Elevating Student Success: NCS Leads Transformative Sessions at Carnegie Summit for School Improvement

Leaders from the UChicago Network for College Success (NCS) recently attended the Carnegie Summit on Improvement in Education. Hosted in San Diego, this annual conference is a platform for educators, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to share innovative ideas and strategies to drive continuous improvement in schools and districts. 
This year, NCS staff members demonstrated their expertise and learning from recent academic years, touching on key topics such as peer relationships, student success systems, and educator and student identity. 
Let's delve into the four session workshops led by NCS staff, highlighting their impactful contributions and the insights gained.

I. Building student success systems: How the GRAD Partnership is Changing on-track work together

At the forefront of creating high-quality student success systems, Sarah Duncan, Co-Executive Director at NCS, participated in a thought-provoking session alongside Kelly McMahon (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), Tara Madden (Talent Development Secondary), and Sonia Urban and Dan Garragher (Colorado Springs School District 11). Joined by Raul Magdaleno, Principal of Kelly High School and longtime NCS partner, panelists shared their experiences and discussed the transformative work of The GRAD Partnership.
Panelists provided detailed examples of how The GRAD Partnership, comprising nine organizations as well as a robust Advisory Council, is revolutionizing on-track work nationwide. Through support and research, each organization contributes to improving on-track rates and helping schools implement high-quality student success systems. 
The session further brought to life the definition of high-quality student success systems, providing participants the opportunity to develop plans tailored to their contexts while also fostering a collaborative atmosphere and inspiring educators to reimagine their practices.

II. "What about yo’ friends?”: How a focus on peer relationships impacted students' sense of belonging and 3.0+ GPA attainment

NCS's commitment to supporting high school educators to foster peer relationships and deepening collaboration was showcased in a session led by Lauren Perez Pietruszka and Joyce Randall, Freshman Success Coaches at NCS. 
"Based on three years of insights, we discovered that strong peer connections boost students' sense of belonging and, consequently, enhance their GPA," emphasizes Lauren Perez Pietruszka.
The session also showcased practical strategies and success stories, inspiring participants to rethink their approaches to student engagement and collaboration.

III. Leadership for Transformation: Using Identity to Improve Practices, Processes, and Outcomes

Ria Pretekin, Kate Pressler, and Andrea Cortes, Postsecondary Coaches at NCS, led a session that emphasized the power of transformational leadership. Their discussion centered around leveraging student and educator identity to enhance student advising practices, processes, and outcomes.
The session traced the NCS Postsecondary Team's journey of building leadership and capacity among school counselors and college/career coaches in Chicago Public High Schools. Initially focused on technical skills in improvement science, the team recognized the need to delve deeper into the human side of change. 
"By exploring our own identities, mindsets, and habits, we can better understand and support our students on their postsecondary journeys," emphasizes Ria Pretekin.
The NCS Postsecondary Team's story resonated with the audience as they shared their experiences of integrating improvement science with self-reflection in high school contexts. Furthermore, partner educators’ gathering of student voice data and testing change ideas further solidified the community’s commitment to creating meaningful relationships and ensuring positive outcomes for students.

IV. The Rest Is History: Advancing A More Nuanced Narrative of Improvement's Origins and Evolution

Alongside Brandon Bennett (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching) and Amanda Meyer (CORE Districts), Adelric (Del) McCain, Senior Director of Transformation and Impact at NCS, led a captivating session that addressed the history and philosophy behind improvement science. This session aimed to deepen educators' understanding of improvement's origins and evolution across industries, including education.
Bennett presented a brief history of quality improvement, exploring its roots in the early 20th century and tracing its journey from Post-World War II Japan to its application in American industry, healthcare, and now, education. Furthermore, the session challenged common misunderstandings about improvement and highlighted contributions from rarely-credited voices, particularly women and people of color.
Participants engaged in a reflective discussion, considering the implications of a more accurate and nuanced historical narrative of improvement. They also explored culturally-relevant entry points to teaching and practicing improvement, inviting educators to be part of this ever-evolving body of knowledge.

Our team’s active involvement at the Carnegie Summit highlighted the ways we are innovating to continue to improve educational experiences for all students. Through their workshop sessions, they showcased effective strategies and demonstrated how collaboration, peer relationships, and self-reflection contribute to student success.
As Krys Payne, Co-Executive Director at NCS, summarizes, "The summit provided an opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences with educators nationwide, inspiring them to reimagine their own practices for the benefit of students."
By driving innovation and pushing the boundaries of traditional educational approaches that inhibit high school teams’ ability to reflect on and improve their practice, NCS is helping shape a brighter future for students in Chicago and beyond. We hope our work at the Carnegie Summit reverberates throughout the education community, fostering a nationwide commitment to excellence and transformation in schools.