expertise Cited in Major Media

ACS client National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) was recently featured in the New York Times and on Seattle Public Radio.

In the New York Times article, Kyle Snow, NAEYC’s applied research director, lent his expert perspective to an examination of the pros and cons of e-readers for early learning, and the fact that it’s too early to tell exactly how digital technology will have an impact on young learners. In Seattle, Snow was interviewed for a story on 94.9 FM KUOW about a program designed to enhance the skills and knowledge of home-based pre-K caregivers.

In both cases, Snow and NAEYC positioned the organization well as a leader in research and thought on pre-K policy and practice. Well done!

Watch for more NAEYC news this week, as early childhood professionals from across the world gather in Dallas for NAEYC’s  annual conference!


October 28, 2014

Law Enforcement Leaders Affirm the Importance of Preschool

We often think of parents and early childhood experts as leading advocates for public investment in preschool programs, but Illinois preschools have a group of vocal advocates who aren’t frequently on the “usual suspects” list: law enforcement. According an article in the Chicago Tribune, law enforcement officials are aware of the direct correlation between the absence of quality pre-K experiences and the likelihood of interaction with the justice system later in life. Members of the law enforcement community have called on the state to restore cuts to the state’s pre-K budget, citing evidence that shows investments in pre-K result in fewer taxpayer dollars spent in the justice system later on.

“Today’s four-year-olds are the future of our communities,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said in the article. “If we’re serious about solving the crime problem, we’ve got to be serious about giving kids the skills they need to grow up to be productive, law-abiding adults – starting with quality preschool.”

 


October 21, 2014

I Believe that Children are Our Future (Workforce)

A new blog post from the Brookings Institution calls on the nation’s business community to understand and support the importance of early childhood development if it wants to create a workforce for the future. Authored by Brookings Visiting Scholar Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, a former World Bank VP, the post highlights the fact that while education systems are important to creating future workers, early childhood is where the stage for success is really set.

Says Atinc:

“We know from the scientific literature that attention to the development of human capital needs to start when the brain is developing the fastest and is at its most malleable—that is, right at the beginning of life.  And we know from the economic literature that pay-off to these investments are high for individuals, economies, and societies, and much harder and more expensive to do as children get older and the plasticity of the brain declines. It turns out that much of this pay-off comes from the positive impact of a supportive, nurturing, and stimulating environment on the cultivation of “soft skills” in children that last into adulthood.”

The post also includes a video highlighting how early childhood development investments pay off and presents ideas to engage businesses more as supporters and advocate of our youngest children.


October 14, 2014

Ohio Lawmakers React to Poverty and Performance Data for Schools

Common sense should tell you that students living in poverty will not have the same advantages as those who are economically well off, and that those differences in circumstances will show up as differences in academic performance. That’s exactly what the latest round of state report-card data shows for Ohio schools, according to a Columbus Dispatch article — and it’s a trend that’s been building for years. But what’s different this year is a new trend in which more lawmakers are beginning to acknowledge that the disparity between economics and educational performance are closely aligned and calling for solutions to close the gap. Both Republican and Democrat leaders quoted in the article agree that “the data make an ‘extremely strong case’ for more early childhood education.” How will the rhetoric play out? Only time will tell…


October 7, 2014

Helping Smart Start Tell a Smart Story

ACS President Lori McClung recently coached close to 100 executive directors, communication directors, and board chairs from NC Smart Start partnerships in the art of crafting a compelling story about their organizations. As part of the Smart Start conference in North Carolina, Lori taught her workshop attendees how to effectively frame messages about early childhood in ways that increase public engagement. Participants left with new tools and practices to make powerful connections with their communities when telling the Smart Start story. You can check out some of the tools here: Giving Jargon the Boot Worksheet; Using your personal networks worksheet; and ACS Dirty Dozen Strategic Communication.


September 30, 2014

Many Honors for a Former ACS Client

This summer was an eventful one for one of ACS’s first clients, Towards Employment. Based in Cleveland, Towards Employment is building career pathways for economically disadvantaged and formerly incarcerated citizens. They help people prepare for a job, get a job, keep a job and advance in a career. Since 1976, they have helped over 120,000 individuals achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment. This success has attracted the attention of federal and regional funders, the media, and the White House. This summer Towards Employment was awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, The Fund for Our Economic Future, and the United Way of Greater Cleveland for innovative career pathways initiatives in manufacturing, construction, healthcare and culinary arts. Towards Employment was also honored by the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com as a “Top Workplace” in 2014. Additionally, Executive Director Jill Rizika was one of 15 Champions of Change honored by the White House on June 30th for her extraordinary work with developing employment opportunities for individuals formerly involved in the justice system. ACS is proud to have had Towards Employment as a client.

Keep up the great work!


September 23, 2014

Six Things Learned at the QRIS Conference

Having returned from The BUILD Initiative’s conference on Quality Raging and Improvement Systems (QRIS), ACS Senior Director Rebecca Cohen has six high-level takeaways to share:

1.    Data and research about the state of early childhood education is getting better, but it’s still not complete. Look for new and deeper information from studies coming out this fall from the National Survey of Early Care and Education and from Pennsylvania and Virginia.

2. Variations among states are good … and bad. While variations in the use of QRIS allow states and communities to learn from one another, it also makes a national conversation about quality more difficult.

3.    QRIS boosts collaboration among multiple systems. QRIS is well suited as a tool for local collective impact initiatives.

 4.    Workforce development is and will continue to be major emphasis of QRIS. A new federal study will be released this fall that will provide clarity on the effects of teacher degree attainment on early childhood education quality.

5.    Communication is necessary to translate data and research into messages about how the QRIS systems work. Organizations responsible for creating buy-in for QRIS must have a clear communication strategy to reach new and different stakeholders and champions.

6.    QRIS systems should reflect what local communities need and policy makers are talking about. Taking local politics and needs into consideration when customizing the QRIS allows a community to leverage momentum from all stakeholders.


September 18, 2014

A Model for Community Collaboration

Collaboration seems to be the model for our times, and it should be. No single person or group can solve the sticky problems that are seemingly entrenched in our education, justice and economic systems. Indeed, solving societal problems requires the engagement of that society — and that requires collaboration. But collaboration that doesn’t engage a diversity of opinion can often miss the intended mark, and sometimes even shoot in the wrong direction entirely. ACS makes a conscious effort to include input and action from diverse groups of stakeholders in every project. That’s why we love this article from collaboration guru Michelle Miller of MMBD (Michelle Miller Business Design). Michelle’s comprehensive Stakeholder Map for Collaboration not only takes into account the differences in background or role that different stakeholder groups may have, but their variations in perspective in relationship to those roles. Some stakeholders may serve as visionaries, exploring what’s possible, while others provide a clear picture of the current reality. Some may be skilled at defining program objectives, while others can see the paths that will lead to accomplishing those objectives. All are joined by a common purpose – a common answer to the question, “why are we doing this?”  We love the complexity and synergy of this model, because it reflects the messy truth and inspiring potential that are borne of human interactions. What more engaging work could there possibly be?


