Connecticut RISE Network 2019 Annual Report

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Building Connections


Building Connections Our 2019 Annual Report celebrates the power of connections and results-driven collaboration. We improve our individual and networkwide impact when we work together across roles and communities.

The Connecticut RISE Network is committed to building connections that directly lead to student success. We believe that strong, supportive relationships between educators, students, and school staff, and between educators and families, are the key to unlocking opportunities and accomplishing ambitious goals. That’s what brings us together as a community of network partners, empowering educators to help all students realize their dreams for the future.

Letter from RISE Leadership............................. 2 Why RISE?....................................................................4 Creating a Powerful Network............................6 Sharing a Bold Approach.....................................8 Learning As a Network.......................................10 Connecting for Success...................................... 13 We’re Stronger Together...................................20 Connect with RISE................................................ 24

Dear Friends and Partners, When we created the RISE Network during the 2015–16 school year, we wanted to build a great community to bring together passionate and talented educators. When educators work together across schools and districts, we can help all students achieve. This work is too important and too complex to tackle alone and in isolation. We believe that we must work together to close Connecticut’s persistent opportunity gaps and disrupt multigenerational poverty cycles in our high-need communities. At RISE, we strive to build purposeful connections to accelerate student achievement. Connections help us to increase our collective impact, scale promising practices, and embrace shared responsibility for helping all students achieve college, career, and life success. Through the RISE Network, we connect schools and districts to other communities pursuing similar goals. Through structured collaboration and learning opportunities, we connect educators to new ideas and colleagues around the state. Through our data tools, we connect teachers, counselors, and administrators to the information they need as skilled professionals to meet all students’ needs. Through our network strategies, we connect students and families to opportunities that enable students to reach their full potential. These connections are leading to important gains in student achievement. Students, educators, families, and community partners are working together in new and exciting ways to promote student success. Looking ahead to 2020, we aim to strengthen connections within the RISE Network, including with our five new partner schools and districts. We are also committed to building connections outside of the RISE Network by sharing resources and learnings with others around the state and country seeking to improve student engagement, on-track achievement, and postsecondary outcomes. As a more connected community, we can achieve greater results on behalf of and in partnership with the students, families, and educators we serve.

Barbara Dalio Co-Founder and Board Chair


RISE Network

Emily Pallin

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Our Mission

The RISE Network empowers educators to achieve breakthrough results, helping all students realize and achieve their full potential. 2019 Annual Report 3

Why RISE? Addressing Missed Connections All educators aim to connect students to the resources, experiences, and opportunities they need to be successful. However, schools in high-need communities often experience challenges that leave some students disconnected from their goals for college and career success. For example, teachers want to engage students in deeper learning, but the average educator must spend their own money to outfit their classrooms, and many educators do not have access to the information, tools, and peer network they need and deserve as professionals. Educators want to provide personalized support to ensure students navigate the transitions from middle school to high school and later to college and career, yet Connecticut’s student-to-counselor ratio of 466:1 far exceeds the 250:1 national standard,1 forcing educators to make difficult tradeoffs in meeting student needs. Because of the disconnect between students’ ambitions and the supports and resources available to them, far too


few students achieve their dreams of a higher education. Persistent opportunity gaps disadvantage low-income students, Black/Latino students, and students with special needs. In Connecticut: • Only three-quarters of low-income students graduate from high school within four years. • Only one in five low-income high school graduates will earn a post-secondary degree within six years of graduating from high school, compared to roughly half of their more affluent peers.

By 2025, more than 70% of Connecticut’s jobs will require education beyond high school.2


ASCA. State-by-State Student-to-Counselor Report.


Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education in Connecticut. Hartford, Connecticut. 2015.

RISE Network

Better Together Through the RISE Network, teachers, counselors, and administrators collaborate across schools and districts to ensure Connecticut high school students graduate college and career ready. We believe that top-down mandates and frequent policy shifts are unlikely to create the sustained outcomes we seek for all students; we must invest in school communities to create lasting improvements. RISE connects educators in different communities to one another and to critical supports, resources, and information. Our cross-district learning community empowers educators to amplify their individual and collective impact by pursuing shared goals. Together, we ensure that all students stay connected and engaged in school and achieve postsecondary success.

