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Letter from the Authors

About a year ago, we traveled with a small group from Oklahoma City to Indianapolis to explore the potential of collective impact. “This work moves at the speed of trust,” we were told and “Data should be used as a flashlight, not a hammer.”  There, at a convening of communities from all over the country, we witnessed a great interest in collective impact. Each community had its own flavor, its own obstacles and its own strengths.

We wondered if the Oklahoma City metro might benefit from work in which a varied set of stakeholders move in a common direction and with common measures of progress. We knew if it was going to work back home it would have to be tailored to and driven by our own community.

As a first step, we began to gauge interest. Many people were excited by the prospect of working together as a region, and some were not. Other people were concerned about “false starts” and timing.

But, in nearly every meeting, what attracted people most was the possibility of working together in a new way with a new focus: “bright spots.”

We wondered what would happen if we flipped the focus, if we centered our efforts on stories and practices that already work. What if we studied local successes and worked to share them with the region? What would happen?

We wanted to find out. After meeting with dozens of community members, we discovered others were interested in this idea. From that work came this report: a by-no-means comprehensive portrait of a yearlong effort.

In her groundbreaking book, “The Good High School,” Sara Lawrence Lightfoot says,

…that portraits capture essence…tell you about parts of yourself about which you are unaware, or to which you haven’t attended...That portraits make the subjects feel “seen” in a way they have never felt seen before, fully attended to, wrapped up in an empathetic gaze. (Lightfoot, 1983)

Through this document, we hope the greater Oklahoma City region will see itself in a new way. We do not dismiss our community’s challenges, rather we hope a focus on bright spots might be a productive and efficient method for confronting them. We know good things happen in the Oklahoma City metro every day. We want to find those exceptionally good things and share them with others.

Thank you for reading this report and considering a new way of working together.

The Fuel Team

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Executive Summary

OUR VISION. No matter the child’s beginning, rich or poor, sick or healthy, we envision a day when all of our children are thriving from cradle to career. Founded in 2015, Fuel OKC is dedicated to helping every child in the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area thrive from birth through childhood, ultimately becoming independent and productive community members.

OUR MISSION. To fulfill this vision, our mission is to maximize the success of each child by identifying “bright spots” and fostering the cooperation of community resources to make them work for more kids.

Bright spots are specific, scalable, local practices that significantly improve conditions despite complex challenges. Such practices are bright spots because they defy expectations and overcome the odds.

THEORY OF ACTION. We aim to do two basic things: find local bright spots and work with the community to make them work for more kids. This effort is intended to be a collective impact initiative that uses specific educational outcomes as our primary indicators of success.

GEOGRAPHIC SCOPE. Fuel OKC is intended to be an inclusive effort that supports all 24 districts that receive funding from the MAPS Trust. In its first year, Fuel OKC has seen participation from nine districts representing nearly 89,000 children.

ABOUT MAPS. The OCMAPS school program includes hundreds of construction, transportation and technology projects, all for the benefit of Oklahoma City's public school students. OCMAPS also provides funding to the 24 public school districts that serve Oklahoma City resident students. For the purpose of Fuel OKC, the MAPS districts were chosen because they were already defined as serving students living within Oklahoma City limits.

ABOUT THIS REPORT. The purpose of this report is to:

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What is Collective Impact?

Fuel OKC is a collective impact initiative. But what does that mean?

In a 2011 edition of the “Stanford Social Innovation Review,” John Kania and Mark Kramer assert collective impact efforts have five elements:

  1. Common Agenda–Collective impact requires all participants to have a shared vision for change, one  that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through  agreed-upon actions.
  2. Shared Measurement Systems–Developing a shared measurement system is essential to collective impact. Agreement on a common agenda is illusory without agreement on the ways success will be measured and reported.
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities–A diverse set of stakeholders finds ways to work together. They don’t necessarily do the same things, but they do coordinate their actions.
  4. Continuous Communication–Developing trust among nonprofits, corporations and government agencies is a monumental challenge.
  5. Backbone Support Organizations–Creating and managing collective impact requires an organization and staff with a very specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative.

Kania and Kramer go on to say not every problem needs to be addressed with collective impact efforts. But, collective impact is well suited for adaptive problems, which they define as, “complex, the answer is not known, and even if it were, no single entity has the resources or authority to bring about the necessary change.”

A collective impact effort brings together a diverse set of stakeholders who act synchronously to fulfill a common agenda using the same measures. Importantly, they frequently communicate. As a result, with the support of backbone organizations, they can collectively and positively impact the most complex and adaptive problems.

