Cost-Effective Consortiums

Lessons in leveraging pooling power to increase teacher effectiveness and retention.

GUEST COLUMN | by Kimberly Owen

socialandemotional_successstoryIowa is both like and unlike other states when it comes to education. Like many other states, we use Area Education Agencies (AEAs), which were developed in 1974 in response to the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) to provide support services required by the act. However, we face a unique set of challenges within our state. For example in the greater Grant Wood region of Iowa, the Grant Wood AEA (GWAEA) is passionate about curtailing teacher attrition in rural districts, and developing special education teachers who can close the achievement gap for children with special needs. Our GWAEA has worked tirelessly to combat these issues, often partnering with organizations to help increase teacher effectiveness and retention, such as New Teacher Center (NTC), and capitalizing on local and national experts to raise awareness of how to best educate children with diverse learning needs. We knew from the start that the key to improving

The majority of our budget is tied to special education, with the remainder allocated to provide other important support to schools, which includes teacher development and induction, media and technology. 

teacher retention – and ultimately student achievement – would be to provide our teachers with added support to take on the incredibly rewarding and yet incredibly difficult task of ensuring success for all children in our region.

Special Education and Teacher Retention

The highest turnover rate for teachers is in special education, where they are three or four times more likely to leave the classroom in the first three to five years than teachers in standard classrooms. These teachers often feel unprepared for the reality of the classroom, as do many teachers, but the special education classroom adds extra complexity and challenges that can be exceptionally difficult for first time teachers to manage. The higher turnover in these classrooms meant that our children with the greatest needs were being served regularly by new, inexperienced teachers. While this instability certainly wasn’t intentional, the result is that these children weren’t getting the equity in education they deserved.

While we could view special education support and teacher development as separate issues, we saw and continue to see them as closely tied. The majority (75 percent) of our GWAEA budget is tied to special education, with the remainder allocated to provide other important support to schools, which includes teacher development and induction, media (books, videos, curriculum) and technology. Our goal has been to reduce teacher turnover and accelerate new teacher development in order to provide a consistent and high quality education to children across the board. The strategy we chose was to provide job-embedded support to these teachers, giving them the resources they need to continue in the profession and achieve their highest potential. After thorough research, mentoring and instructional coaching were the solutions we decided to implement.

Pooling Resources

We quickly realized that each district in the GWAEA couldn’t implement the most effective models of mentoring and coaching programs alone. The districts in our region vary greatly in size and many smaller districts wouldn’t have been able to afford to fund high-quality programs independently. To ensure all districts were tackling this problem together, we formed the Grant Wood Area Induction Consortium and pooled our resources to make certain that every school in the region had access to proven and research-based induction, mentoring and coaching programs. Sharing these resources enabled smaller districts access to programs they couldn’t afford on their own, and larger districts were able to reduce costs and increase the impact and reach of the programs. These programs, supported in partnership with NTC, are aimed at helping new teachers get up to speed faster and encourage continued growth, development and job satisfaction for experienced teachers. When we started work with NTC, GWAEA noted that 30-50 percent of new teachers were leaving within the first five years on the job, which was staggering, especially considering the cost of recruiting and preparing new teachers. Recruiting, hiring and developing replacement teachers can cost between $4,366 – $10,000 in rural districts and $15,325 – $17,872 in urban districts.

Partnering for Success

The Grant Wood Area Induction Consortium took the task of finding partners to help us improve teacher retention and student achievement through teacher induction and coaching very seriously. We were looking for a partner that had proven, measurable success – which brought us to NTC in 2005. NTC was an ideal partner for us, because they work in collaboration with districts to provide educators with the support and resources they need from their first day to their last. We were impressed by their results-oriented programs, which aligned with our districts’ learning goals and addressed teacher induction, instructional coaching and school leadership development. In addition to NTC, GWAEA continues to work with other partners to help drive success in the region, including Solution Tree, Marzano Research Lab, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and specialized experts on autism, behavior, speech language pathology, occupational therapy/physical therapy and literacy.

Generating Real Results

Launching rigorous induction and coaching programs has dramatically reduced teacher attrition in the Grant Wood districts since 2005. At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, 95 percent of new teachers planned to remain within the consortium and 86 percent reported that they planned to teach at their same school the following year. This is a huge improvement from having only 50-70 percent of teachers staying in the profession regionally during their first five years. We were excited to find that our teacher satisfaction also improved. We received great feedback across the board from teachers, mentors and administrators about the benefits of the program.