In 2019, RISE connected:

• 5,000+ students to personalized

supports to strengthen their transition to high school and postsecondary opportunities through the RISE by 5 strategies

• 1,200+ educators to secure, actionable, and timely information through our data dashboards developed in collaboration with teachers, counselors, and administrators

• 219 educators to over $200,000 in

resources through the Educator Innovation Fund in partnership with the Dalio Foundation, supporting 488 unique projects designed to increase student engagement and achievement

2019 Annual Report 5

Creating a Powerful Network The RISE Network is a community built with educators and driven by educators.

RISE partners with educators across Connecticut who are deeply committed to improving educational outcomes for low-income and underrepresented high school students. RISE brings together teachers, counselors, and administrators working in different contexts to help ensure that every Connecticut high school student graduates ready for postsecondary success. By empowering school communities to improve, we invest in a cycle of lasting and scalable impact. As a collaborative improvement network, we pursue opportunities for innovation at three levels:





Align personalized supports to critical moments in the high school experience.

Expand access to resources and information to promote educator-led innovation.

Build a cross-district community to advance shared goals and scale results.

RISE Network

We’ve more than doubled our student reach in 2019. In 2019, RISE welcomed five new school partners to the RISE Network. Educators from Manchester, Middletown, Naugatuck, Brien McMahon, and Westhill high schools join a tremendous group of educators from East Hartford, Maloney, Platt, Career, and Hartford Public High School who co-founded the RISE Network in 2015. Among our 14,000+ students, we served 13% English learners, 14% special education students, and 67% low-income students.

In 2019, RISE grew from:


9 districts


10 high schools

500+ 5,600+

1,200+ educators 14,000+ students

Our Partners • • • • •

East Hartford High School, East Hartford Public Schools Hartford Public High School, Hartford Public Schools Hill Regional Career High School, New Haven Public Schools Francis T. Maloney High School, Meriden Public Schools Orville H. Platt High School, Meriden Public Schools

New partners in 2019

• • • • •

Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk Public Schools Manchester High School, Manchester Public Schools Middletown High School, Middletown Public Schools Naugatuck High School, Naugatuck Public Schools Westhill High School, Stamford Public Schools 2019 Annual Report 7

Sharing a Bold Approach RISE BY 5 STRATEGIES

Summer transition programs

offer opportunities to help students navigate transitions to high school and beyond, form strong relationships, and gain confidence and skills to achieve their goals.


RISE Network

On-track On-track coaching data teams opportunities support educators engage all students in one-on-one conferences. On-Track Coordinators support freshmen through personalized and data-driven coaching.

with information, tools, and resources to leverage their expertise for the benefit of all students. Collaborative team structures help schools meet the holistic needs of every student.


As partners in the RISE Network, we look for ways to better meet the needs of the students and families we serve. RISE high schools pursue five shared strategies to promote student engagement, on-track achievement, and college and career readiness. The RISE by 5 network-wide strategies connect students with personalized support to enable success both during and after high school.

College and career supports

build a culture of college success through meaningful opportunities in Grades 9-12 for students to pursue their college and career goals.

Network Strategies When Westhill High School joined the RISE Network, Principal Michael Rinaldi was excited to learn from existing partners about how best to adapt the RISE by 5 strategies to his school. Principal Rinaldi was focused on making sure that the network-wide student outcome goals were fully woven into the fabric of Westhill’s culture and mission as a school. He adopted the acronym PROUD, defining the “O” as on-track. Today, purple and gold Westhill and PROUD posters line the school’s hallways, engaging the entire school community in a process of understanding what “on-track” means to them and to Westhill student success.

Educatorinspired innovations

receive support from the RISE Educator Advisory Council and Innovation Fund, empowering educators to pinpoint needs, pilot ideas, and promote promising practices through collaboration.

“I get inspired by making connections with and learning from other teachers and administrators in the network.” — Michael Rinaldi, Principal, Westhill High School 2019 Annual Report 9

Learning as a Network BUILDING CONNECTIONS:

Network Learning Agenda Here’s what educators have to say about their experiences at RISE Network convenings:

“The combination of the data dashboard activities, keynote speakers, pre-work, and time to brainstorm with our teams is extremely valuable and helpful. This resulted in creating positive momentum and a vision on how to continue developing our work.”


