BELLWETher EDUCATION PARTNERS
Bellwether is introducing human-centered design to policy-making and developing comprehensive plans for effective multi-agency coordination that support communities in mitigating the effects of fragmentation when students experience education disruptions.
Bellwether Education Partner's Approach
Bellwether Education Partners is using a human-centered design approach to better understand the needs, desires, and constraints of students who have experienced significant disruptions to their education (due to life events such as foster care placement, incarceration, homelessness, or pregnancy), and then to address those needs through system-wide change and greater agency collaboration. Bellwether’s work is source-agnostic, meaning that the solutions they’re proposing are meant to serve all students who might benefit, regardless of eligibility category. In other words, whether young people are homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, or experience some combination of significant disruptive events, they all face many of the same challenges in navigating multiple care agencies. This work ensures that all students, regardless of the source of education disruption, receive the support they need to find a successful path through the K-12 education system and beyond.
To realize this vision, Bellwether is working with the the Utah State Board of Education, California’s El Dorado County Office of Education, and Louisiana’s Youth Opportunity Center. Last year, Bellwether worked with each partner to identify and complete a targeted project that will serve as an entry-point to the larger challenge of fragmentation. A summary of each project follows:
Utah State Board of Education
Bellwether helped the Utah State Board of Education review its assessment system for students in the Youth in Custody program to identify other potential assessment systems that could better capture meaningful, reliable information about these students to ensure they receive comprehensive education support.
California’s El Dorado County
Bellwether worked with the small, rural county of El Dorado in California to bring together community leaders to develop a shared vision for seamless information sharing across different agencies.
Orleans Parish, Louisiana
Bellwether supported the Youth Opportunity Center, a division of the Orleans Parish School Board, to refine their theory of action to support the city’s most mobile and least engaged students.
With the successful completion of these targeted projects, Bellwether is now working with each partner to develop an implementation plan that supports the jurisdiction in streamlining services for vulnerable youth by reducing silos between education and care agencies. In addition, in order to support rapid peer learning among the locations, Bellwether is also facilitating a community of practice over the course of the coming year, creating opportunities for the agencies to learn from one another. These convenings will build community, facilitate peer learning, and provide opportunities for partners to step back and do some big- picture thinking with their teams and critical friends.
While doing this local work, the team at Bellwether has also prepared two high-level publications for policymakers that summarize the recommendations emerging from this work. The first, Continuity Counts, is a foundational definition of the problem of fragmentation as it affects students whose education pathways have been disrupted. And Disrupting the Divide captures the best thinking in the field about how to deploy proven technology solutions to lift some of the burdens of fragmentation from students and families.
Bellwether is also advancing human-centered policy design methods with a white paper and a set of field-facing tools and resources to support new ways of thinking about human-centered design and empathy in policymaking.
Finally, Bellwether has designed an interactive web-based game that allows players to step into the shoes of a student navigating complex life circumstances while trying to stay on a successful path to high school graduation.