About Alignment Rockford
The greatest challenges facing Rockford are related to public education and its impact on our community. Truancy rates must be lowered and minority achievement gaps need to be closed. Standardized test scores and graduation rates are unacceptably low. High poverty levels have a damaging effect on learning and social development. Too many of our children are unprepared for a successful life in an increasingly competitive world.
Our social and economic vitality depends upon accelerated achievement in public education, but the turnaround of public schools cannot be accomplished by the school district and teachers alone. Indeed, this critical endeavor can only be achieved by a broad and far-reaching collaboration of education administrators and teaching professionals, and political, corporate, religious, civic, social and grassroots entities faithfully working together to advance academic achievement and further educational attainment.
In 2009 a diverse group of Rockford’s civic, business, religious and educational leaders evaluated how other communities across the country have responded to similar trends, with the objective of adapting best principles and practices in Rockford to increase academic aspiration and achievement. Based on what they learned from effective community models, a collaborative framework known as Alignment Rockford was formed to improve public education through facilitating the focus of community resources on the fulfillment of the strategic plan of Rockford Public Schools District 205.
More About Alignment Rockford
Alignment Rockford (AR) is a unique and scalable framework for developing community schools. Our mission is to align community resources in support of public school strategies to raise student achievement, improve the health and happiness of our children, and advance the economic and social well-being of our community.
Alignment Rockford has developed process for collaboration that aligns the resources of these organizations to the Rockford Public Schools (RPS) strategic plan and to community strategic plans, aligning the city’s resources toward common goals.
AR was developed to ensure all the services children need are provided to them in an effective and efficient way that complements their education, health and well-being, and the goals of the public schools. Through community-wide collaboration among schools, non-profits, businesses, and the public sector, AR creates the synergy necessary for sustained improvement in public education and children’s health. This collaboration provides the following advantages:
- Greater returns on investment– by working together toward common goals, resources are leveraged, duplication is avoided, and efficiency is greatly increased.
- Higher quality services – utilizing expertise from multiple organizations guarantees a broader perspective and a wiser approach.
- Enhanced capacity – very few organizations have the capacity to have community-wide impact. A collective effort enhances the impact of each of organization, while generating a much greater overall impact.
- Leverage of local funding – AR programs can attract large national funding, increasing the impact of the local funding that played a role in building the pilot programs.
As those involved with Alignment Rockford collaborate in this important community endeavor, the following leadership values form the foundation for operational relationships:
1. We work with a spirit of unity – We agree to offer one voice on topics related to the alignment effort and to resolve conflicting agendas in committee.
2. Our relationships are based on trust – We understand that predictability, clear communication, and mutual support precede success in every challenging community endeavor.
3. Our focus is on our children’s needs – We seek collaborative, student-focused solutions to barriers which impair academic achievement.
4. We promote life-long learning – We know that raising educational aspirations and attainment will result in greater economic prosperity for all in our community.
The work of Alignment Rockford is organized and conducted by teams. These specialized teams are led by community members and RPS administrators who bring a diversity of expertise and a passion for public education. The teams are overseen by the Alignment Rockford Operating Board, their effort is guided by objectives, and their results are systematically evaluated. The committee process includes five phases:
1. Tactical Planning – In response to an unmet student need, the committee conducts research and creates a detailed plan to implement a pilot project that includes measures of effectiveness.
2. Community Engagement – Through an invitation to participate, community organizations are asked to join in the implementation of pilot programs.
3. Implementation and Evaluation – Communications between pilot program agencies and the committee ensures implementation fidelity and accountability. Effectiveness is regularly evaluated.
4. Scaling Up – Based on early success, the pilot is extended beyond the original scope.
5. Institutionalization – Once measured to be effective on a large scale, the program becomes integrated within the RPS structure.
In 2009 a diverse group of Rockford’s civic, business, religious and educational leaders began research on how other communities across the country have responded to declining student achievement and graduation rates, with the intention to adopt best principles and practices. Their purpose was to improve student achievement and increase educational attainment. Research led to inquiry about an organization called Alignment Nashville.
Alignment Nashville (AN) started as a result of recommendations from the Citizens Report Card conducted annually by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. A consulting firm, Vision Link, was hired in 2002 to evaluate the need and capacity of the city’s many organizations to work collaboratively to improve the education and lives of the city’s children and the future prospects for their community.
The need for systematic, sustainable collaboration became clear through this process, and business leaders worked closely with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to create a model that was productive, inclusive and durable. Alignment Nashville was created specifically to meet this need, and as a result of its collaborative development process, is widely supported.
Alignment Rockford and Alignment Nashville entered into a support agreement, and Rockford has been chosen to be the first community to replicate the AN model.
- Alignment Rockford is governed by a Board of Directors, which includes the Superintendent of RPS 205, the president of the School Board, the Winnebago County Board Chair, the Mayor of the City of Rockford, the presidents of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, the presidents of Rockford College and Rock Valley College, the regional Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, the CEOs of Swedish American Health System, OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and Rockford Health System, community nonprofit organizations, CEOs of the largest employers in Winnebago County, representatives of faith communities and parents of public and private school students.
- Project implementation is directed by an Operating Board which meets monthly to support working committees and monitor progress. The Operating Board includes RPS administrators, business and non-profit leaders, and the chairs and vice-chairs of the working committees.
- Working committees composed of non-profit representatives, RPS administrators, principals, business and higher education representatives and others, meet at least monthly to design and implement solutions to strategic needs articulated by the school district.
Alignment Rockford began its work with four committees: Ages 0-5 Healthy Starts, Grades K–5 Reading and Math at Grade Level, Grades K-8 Behavioral Health, Grades 9–12 Career Education and Pathways to Post-secondary Education.
Start-up funding for Alignment Rockford came from private funds, seed money from the Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s Emerging Opportunities Fund, and from the City of Rockford Human Services Department, Community Services Block Grant – ARRA, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.