RISE Network

RISE is a vibrant learning community where educators come together to share successes, resources, strategies, and challenges. Through deep and results-driven collaboration with and across RISE high schools, we form authentic learning partnerships to pilot new ideas, share promising practices, and sustain improvements over time.

RISE schools convene throughout the year for network-wide professional learning opportunities. These gatherings provide educators with opportunities to learn from and collaborate with peers across schools. They also provide opportunities for educators to engage with and learn from other experts, practitioners, and leaders who bring new perspectives and research to bear on shared challenges.

“The planning time on the last day was super valuable. It was helpful because we collectively were able to process the different sessions from the previous day and have open and honest dialogue about change and improvement at our school.” “Visiting schools and then hearing about the other school my colleagues visited was a great way to get ideas to bring back to my school.”

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RISE Network

Connecting for Success RISE is committed to fostering connections to help all students successfully navigate the middle to high school transition and graduate high school ready for postsecondary success. By learning from one another and bringing critical resources and ideas to their school communities, RISE

educators create connections that help all students thrive and succeed in and beyond high school. The following sections spotlight RISE educators and students who are building connections and demonstrating the impact and importance of our collaboration.

Engaging Students to Excel

RISE educators promote student success by connecting students to critical supports that help them engage in school and achieve their long-term goals.

Empowering Educators to Innovate

RISE educators collaborate in deep and meaningful ways to share experiences and expertise in pursuit of improved student supports and outcomes.

Moving from Data to Action RISE educators scale what works by using data to improve practices in service of better student outcomes.

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Engaging Students to Excel


Career High School ’19


RISE Network

Johnson and Wales University ’23

Bianca Smith-Huckabey

School Counselor, Career High School

The Case for Connections:

In Connecticut, more than one in five high school-aged students are disengaged or disconnected from school.3

Kim traces the start of her high school experience back to when she first arrived at Hill Regional Career High School’s Grade 9 summer bridge program and met Bianca Smith-Huckabey, School Counselor at Career. “The beginning of high school was nerve-wracking,” Kim recalls. “I immigrated from Honduras at 10 and learned English here in ESL courses. Going into high school, I was nervous about the transition, but also the language barrier. When I met Ms. Smith-Huckabey, that’s pretty much where everything started. I knew I could always go to her when I had questions about anything.”

apply to, and pay for college. Kim leaned on Ms. Smith-Huckabey even more for postsecondary planning support her senior year. “She really guided me through each step,” Kim says. “She left it open to me and gave me the tools that I needed to figure out where I fit in the most.”

As Kim transitioned into high school, Ms. Smith-Huckabey became a mentor and advocate. Recognizing Kim’s talents and ambitions, Ms. Smith-Huckabey encouraged Kim to volunteer as a peer leader during the summer bridge program for freshmen during her sophomore and junior year.

— Bianca Smith-Huckabey, School Counselor

When Kim began looking ahead to college, she faced new challenges and opportunities. As a first-generation college student from a single-income home, Kim had questions about how to explore,


RISE educators serve as champions for students’ high school and postsecondary success, connecting students with opportunities to excel.

college process was applying for financial aid and figuring out ‘How am I going to get to the school I really want?’” Now in her first year studying biology at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, Kim credits Ms. Smith-Huckabey for the support and guidance she needed to navigate

“I watched Kim blossom from a quiet girl into this independent young lady who accomplishes everything she puts her mind to.”

Through Ms. Smith-Huckabey’s partnership with RISE, she encouraged Kim to experience different schools on college visits and helped her secure financial aid. “That college visit is what sealed the deal for her,” Ms. Smith-Huckabey says. “She called me from the Johnson and Wales campus and told me, ‘This is the place where I want to be.’ My biggest role in her

both transitions successfully — first to high school, then to college. “I honestly feel like I wouldn’t have gotten this far,” Kim says. “Part of me pushing through was because I had her as a support system.”

