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Finding Common Purpose

Key Issues

Education & Youth Development

We are committed to supporting education and youth development outcomes at every stage of life, from early childhood through college and career readiness and lifelong learning.
Education & Youth Development
Early Care and Education Program Quality
Children’s early years form the foundation for their academic and social success. Those who start kindergarten on track tend to stay on track, and those who start behind often find it difficult to catch up without additional support. Kindergarten readiness is the number one indicator of whether a child will read at grade level in third grade. Reading at grade level, in turn, is the number one indicator of whether a child will later graduate from high school. To ensure all children start school ready to succeed, communities must create high-quality early childhood education systems that promote and support the development of the holistic development of the child. Simultaneously, pre-kindergarten programs need to use evidence-based, child-centered, and developmentally and culturally appropriate curricula and practices when working with children. Root Cause works with early childhood education systems and other kindergarten-readiness programs to implement continuous quality improvement in their operations, allowing them to provide higher quality early care and education programs.  
Related Links
Field Notes: What is Quality? NEED TO LINK Project: Continuous Quality Improvement for Kindergarten Readiness NEED TO LINK Publication: Social Issue Report: School Readiness NEED TO LINK
Positive Youth Development
Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a framework that prepares youth for the challenges of adolescence and adulthood with a focus on youth strengths and voice, positive engagement, and inclusivity. The framework recognizes that empowered young people need support, guidance, and opportunities to develop self-assurance in four key areas: competence (being able to do something well), usefulness (having something to contribute), belonging (being a part of a community and having relationships with caring adults), and power (having control over one’s future). Root Cause supports positive youth development in a variety of capacities to ensure that children have access to health and education resources and opportunities they need.  
Related Links
Project: Expanding Access to Proven Early Publication: Promise of Place: Building beloved communities for Black men and boys NEED TO LINK Publication: Pathways to success for youth at high risk NEED TO LINK
Family and Community Engagement
Family & community engagement describes the process in which service providers, schools, community organizations, government agencies, families, and individuals share a responsibility to engage each other in meaningful ways to shape the programs, services and systems that reflect the community’s needs and can best help it thrive. Family and community engagement can take many forms, including soliciting ideas and feedback from families, building capacity to advocate on one’s own behalf, offering opportunities to participate in program governance and decision-making, engaging community members in gathering and interpreting data about their own needs and ways to address them, and other methods.
Related Links
Project: Expanding access to proven early childhood health services NEED TO LINK Field Notes: How do you learn about families’ daily lived experience in a place? NEED TO LINK Field Notes: Getting started with continuous quality improvement (CQI) NEED TO LINK
Out-of-School Time (OST) Learning
Out-of-school time (OST) learning, or learning that takes place outside of the classroom, includes educational and learning experiences in settings outside of school hours where young people can gain knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are fundamental to their future success. Such settings may include extracurricular activities, academic programs, sports, or other groups and clubs. Young people who participate in these programs often show higher levels of self-esteem, healthy social interaction behavior, and show more competency in making important life choices. However, young people from low-income households and underserved populations often do not have as much access to high-quality OST programs, leaving them without the benefits that these experiences can have on a child’s overall development. Root Cause’s work supports partners in designing and providing access to quality OST programming so that they can learn, grow, and develop, both in and out of the classroom.
Related Links
Field Notes: Lessons Learned: Cultivating a CQI Mindset and Practice with Social Service Providers Field Notes: What is Quality? Project: Expanding access to proven early childhood health services
School and Community Partnerships
Root Cause builds place-based school and community partnerships. We facilitate collaboration between partners to identify common goals and outcomes, allowing for an effective coordinated effort that strengthens and supports the educational landscape for students. The seamless integration of school-based and community services ensures that students are able to progress consistently along the path to high school graduation to post-secondary education and/or professional training. In this way, these partnerships are able to coordinate services and resources that both complement and go beyond what school districts can do on their own, ultimately creating more and better opportunities to help students succeed.
Related Links
Project: The Boston Workforce Investment Network (Boston WINs) NEED TO LINK Project: The Biogen STAR Initiative in Cambridge & Somerville, MA NEED TO LINK Project: Coordinating a college access and success pathway NEED TO LINK
STEM Access and Success
STEM education is the approach to teaching the four core subjects, science, technology, engineering and math, in a manner that integrates all four to reflect their interrelationship in our world and in the rapidly changing careers students will be entering in an evolving global economy. STEM ecosystems are coordinated networks that can include schools, out of school time programs, leading STEM institutions (i.e. higher education, industry leaders, science centers, etc.), the private sector, other community-based organizations, young people and their families. STEM ecosystems maximize students’ ability to grasp and apply concepts beyond the classroom and build a sense of agency around pursuing a career in STEM. However, many underserved communities are not able to provide high-quality STEM education and training that helps students to gain knowledge and problem-solving skills due to lack of funding, staff, or other resources, which limits students’ access to STEM education and opportunities. Root Cause works to strengthen and support educational landscapes by helping increase access to STEM resources and opportunities for students most underrepresented in STEM college or career pathways.
Related Links
Project: The Biogen STAR Initiative in Cambridge and Somerville NEED TO LINK
College Access and Success
College access and success works to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the ability to enter college and successfully obtain a degree. Students underserved communities have a higher potential for being lost along the educational pipeline due to certain factors including poverty, being a first generation college student, not having a parent fluent in English, or being a parent. Three major factors lead to the low college enrollment and graduation rates of at-risk students: low academic preparedness, lack of college knowledge, rising cost of college, shrinking available aid, and lack of awareness. In addition to this, because of limited resources in many low-income urban and rural areas and an insufficient number of counselors, low-income and minority students are not well informed about the college admission process and requirements. As a result, these students are less likely than others to explore an array of college options, to take college admission tests, or to complete admission procedures — even if they are well qualified for college. By working with students and their families, Root Cause equips college access programs to address gaps in academic preparedness, college aspiration and knowledge, and financial barriers to higher education.
Related Links
Finding Common Purpose Blog: Raising College Graduation Rates: A Conversation with Dana Dunn of UNCG NEED TO LINK Project: Coordinating a College Access and Success Pathway NEED TO LINK Publication: Social Issue Report: College Access and Success NEED TO LINK
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