So, is Fuel OKC a collective impact effort? Definitely.

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Bright Spots

DEFINING BRIGHT SPOTS. Fuel OKC was founded to maximize the success of each child by identifying bright spots and fostering the cooperation of community resources to make them work for more kids. Fuel OKC would do two basic things: first, it would look for bright spots and then it would work to make those bright spots bigger.

The term “bright spots” comes from Chip Heath and Dan Heath, two professors from Stanford University who published the 2010 book, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.” In it, they tell the illustrative story of Jerry Sternin, who went to Vietnam to start a program for Save  the Children, an international nonprofit focused on addressing childhood hunger. The Vietnamese government invited Sternin, but not everyone was excited about his involvement. Upon arrival, he was informed he had six months to make a difference or the program would be ejected from the country.

Basically, “bright spots” are specific, scalable, local practices that significantly improve conditions despite complex challenges.

Bright spots are specific, and they are based on scalable themes. With a short timeline and a tall task, Sternin turned to local families for solutions. Poverty, hunger and malnutrition seemed ubiquitous. The families weighed and measured children in surrounding villages. After identifying the families with healthy children, they interviewed them and found some common themes. In general, the healthier families added sweet potato greens and crawfish to their rice, both of which were readily available. However, the sweet potato greens and crawfish carried significant social stigmas, which suppressed their use except for those in the deepest poverty.

Bright spots are actionable and come from the local populace. Sternin had actionable data that could immediately and positively affect families in Vietnam. Sternin organized the families who used these cooking methods and arranged for other villagers to cook with them. Six months after his arrival, this is what the data showed: 65% of the participating children had improved nutrition. By its end, the program had positively affected the lives of 2.2 million children.

It is important to note that the improved cooking and eating habits originated in local families, the same families who helped spread them. Sternin simply looked for positive themes and facilitated their proliferation in partnership with the community at large. That is exactly what Fuel OKC aims to do with the kids and families of the greater OKC region.

Basically, “bright spots” are specific, scalable, local practices that significantly improve conditions despite complex challenges.

THE BRIGHT SPOT CYCLE. Identifying bright spots in our community is important. However, that is not sufficient to proliferate best practices. Bright spots must be expanded to reach more children and affect more families. This necessitates intention and collaboration. We need a process, a timeline and distributed roles and

Fuel OKC’s mission bifurcates the identification of bright spots and the action necessary to scale them. Therefore, it makes sense that the process would separate those distinct functions thereby clarifying two processes: one for identifying bright spots and another for scaling them.

During our committee meetings in fall of 2015, we recognized the process for identifying bright spots would need limitations in order to be timely, and it would require a mixed-methods approach in order to be actionable. In other words, we need to start small and act quickly.

As one founder cautioned, the more complicated the process, the less likely anything will be accomplished. With that in mind, the following is a proposed process:

  1. Search–A research committee will use data (qualitative and quantitative) to search for and describe potential bright spots and to highlight their commonalities.
  2. Identify–An executive committee that is representative of the community will confirm an annual list of bright spots based on recommendations from the research committee.
  3. Plan–A small planning committee will create an action plan to scale bright spots based on highlighted themes.
  4. Act–Action teams will implement those plans to scale bright spots.

Identify and Scale Bright Spots: An Annual Cycle

THE TIMELINE. While the cycle of a bright spot may be sequential, from searching and finding to planning and acting, the timeline is more parallel. Since there are two processes, one for identifying bright spots and another for scaling them, these processes must occur simultaneously. Therefore, the timeline represents these processes working concurrently.

The executive committee will convene three times per year: once to confirm an annual list of bright spots and two more times to understand the process and progress of the research committee and the action teams.

Identify and Scale Bright Spots: A Timeline

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. This collective impact effort works best when roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated.

There are five key roles needed to accomplish this mission.

  1. The executive committee will serve in a role analogous to a board of directors. It will hire and evaluate the executive director. Additionally, the executive committee will confirm and publish an annual list of bright spots.
  2. The research committee will search for and recommend bright spots to the executive committee.
  3. The planning and action teams will create and implement action plans to scale confirmed bright spots. They will submit an annual report to the executive committee summarizing their activities and outcomes.
  4. A staff of three or fewer people will facilitate the meetings, studies, business, publications and activities of the collective impact effort.
  5. The leadership advisory council will convene annually to review the past year’s activities to provide a community perspective. It will advise the executive committee on the direction of the collective impact effort.