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Empowering Educators to Innovate

Team Succeed Maloney High School 16

RISE Network

Gina Barrett, Special Education Mark Durkak, World History Lindsay Watson, English Ricky Marrero, Climate Specialist

Erin Lyons-Barton, Assistant Principal Stephanie Oldakowski, Special Education Barbara Lipka, Algebra 1

Christine Fenn, Transition Specialist David Parness, Integrated Physical Science

The Case for Connections:

Grade 9 on-track achievement is the best predictor of whether a student will graduate on time.4

When educators at Maloney High School first joined the RISE Network during the 2015-16 school year, 23% of freshmen were failing to earn the credits necessary to promote on time to sophomore year. Maloney’s teachers, counselors, and administrators set out to improve their freshman support structures by forming two interdisciplinary Grade 9 teams —

RISE Grade 9 data teams collaborate in deep and meaningful ways to ensure every student receives personalized support. As Team Succeed’s Transition Specialist, Christine Fenn supports a specific caseload of freshmen and also helps to coordinate team meetings and teacher collaboration on Team Succeed. Explaining how Team Succeed has changed the way she and her fellow educators work with one another, Ms. Fenn says, “Conversations were more anecdotal before, and we weren’t able

“In the two years since we’ve implemented these innovative strategies and really solidified our team, Team Succeed students have achieved 100% on-track promotion to 10th grade for both years.” — Christine Fenn, Transition Specialist

Team Succeed and Team Achieve. The teams create smaller learning communities among students and educators. They also enable educators to collaborate with one another and introduce new ways of supporting students to best meet their individual needs.


to build successful strategies around supporting kids. Now we work more as a cohesive unit, using a structured protocol around how we look at data to better focus on student strengths and leverage them to develop growth areas. ”

With a team structure in place, the Team Succeed educators are able to draw on each other’s strengths and creativity to make sure all of their students thrive. For example, they host a back-to-school family pizza night for parents, collaborate to staff lunchtime tutoring, organize ontrack conferences, and design the school’s summer bridge program. Grade 9 English teacher on Team Succeed Lindsay Watson explains, “As a team we all try to come up with strategies and implement them so that students are hearing in all of their classes, ‘We want you to succeed.’ We identify what our students need, and then we’re all in it together.” Maloney’s team approach to supporting freshmen students transition into high school shows promising results. All of Team Succeed’s Grade 9 students have promoted to sophomore year over the past two years, contributing to schoolwide improvement from 77% of students on-track in 2015–16 to 97% in 2018–19. More students are also consistently attending school, with schoolwide Grade 9 chronic absenteeism rates decreasing from 21% in 2015–16 to 12% in 2018–19.

Elaine Allensworth, What Matters for Staying On-Track, University of Chicago. sites/default/files/publications/07%20What%20Matters%20Final.pdf

2019 Annual Report 17

Moving from Data to Action

Marie Brown

College and Career Coordinator, East Hartford High School


RISE Network

Evadne Coache

College and Career Coordinator, Hartford Public High School

The Case for Connections:

Upwards of 30% of students who intend to go to college don’t show up in the fall. 5

Marie Brown and Evadne Coache, the College and Career Coordinators at East Hartford High School (EHHS) and Hartford Public High School (HPHS), respectively, observed a similar and troubling trend in their schools’ college enrollment data: while seniors shared plans to enroll in college, far fewer actually enrolled after graduating from high school. What Ms. Brown and Ms. Coache saw in their data is actually a national trend referred to as “summer melt” where students earn admission to college but melt away in the summer and never arrive on campus. A number of factors seemingly contribute to summer melt. Students lose high school support structures after graduation, and the summer prior to college includes a number of key milestones that can prevent timely enrollment (e.g., course placement exams, immunization requirements, financial deposits). Students can easily become confused and overwhelmed, making college less attainable. Furthermore, summer melt disproportionately impacts minority and first-generation students. However, research has shown that text message


RISE educators connected data, research, and technology to create an innovative texting campaign that helps students enroll in college.

nudges and reminders can help students successfully transition to college life. The data on summer melt among EHHS students and research showing the promising impact of text message reminders motivated Ms. Brown to design and pilot a summer melt texting campaign

summer melt texting effort by launching a similar campaign at HPHS. During summer 2019, Ms. Brown and Ms. Coache sent over 10,000 messages to nearly 550 students; half of these students responded with questions or to schedule an in-person meeting. Students received support for

“Thank you, Ms. Brown, for everything you have done for me to help me get to this point and help me choose what’s best for me.” — Text Message from East Hartford High School Graduate, Class of 2019

in collaboration with RISE in 2018. That summer, Ms. Brown sent targeted text messages to 350 graduates, including reminders about summertime deadlines. “If we did not have this avenue for students to reach out for help, several students would not be in college right now,” says Ms. Brown. Inspired by Ms. Brown’s first-year impact data, Ms. Coache joined Ms. Brown in the

a wide range of common challenges, including orientation registration, health and housing forms, and loan reminders. “The program was definitely successful. The campaign was a great way to end the summer because many students were extremely grateful for the reminders and help they received,” says Ms. Coache.