According to one mentor for Grant Wood AEA, “The most valuable features of this program are that all teachers within the consortium are provided with a full-release mentor, which means more support for all our teachers, regardless of their district size, budget, population, or zip code. The other valuable feature is that our program is as good as our mentors. This program works because of the people within it. It is vital the quality mentors are in the field, working with teachers and administrators. The last valuable feature is the training provided – it is second to none.”

Equity Among Learners

By forming the Grant Wood Area Induction Consortium and pooling resources, we were able to have a measureable impact on all the children in our region, and specifically improve the retention of teachers for special needs children. Providing high quality teachers and reducing teacher loss in early years has helped us provide equity in learning to children no matter what their background or learning needs. Now teachers in rural and urban areas all benefit from the resources of the consortium and can participate in the support and development opportunities we offer. In turn, our teachers provide a more stable, equitable learning environment for our kids.

Kimberly Owen is the Mentoring and Induction Regional Administrator at the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

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Smart Build

Ensuring learning products are intelligently developed.  

GUEST COLUMN | by Anand Subramanian

CREDIT NessNew models of learning exist today thanks to technology, and more-and-more educators are willing to spend to take advantage of technology-enabled teaching methods that facilitate better student outcomes. Validation of this is Gartner’s prediction that technology spending for higher education alone will exceed $38.2 billion in the U.S. this year. When designing digital products and solutions for any industry, it’s critical to always keep the end-user experience in mind. In addition to understanding the user’s needs, wants, and pains via traditional research and due-diligence, data collection and analysis are

Various data crunching and analytics techniques will become more prevalent to make learning products even more adaptive to learner preferences, while working in cohesion with teacher/student interactions.

key components, particularly in the education sector. During the digital learning experience, data from students, teachers and even administrators can be captured. This data can then be used to support decisions both on the fly and long-term by tracking changes, exploring new patterns in learner behavior, and digging deeper into problem areas.

Below is an in-depth look at personalization and simulation, two developing learning models, and how technology and big data are driving their success.

Personalization

With personalization, learning is tailored based on individual strengths, needs and interests. Typical tools utilized include supplemental content (video, audio, etc.), assessments with real-time or periodic feedback, dynamic learning tools (e.g., gamification), and efficient information-sharing across practices and schools which frees up time for more one-on-one student/teacher interaction.

With each interaction that happens on a learning platform comes a data point that can be used to personalize further experiences.  Data provides visibility into a student’s engagement with material and enables real-time, dynamic adjustment in the way content is served to the student based on his/her responses, preferences, pauses, behaviors, etc.  Data also offers insight into learning styles – what’s working and what’s not.  This knowledge is valuable to teachers and helps them optimize their methods for engaging learners in the most effective ways.

To articulate the power of personalization further, consider the example of a history class that covers a vast set of subjects. When a learner chooses specific areas of interest, and chooses how he/she wants to “experience” the content, data is collected. As the class progresses throughout the school year, a successful solution can feed that learner more information in a way that meets his/her preferences; for example, serving audios if the learner has typically chosen to consume content in audio format versus written material. The preferences can also be translated to other subject areas, so, for example, the science department might get insights into what’s working for a given student in another class and apply some of those same tools to personalize the science experience.

As this model and technology continues to mature, we’ll likely see that in addition to students receiving personalized information throughout the learning experience, that information will eventually be pushed to the learner outside the physical or virtual classroom, including notifications about new, relevant material via email or mobile device—encouraging additional consumption of paid and non-paid content.

Simulation 

Simulations provide environments that a student might encounter in a future educational or professional setting – with accuracy. They amplify real experiences and are “immersive.” The model typically includes engagement via 3D/virtual reality, gaming and like technologies.

Consistent with personalization, with each decision that occurs during a simulation comes a data point that is used to enhance the learning method. Simulations are usually built around very specific learning situations. An example from a college business course could focus on the role of a Chief Operations Officer and the need to find an answer to a transportation/delivery problem.  In this scenario, the educator would build a simulation to teach how to be the “fastest and the first” to deliver to the customer, which might be the company’s mission statement. The route to reach the customer should be the fastest during the point in time when the deliveries need to happen.

