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Nashville Visit to Rockford


Melissa Jaggers, Associate Executive Director of Alignment Nashville, visited Rockford today and attended our Academy Expo team meeting. Her blog, below, perfectly captures the essence of the Alignment model.

Rockford Pathways A-Team meeting – Rock Valley College

This morning, I was privileged to be able to attend the Alignment Rockford Academy Expo Alignment Team (A-Team) meeting at Rock Valley College. This A-Team planned the Rockford Academy Expo that debuted in 2012 to help Rockford Public School (RPS205) high school students make an informed Academy choice. Since 2012, this event has expanded significantly; in 2014, the event was even opened to a neighboring district.

Based on the success of the event, RPS205 and the Academy Expo A-Team have received requests from other surrounding districts to participate. At the meeting I attended, the A-Team wrestled with these requests and how to balance the desire to maintain the quality of the event with these requests.

It was fascinating to be an observer and see each piece of the Alignment toolset in action:

  • Principles – diversity of perspective ensured that the needs of partners and schools were met. I heard reminders from business representatives that business partners want to be busy while they are volunteering and would rather keep the event on one day as opposed to expanding to two. I also heard the school district representatives remind the A-Team of the ongoing challenges with transportation and uncertain testing schedules for the upcoming school year.
  • Process – Since 2012, the A-Team used the Invitation to Participate ™ (ITP ™) process to engage partners in the Academy Expo. This process ensured transparency and uncovered “unusual suspects” in the community that had resources to bring to the event.
  • Structure – because the A-Team has the proper composition and balance of members from different stakeholder groups, the conversation reflected that diversity of experience, expertise and perspective. The A-Team is also seeking the input and approval of the Alignment Rockford Operating Board in the decision regarding expansion of the Academy Expo for 2015.
  • Technology – ComCoefficient was used to capture the A-Team’s conversation, recording their reasoning for decisions to avoid backtracking at future meetings as well as opportunities for absent A-Team members to review the conversation and provide additional input.

Here are a few of the most striking comments I heard during the meeting:

“This is the first time in anyone’s memory that the community and region is looking to RPS to take the lead on a successful, progressive, academic event that is valuable to all students in the region, and we want to capitalize on that. The Academy Expo A-Team is dedicated to preserving high-quality learning environments; we don’t want students to just attend, we want this event to have an impact on them.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this type of cooperation in this region.”

“When I went to the National Career Academy Conference, it was clear to me that Nashville and Rockford were the only two districts with a systemic way of partnering community and schools; other districts seem to have a piecemeal approach. The Alignment movement has institutionalized this approach.”

By the end of the 90-minute meeting, the group had a clear consensus on the recommendation to be made to the Operating Board, as well as next steps, including a plan to include student voice in the planning for the 2015 event (which could serve as a Capstone project for that student as well!). It was incredible to observe the Alignment toolset in action – kudos to the staff and A-Team members of Alignment Rockford!

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