In 2019, we collaborated with Racine Unified to bring a data fellow from Education Pioneers, a national education leadership development program, into our work. This was one of the first times Education Pioneers placed a fellow in Wisconsin. Our Data Fellow, Lauren Marinoff, closes her year working with us this week so we wanted to take the time to reflect on the great work she has accomplished this year.
Education Pioneers identifies high-potential leaders from different sectors early in their careers and attracts them to the education sector. Lauren was doing data work in the private sector before she applied to be an Education Pioneers fellow and came to work with us and Racine Unified as our Data Fellow. In this partnership, Lauren worked with Racine Unified and Higher Expectations collecting and organizing data to uncover challenges for Racine County and put a spotlight on solutions working to solve them. Two of Lauren’s biggest projects this year were the Sustainable Wage Tool and a comprehensive look into barriers to reading growth and reading support programs.
In the spring of 2019, Lauren gathered data on costs of living and wages in Racine County to create the Sustainable Wage Tool. This tool answers two important questions - what income do parents need to make in order to sustain their families in Racine County? And, what do they need to do to get there? By inputting information like how many adults and children live in the home, what their housing needs are, and how much childcare they need each week, the tool models out their needed sustainable wage and the jobs available in Racine County at that income level. This tool was used as evidence to increase the minimum wage for employees of the City of Racine and at UW-Parkside.
Lauren also dug deeper into data surrounding reading growth for students who participate in reading programs in Racine Unified Elementary schools. By looking at this data, Racine Unified was better able to see not only what programs have been most successful, but what factors outside of the classroom have an impact on a student’s ability to reach their yearly reading growth goals. This data revealed that high student mobility, low attendance, and suspensions can negatively impact students' reading growth, no matter what reading support program they are involved in.
We asked Lauren to reflect on a few things she’s learned to work at Higher Expectations over the year and here’s what she said:
- There are many transferable skills from the private to the public sector. Previously, I was quantifying market trends, and I could use the same skills to quantify the impact of programs to see what moves the needle in improving outcomes for students and their families.
- In Racine, there is a lot of enthusiasm about working collaboratively to lift up Racine residents and improve outcomes.
- Even with that enthusiasm, systems change is challenging. It will take many different organizations with many skill sets working together to transform systems and lift up families.
- Organizations benefit from a variety of perspectives, and in order to find solutions to complex challenges, we all need to be asking what we can do to support and build upon the good work that is already occurring.