GSS Improves Fellowship


The Good Shepherd Services Improves Fellowship is an opportunity for school-based programs to come together, learn from one another, and generate new ideas to try in their own contexts. Informed by methods of improvement science, fellows are part of a network that will help GSS get better at how we go about solving pressing problems. The second cohort will run from August 2019 through December 2019, culminating in a presentation to GSS staff and leadership of what fellows have learned. Our goals:

  • Empower and build capacity of GSS staff to test and implement evidence-informed practices
  • Learn faster and smarter as a network of GSS programs focused on tackling a shared problem
  • Adopt promising practices across GSS to improve program quality
  • Develop recommendations for continuous improvement work at GSS

Fellows will focus on severe chronic absenteeism: Why are students absent? What can we do to bring them back? How will we know if our efforts worked?

Please find notes and resources from our 2019-20 meetings below.

Fellows practicing a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA)

August 6, 2019

In Session 1, the group explored the ideas of continuous improvement and began to dig into the root causes of our problem: severe chronic absenteeism (<80% attendance). Our draft Fishbone Diagram identified some main causes: mental health, lack of safety/belonging, shame, adult responsibilities, low expectations, etc. Although each "bone" has a theme, we noted that these root causes are linked and form a web of challenges students face. See a sample Fishbone Diagram agenda here and try it out next time you're facing a complicated problem!

We learned about empathy interviews and brainstormed who we could talk to and what questions we could ask to get more perspectives on the problem of chronic absenteeism. Some empathy tips here and here.

IF Fellows Session 1 - 8.06.19.pdf
Session 1_GSS IF2 Severe Chronic Absenteeism Fishbone.pptx

August 14, 2019

In a full-day Session 2, the group shared insights from their conversations with "positive variants" - students who had improved their attendance. This method gives us a deeper understanding of the problem, rooted in empathy, and helps us start thinking of solutions.

After reviewing absenteeism research from our schools and the literature, we did a BrainWrite where we shared ideas [click to see ideas!] as they flowed and passed them around on index cards for feedback. We considered how our ideas would fit into a Driver Diagram. We also considered that the problem might be the process, so we practiced creating a process map for an attendance incentive. Key pieces to consider in a process are the order of actions, roles, engaging the right people, resources, and communication.

At lunch, we heard from Round 1 fellow, David Gray, Program Director at Research and Service High School. He described his PDSA from last year (see summary here) where he and his partner tackled "academic fatigue" by strategically counseling 50-70% attenders and showing them their path to graduation. Upon reflection, they realized it worked well for the students who needed to feel more connected to the school. Here are David's grades tracker and conversation guide (coming soon).

In the afternoon, Fellows practiced doing a Plan-Do-Study-Act with Eskolta's paper airplane activity, and they started drafting a plan using the GSS IF Planning Template. Fellows heard feedback from peers using a modified Tuning Protocol. We also discussed measurement - why it's important, some ways to do it, and how we could make sense of the data without an Excel black belt.

AIM: Each school and program will decrease the portion of severely chronically absent students (<80%) as compared to last year and/or increase the attendance of an intervention group.

Session 2_Slides 8.14.19.pdf

Fellows will work with their coaches on PDSAs throughout September and October. We will reconvene in early November to share our progress and deepen our work.