August 18, 2014

Training The Trainers for Arizona Early Childhood

When First Things First of Arizona (FTF) needed powerful plans for community outreach and communications to educate families statewide about the importance of early childhood education, they called on ACS. Now, ACS is assisting FTF with building the capacity of its regional community outreach staff and regional council directors to successfully facilitate community stakeholder conversations and negotiate difficult conversations around strategic priorities.

Scarlett Bouder and Rebecca Cohen recently spent several days in Phoenix training more than 30 regional staff and directors who came to the table with a wide variety of experience levels. ACS created custom tools and scenarios for FTF to help regional directors work through concepts and resources that will help them facilitate conversations with various early childhood stakeholders in their unique communities. The training also provided plenty of opportunity for participants to reflect on their facilitation work and work through the challenges of coalition building, coming to consensus, and identifying priorities.

The ACS team will continue providing 1-1 assistance throughout the summer so that FTF staff is well-prepared and highly effective in engaging their communities to support Arizona’s youngest residents.


July 18, 2014

Cincinnati Public Schools a National Model

Kudos to Cincinnati Public Schools for a great article in Ed Source that touts the district’s Community Learning Centers as a model for the nation. The district brings community partners into every one of its 55 schools in a “whole child” approach to improving academics. Cincinnati’s program employs the concepts of “community schools,” in which all of a student’s needs – physical, social, emotional and academic – are met under one roof through an integrated approach. In 10 years, that approach has transformed Cincinnati schools from one of the worst urban school districts in the state into the best. ACS is proud to work closely with Cincinnati Public Schools as part of The Ohio 8.


June 10, 2014

ACS Helps Arizona Embrace Early Childhood

ACS has once again been selected by First Things First (FTF) in Arizona to help guide the implementation of thier statewide efforts to ensure all Arizona children ages 0-3 years have access to screening, supports and treatments services in a coordinated early childhood health and development system. Supported by a federal grant for Arizona’s Early Childhood Comprehensive System Initiative, FTF and ACS will conduct quarterly meetings and strategy implementation with other partners and early intervention stakeholders throughout the state to help them reach consensus on strategy and move quickly to action. The work kicks off June 3 and will span the next two years. ACS is honored to continue this important work with FTF on behalf of Arizona’s youngest children.


June 3, 2014

Akron Superintendent Discusses Dropout Dilemma

ACS gives kudos to Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James for his comments on a recent panel discussion broadcast by 90.3 WCPN and WVIZ Public Television in a special edition of the Ideas program. James, a member of ACS client The Ohio 8, spoke about the challenges that surround students who live in poverty, and how those external forces have a debilitating impact on academic achievement. “It isn’t just a school problem, it is a community problem,” he said. “You have to have your job and family services folks involved. You have to have your children’s services board, your juvenile court, your mayor… a lot of those folks, and that’s typically what we do in Akron.” See the full interview and article here: http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2014/05/22/the-dropout-dilemma-panel-explores-causes-and-solutions/.

New research on youth employment highlights challenges for our future workforce

Research from Brookings found that employment prospects for teens and young adults in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas plummeted between 2000 and 2011. Work experience is a key indicator for finding and keeping future employment, and critical in forming foundational and occupational skills. The report includes recommendations and examples of promising programs across the country. For more information about the report and to interactively explore youth workforce indicators by metro area, click here.


April 30, 2014

Tell Your Story: ACS Leads National Communications Capacity Building Workshop for Early Childhood Organizations

At a time when breaking through all the noise is one of the biggest challenges facing communications and outreach professionals, creating a concise, impactful message has become a critical skill. VP Scarlett Bouder and Policy Associate Heather Lenz are gearing up to help early childhood professionals craft unique, distinct and compelling messages and share them in strategic ways that win supporters and donors during a special pre-conference session at the upcoming 2014 Smart Start conference, May 5-8 in Greensboro, NC. Scarlett and Heather will discuss the definition and components of framing, tools to create target messaging, how to shift the frame and be ready to communicate at a moment’s notice, and integrate framing into all communications efforts. Want to attend? Register now.


April 23, 2014

Sobering Look at Racial Disparities in Public Education

A new report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights provides new data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools and paints a disturbing picture: disparities in access and in discipline exist from pre-school to 12th grade for students of color. Across the board, students of color are less likely to have access to opportunities ranging from quality preschool to advanced placement courses to college counselors. However, they are highly more likely to receive harsher discipline, such as suspensions from school. In fact, even in preschool, black students represent only 18% of enrollment but 42% of suspensions. “Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. View data at state, district and school levels at crdc.ed.gov


April 16, 2014

Lori McClung Named St. Luke’s Foundation Trustee

ACS President Lori McClung has been named to the board of trustees of the St. Luke’s Foundation in Cleveland. This high-profile post is a perfect fit for Lori, since the St. Luke’s Foundation mission is focused on creating and sustaining healthy people, strong communities and resilient families — all values that drive ACS’s work and the work of our clients. In addition, St. Luke’s specifically focuses on building organizational capacity for its grantees in much the same way that ACS boosts capacity in communications, advocacy, leadership and collaboration for its clients. Lori also will bring her “real world” nonprofit experience to the Foundation board, rooted in her nonprofit career and her service on the boards of The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, Education Voters of Ohio, The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, The Cleveland Public Library, The Greater Cleveland Media Development Corporation, and Parents for Public Schools. Congratulations, Lori, and well done St. Luke’s Foundation!


April 7, 2014

New research on youth employment highlights challenges for our future workforce

Research from Brookings found that employment prospects for teens and young adults in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas plummeted between 2000 and 2011. Work experience is a key indicator for finding and keeping future employment, and critical in forming foundational and occupational skills. The report includes recommendations and examples of promising programs across the country. For more information about the report and to interactively explore youth workforce indicators by metro area, click here.