LEADS. In January 2016, Sam Duell and Kasey Boes of Fuel OKC conducted interviews with community members who could lead Fuel OKC to some bright spots. While there is much more exploration needed to confirm any bright spot, there are many effective programs and practices in the Oklahoma City metro.

The following interviews were conducted by phone and email between January 18 and January 29, 2016. We appreciate their willingness to share their stories with us.

Monroe Nichols

Founded in 1999, Reading Partners is a national literacy initiative that utilizes volunteers to read one-on-one. They expanded to Tulsa in 2013. Sam Duell interviewed Monroe Nichols, COO of ImpactTulsa, about the work of this initiative.

Reading Partners serves 15 schools and nearly 1,000 students in Tulsa.

Sam Duell (SD): What can you tell me about Reading Partners?
Monroe Nichols (MN): Reading Partners is a national best practice in improving reading proficiency in the early years. Reading Partners significantly increases reading proficiency on three levels: reading comprehension, fluency and sight-word reading. In Tulsa, Reading Partners is serving nearly 1,000 students utilizing over 1,300 volunteers and over 22,000 hours of tutoring.

SD: How did ImpactTulsa know Reading Partners was successful?
MN: Looking at the data, we found that 97% of the students in Reading Partners increased their rate of literacy learning.

SD: What was ImpactTulsa's role in scaling Reading Partners?
MN: At ImpactTulsa, we’re committed to scaling what works. As it relates to Reading Partners, we are working on strategies to ensure more children who need the intervention have access to it. As Reading Partners grows, ImpactTulsa will be working with them to ensure they expand to schools that data says need the intervention most. The goal is to match the need, currently 52% of Tulsa third graders are not proficient readers, with evidence-based intervention to close the gap and accelerate learning.

SD: I've heard Reading Partners is expanding. What can you tell me about their strategy for expansion and specifically the role ImpactTulsa might play?
MN: Our role will continue to be educating the philanthropic community on what works and advocating on behalf of [a] successful model. Given their outcomes, Reading Partners is one of the programs we’ll be aggressively advocating for.

ImpactTulsa is a collective impact initiative founded in 2014.

For more information about Reading Partners, please go to
For more information about ImpactTulsa, please visit

Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods
Millwood Public Schools

Cecilia J. Robinson-Woods is in her third year as superintendent of Millwood Public Schools in Oklahoma City. With the goal of 100% of Millwood students graduating college and career ready, she has introduced innovative reading programs at the elementary level, iPad classrooms in third and seventh grade, on campus concurrent enrollment at the high school and strengthened family and community involvement.

In an interview with Kasey Boes, Superintendent Woods explained some of the wrap-around services her district is able to provide its students.

We work with a community partner called, “Community Works,” a mental health and counseling agency. From Pre-K through 12, we have a counselor assigned to each school.

What our partnership does is it allows for us to have an intervention with supports for kids as a deterrent to sending them home, and also to work with the family and classroom teacher to try to create an environment in which a child is more likely to stay.

A lot of times, when disruptions happen in class, it is because something is going on at home, the child isn’t aware how to work with others or they aren’t handling the transition well.

The counselors work with the kids to try to correct those issues. In addition to supporting the kids in the classroom, they don’t turn any child down who needs to see them once a week for more consistent help.

They also work with us in whole-class environments. This allows the other students to get accustomed to the counselors. It normalizes their presence in the school and helps them get to know the students.

A lot of times, we can decrease suspension by having the family agree that the student will see a counselor. Rather than suspending a student for ten days, we may recommend a shorter suspension with the commitment that the student will begin seeing the counselor.

Through this partnership, we can decrease suspensions and find out why the child is being a disruption or having a hard time.

Pat Potts and Margie Marney

To gain insight into the work happening in early childhood in Oklahoma, Kasey Boes interviewed Pat Potts and Margie Marney about Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities (OKCEO). OKCEO is a statewide initiative to educate business, community and legislative leaders about the strong link between early learning and economic growth. The OKCEO initiative mobilizes business and community leaders as advocates for adequate resources supporting parents and caregivers in the critical first few years of life. The initiative began in 2010, led by the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, Smart Start Oklahoma and the Potts Family Foundation.

Recently, OKCEO launched the 25 by 25 initiative.