Castleman, B., & Page, L. (2014). Summer melt : Supporting low-income students through the transition to college. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press.

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We’re Stronger Together THANK YOU!

Partners The RISE Network is driven by the creativity and dedication of hundreds of teachers, counselors, and administrators in our partner schools and districts. We thank our terrific partners for their tireless efforts to improve student outcomes in their districts and across the RISE Network. Together, educators are building a community capable of achieving the ambitious goals we set for ourselves. Thank you for inspiring us with your fierce determination, relentless optimism, and collaborative spirit.


RISE Network

Donors We are deeply grateful for our philanthropic supporters’ generosity and partnership as we work together to help all students achieve success. We thank them for all that they do in service of students and educators in Connecticut’s public schools. RISE’s philanthropic partners strengthen our network community through grantmaking and by serving as valuable thought partners and collaborators in advancing our shared student outcome goals. Members of the RISE Funders’ Collaborative learn alongside educators by attending RISE Network convenings, participating in school visits, and meeting with RISE staff to discuss progress and challenges.

Dalio Foundation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Collective Impact Opportunity Fund at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation: BeFoundation The Ritter Family Foundation Per & Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation Goodnow Fund

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Audited Financials for Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019 The Connecticut RISE Network is an exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the revenue code.

Support and Revenue




In-Kind Contributions




Operating Expenses


Program Services


Management and General





RISE Network




RISE Team The Connecticut RISE Network team includes former school administrators, teachers and counselors, data specialists, and nonprofit leaders who work hand in hand with our educator partners. We bring passion and purpose to our collaboration with network partners, drawing on our connections to the communities we serve and our commitment to our mission. RISE team members feel a deep sense of connection to our mission, student outcome goals, and the communities we serve. Collectively, the RISE team represents alumni and residents from our partner schools and districts, with 57% of RISE staff having attended school or living in a RISE district community.

“We commit to a collective responsibility of ensuring ALL students reach their full potential.”

“All students have the right to pursue any future they choose and teachers deserve quality data to help students get there.”

— Nichelle Woodson, Network Success Manager

— Trisha Irving, Applied Data Strategist

“RISE provides the kind of support I wanted for my students when I was a teacher.”

“Every student deserves to be successful! With RISE I have the tools to support them so that they are on-track to graduation!”

— Fred Benton, Deputy Director of Data Systems

— Nikia Bigard, On-Track Coordinator

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Connect with RISE We can do more for young people when we work as a team.

Join us as we make a difference for thousands of Connecticut youth. Together, we can and will help all students realize and achieve their full potential. Get involved:

• Donate to RISE, helping us increase our impact in support of students, educators, and public high schools in Connecticut.

• Contribute to the RISE Educator Innovation Fund at • Explore our resource portal at, where you can access actionable ideas and tools for improving student engagement, on-track achievement, and postsecondary outcomes.

• Visit our blog at to stay up to date on our latest news, photos, and videos and sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

• Email us at to request additional materials or to schedule a site visit.


RISE Network

Design: Petting Zoo Photography: Anthony DeCarlo, Chris Randall to support RISE educators and your donation will be matched.


RISE Puts Educators and Students in the Driver’s Seat

East Hartford High School teacher Michael Vaughan and his technology and engineering students know that it takes more than hard work and ingenuity to transform an idea into a firstplace finish — it also takes the right resources. Leveraging the RISE Educator Innovation Fund, Mr. Vaughan connected students with almost $2,000 in safety equipment, tools, and supplies they needed to design, build, and race an electric car that won last year’s Connecticut Electrathon Challenge. Students earn more than a trophy from the experience, they also become more invested and engaged in their learning, including by giving up their free time after school and during lunch periods to continue their work.

“Programs like this energize today’s youth for science, math and engineering careers in the future. All the students utilize practical applications of science and math. It is not just some random fraction, or a number on the computer. It becomes a moving machine.” — Michael Vaughan, Technology Education Teacher, East Hartford High School

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@ctrisenetwork 2019 ï‚™ANNUAL REPORT

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