March 31, 2014

ACS Presents at National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Public Policy Conference

Earlier this month ACS’s Scarlett Bouder provided tips for “giving jargon the boot” to a group 150 early childcare providers at the annual NAEYC conference. In this message training, ACS presented their four point frame and how to apply it to media outreach, and helped NAEYC advocates create clear and concise messages for outreach to legislators, media, and the general public.

Click on the links

ACS Bootcamp: Messaging Worksheet

ACS Bootcamp: Tips to Remember

to access the messaging worksheet and top tips for giving jargon the boot!


March 20, 2014

ACS Helps Cleveland Develop Plan for Universal High-Quality Pre-K

On March 11, 2014, the Cleveland Pre-K Task Force announced an exciting new plan to ensure that every preschooler in the city will have access to high-quality pre-K experience that will leave them ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. The plan, PRE4CLE, was created by more than 60 task force members in a four-month process facilitated and led by ACS President Lori McClung and Policy Associate Heather Lenz. It was covered with both a news story and an editorial in the Plain Dealer, the local NPR station - ideastream, and several television stations.

McClung worked closely with Marcia Egbert, senior program officer at the George Gund Foundation, and Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon, to create a successful process to tackle the huge task of designing an inclusive, affordable pre-K system that includes a variety of public and private providers. McClung and team ACS led nine separate working groups to delve deeply into aspects ranging from finance to teacher quality to transportation. The result? A comprehensive, ambitious, yet realistic plan with clear goals and benchmarks — kicking off with the addition of 2,0000 new high-quality pre-K seats by the beginning of the coming school year. (Cleveland currently has approximately 1,200 high-quality spots for 5,400 pre-K aged children.)


March 4, 2014

When Even the Starting Line is Out of Reach

A recent New York Times opinion piece, When Even the Starting Line is Out of Reach, explains the compelling and very human reasons why early childhood development and education is critical to ending the cycle of poverty that too many American families face. While the challenges are enormous, we are – as always – encouraged by our many clients like First Things First of Arizona,Every Child SucceedsNational Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC), who work constantly to expand the reach of critical early childhood supports to families in communities across the country. Read the article


February 25, 2014

Is Kindergarten Too Young to Test?

A thoughtful article from KQED Public Media in Northern California on the concerns related to testing for Kindergarteners that mentions ACS client the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)Read the article here: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/02/is-kindergarten-too-young-to-test/


February 18, 2014

Ohio 8 Superintendent Quoted in National Press Regarding Impact of “Zero Tolerance” Policy on Minority Students

ACS recently connected the Associated Press with Akron Public Schools Superintendent David W. James in an article that examined the prevalence of justice system involvement in school discipline policies – and the disproportionate number of minority students who are affected by such policies. James spoke honestly and directly about a recent analysis of student discipline in his district, and what a new set of federal recommendations might mean for Akron Public Schools. The article appeared in newspapers across the country. Read the article.


February 12, 2014

Canton Superintendent Allison Receives Media Praise for “Breaking the Mold”

After his first year at the helm of The Canton City School District, Superintendent Adrian Allison was recognized for his bold new approach and overhaul of the district in a Canton Repository article. The Canton Repository applauded Allison’s first year as head of the district and reported on the Brighter Tomorrow Plan that he designed and is rolling out this school year. ACS helped to build an initial communications strategy around the Brighter Tomorrow Plan rollout, and is proud to see Supt. Allison and the district are getting well deserved attention for their work.


February 5, 2014

Advocacy & Communication Welcomes New Team Member Rebecca Cohen

It is with great pleasure that we introduce the newest member of the ACS team Ms. Rebecca Cohen. Rebecca joins us as Senior Director and will lead strategic communication, government relations, policy analysis and strategy development for ACS clients. Rebecca will be located in Ann Arbor, Michigan (her home) and traveling to clients across the country as part of her portfolio. She has a wealth of public policy, communication, strategy development and labor market research experience with a particular emphasis on workforce development, higher education, and early childhood. You can find her bio here and contact her at rebecca@advocacyandcommunication.org. Welcome Rebecca!


January 20, 2014

ACS leads local Pre-K expansion effort that has potential to be national model

As cities are gaining momentum on high quality Pre-K expansion across the country, ACS is working locally with the George Gund Foundation, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, community leaders, and early childhood experts to expand Pre-K to all 3 and 4 year olds in the City of Cleveland!

Check out EdWeek’s article on what other cities are doing around Pre-K expansion.

Stay tuned for Cleveland’s plan to expand high quality pre-k — the report will be available in February 2014!


January 9, 2014

Proactive press means positive framing for ACS client

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recognized ACS client Cuyahoga County Council for a job well done in 2013. This coverage was the result of a press release created by ACS and is a great example of how proactive media outreach can help establish and shape favorable framing and build a positive public opinion.


December 19, 2013

The Ohio 8 Coalition Helps Legislators Understand the Common Core

This recent Washington Post article does a great job of outlining the confusion about the Common Core State Standards, which is getting quite a bit of national and local press attention. The Common Core is also currently under attack in several states including in Ohio via House Bill 237, which attempts to repeal the Standards. ACS client, The Ohio 8 Coalition Co-Chair Lori Ward, Superintendent of Dayton Public Schools, testified before Ohio’s House Education Committee to spell out the reasons why the Common Core will benefit Ohio’s schools. In particular, Ward explained how adopting the Common Core will allow districts the flexibility to develop their own instructional approaches and accountability models, will provide rigorous expectations for all students to succeed here at home or around the world. Read Supt. Ward’s full testimony.


November 27, 2013

ACS Boosts Port of Cleveland’s Status as Global Shipping Gateway Via Local and National Media

The Port of Cleveland has announced a new deal with Dutch company Spliethoff Group, to open a new Cleveland-Europe Express shipping route. This will be the only direct shipping connection between the Great Lakes and Europe, providing a faster, cheaper, greener route between the Midwest and port cities like Antwerp, Belgium. ACS provided media muscle and connections to help the Port spread this exciting news, with media hits in more than three dozen different local, national and international news outlets — from the Cleveland Plain Dealer to The Miami Herald the New York Times!


November 21, 2013

ACS Welcomes Top Early Childhood Organization to Our Client Family

We are delighted to work with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)! NAEYC is one of the nation’s Top 50 associations and recently celebrated its 87th year of setting the standard for high-quality early childhood providers across the country. With so much great experience, it will be an honor for the ACS team to help invigorate NAEYC’s communications, and to maintain and grow its reputation as the national authority on early childhood education. During the next several months, we’ll help NAEYC increase its media coverage, raise the profile of its events, and motivate and support the advocacy efforts of nearly 80,000 members. Welcome aboard, NAEYC!