Potts: OKCEO began about five years ago. It has grown from 36 members to more than 60 from all parts of the state. They commit to be educators, advocates and support in a number of ways, greater investment of people and dollar resources in early childhood programs. This comes from a recognition that the first three years of  life are the time when you can have the greatest impact on the future trajectory in a child’s life.
Marney: We started with awareness, making businesses and community leaders aware of what impact early childhood could have, if they would start early with preparation for school.
Potts: We have two important partners, Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable. The people who make up this group are both business and professional leaders. They try to put in place family-friendly business practices and contribute to the community dialogue.
Marney: In about 2013, we started moving from awareness to advocacy. Now, we have ventured into activism [with] 25 in 25 Oklahoma’s Workforce Pipeline.
Potts: We are really concerned that in many aspects of child wellbeing, we are ranked in the bottom ten nationally. As a state, we need to set goals that raise us much higher than that. After talking with many agency heads, we want to be one of the top 25 states for early childhood by the year 2025. We are looking to partner with 25 organizations, 25 communities and 25 legislators. Our goal is to get the baseline in numbers from meeting with experts in each of the areas and getting them to help set a doable, measurable goal. Then, sharing that with our OKCEOs, with the communities, etc. We want to spotlight the focus and achievements in these communities and tracking it during the next ten years.
Potts: We would not be satisfied to have a football team that is in the bottom 10 of all the states, so why are we okay being in the bottom in early childhood?

Susan Agel
Positive Tomorrows

Positive Tomorrows is a private elementary school and social service agency, serving homeless children and their families. Serving Kindergarten through fifth grade, it is the only school of its kind in the central United States. The agency works to help homeless families in three ways: remove barriers that get in the way of learning, such as hunger, lack of transportation and basic necessities; provide intensive differentiated education to homeless children who are often behind; and empower homeless families to become self-sufficient and gain stability.

Positive Tomorrows is an example of how a community can come together to provide the services their students need most. Kasey Boes talked with their CEO and principal, Susan Agel, about what makes her school work.

In addition to our regular education program, we have two other areas that are designed to help
students succeed in the classroom.

After-school program
There are so many things Positive Tomorrows students miss out on that people of a middle class background take for granted. We provide those kinds of things. All of them play into success in the classroom. Our after-school program consists of Boy Scouts, ice skating, tutoring, music lessons and more.

During fall break and spring break and for six weeks in the summer, we have students in our program. We take them to museums and to do many other things.

We have students who have never learned how to play a team sport. We have students who have never been to the movies. All of those shared experiences play into success in the classroom.

Family support
We work with the families to help stabilize them. We have case managers who meet in person with families regularly.

We help the family identify their goals. They put together goals like improving housing or job skills, getting a GED, learning how to read. We help them identify and step through their goals, one at a time.
We help them sort through what is going on, and we don’t transition them back to public school until the child is up to speed academically and socially.

Families need to be stable. We don’t see ourselves as competing with the public schools. We provide referral services and case management.

We spend a lot of time working on our school culture. One of our school goals is to have a calm and peaceful environment with good problem solving by adults. We have a trauma-informed way of dealing with conflict. We deal with a lot of sleep issues. Kids who sleep in the shelters or in an over-crowded apartment, may be exhausted. Kids will show up who need clothing or shoes. We make sure they get that.

There was a boy who showed up to school with only one shoe. In the middle of being evicted, he left one shoe behind. When he arrived at school, we saw the shoe and got him some other shoes to wear. We don’t have anyone who stays home.

Our community is so giving. We work very closely with the shelters and other agencies who might provide care to our families.

We need the community to help serve these families.

Akash Patel

Akash Patel is a graduate from The University of Oklahoma. Though young, he has accomplished much. He is the founder of local nonprofit, Aspiring Americans, an organization that advocates for young, undocumented immigrants.

Below is Patel’s recounting of his life and the role of education.

After waiting for more than 20 years, my parents and I became U.S. citizens just a few months ago. I had the privilege of graduating from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in May of 2014 and subsequently launched a successful nonprofit organization to empower immigrant youth to achieve the fullest education possible. That is the good news. The reason that I have steadfast conviction, the reason why I have been motivated to spend my life in the service of others, is because of what happened to my sister.

I have never been so thrilled to receive mail as I was the day our green cards arrived. Finally, after 16 years of waiting and during my senior year in high school my family received the good news we had been desperately anticipating. We were not “illegal” anymore. We did not have to live in fear or worry about the authorities pulling us over and asking for our papers. I could realistically plan for college. We moved closer to enjoying the security and fulfillment that come with U.S. citizenship. I carefully Reviewed all of the paperwork to make sure that it was real, that everything was there, that we had finally made it. I counted three green cards—one for me and for each of my parents. But my sister’s was missing.

