Act Six Aims to Provide New Faces in Leadership

May 19, 2017

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation

Act Six, a leadership and scholarship program whose mission is to connect community ministries with faith- and social justice-based colleges to prepare emerging urban leaders to engage in change on the campuses they attend and in their home communities, is the latest program to be featured in a series of case studies from NCAN’s Benchmarking Project. The program, which has sites in Tacoma-Seattle, Portland, the Yakima Valley, Spokane, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, and Indianapolis, achieves six-year graduation rates of over 80 percent. Almost two-thirds of Act Six’s graduates return to their home communities to advance positive changes.

Ann Coles, senior fellow at uAspire and the author of the case studies, noted that, “Act Six’s success is attributable in large measure to the organization’s fidelity to its defining elements: cohorts as a core structure, the importance of cultural integrity, intensive leadership training, and fostering a strong sense of purpose.”

The Benchmarking Project is an important collaboration between NCAN, our members, and the National Student Clearinghouse that examines college access and success programs’ collective success in helping students to enroll in and complete at postsecondary institutions. Three rounds of the project are complete, and NCAN will detail the results of the fourth round next month. To date, the project has found evidence that students served by NCAN members enroll at rates exceeding those of students from low-income high schools and more closely resembling those from higher-income high schools. The Benchmarking Reports have also found that member-served students complete at rates exceeding their low-income peers and approaching the national average.

In addition to these important quantitative findings, the Benchmarking Report series also assists with identifying high-performing programs from which other NCAN members may be able to learn important lessons and strategies.

Each case study is a product of Coles’ extensive interviews with program staff, leadership, partners, and students. She also reviewed key program processes and documents, some of which are included as attachments to the case study. These studies provide an organization overview and then consider staffing, organizational culture, policies and practices contributing to student success, and prospects for replication in whole or part. Members are encouraged to see if there are resonant aspects of each of the profiled programs that may be adaptable to their own practice.

The series' first case study considered Philadelphia Futures, an NCAN member serving 600 high school and college students directly on an annual basis and 40,000 through outreach efforts. “Over 98 percent of the students enroll in college right after high school," Coles explained. "While only 10 percent of Philadelphia high school graduates earn college degrees, Philadelphia Futures’ overall college graduation rate is 60 percent. The graduation rate has risen dramatically over the past decade, resulting in a projected graduation rate of 70 percent for the high school classes of 2005-2012.”

The second case study examined I Know I Can, a well-established college access and success program that provides college awareness activities, advising, and application assistance to more than 25,000 middle and high school students in each of Columbus City Schools’ middle and high schools. Additionally, more than 1,000 postsecondary students receive success services annually. More than 80 percent of graduating seniors who receive IKIC’s services three or more times enroll in college directly from high school, compared with 42 percent of all CCS graduating seniors. The IKIC-CCS partnership has brought college access services at scale to tens of thousands of students.

These three case studies, and one more to come, were made possible through the Common Measures Learning Community project, which concluded last year.

NCAN will release the final case study in the series next month, to coincide with results from the fourth round of the Benchmarking Project.

NCAN is grateful for the participation of the case studies’ subjects and for the guidance and expertise from Coles.

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