The next phase of the simulation includes a “shock.” Maybe there’s construction happening or roads are closed because of an accident and usual routes aren’t possible. The learner needs to figure out a solution – how can I make the deliveries the fastest without costing the company more money? Each decision becomes a data point and can suggest subsequent “shocks” along the chosen path that the learner must navigate.

This augmented reality, coupled with an involving user experience, can be a very powerful learning experience for educators and students. And as technology matures, it will likely become more prevalent in all educational settings, while also thriving as a training method for many industries.

An Essential Component

It’s an exciting time in education with technology enabling so many new ways of learning. Various data crunching and analytics techniques will become more prevalent to make learning products even more adaptive to learner preferences, while working in cohesion with teacher/student interactions. Ensuring that the right analysis tools and capabilities are built into products and solutions is essential to advancing teaching methods and student results.

Anand Subramanian is Technology Innovation Center Head at Ness Software Engineering Services (SES). With over 20 years of product engineering experience, including specialization in education, publishing, and media, he helps clients conceptualize, develop, and deliver large, complex, and commercially viable products.

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Fluid Communications

Trends in paperless schools and enterprise content management technology.

GUEST COLUMN | by Linda Ding

CREDIT LaserficheSchools in both K-12 and higher education are transforming classrooms to keep pace with technology. Technology adoption in other operations—such as HR, accounting and recordkeeping—however, traditionally trails that of classrooms as institutions continue to rely on paper-driven protocol. Some schools are looking to change that with enterprise content management (ECM) technology, which has implications beyond going paperless.

Recordkeeping regulations require schools to store and secure documents dating back years, sometimes decades—and boxes or filing cabinets filled with paper cost money and space to store. 

While ECM used to simply be a means of storing electronic documents, ECM solutions providers now offer tools and integrations that increase school employees’ efficiency, lower costs and ultimately allow institutions to better serve their students. Here are some of the newest ways that schools and districts are using ECM to positively affect operations.

More Accessible Digital Student Records

Paperless isn’t so much of a trend as it is a necessity for many schools and school districts. Recordkeeping regulations require schools to store and secure documents dating back years, sometimes decades—and boxes or filing cabinets filled with paper cost money and space to store. Additionally, searching and retrieving records in a traditional paper filing system and physically routing them can result in lost documents and shipping costs.

The Ottawa-Carleton School District Board (OCSDB) is the largest school board in Ottawa and one of many organizations that has benefited from digitizing student records. With 147 schools, OCSDB processes and stores a large volume of student information. After digitizing records and automating its filing process with ECM software, OCSDB eliminated significant physical storage space and made the retrieval of student information easy and immediate through simple keyword searches. In Palm Desert, Calif., College of the Desert also digitized student records, which improved access to information and enhanced communications between staff and students. Both organizations’ initiatives realized significant time savings, allowing staff to spend more time on crucial services that directly affect students.

Electronic Forms to Collect Information

Even as schools begin to adopt ECM systems, paper forms remain a common way to collect information—some schools initiate processes by scanning paper into their ECM systems, and then destroy the paper document. Electronic forms, however, not only replace paper but also increase accuracy, eliminate missing information and save even more time by initiating automated workflows.

Located in Collin County, Texas, Plano Independent School District (ISD) is known for its high academic standards and state-of-the-art technology. Plano ISD serves approximately 55,000 students across 72 schools, special programs and administrative sites. Plano ISD implemented electronic forms in its after-school care program to track and confirm student attendance and late pickups. Electronic forms and automated workflows improved accuracy in legal and financial protocol, and have since processed the equivalent of over 7 million pages of information or more than 3,000 physical storage boxes. In addition, Plano ISD increased revenue collection of drop-in and late fees.

Integration for Enhanced Collaboration

While many institutions have existing ERM and CRM systems, ECM providers have introduced powerful integrations with leading software in the education industry. These integrations allow fluid communication between systems, eliminating redundant data and streamlining processes.

Cégep à distance (Collège de Rosemont), in Montreal, reengineered its exam review process by integrating its ECM system with a project management software the college uses to manage student information. Exams are scanned into the ECM system and results are pushed into the project management software, which then makes the information available to the Ministry of Education. The integration shortened exam processing time and enabled the college to track the process from start to finish.