My sister, Nisha, has long been responsible for the well-being of our family and an unwavering source of support for me. She diligently handled our tedious immigration applications and numerous appointments, which  stretched well over a decade due to protracted wait times. Our original visas expired in the process. As a result, we were classified as unauthorized immigrants until we could adjust our status, a period of time that spanned 16 years. In addition, people who apply for permanent residence but turn 21 in the interim are jettisoned from the application—a provision called “aging out.” We discovered this limitation through the absence of my sister’s green card the day ours arrived. She was 23. Even though we were both first generation students, Nisha dedicated her time teaching me how to thrive in school while excelling in her own academics without such guidance. When the day came that she was denied a secure future, there was no question. I would become her advocate.

Helping my sister over the past seven years has taught me how to turn obstacles into opportunities. Together, we found valuable research projects for her when she was disallowed from graduate school after completing her bachelor’s in Microbiology due to her expired social security number. Four years later when it came time to apply for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it was my turn to reassure her through the process. DACA provided Nisha with an active social security number and permission to attend graduate school. Thereafter, Nisha enrolled in OU’s PhD Microbiology program and published her discovery of a new species of human bacteria. She was also invited to work on a project with the Centers for Disease Control as one of the only people they could find who was qualified to extract DNA from bacterial samples. And when “unexpected government delays” following her DACA renewal caused a lapse in Nisha’s lawful presence, I learned how to engage a congressman to quickly resolve the matter. Likewise, I was forced to adapt to crisis when I had to develop a response strategy when she was threatened with detention on her way back to the U.S. returning from an international conference. Through persistence and opportunity, I was able to do for my sister what she had done for me so many years before.

I reflected upon these hardships during my senior year in college in the fall of 2013 and realized something significant—despite our struggles, we made it this far. Not everyone does. For my undergraduate honors thesis, I endeavored to learn what other undocumented students are experiencing and how the education system can support them. I worked with partner schools to distribute anonymous questionnaires and coordinated interviews with undocumented students and families. I received 150 responses from students in south Oklahoma City, 20% of whom admitted to being undocumented. What they divulged in the surveys was unexpected.

The vast majority of undocumented students revealed feeling overwhelmingly hopeless about the utility of a diploma, their future prospects, and the availability of any resources for higher education. I
aggregated the data and returned to the school districts to ask what they were doing to combat this rampant problem. Not a single educator had heard of DACA before. I asked if they knew that undocumented students could enroll in undergraduate programs in Oklahoma without a social security number and be eligible for in-state tuition. They had no such knowledge. Of course students were dejected and not attending college—they were largely unaware of their rights and resources. Even if we cannot control strict policies or accelerate immigration reform, we can control knowledge gaps that impede student potential.

Being an advocate for my family taught me to be an advocate for all people. The result of my research project was a nonprofit organization I launched in the spring of 2014 called Aspiring Americans. We became the first organization in Oklahoma that provides training to educators about empowering undocumented students. Aspiring Americans also helps coordinate free legal clinics, community forums, and provides immigration grants and college scholarships. In a year and a half, we have raised over $150,000, reached more than 500 students and families, and trained over 1,700 educators across Oklahoma, a state known for its anti-immigrant sentiments. We now serve over a dozen school districts, college campuses, and career tech facilities with our programs and resources. I realize that not all people have older siblings to prepare them for the future, as I had Nisha. I consider it a privilege to help others become the fullest versions of themselves the way my sister continues to do for me and I hope to spend my career doing so.

When asked about his biggest obstacles to success, Patel said:

My single biggest obstacle to success as an undocumented student was not knowing who to approach for help. The education system is often complicated and under-resourced as it is, but when combined with immigration complications, it seems insurmountable. My counselors did not know how to find financial aid for which I was eligible, college applications became intimidating when they asked about immigration status, and I struggled to find anyone who looked like me or could offer a relevant perspective to my plight.

Patel is a success story. A highly accomplished college graduate and social entrepreneur who has overcome adversity. When asked the biggest contributors to his success, Patel said:

My success is due in equal parts to my family and my mentors in high school. From my sister Nisha, I learned that my obstacles can be overcome with patience and dedication. And my parents taught me to be grateful for the opportunities and resources I did have. Together, my English teacher, Jennifer Hill and Francis Tuttle instructors Roberta Pattison and Candice Curry, taught me to become empowered by my story, not ashamed by it. They also showed me to how to advocate for myself, to never take no for an answer, and to value and cultivate my relationships with mentors.
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Baseline Data: A Preliminary Portrait

OUR PURPOSE FOR DATA. Data has a context. Since passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, public schools have been encouraged to focus on student outcomes as measured by standardized tests. NCLB has influenced the public school sector for nearly 15 years. By 2014, every school and every student in the nation needed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in order to avoid serious sanctions such as the removal of the school leader or a 50% or more turnover in faculty.