Learn more at www.naeyc.org


November 12, 2013

ACS Boosts Port of Cleveland’s Recognition as a Maritime Leader

In October, the Port of Cleveland announced the Cleveland-Europe Express Ocean Freight Service, making Cleveland the only Port with scheduled international container service in the Great Lakes, and creating the fastest and greenest route between North America and Europe. ACS helped the Port make a big splash with this news, securing localnational, and international media recognition from nearly 30 different news outlets!


October 22, 2013

ACS Team Member Heather Lenz presenting to Cleveland State University Chapter of the American Planning Association

ACS Policy Associate Heather Lenz will present “PechaKucha Cleveland,” a look at how creative platforms can drive civic conversation and facilitate social change among young adults, at the Levin Lounge on October 24th from 4pm – 6pm. Levin Lounge is hosted by the Cleveland State University chapter of the American Planning Association, and is a civic engagement program that takes place regularly at the Maxine Goodman College of Urban Affairs. The Cleveland State American Planning Association is a student-run organization that strives to enlighten the community about the importance of urban planning, engage neighborhoods in revitalization through civic service, and help students find innovative solutions to planning challenges. PechaKucha is a quarterly event that takes place in Cleveland and 693 other cities across the globe, where people gather to hear rapid-fire presentations from local thought leaders about their innovative approaches to design, art, planning, and creativity! Heather will present about PechaKucha alongside representatives from other civic groups like OurCLE, Save Lower Prospect, City Beautiful, and the Cleveland Young Professional Senate.


October 17, 2013

Want to know about the status of the Common Core and related legislation in Ohio?

This article outlines the Ohio Board of Education’s adoption of the Common Core standard and a legislative effort to void that adoption. ACS is tracking this bill on behalf of it’s K-12 clients throughout the fall legislative session.

Read full article


October 11, 2013

Interesting Infographic That Reflects America’s School Dropout Epidemic By The Numbers

In today’s competitive economy, the value of a diploma cannot be overstated. Yet when only seven in 10 ninth-graders complete high school on time and a child is kicked out or drops out of high school every 26 seconds, it’s clear there’s an epidemic keeping our youth from realizing their dreams. In Sundance Channel’s Dream School, premiering Oct. 7 at 10 p.m., celebrity teachers (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Swizz Beatz, Jeff Corwin, Oliver Stone, and more) will play host to a class of dropouts with the hope of giving the disadvantaged youth the tools and inspiration they need to succeed in changing the course of their lives. But the reasons for the dropout epidemic are many and complex. In the infographic below, you’ll see just why many are leaving school, as well as the kinds of opportunities they’re being robbed of by doing so.

View infographic


October 1, 2013

ACS Continues to Expand National Footprint with New Client: Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) of Michigan

Building upon its work in Ohio, Arizona, and New York, ACS adds ECIC to their growing national early childhood portfolio with the State of Michigan. ACS is spearheading a communication research effort on behalf of Michigan’s early childhood state agency – Great Start. The results will lead to building a strategy and messages related to quality early childhood and the overall brand of the organization. The project includes the development of a quantitative research instrument, messaging strategy, focus groups and related analysis that is not only tailored to the specific needs of Great Start, but also will leverage experience of ACS’s national early childhood portfolio.


September 21, 2013

ACS President Lori McClung will lead the plenary “Integrating Communications Strategies into your Early Childhood System Building” at the 2013 National BUILD Initiative

Lori McClung’s presentation will provide attendees with tools they can use to successfully integrate communication into a statewide early childhood system-building effort and emphasizing that while it’s not always easy, when done right, smart communication strategies and tactics can be the difference between victory and failure!

The BUILD Initiative helps states develop an early childhood system – programs, services and policies tailored to the needs of the state’s unique young child population. Conference attendees are various BUILD states from around the country learning best practices around policy, communication, and outreach for early childhood.


September 10, 2013

ACS Helps Parents Find Quality Child Care and Early Learning Opportunities

Identifying the right childcare or preschool provider can be incredibly stressful for parents. It’s a decision that helps to lay the groundwork for a child’s future success. In Arizona, ACS client First Things First (FTF) has just launched a new website, QualityFirstAZ.com, to help parents identify what quality care looks like and find a quality child care and preschool setting that meets their needs.

The website and materials are built upon messages developed by FTF and ACS during the last several months. It offers families tools to help make informed decisions quality child care and preschool including, information about the importance of placing children in an environment that will prepare them for kindergarten, a checklist of questions to ask any potential childcare or preschool provider and a databse of providers who are participating in Quality First.

We’re proud to play a role in this important resource for Arizona’s children!


August 21, 2013

State still unsure what this year’s high school freshmen will need to pass to graduate

“High school freshmen will soon start their high school careers without knowing what test – or tests – they will have to pass to graduate. Graduation testing in Ohio is in an odd state of limbo, with the old Ohio Graduation Test about to end, and a new series of tests coming soon that multiple states will use as part of the new Common Core standards.”

Read the full article here


August 16, 2013

Ohio legislators try to repeal Common Core school standards

“Just weeks before Ohio children return to school, conservative lawmakers introduced a last-minute bill yesterday to block new and more-rigorous curriculum guidelines championed by governors and education leaders. Opponents of the Common Core standards hope to throw the brakes on what they fear is a federal takeover of education.”

Read the full article here


July 17, 2013

Funding plan needs work, analyst says

Read the full article here


July 7, 2013

Cincinnati Enquirer

ACS client, Every Child Succeeds is front-page news regarding their national model to reduce infant mortality—data show that Every Child Succeeds has dropped infant mortality rate evenly across racial lines to 4.7 per 1,000 births! Read more below and click on the link to view the entire in-depth story.

“What’s the best way to reduce the region’s stubbornly high infant death rate? Supporters say it’s to add money and reach to Every Child Succeeds, a national model of help that’s already working in our midst”.

Read the full article here


June 24, 2013

Via The Ohio 8 Coalition, ACS client, Cincinnati Public Schools’ innovative model for turning schoolhouses into Community Learning Centers has earned the district a National Community School Award for Excellence by the National Coalition for Community Schools.

Read the press release here


June 12, 2013

ACS Client, The Ohio 8 Coalition, includes the State’s largest urban school districts — Akron, Canton, Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland and Youngstown. The Akron Beacon Journal article below found that students from these districts were 3.3 times more likely to be hit by a vehicle than in surrounding suburban districts because the state offers no school transportation assistance for children who walk less than two miles to school.

