GRAD Partnership Intermediary Spotlight: North State Together

North State Together, one of Rural Schools Collaborative’s far Northern California hub leads, was recently named a national intermediary spotlight for the GRAD Partnership for Student Success.

February 16, 2024 |
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North State Together, one of Rural Schools Collaborative’s far Northern California hub leads, was recently named a national intermediary spotlight for the GRAD Partnership for Student Success. North State Together currently supports 10 rural high schools to launch new Student Success Systems to help students achieve postsecondary success. Learn more about the role of an intermediary, the research behind this initiative, and what rural schools are learning as part of this project.

About GRAD Partnership Intermediaries:

The GRAD Partnership for Advancing Student Success Systems is a national, collaborative initiative to explore, design, and implement evidence-based practices for elevating student well-being and preparedness for life after school. Student Success Systems provide a research-based approach to help students achieve postsecondary success. These systems include strong, supportive relationships; real-time, actionable, holistic data; strategic improvement actions; and student-centered mindsets.

Recently, the GRAD Partnership announced its first intermediary spotlight, North State Together, based in far Northern California. The network of Northern California cradle-to-career organizations was chosen for its efforts to help schools across the region implement student success systems to better support the academic progress, college and career transitions, and well-being of all students.

The GRAD Partnership Intermediaries serve as catalysts for the implementation of sustainable student success systems in local schools and districts. Different kinds of organizations can serve as intermediaries, including nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, higher education centers, and school districts. Multiple types of Intermediaries can work within a state, laying the groundwork for robust in-state learning networks.

“The role of an intermediary is so important for scaling student success systems,” says Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, Executive Director of Rural Schools Collaborative, one of the GRAD Partnership collaborating organizations. “We know this model is research-backed, and will help schools better serve their students, but a local administrator may not want to take my call. But when their friends at North State Together pick up the phone, it’s an easy “yes”. Trust-based relationships are essential to doing authentic work, especially in rural schools.”

By virtue of their close connections to their communities, intermediaries are aware of the unique needs, opportunities, and contexts to ensure student success systems are responsive to local conditions. “As a community-driven organization with a history of bringing in resources, models, and support to schools, North State Together is a perfect fit for a GRAD Partnership Intermediary,” said Patricia Balana, managing director of the GRAD Partnership. “Schools know them, trust them, and can easily share data with them.”

About North State Together

Billy Miller, Dean of Extended Education and North State Together at Shasta College.

North State Together is a regional network of cross-sector partners who have come together to strengthen educational outcomes from cradle to career for ALL in far Northern California. North State Together serves as the collective impact backbone organization providing support to ten county networks. By serving as a connector for partners in all aspects of education, North State Together is able to maximize collective impact.

“No one organization, no matter how powerful or innovative, can solve complex community challenges alone,” says Billy Miller, Dean of Extended Education. “That’s where North State Together comes in - building trust to align strategies and frameworks across diverse organizations and widespread regions, in order to make sure that all students in the North State have a chance to succeed.”

North State Together, nestled within Shasta College, was established in 2016 through generous support of The McConnell Foundation, a regional philanthropy that has long been committed to increasing opportunities for children and youth in the North State, and improving the health and vitality of the local community. North State Together is uniquely poised to serve as a regional champion for educational outcomes, through their local county networks, connections to higher education, commitment to data-driven decisions, and a network of caring regional and national partners.

GRAD Partnership in Action: Rural School Cohorts

Rural Schools Collaborative, one of the nine collaborating organizations of the GRAD Partnership for Student Success, is a longtime partner of North State Together. Alongside Chico State University, North State Together leads Rural Schools Collaborative’s far Northern California hub, strengthening the connections between rural schools and their communities. Rural Schools Collaborative’s Regional Hub Network is piloting the GRAD Partnership model in rural areas with regional hub leads serving as intermediaries to activate Student Success Systems school cohorts.

“Our regional hub structure is a great fit for rural-serving intermediaries for the GRAD Partnership. These are organizations with a long history of school community engagement, and a deep understanding of their local places and contexts.”, says McCabe-Juhnke. “We knew North State Together would be a perfect fit for launching Student Success Systems as they regularly move the needle on improving educational outcomes in Northern California.”

Map of the 10 high schools in North State Together's region piloting Student Success Systems.

North State Together recruited 10 high schools in their region to pilot Student Success Systems. With existing data-sharing agreements in place to support local schools in accessing, reporting, and taking action on student data, North State Together was already working to reduce unnecessary hurdles to accessing higher education, and knew this project would be a natural fit for their cradle-to-career work across the region. They also have a deep understanding of their school’s local context, including recovery from fires, transportation barriers across expansive mountain geography, and limited staff and resources. But they also have a deep understanding of the region’s assets and opportunities, including caring communities, deep collaboration, and data-driven frameworks for improving education.

“The GRAD Partnership for Student Success is fully aligned to our mission of improving the success of both students and educators," says Susan Schroth, GRAD Partnership Director at North State Together. "Student success systems framework provides the ongoing interventions necessary to sustain positive student outcomes, and ensure equitable education recovery in rural California after the pandemic."

Fall River Junior Senior High School Students.

So far, this model seems to be working. Of the 10 schools in the North State Together region, many have launched new efforts around school connectedness as an essential building block for student success.

One GRAD Partnership school, Fall River Junior Senior High, had a 9th grade student share their experience on the importance of in-person relationships with teachers and peers. “Yeah, it got a lot better once we were back in the classroom and it was a lot easier to be able to go and say, ‘Hey, I don't understand this, can you help me with it?’”

And, focusing on positive relationships and school connectedness is not just good for the students, but it’s also a positive spark for the school leaders. Ed Romero, the Dean of Students at Burney High School in rural California, said that the Student Success Systems framework provided a platform to celebrate all the good that is happening at their school:

"When [our counselor] sent me this email about the GRAD Partnership opportunity, I’m like ‘woohoo!’ in my office - I was jumping up and down. This project is what I was really envisioning. There's a lot of good things going on at this school and they get overlooked - It's not the way it should be. I want the good things to get recognized."

National Impact: Connecting Schools and Best Practices

Susan Schroth, Director of GRAD Partnership and Operations Manager for North State Together.

While each of these schools could have launched Student Success Systems on their own, the power of an intermediary like North State Together is the ability to connect school leaders across a diverse region to learn from one another. Many schools in far Northern California share similar assets and challenges, so by building the pilot project as a cohort model, schools are learning new ways of collaborating and learning from one another.

“The GRAD Partnership has meant so much for our region in far Northern California. Our rural high schools are collaborating in a way that's never been done before - schools are talking to each other through this regional cohort model, but they are also sharing ideas and best practices with schools across the country,” says Schroth.

North State Together as an intermediary has rapidly increased the adoption and optimization of Student Success Systems in the region, and has also connected broader community stakeholders. From integrating Chico State Rural Ambassadors program, to presenting at local and national conferences on student success systems, to partnering with groups like TRIO, to hosting in-person networking events for local schools, North State Together’s broader community impact from this work continues to grow.

Congratulations to the North State Together team, and their rural school networks, on being selected as a GRAD Partnership Spotlight. They will continue to serve as a national example for their exceptional commitment to serving communities through student success systems.

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