Consequently, data have been used in a critical capacity. Many times in recent years, abundant testing and quantitative measures have been used as evidence of poor practices. At the same time, data have rarely been used to show us what works. Fuel OKC seeks to use data differently.

Rather than look for gaps and discrepancies existing in public education, Fuel OKC wants to move beyond that; to find what is working and then scale them much like Jerry Sternin did in Vietnam. We want to use data to shine a light on those bright spots so the community can make them larger.

Data should be used to find what works locally and organize the community to build on it. Collective impact is intended to have a bias toward action.

We do not intend to gloss over the many challenges facing our children and schools. We intend to confront them with action based on data, data that highlight bright spots.

In order to highlight bright spots and act on them, this work will require a significant investment of time and resources from a broad base in the community.

For this report, we have provided baseline data as a starting point. If the community desires to invest in this kind of work, what follows is the large task of identifying bright spots with integrity and facilitating action with urgency. Whether that happens or not is a community decision.

GEOGRAPHIC SCOPE: A REGIONAL APPROACH. Fuel OKC, like other collective impact efforts, maintains a limited geographic scope. Nearly a year ago, we had many conversations about what exactly that scope should be.

We quickly realized we did not need to recreate a regional boundary since once had already been created and respected: the boundary for MAPS for Kids. But that was difficult, too, because it only included portions of the outlying school districts. Since our collective impact revolves primarily around education as the lever for positive change, we decided to expand the boundaries a bit to include the entirety of the original 24 districts who received money from MAPS for Kids.

During this past year, we invited all 24 districts to participate in this collective impact effort and we have worked more closely with nine school districts that represent about 89,000 students. We hope that one day all 24 districts (and the host of people and organizations that support them) could come together and share in the collective impact effort.

For the purpose of this report, we decided to aggregate the data from those 24 districts with the exception of enrollment data. We compiled the data this way because we believe that Central Oklahoma could benefit from approaching complex issues, such as the success of its children, as a region.

Regional Enrollment:
By District (2015)

Regional Enrollment:
By Demographic

During the past five years, the Oklahoma City metro has been prosperous and attractive to growth.

A byproduct of this prosperity is an overall increase in student enrollment of more than 20,000 students. At the same time, there have been some demographic shifts.

For example, in 2011 a majority of the students enrolled in the region identified as White. By 2015, a majority of students in the region identified as people of color with the largest increase (by numbers not percentages) being the Hispanic population.

Also noted was the exponential growth of people identifying with the descriptor, "Two or More Races," an increase of more than 250% from 2011 to 2015. We have not confirmed any cause for this change. It may be people who already lived in the OKC metro area are deciding to identify differently.

Our larger region, based on the public school enrollment data, can now be called a majority-minority population. Collectively from Norman to Edmond from Union City to Harrah, a majority of students identify as people of color.

Change in Enrollment:
2011 to 2015

As shown here, overall student enrollment increased 20,000 students over five years from 2011 to 2015. Stated differently, the number of students in public schools in the Oklahoma City metro increased by 12%.

We previously mentioned the large increase in the number of students identifying with two or more races. Over five years the number of students identifying with two or more races increased from about 4,615 to 16,452 students, an increase of 11,837 students. That is a 256% increase in the number of students identifying with two or more races.

Students identifying as Hispanic also increased by 11,740 students over five years, from 32,756 to 44,496. That's an increase of 36%.

The number of students who identify as Black and those who identify as Pacific Islanders each decreased by 3%, while there was a 6% increase in the number of students identifying as Asian.

The number of White students only increased by 79 students accounting for an increase of less than 1%.

The area saw a 25% decrease in the number of students who identified as Native American over the last five years.v

Regional Enrollment:
By Grade (Early Childhood)

This graph represents the regional enrollment numbers for kids enrolled in pre-k for 3-year-olds, pre-k (all other ages), kindergarten and first grade in the OKC metro. There are large gaps between those in 3-year-old programs and pre-k, and between pre-k and kindergarten. In 2012 and 2013, there were fewer first graders than kindergarteners.

Regional Student Enrollment:
By Demographic (Pre-K through First Grade)

This graph represents the total number of students enrolled in pre-k through first grade in the OKC metro and is disaggregated by demographic.