Read more…


May 9, 2013

ACS New Client: Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority

Great work is only half of an organization’s success; the other half is sharing the story. That’s why the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority recently hired ACS to help boost its communications muscle. ACS will provide the Port with a new set of messages that clearly demonstrate its value to turn the surrounding community and residents into supporters. We’ll also supply the Port with a multi-year communication plan that is rooted in research and built on solid strategies for accomplishing short and long-term communications goals. Learn more about the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority at www.portofcleveland.com


April 17, 2013

ACS leaders Lori McClung and Scarlett Bouder are presenting two public engagement and advocacy workshop sessions at the 2013 National Smart Start Conference in Greensboro, NC, April 29 — May 2. The workshop topics are “Prepare Your Organization to Build an Early Childhood Public Awareness Effort” on Wednesday, May 1, from 1:30-3:00 and “Advocacy, Communication and Media Relations Strategies for Early Childhood” on Thursday, May 2, from 10:30-noon.

Learn more about the conference here…


April 1, 2013

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was recently highlighted in Education Week for implementing a bold and holistic strategy that turned around 13 of that city’s low performing buildings.

Read more…


March 20, 2013

Defining an English-Language Learner: Can States Agree?

Who is an English-language learner?

Across 50 states and tens of thousands of school districts, answers to that fundamental question can be quite different.

But with the Common Core State Standards widely adopted, and common assessments under development to test those new standards, states are reaching a point where perhaps they can start to wrestle with the task of reaching consensus around shared definitions of what it means to be an ELL, and when those students no longer need language instruction. The U.S. Department of Education is certainly pushing them to do so.

Read more…


March 4, 2013

Making better kids, one parent at a time

ACS client, Every Child Succeeds, is featured in a column outlining the significant impact of the home visitation program, helping mothers, fathers, and babies get the best start possible to help prevent infant mortality, low weight births and encourage success in school—among many other positive measurable outcomes.

See the video and read the article here…


February 25, 2013

ACS Client Wins Major Medicaid Bid in Ohio!

Health Management Systems, Inc. (HMS), as a subcontractor to lead firm Accenture, has secured a portion of $300 million contract with the State of Ohio to provide a comprehensive revamp of the State’s 30-year-old IT structure that houses Medicaid and health and human services eligibility systems. HMS will provide a software solution to help verify Medicaid applicants assets. As their lobbyist, ACS worked on behalf of HMS to make sure they had the information they needed to help secure this critical work. As a result, Ohioans will have a more effective and accurate Medicaid system. Congratulations to HMS!

Read More…


January 30, 2013

ACS is now WBE and SBE certified!

ACS has received national certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). We’ve also been certified as a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) by Ohio’s largest County government, Cuyahoga County. Both of these certifications will help us reach new clients and build new organizational relationships in the coming year. It’s rare to be a small, woman-owned advocacy and direct lobbying firm, and we’re proud to help open new doors!


A Model for Community Collaboration

Collaboration seems to be the model for our times, and it should be. No single person or group can solve the sticky problems that are seemingly entrenched in our education, justice and economic systems. Indeed, solving societal problems requires the engagement of that society — and that requires collaboration. But collaboration that doesn’t engage a diversity of opinion can often miss the intended mark, and sometimes even shoot in the wrong direction entirely. ACS makes a conscious effort to include input and action from diverse groups of stakeholders in every project. That’s why we love this article from collaboration guru Michelle Miller of MMBD (Michelle Miller Business Design). Michelle’s comprehensive Stakeholder Map for Collaboration not only takes into account the differences in background or role that different stakeholder groups may have, but their variations in perspective in relationship to those roles. Some stakeholders may serve as visionaries, exploring what’s possible, while others provide a clear picture of the current reality. Some may be skilled at defining program objectives, while others can see the paths that will lead to accomplishing those objectives. All are joined by a common purpose – a common answer to the question, “why are we doing this?”  We love the complexity and synergy of this model, because it reflects the messy truth and inspiring potential that are borne of human interactions. What more engaging work could there possibly be?

January 24, 2013

Some news is just too good to keep quiet — like the National Network of Consultants to Grantmaker’s new Project Director. They used ACS to manage the national announcement of this new hire, reaching scores of philanthropic organizations, media outlets, funders and partners with their news. See the press release here.


December 17, 2012

ACS Provides Expert Advice for Leading Online Advocacy Tool, Salsa Labs

Expert advice from ACS is now featured in Advocacy Unleashed, the e-news engine from Salsa Labs, the leading online advocacy tool for nonprofits. Check out our post about Critical Components of Public Awareness Campaigns, leave a comment, and look for other articles in the future.


December 12, 2012

ACS client, Cleveland Municipal School District, has been chosen as one of 61 final applicants for $400 Million Race to the Top — District Competition.

See the US DOE press release here:

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-announces-61-applications-finalists-400-million-race-top


November 7, 2012

President Obama’s Second Term and a Divided Congress: What it Might Mean for Early Childhood and K-12 Education

The following Advocacy & Communication Solutions analysis is meant to provide a high-level snapshot of what federal education policy might look like during the next four years. It is based on ACS work with clients, news articles, Presidential debates and other resources leading up to the Nov. 6th Presidential election. ACS will provide a deeper exploration of these and other policy issues in the coming months for your reference and resource.

President Obama has won a second term, but he returns to Washington with a divided Congress. What’s more, lawmakers are faced with the immediate threat of sequestration across-the-board budget cuts that could slash funding for many programs, services and initiatives. One of the biggest victims may be education funding which could be cut by 8 to 10 percent – unless they can come to an agreement on how to reduce the national debt. Without Congressional action, the first of these cuts will take place on January 2, 2013. Read more…


November 1, 2012

ACS former client Gordon Square Arts District’s Capital Theatre has been featured on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer – Capitol Theatre’s unexpected success spurs revival of Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District.
Clcik to read the full story.


September 7, 2012

HISTORY, CAPABILITIES, SUCCESSES & OUTCOMES

Founding partners, Lori McClung and Scarlett Bouder, have worked together as staffers, business partners or coordinated stakeholders since 1999. Their experience reflects more than 30 years as legislative and communication staffers and leaders within the education, health and human services and workforce and economic development sectors at the local, state and national level. Individually and as a team, the common thread throughout this experience is a commitment to helping organizations understand the power, importance and value added of strategic advocacy and communication.
Download and read more about the history, capabilities, sucesses and outcomes of ACS.


August 30, 2012

ACS has recently become a consulting and strategy partner with Salsa Labs – an online, integrated, flexible, and affordable set of tools to organize and energize people.

