Rural Schools Collaborative was excited to attend the 2023 GRAD Partnership Convening, hosted by our Northern California Regional Hub partners in Redding, California. The event featured presentations from the 10 participating schools in the Northern California GRAD Partnership Cohort.
The overarching goal of the GRAD Partnership is to use a research-based framework and data to ensure students are on track for graduation and postsecondary success. At this event, representatives from each Northern California school shared how they measure student success indicators, their project wins and successes, and any challenges or roadblocks they faced with project implementation thus far. For many, this event was the first time meeting their cohort peers from across a five county region. From principals, to counselors, to teachers, and beyond, the in-person collaboration was invaluable.
Many of the GRAD Partnership rural schools are focusing on student-centered relationships and school connectedness, but many schools also highlighted progress on indicators like attendance, academic performance, and behavior. The event also included time for collaboration - an important component of the GRAD Partnership cohort model. This chance to connect with colleagues across the North State region helps connect local small schools who may otherwise be geographically isolated. The school participants were able to connect with each other, ask questions, and share ideas on the implementation of student success systems in a rural context.
While this pilot project is still in its infancy, some notable early wins included relationship building with students to make sure that they felt supported and comfortable while at school. Fall River shared a new strategy where their staff now meet regularly with a rotating group of students to chat about their goals, challenges, and ideas (endearingly referred to as “Lunch Bunch”). Other schools were excited to offer new field trips to better connect their students with their place. The cohort school leaders also shared notable improvements in students’ grades and behavior as a result of the increased engagement with school staff and mentors.
Challenges shared often coincided with staff availability and capacity. Rural schools often have limited staff, and the existing staff wear multiple hats in a given day. Many teachers have limited time available outside of the classroom with staff constantly being pulled in many different directions. Student mental health and wellbeing was cited as a concern as well, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These school leaders are incredible advocates for students, and I am honored to be on this journey with them!”
“This school-to-school and school-to-community collaboration is exactly what we were hoping for from the rural GRAD Partnership projects,” adds Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, RSC Executive Director. “Strengthening connections between rural schools and their communities fosters long term rural vitality, and that’s what North State Together is all about.”
Rural Schools Collaborative is proud to support the GRAD Partnership for Student Success project, and would like to thank our Regional Hub partners at North State Together and Chico State, as well as the participating schools in Northern California for their commitment to the well-being of rural students and communities.
To learn more about North State Together, check out this brief video on their work:
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