Regional Academic Data:
Third-Grade Reading

These data represent the percentage of third graders that scored Satisfactory or Advanced on the end-of-year state-mandated Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test. In 2013, 79% of third graders tested in the region scored Satisfactory or Advanced in Reading.

Regional Academic Data:
Third-Grade Math

These data represent the percentage of third graders that scored Satisfactory or Advanced on the end-of-year state-mandated Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test. In 2013, 71% of third graders tested in the region scored Satisfactory or Advanced in Math.

Regional Academic Data:
Eighth-Grade Reading

These data represent the percentage of eighth graders that scored Satisfactory or Advanced on the end-of-year state-mandated Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test. In 2013, 91% of eighth graders tested in the region scored Satisfactory or Advanced in Reading.

Regional Academic Data:
Eighth-Grade Math

These data represent the percentage of eighth graders that scored Satisfactory or Advanced on the end-of-year state-mandated Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test. In 2013, 83% of eighth graders tested in the region scored Satisfactory or Advanced in Math.

Regional Academic Data

In 2013, 29% of eighth graders in the OKC metro were enrolled and tested in Algebra I. Of those 29% who were tested, 97% passed the Algebra I exam.

Regional Academic Data:
ACT Scores

This chart compares regional average ACT scores with the national average ACT between 2010 and 2014. The top line shows the maximum regional average ACT score. For example, in 2014 one of the 24 districts in the region averaged a 23.9 ACT score. The minimum ACT average among our districts for 2014 was a 17.1. The range for 2014 would then be about a seven (7) point difference. It should be noted there are actually two lines in the middle but they are so close together they are difficult to distinguish. The middle lines represent the MEDIAN average for the region and the national average. For the region, that means in 2014, half the 24 districts average ACT scores were higher than 21 and the other half of the 24 districts averaged below 21.

Regional Academic Data

In 2014, the Oklahoma City metro graduated about 10,000 students from high school. Of those graduates, 45% went to college. Of that 45%, about half attended college in Oklahoma and about half attended college out of state.

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History of Fuel OKC

In recent years, several private foundations in Oklahoma City became familiar with education-focused collective impact initiatives in other cities. Informal research began to determine if this type of community engagement would be appropriate for the education systems in Oklahoma City.

ImpactTulsa provided a nearby example of collective impact that further encouraged these foundations to evaluate the possibility of a collective impact model focused on education for central Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, whose operations are funded through the generosity of the Inasmuch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, provided funding to formally assess the collective impact approach.

In February 2015, representatives from the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, United Way of Central Oklahoma, Inasmuch Foundation, McLaughlin Foundation joined local education consultants to attend the StriveTogether Exploring Communities Conference in Indianapolis.

Upon return, this group, now referred to as “The Founders,” recommended continued evaluation by engaging StriveTogether to help facilitate community engagement based on knowledge from StriveTogether’s work nationwide. Importantly, The Founders determined the local model would emphasize the identification of “bright spots” as a key strategy to allow school districts to adapt and adopt those proven practices/processes. Moreover, it was recognized this initiative would require input and support from members of the community with facilitation by StriveTogether.

About StriveTogether. Promoted by community leaders in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, an effort was launched in 2006 to target a problem of being “program rich and system poor.”  This effort, The Strive Partnership, began contributing to improved student outcomes. Cross-sector community leaders committed to prioritizing education for their region achieved these successes after significant investments of time, talent and treasure. The Partnership engaged executive and grassroots partners in the vision, worked through turf issues among service providers and encouraged funders to move existing resources to proven strategies.

During its first five years in Greater Cincinnati, The Strive Partnership noted positive improvements in 40 of the 53 educational outcomes the community identified and measured. The founders represented the three public school districts at the region’s heart, as well as the region’s three largest teacher-training institutions. Top executives from several of the area’s major employers and charitable foundations were brought on board, along with directors of civic groups such as the United Way and Urban League.

This was a broad and potent mix of influence and leadership, but it could not have succeeded without a willingness of the partners to set aside individual agendas in favor of a collaborative approach to raising student achievement.

PLANNING RETREAT. A foundation of community engagement recommended by StriveTogether is to host a Planning Retreat. In Oklahoma City, the Planning Retreat was held on September 17, 2015. There were 48 leaders in attendance from education, philanthropy, business and other constituencies. The event was facilitated by two representatives from StriveTogether to introduce the collective impact model and determine if there was a consensus on a path forward. The Founders organized this meeting as a way of presenting the idea to the community and determining whether they saw it as a good fit.