From fundraising to advocacy, CRM, communications, and event management, Salsa empowers thousands of nonprofits and campaigns of all sizes to achieve their online goals. ACS founders have used Salsa Labs during their career and have found it to be the best system available and encourage our clients in need of such system to consider this amazing tool. Through this partnership, ACS and Salsa Labs offer and leverage training, education, and finding ways to do more within the reality of limited budgets. Find out more at www.salsalabs.com or their partner page at www.salsalabs.com/partner/directory/consulting-strategy.


August 6, 2012

Reading guarantee for Ohio 3rd-graders starts with September screenings

Read article


July 19, 2012

Read this story and see the real life outcome of a strategic advocacy effort by organizations such as ACS client Towards Employment – more people having the ability to move from poverty to a paycheck.

DRC Director Signs First Certificates Aimed At Transitioning Inmates Back Into Society


July 9, 2012

Listen to ACS client The Early Years Institute interviewed on Long Island radio station WLIE 540am. Helen Dorado Alessi, Senior VP at EYI, discusses the policy affects of immigration on young children.


June 25, 2012

Success for ACS client Towards Employment!

The Ohio General Assembly passed legislation to help people with a criminal background find and keep job, and to add positive contributions to Ohio communities. This bill passed after organizations such as Towards Employment worked for several years with other advocates across Ohio to ease criminal offenders’ reentry to society.

Read Article


June 12, 2012

ACS client Towards Employment is in Crain’s Cleveland, regarding the critical role that employers play in helping those with a criminal background become a productive part of our economy.

Up with second chances at employment


June 7, 2012

Another national media story for ACS client, Every Child Succeeds of Cincinnati, being covered by ABC Los Angeles about the impact of their programs on the lives of mothers and children.

Mental stimulation critical for child development before age 3


May 30, 2012

ACS client, Every Child Succeeds of Cincinnati, is in the national news via NPR’s Marketplace about the impact of their programs on the lives of mothers and children.

It’s never too early for a good start in education


May 17, 2012

ACS interviewed on NPR about proposed Third Grade Reading Guarantee


May 9, 2012

ACS developed the strategy to use the Weight of the Nation screening to launch Kaiser Permanente of Ohio’s multi-year Public Health Campaign to Accelerate Progress on Obesity Prevention. See Fox 8 Cleveland and Cleveland Plain Dealer articles for coverage of the launch event.

My Town: Cleveland Screening of ‘The Weight of the Nation’

CLEVELAND — An unprecedented partnership between HBO, Kaiser Permanente and Time Warner Cable Media is bringing the screening of a groundbreaking multi-part documentary on obesity to Cleveland.
“The Weight of the Nation” takes a look at the severity of the obesity epidemic.

Read full article

Panel urges Cleveland to take action on obesity

CLEVELAND, Ohio — People are overweight and dying because of it.
We’ve heard it, we know it, but when will there be a sense of urgency to change it?
“Now,” was the message from a panel of leaders from medicine and government — as well as a well-known local chef — all of whom wrestled with the issue Thursday night at the Great Lakes Science Center. It was the kick-off event for next week’s debut of the poignant and sometimes shocking HBO documentary, “The Weight of the Nation.”

Read full article


April 30, 2012

Last week was an extremely busy for ACS clients, most especially one of our K-12 school district clients, The Ohio 8. Four members of the Ohio 8 leadership team testified before the Ohio Senate Education Committee on critical provisions of Senate Bill 316 or the Midyear Budget Review legislation. Two news articles below capture not only the issues but also the ongoing dialogue about K-12 policies seen in other states that are now under consideration in Ohio. ACS with The Ohio 8 will continue its advocacy with the Ohio General Assembly and communication with media outlets to push The Ohio 8′s suggested amendments into the final version of the bill.

Members of The Ohio 8 Leadership Team
Superintendent Gene Harris, Columbus City Schools: A-F ranking system
Superintendent Lori Ward, Dayton Public Schools: 3rd grade guarantee
President Johnson, Columbus Education Association: Teacher evaluation and peer review
President Seller, Cincinnati Teacher’s Union: Teacher evaluation and peer review

News Coverage
GONGWER NEWS SERVICE
April 25, 2012
Advocates Ask For Pre-K Support, Funding For Reading Intervention To Avoid Retention

Read Article

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Friday April 27, 2012 8:26 AM
State may alter plan for grading schools

Read Article


April 17, 2012

Advocacy & Communication Solutions would like to thank 3 new clients who have put their faith in our company:

Cuyahoga County Council

Kaiser Permanente

The Ohio 8

We look forward to helping our new and current clients exceed their goals. Welcome to the ACS family!


March 15, 2012

Prison Reform

Ohio’s overcrowded prisons are getting a needed makeover, building on previous gains and focusing on turning inmates into productive citizens.

Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, unveiled a plan this week to reorganize state prisons into a tiered system based on levels of control. Disruptive, violent inmates would be separated from the rest of the prison population. That will make other inmates safer and allow officials to focus on rehabilitating inmates in the general population and reintegration groups.

Under the new system, the Toledo Correctional Institution would house mostly general-population inmates. Its population, around 1,473, likely would decline slightly. But as many as 288 beds would be set aside for more-violent offenders.

Read the full article here…


February 6, 2012

Positive Feedback About ACS Training on Communication & Advocacy Skill-Building for Non-Profits

Last fall ACS was asked to conduct a public policy and communication skill building training for nonprofit organizations across the great state of Montana. The budget of the organizations ranged from a few hundred thousand to several million. The reach of the organizations ranged from very local to international. The knowledge of the participants ranged from neophyte to expert.

Here’s a sample of what participants said in their evaluations after spending a full day with ACS.

Did your knowledge or skill base increase as a result of this session and, if so, how do you intend to apply it to your work?

“I can definitely use the information gathered to increase marketing knowledge, create a public policy and marketing plan, and I now have increased resources to find out more.”

“Apply it both to media relationships and to a working committee on Public Policy.”

“Yes, I brought back all the hand-out in order to work with our Communications Manager and to help us plan our legislative strategy for 2013. This was an EXCELLENT session. More organizations needed to be there.”

“My knowledge of advocacy has doubled. The most important thing I learned was how to create a detailed plan for government relations and the importance of creating relations early. The knowledge has already begun to apply to my work as my plan takes shape.”


