Sue’s Thoughts

Food for Thought

This is my first blog. I’m excited because now I have an outlet for the many ideas I pick up from our community. Reminds me of The Luck Factor, a book by Max Gunther. His thesis is that luck is a function of the people you come into contact with. The more people, the more connections, the more luck. He wrote this long before Facebook. In fact, long before Mark Zuckerberg was born.

I see this blog as a way of sharing these ideas with and beyond the Network and our thought partners and seeing which ideas you respond to, how you add to them and make them better. In that vein, here’s what I’m thinking about right now.

SSN partners and members gather at the TFA science fair

Inspiration to Partnership

SSN and the DOE’s Office of Community Schools (OCS) have been talking about a partnership. It all began at SSN’s semi-annual ED Dinner last November. The discussion topic was how can nonprofits working in the education space elevate their role in schools so they are seen as culture-builders. SSN members told us this means moving to a true partnership with school leadership. A partnership where services that support student SEL growth are integrated into the fabric of the school and reinforce learning, and where a commitment to data-informed continuous improvement infuses school culture.

I presented these ideas to Chris Caruso, Executive Director of Community Schools, and his team who were very enthusiastic and looking for ways to strengthen partnerships within schools and across schools similar to the way SSN members learn from one another through the Fellows Program and Collab structure.

A Network for School Improvement

The idea that resulted from conversations between the SSN and OCS teams is a first step towards imagining how the model we’ve developed at SSN could work in schools. We envision a Network for School Improvement (NSI) initially comprised of teams from 10 community schools aimed at achieving an academic and a behavioral goal (e.g., 100% reading at grade level and 97% attendance). Community school directors and instructional leaders would work hand-in-hand to create vibrant learning communities of teachers, school leaders, and community partners who scrutinize student data, hypothesize causes, share practices and interventions, and test small changes to monitor impacts. In these schools every student and every adult would be seen as both teacher and learner, contributing to a culture of equity and inclusion and ever deepening experimentation and learning, a culture that puts students at the center and keeps them on track for success.

“Luck is a function of the people you come into contact with. The more people, the more connections, the more luck.”

We have tons of details to work out and would love your input. What should be the goal of the partnership? Who should be responsible for what? What are the three most important keys to making a partnership between schools and nonprofits work?

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Sue Lehmann

Sue has spent most of her career as a management consultant and entrepreneur, helping to design organizations that can scale systemic change (AmeriCorps, Teach For America, Harlem Children’s Zone). She leads SSN by using goal-setting and measurement to continuously rethink strategies and improve results. Sue currently serves on the boards of Chalkbeat, New Visions for Public Schools, and Teach For America, and on the leadership councils of Strive Together National Partnership, South Bronx Rising Together, and Teaching Works.

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