By Kelly Schmidt, content manager for United Way of Salt Lake

In 2018, United Way of Salt Lake received national recognition for its education-based continuous improvement work in schools across the Wasatch Front.

UWSL and its partnership with StriveTogether were one of six groups honored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching — a New Jersey-based foundation that aims to solve long-standing problems in educational outcomes through a continuous improvement approach.

“This type of recognition brings legitimacy (to continuous improvement science) in the education sector,” said Tyler Asman, UWSL’s senior director of learning and improvement. “It puts us in touch with other people who are thinking about these problems the same way we are and we can learn from each other, as well as share knowledge.”

UWSL joined with StriveTogether to address chronic absenteeism among kindergarten through third graders in the Salt Lake City region, which showed a steady increase between 2011 and 2016. In addition to improving attendance, UWSL hoped to improve the ability of its staff and partners to use improvement science in all facets of their work.

StriveTogether is a network of 70 communities across the U.S. that seeks to address educational barriers and challenges young people face, from cradle to career.

As a result of several Salt Lake schools evaluating and sharing best practices to improve attendance among students, chronic absenteeism among students with disabilities decreased significantly between the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 school years, compared to the average for other students. The process also uncovered limitations in district policy and state truancy laws that have sparked a new focus on case management rather than on punitive responses to poor attendance.

The efforts to reduce chronic absence built an improvement culture among UWSL staff and community partners, which has extended into other issues in the Salt Lake community such as kindergarten readiness, food insecurity, and inter-agency social service challenges.

In addition to being selected as an honoree, UWSL and StriveTogether will conduct a workshop on continuous improvement at The Carnegie Foundation’s annual Summit on Improvement in Education in San Francisco in April.

Learn more about UWSL and StriveTogether’s continuous improvement work by watching the video here.