January 17, 2012

Paying a Price, Long After the Crime

By ALFRED BLUMSTEIN and KIMINORI NAKAMURA, Published: January 9, 2012

IN 2010, the Chicago Public Schools declined to hire Darrell Langdon for a job as a boiler-room engineer, because he had been convicted of possessing a half-gram of cocaine in 1985, a felony for which he received probation. It didn’t matter that Mr. Langdon, a single parent of two sons, had been clean since 1988 and hadn’t run into further trouble with the law. Only after The Chicago Tribune wrote about his case did the school system reverse its decision and offer him the job.

A stunning number of young people are arrested for crimes in this country, and those crimes can haunt them for the rest of their lives. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Crime Commission found that about half of American males could expect to be arrested for a nontraffic offense some time in their lives, mostly in their late teens and early 20s.

Read the full article here…


January 10, 2012

Promise of No Child Left Behind falls short after 10 years

WASHINGTON (AP) – The No Child Left Behind education law was cast as a symbol of possibility, offering the promise of improved schools for the nation’s poor and minority children and better prepared students in a competitive world.

Yet after a decade on the books, President George W. Bush’s most hyped domestic accomplishment has become a symbol to many of federal overreach and Congress’ inability to fix something that’s clearly flawed.

The law forced schools to confront the uncomfortable reality that many kids simply weren’t learning, but it’s primarily known for its emphasis on standardized tests and the labeling of thousands of schools as “failures.”

Read the full article here…


December 23, 2011

2011 was a busy year for ACS and its early childhood and K-12 education clients. Read more about with whom we are working and what we’ve done to reach the goals of our clients.

Download PDF


December 12, 2011

Retooling punishments to reroute ex-felons’ lives: editorial

By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board

They are known as collateral sanctions: hundreds of tough-on-crime penalties that can pander more to political expediency than pragmatism and make a mockery of a justice system that is supposed to prize rehabilitation and limit recidivism.

The loss of a driver’s license for chronic nonpayment of child support and jail time for the worst abusers seem appropriate consequences for such heartless malefactors — especially those whose offenses are grave enough to warrant felony convictions for nonpayment of support.

Except, as state Sen. Shirley Smith points out, many felons leave prison with little money and no jobs. After they’ve caught up on child support, they are told they need to ante up another $1,000 to get their licenses restored so they can drive to work or look for work. So they drive without licenses. And they get caught. And they get fined. And they end up back in the slammer.

…Continue reading here


November 23, 2011

Let’s stop putting the burden of education improvements just on teachers. Parents play a huge role in classroom success.

http://nyti.ms/rsptkR


November 17, 2011

Superintendent of the Year

ACS is proud to share that Dr. Gene Harris, Superintendent of Columbus City Schools, has been chosen by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) as Superintendent of the Year. This is a statewide award that allows Dr. Harris to be eligible for the national Superintendent award. As their state and federal lobbyists, ACS is proud to work with Dr. Harris and the entire team at Columbus City Schools. Congratulations CCS!

Download News Release


November 14, 2011

Paths for re-entry

“It is encouraging that Gov. John Kasich and state officials are turning their attention to fixing legislative obstructions to prisoner re-entry programs. But for Ohio to improve significantly employment opportunities for former inmates, policymakers also must ground prison job-training programs in reality, offering training behind bars that benefits inmates when they leave”

View full article on ohio.com


October 20, 2011

COSE Ten Under 10

Advocacy & Communication Solutions LLC is proud to be named a “COSE Ten Under 10” by the COSE (Council of Smaller Enterprises)—an award given to 10 small businesses with 10 employees or fewer to honor their ability to innovate, grow and reach ambitious goals. COSE is the Northeast Ohio small business chamber of commerce.

For the COSE Ten Under 10, ACS was honored, in part, for our growth. We have grown 330.0 percent since launching in 2004. COSE honored ACS and nine other companies at its 2011 Small Business Conference this week in Cleveland.

We are extremely honored to be chosen by COSE as a Ten Under 10 winner. Learn more about the awards at www.cose.org

Download Press Release


September 30, 2011

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC proudly announces the opening of its new Washington, DC office.

In the heart of Capitol Hill, ACS is just steps away from U.S. Congressional offices, the Capitol building and many federal agencies. ACS offers a meeting place as well as a resting place for our clients while in DC.

ACS Washington DC Office Address:
300 New Jersey Avenue NW
Suite 900 PMB 9005
Washington, DC 20001
Toll-free: 877.372.0166


September 2, 2011

Back-to-School Bus Heads to the Great Lakes

US Education Secretary Duncan heads to Cleveland…
http://www.ed.gov/blog/2011/09/back-to-school-bus-heads-to-the-great-lakes/


July 29, 2011

ACS helps client secure a contract with the State of Ohio for Ohio’s Medicaid program

Gongwer News Service: The Record of Capitol Square Since 1906
Volume #80, Report #138, Article #9—Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A New York health benefits company said Tuesday the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has awarded it a contract to provide Medicaid hospital utilization management services through June 30, 2013, with options for renewal until mid 2017. The contract was awarded to Permedion, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of HMS, Inc.

The company is to provide focused pre-certification and retrospective reviews, reporting and analysis, healthcare studies, provider education, and data management. Financial terms were not disclosed.

HMS said it has provided utilization management services to Ohio since 1997. In recent years, it identified an average of $50 million per year in overpayments for the state.

“HMS is honored to continue to manage Ohio’s Hospital Utilization Management Program, and we look forward to providing the medical review services that help ODJFS fulfill its operational and financial objectives,” said Maria Perrin, HMS executive vice president for government services.

Copyright 2011 Gongwer News Service: The Record of Capitol Square Since 1906


July 22, 2011

First Things First Exceeds Goal

ACS client First Things First (FTF) set a goal in 2010 to increase awareness of early childhood by 12% by the end of 3 years. In the first year of implementation of the Strategic Communication Plan—written in part by ACS—FTF exceeded their three-year-goal, achieving a 14% increase!!!! ACS continues to work with FTF on their statewide plan—guiding tactics, conducting trainings, and securing national earned media.


July 15, 2011

ACS successfully worked with the Ohio General Assembly to amend the final version of Ohio’s state operating budget to limit the scope of detrimental education policy language related to property/land rights of local school districts.

For more information click on these links.
State budget packed with changes
School buildings for $1?


June 10, 2011

ACS helps client secure $12 million contract with the State of Ohio for Third Party Liability recovery services for Ohio’s Medicaid program

HMS Awarded Third Party Liability Contract by State of Ohio


May 25, 2011

Advocacy Resources for Non Profit Charitable Organizations

Advocacy: Do’s and Don’ts

Advocacy: Glossary of Terms


May 16, 2011

ACS can be found in Crain’s Cleveland Business Directories

Crain’s Minority-Owned Business Directory
Crain’s Woman-Owned Business Directory


May 5, 2011

ACS presents at Georgetown University and Jessie Ball duPont Fund event.