Automating Back-Office Processes

Many schools have been realizing the power of ECM by automating processes in nearly every department, including essential operations surrounding employee onboarding or accounting. Organizations can create workflows that increase efficiency and reduce the chance for human error. Some ECM tools also provide audit trails and data analytics that enable schools to track processes, automatically send progress updates to those involved in real-time, and identify bottlenecks.

Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering automated its employee onboarding process to make it more efficient as the college was looking to hire a large volume of employees to manage increased enrollment. This automation realized savings of more than 2,000 hours of employee time in one year and standardized the filing and naming of employee records in an electronic repository, making them easily searchable. Other departments have leveraged the ECM system and automated processes such as contract management and accounts payable.

Enterprise Transformation

As educational institutions adjust methods and operations to serve a new generation of tech-savvy students, digital is fast becoming a ubiquitous term. Students and employees continue to expect quicker, easier access to information and services, which has pushed educational institutions to completely transform their operations with ECM. Budget is also a motivating factor for many institutions to increase efficiency across the entire organization.

While enterprise-wide transformation can seem daunting, schools are achieving significant ROI by adopting the methods that best fit them. Texas A&M University System offered ECM software as a shared service through its central IT office after individual college deployments showed time and cost savings. The transformation allows staff to leverage success and knowledge across departments and colleges. In Ottawa, Algonquin College implemented ECM in its HR department, which spurred an enterprise expansion that has ultimately improved student service in 23 departments, including the Registrar’s Office and IT.

As technology continues to change the education landscape, K-12 and higher education organizations will need to transform in various ways to increase efficiency and, most importantly, better serve students.

Linda Ding is the Education Program Strategist for Laserfiche. She speaks frequently on issues surrounding deployment of institution-wide IT initiatives, information governance and integration strategies. She was an executive panelist at the 2010 Wilbur K. Woo Greater China Business Conference at UCLA and has presented at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) Annual Meeting, EDUCAUSE, the Harvard IT Summit and the Laserfiche Institute Conference in Los Angeles. She holds B.A. degrees in Economics and Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley and an M.A. degree in Program Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University.

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Making Good Humans

In depth with the leaders of an extraordinarily creative learning company.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Evan & Greg Spiridellis of JibJab“My brother Evan and I have always been fascinated by the opportunity to use technology to tell new kinds of stories,” says Gregg Spiridellis, Founder and CEO with his brother of StoryBots, a universe of learning and fun featuring curriculum in the creative arts, academic pursuits, practical life, and pure play. “When we were young, single guys, we followed that passion and created the comedy brand JibJab. Many years later, as fathers, we saw the opportunity to use technology to create rich, engaging experiences that could not only capture our kids’ imaginations, but also teach them something.” They took JibJab’s world-class team of artists, writers, performers and technologists and partnered with experts in

We’re in a transformative time— technology is making access to amazing new tools and experiences that facilitate learning possible. On the other hand, there is a digital divide, with wealthier schools and educators having access that less fortunate schools don’t have.

the field of early childhood education and they set out, as Gregg tells it, “to create the equivalent of Sesame Street for today’s device-centric, connected kids.” To date, their apps have been installed 3.4 million times and their learning videos have been viewed over 300 million times online.

How did StoryBots evolve into a classroom product?

Gregg: While we had originally intended StoryBots to be for home use, we found that more and more teachers were using our content in their classrooms. We wanted to remove any cost barriers to teachers using our products, so we created the StoryBots Educator Network that granted free access to our entire content library. The network grew by word-of-mouth to the point that nearly 10,000 teachers signed up. With that kind of traction, we decided to invest more in building a product custom-tailored for classroom use, with an emphasis on interactive projection boards, classroom tools and more educational content.

Why is StoryBots Classroom free for educators?

Gregg: First, we believe strongly in the power of entertainment and technology to accelerate learning and help kids get ahead. By offering free access to early educators, we can make our content and activities available to all young learners. Beyond that, we’ve realized teachers are powerful advocates. If they find value in our products and recommend them to the parents of the students in their classes, we have the chance to earn the business of those parents with our premium content offerings at home.

What are the greatest challenges facing early education teachers?

