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In 2007, a study revealed that only half of Multnomah County students who entered ninth grade graduated from high school in four years. Dan Ryan, CEO at All Hands Raised—formerly the Portland Schools Foundation, the independent fundraising group for the city’s public education—wanted to act, fast. “The status quo was not giving our kids what they needed,” he says, “especially children of color and those living in poverty.” So he assembled a team of community leaders to figure out how things could change.

The big issue: Kids spend only about 18 percent of their time in the classroom, but their whole lives affect their educational success. All Hands Raised needed to adopt a strategy to fill that gap and keep kids on the right path. The organization now runs five distinct “collaboratives”: coalitions of educators, businesses, and organizations, each tailored to a specific educational or social problem that derails kids on the path from kindergarten to college. 

“We had been focused solely on what was going on inside the classroom,” Ryan says. “We had to start meeting the schools on their edges to improve the lives of our kids.”

Inside the Collaboratives

Early Learning Multnomah

The Mission: Developed to aid young students’ first foray into education, Early Learning Multnomah includes events, home visits, and a “Kindergarten Transition Toolkit.” The program also encourages parents to register children for kindergarten early, so that students’ needs can be addressed before the first day. 

The Result: In two years, on-time kindergarten registration has increased from 67.5 percent to 84 percent in eight demonstration schools. 

Ninth Grade Counts

The Mission: Ninth Grade Counts focuses on the summer between middle and high school—a time when many students’ academic focus drifts. The program provides students hands-on experience with ninth-grade coursework before the school year starts.

The Result: Participants are four times more likely to graduate in four years.

Eliminating Disparities in Child and Youth Success

The Mission: To combat racial and ethnic discrimination in classrooms

The Result: Five of the six Multnomah County school districts have adopted equity policies addressing issues like disproportionate discipline toward students of color and staff diversity.

Community Supporting Youth

The Mission: This program aims to curb the chronic absenteeism of one quarter of Portland students. To that end, the Oregon Department of Human Services will send in-house case managers to six schools this fall to work with students who are frequently absent.  

The Goal: Boosting attendance by 5.1 percent by the end of 2015–16—that’s more than 4,000 more students showing up before the bell, 90 percent of the time.

Transition from High School to College and Career

The latest collaborative project, still in its development phase, aims to help students of color transition to college. 

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