ACS recently presented at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund Executive Director Alumni Meeting. The three-day training was organized by Georgetown University Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership and its purpose and focus was “HOW TO NAVIGATE THE UNPREDICTABLE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE: WHAT NONPROFIT LEADERS MUST KNOW.” Approximately 40 executive directors from Florida, Virginia, Delaware, South Carolina and Massachusetts attended the retreat. ACS gave a facilitated a workshop — Building an Effective Messaging Strategy on Tax and Budget Issues — that included both presentations and hand-on exercises to help participants put into practice the tools they were being provided. The workshop addressed several issues including the following:

  • What is strategic communication, and why should you care
  • Through what medium
  • How and why to talk about budget and tax policy
  • To the right audience
  • How to give the right message
  • At the right time

Attendees included organizations such as American Red Cross, Presbyterian Homes & Family Services, Boys and Girls Club, United Way, Children’s Home, several art organizations — such as the Orchestra and Historic Preservation — and more.

Are you interested in having ACS present to your organization? Please email us atinfo@advocacyandcommunication.org


April 27, 2011

ACS client in the news

Cleveland’s casino raising hopes of jobs for minorities
ROBERT L. SMITH The Plain Dealer | Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jasmyne Arnold was an honors student and a cheerleader at John F. Kennedy High School and, at age 23, she has lost none of her can-do spirit. But a winning smile does not impress employers without jobs to offer. After fruitless searches for work, she’s eyeing a new game. A Public Square casino has struck her fancy. “It sounds like a great opportunity,” said Arnold, who ran a concession stand in the raucous din of Thistledown Race Track before being laid off. “I think I would be good at it because I like interacting with people. I thought Thistledown was fun.” As a black woman with service industry experience, she’s looking at favorable odds. The casino industry has a better-than-average record of hiring minorities, especially women. The creators of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, meanwhile, vow that more than 90 percent of the 1,600 full- and part-time jobs will go to locals. That’s music to the ears of job counselors in a city with high black unemployment and few prospects for low-skill, entry-level workers. Many envision a new kind of job engine in a city hungry for opportunity. “There’s a lot of excitement and hope,” said Jill Rizika, executive director of Towards Employment, a nonprofit job-training agency that specializes in hard-to-place workers. “People come in all the time and ask, ‘What do I have to do?’ ” Rizika said.
READ MORE HERE


April 21, 2011

ACS client in the news

First Things First helping kids succeed
JULIANNE HARTZELL Special to the Daily Sun azdailysun.com | Posted: Saturday, April 16, 2011
First Things First (FTF), at both the statewide and the Coconino Regional Partnership levels, work to make sure every child in Arizona comes to school on their first day of kindergarten healthy and prepared to succeed. Getting children ready for school means more than packing their lunches, filling their backpacks, and getting them to the bus on time. In fact, the job of helping children succeed in school starts the day they’re born, because we know that 90 percent of a child’s brain is formed by the time they turn 5. To date, FTF has devoted more than $6.4 million to the young children in our region.
READ MORE HERE


March 18, 2011

ACS presents at the United Way’s Child Care and Early Education Fund event

On March 8th ACS presented at the Child Care and Early Education Fund event held at the United Way of New York City. Entitled “Methods & Messages: National Snapshot of Early Childhood Strategic Communication”, ACS provided an outline of best practices and least effective communication strategies for early childhood education efforts across the country. View “Methods & Messages: National Snapshot of Early Childhood Strategic Communication”
Attendees at the United Way included over two dozen early childhood organizations and funders, including but not limited to, Winning BeginningBUILDEarly Childhood Advisory Council of New York StateNYC Early Childhood Professional Development InstituteNew York State Council on Children and FamiliesFight Crime Invest in KidsA.L. Mailman FoundationRauch Foundation andRockefeller Philanthropy Advisors among many others.
It was an inspiring afternoon engaging early childhood development leadership from around the state to find better more effective ways of persuading audiences to understand the critical role of early childhood programs and services.
Are you interested in having ACS present to your early childhood organization? Please email us atinfo@advocacyandcommunication.org


February 4, 2011

Welcome to our newest team member!

Join us in welcoming the newest member to the ACS team, Bobbie Beach! Bobbie joins ACS as our Executive Assistant and brings with her a wealth of experience covering a diverse menu of administrative, marketing, and project management skills. Bobbie has been a virtual assistant for several years and has helped numerous clients meet their administrative and technological needs and goals. She received a Bachelor of Science from Sienna Heights College and in 2009 graduated from Assist University, a master level course in executive assistance. Bobbie will help to keep the ACS team on track when it comes to scheduling, accounts receivable/payable, technology coordination, among many others. Welcome Bobbie! Read more about Bobbie here.


December 14, 2010

ACS expands to Arizona – the newest location in our growing national footprint.

Since 2008, ACS has helped several organizations in Arizona meet or exceed their goals in advocacy and communication. Our new office is located in Phoenix and will be the base for our statewide and regional work.


December 3, 2010

Cleveland Public Theatre Awarded State Funding

A great application and tenacious advocacy, led to ACS client Gordon Square Arts District being awarded $1 million in stimulus funding from the State of Ohio for the continued renovation of Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT). The money will be used to make the theatre more energy efficient. CPT is one of only 15 Ohio projects to receive this grant. Awarded projects exemplify the goals of the Recovery Act’s State Energy Program to accelerate renewable energy development in Ohio by creating or preserving jobs and reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. CPT will use their funding for high efficiency HVAC system which will allow the Theatre to be open year round. The projected annual energy cost savings is $123,064. Learn more about GSAD atwww.gordonsquare.org


November 23, 2010

Arizona Voters Support First Things First

First Things First (FTF), our largest early childhood client, successfully defeated Proposition 302, which was an attempt to eliminate their funding and redirect it to the state’s general fund where the Legislature could have used it without restriction, to address Arizona’s budget deficit. With an impressive 70%-30% margin, Arizona voters continued their commitment to high quality programs and services for all Arizona’s children Birth to Five.
FTF financially supports programs that provide children with the tools they need to start out on the right path so they can be successful in school and beyond. First Things First is funded by tobacco tax revenue that, with the defeat of Proposition 302, is now preserved. ACS helped to developed FTF’s 3 year grassroots education campaign to help build support for services for all Arizona’s children. Learn more about First Things First at www.azftf.gov