Gregg: The pace of change that we have seen in the last decade is unprecedented – with higher expectations in the later grades, the trickle-down effect has put increased demands on young children to master foundational skills much sooner. But at the same time, there are so few resources available to help teachers reach those students who may be falling behind, and those that do exist are often low quality or don’t align with the curriculum teachers are using. We want to give those teachers access to content and tools that keep their kids engaged and learning.

How are teachers using StoryBots Classroom?

Gregg: Because StoryBots Classroom was developed for use on the interactive white board, it is great for whole class activities, but also works great for small group and one-on-one targeted instruction, too. The Group Builder feature allows teachers to deliver differentiated content to engage all learners, regardless of mastery level. And the content is designed specifically for use in pre K to 1st grade classrooms, so no matter what curriculum is dictated, StoryBots is the perfect complement.

What sets you apart from other interactive education content providers?

CREDIT JibJab Bros StudiosGregg: We set out to entertain ourselves as much as our kids! That’s why we have hip hop outer space songs, rhythm and blues color songs, bluegrass number songs, and more. The biggest compliment we ever got was, “I listen to the ABC songs on the way to school with my kids and I keep listening after drop off!”  Kids today are far more media savvy than ever before, and we are the only ones producing content for the category that really speaks to today’s kindergarteners.

In addition to the more sophisticated content offering, with our iconic Starring You® technology, StoryBots puts each child at the center of the experience – literally! Parents can simply add their child’s photo and they become the star of the show. For the same reason that JibJab has become such a huge success, kids love seeing themselves dancing and singing on-screen while also engaging with activities that help build their skills and instill in them a love of learning.

How has early education changed in the last decade?

Gregg: There was a study recently that examined this, and what they found is that only 29 percent of teachers believed that children should know the alphabet before they started kindergarten in 1998. By 2010, that number had jumped to 62 percent. So increased expectations aren’t just a perception, they are very real. And by raising that bar, more students are falling below it – something like 6 out of 10 kids are unprepared for kindergarten. This means that kindergarten teachers need ample resources to best reach all students – whether they are visual, tactile or auditory learners – and get them excited to master the foundational skills they need to be successful as they continue on to elementary school. We’re giving them one more arrow in their quiver to do the important work they need to do in the classroom.

Kindergarten teachers need ample resources to best reach all students – whether they are visual, tactile or auditory learners – and get them excited to master the foundational skills they need to be successful as they continue on to elementary school.

What’s next for StoryBots?

Gregg: While our recent focus has been on the classroom, we’re now shifting gears to build out a really robust home experience that will allow students to continue what they’re learning in school at home and on the go. We’ve already released our new all-in-one iPad app, and we’re working closely with teachers and education experts to develop an adaptive learning experience for our Math Skills activity. Both teachers and parents will see lots of new features and activities roll out over the next several months, and we have a few really exciting, big announcements still on the way. Stay tuned!

Your advice for teachers and administrators trying to balance increased expectations with developmentally appropriate activities for young learners?

Gregg: There is no rule that says learning can’t be educational and entertaining at the same time. In fact, we believe strongly that content and experiences that entertain are the best vehicles for delivering substantive learning.  All children have the capacity to learn; our mission is to create things that get them excited.

Exciting times in education, your thoughts?

Gregg: We are in a transformative time—technology is making access to amazing new tools and experiences that facilitate learning possible. On the other hand, there’s a digital divide, with wealthier schools and educators having access that less fortunate schools don’t have. By making StoryBots Classroom available to teachers for free, we are hoping to do our part in bridging that digital divide.

What does technology do, really?

Gregg: We believe technology opens the doors to creating new and exciting learning experiences that were never before possible. By pairing great educators with world-class storytellers, artists and performers, we believe there is an opportunity to radically increase student engagement with learning subject matters. It’s an exciting time to be creating and building at the intersection of art, technology and education.

Final thoughts on edtech?

Gregg: There are so many resources out there being marketed as “educational” – I recently read an estimate that identified nearly 80,000 in the app store alone. But less than a third of those mention an underlying educational curriculum, which means teachers are forced to spend precious time sorting through resources that aren’t going to move the dial on student learning. All of our content features lessons designed by frontline teachers and child development Ph.Ds, and our educator users rave about the efficacy of StoryBots activities. And their students are begging to use StoryBots every day, which is probably the best endorsement we could receive.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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America’s Got Talent

Using technology to level the playing field and capitalize on our full potential.

GUEST COLUMN | by Bryden Sweeney-Taylor

CREDIT CollegePointEach year, tens of thousands of hardworking students with top grades and test scores from lower-income families all across America fail to apply to our country’s top-performing colleges and universities—institutions they are qualified to attend. In fact, just 6 percent of students at top institutions come from low-income families. Instead, these young people often end up at open-access, two- and four-year colleges well below their abilities—and leave with more debt, lower graduation rates, and dramatically reduced career and leadership opportunities.

We believe the underrepresentation of lower-income students at top-performing colleges and universities is a solvable problem.

When high-achieving, lower-income students do apply to selective colleges and universities, they are accepted, enroll, and graduate at the same rates as their wealthier peers. And lower-income students who attend our top-performing institutions of higher education have earnings that are about 25 percent higher than those of students who attend less competitive colleges, which translates, on average, to a $450,000 difference over the course of a lifetime. At the same time, two-thirds of students at the top 250 colleges and universities nationwide come from the wealthiest quarter of families.

So, what prevents high-achieving, lower-income students from applying to leading colleges and universities?

Many of these students who fail to apply live in rural counties, towns, and small cities—rather than large metropolitan centers—making traditional college recruitment and advising methods unrealistic. Broadly speaking, most high-achieving, lower-income high school students lack three crucial supports in the college process: credible, personalized guidance as to which institutions are a good match given their level of academic achievement; accurate, individualized information about the real costs of top institutions, which are often far less for lower-income students than they believe because of the many scholarships and financial aid opportunities that are available to them; and models of other young people like themselves who have successfully made the transition to top-performing colleges and universities.

We believe we can overcome these obstacles.

In response, Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched a coalition of non-profit organizations and philanthropic institutions called CollegePoint that enables these high-achieving, lower-income students to receive the support and resources they need in order to overcome the barriers that stand in the way of their applying to, enrolling in, and, ultimately, graduating from colleges and universities that match their qualifications.

Starting in the fall of 2014, advisors began providing support and guidance through a broad range of technologies to high-achieving, lower-income high school students across the country, and to date we have served nearly 10,000 students from the high school classes of 2015 and 2016.

CollegePoint advisors are based at proven college access organizations, including the College Advising Corps and College Possible, and eligible students come from all fifty states. Using tools like video chat, document and screen sharing, and text and social media, advisors reach students where they are, whenever they need support.

Using personalized, differentiated approaches made possible through these tools, they help students understand their individual college options and the associated costs, and they give students the skills they need to create and follow through on plans necessary to apply to top-performing colleges and universities when they would not otherwise.

And through a partnership with Khan Academy, these students—and all Khan Academy users—have access to high-quality online content on the college application and financial aid process as they improve their higher education opportunities and, in doing so, transform their futures. In addition, we have taken significant steps to measure the impact of our work, with Professor Benjamin Castleman of the University of Virginia leading a randomized control trial to measure advising outcomes, and we have seen promising initial indicators of success that suggest that CollegePoint advising may have substantial effect on students.

Starting in the fall of 2014, advisors began providing support and guidance through a broad range of technologies to high-achieving, lower-income high school students across the country.

We believe the underrepresentation of lower-income students at top-performing colleges and universities is a solvable problem. In years past, thousands of bright, industrious high school students from lower-income families have missed the chance to go to colleges and universities that match their academic abilities and achievements.

As a result, we are missing an opportunity to capitalize on the full spectrum of American talent. And for low-income high-achievers and their families, we are failing to address education and income inequality from the bottom up. Higher education can be an inflection point for lower-income students, and through CollegePoint and the leveraging of a host of new technologies, for the first time many of these young people from all over the country will receive a unique opportunity to forever change the course of their lives and create new pathways of success within their communities.

Bryden Sweeney-Taylor is CEO of CollegePoint, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative created to increase the number of high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students who apply to and graduate from top colleges and universities with strong graduation rates and financial aid policies. Previously, he served as Executive Director of African Leadership Foundation, the U.S. partner of African Leadership Academy, a leadership development institution dedicated to supporting Africa’s future leaders. Sweeney-Taylor began his career as a grassroots organizer working on political campaigns in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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