The result of this meeting was an agreement by those attending to move forward. Many attendees believed there are numerous people and organizations focused on education in central Oklahoma, but much of the work is done in isolation and without the synergies gained from collective impact. The participants at the Planning Retreat made it clear the local initiative should be brought to a larger group of community stakeholders through the next step in the StriveTogether model, a Design Institute.

Design Institute. Fuel OKC and StriveTogether hosted the Design Institute on November 4, 2015. A total of 72 community members representing 55 organizations attended this meeting to review the work of committees completed since the Planning Retreat.

At the Design Institute, attendees reviewed, discussed and tentatively approved the following:

Kindergarten Readiness
Math Proficiency
High School Completion
Post-Secondary Enrollment
College Completion, Employment and Citizenship

COMMITTEE MEETINGS. From the Planning Retreat and the Design Institute, three committees were formed: the Vision/Mission Committee, the Organizational Structure Committee and the Outcomes Committee.

There were many hours of discussion, revision and note-taking. As an example, here are notes from the Outcomes Committee outlining goals and data requests for each of the stated priority areas.

An Artifact From An "Outcomes Committee" Meeting: Fall 2015

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This community effort seeks to leverage our collective impact for fulfillment of a singular vision; that one day all of our children will thrive from cradle to career. We believe this vision will be realized by accomplishing our mission: to maximize the success of each child by identifying bright spots and fostering the cooperation of community resources to make them work for more kids.

We do not ignore our challenges. Rather, we hope to confront them with the knowledge of what works locally and with the organization to scale them.

In order for this effort to be a collective impact initiative, it requires the following:

  1. A common agenda shared by a diverse set of stakeholders from government, business, education, nonprofits, philanthropic foundations and faith-based organizations;
  2. Shared measures of progress;
  3. Mutually reinforcing activities;
  4. Continuous communication; and,
  5. A backbone support organization.

This initiative demonstrated encouraging progress during the last year. Fuel OKC has garnered the attention and support of numerous organizations and people. Though they need further refinement, we have agreed to some basic measures of progress that relate to early childhood education, third- and eighth-grade academic indicators and high school and college indicators. Furthermore, we have collected a set of regional data based on the 24 school districts who receive MAPS funds.

We communicated regularly with stakeholders through the Planning Retreat, the Design Institute, several committee meetings and more small group meetings. This does not include the countless emails and phone calls to friends of this effort.

All of this gave Fuel OKC shape and function. We have a recommended organizational chart, a definition for bright spots, a possible process and timeline for identifying and scaling bright spots and a broad understanding of the vision and mission.

We have more work to do. If the community would like to see this effort proceed under its current organization and plan, it will require a financial investment and a fiscal agent to serve as the backbone organization. Additionally, volunteers are needed to fill the leadership advisory council, the executive committee and the other relevant organizational roles.

We believe identifying bright spots and scaling them is essential to the success of our children. We hope it proliferates, regardless of where it lives. When that happens, we are confident the children of the Oklahoma City metro will directly benefit from the broad-based strength, laser focus and concrete action an initiative like this could employ.

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Works Cited

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How to change things when change is hard. New York: Broadway Books.

Kania, J. & Kramer, M. (2011, Winter). Collective Impact: Larger social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations. Retrieved from Palo Alto, CA: Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Lawrence-Lightfoot, S. (1983). The Good High School: Portraits of character and culture. New York: Basic Books.

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About the Authors

Sam Duell
Managing Director, Education Collaborative
Prior to joining the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, Sam Duell served kids as a special educator, school administrator, central office administrator and most recently as an executive director at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Sam holds a Master of Arts in Education Leadership from UC Berkeley. Born and raised in Northwest Arkansas, he and his wife Laura are happily raising their family in Oklahoma City.

Kasey Boes
Director, Education Collaborative
Prior to joining the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, Kasey Boes served as the events coordinator for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, where she planned the state’s largest education conference and ran the Teacher of the Year program. Boes has worked in media relations and event planning since graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Boes and her husband Andrew reside in Oklahoma City.

Tom Curran
Data Scientist
Tom Curran is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts from Stonehill College. Prior to joining OPSRC, Curran worked for an e-commerce marketing company in Lexington, Massachusetts and completed Teach for America in Oklahoma City, where he taught eighth-grade science at Roosevelt Middle School.

Dave Lopez
Senior Adviser
Dave Lopez is a retired officer of SBC Communications (now AT&T). Before concluding a 22-year career with AT&T, Lopez held a variety of executive
positions with its predecessor company including a four-year assignment as its president of Oklahoma and later as president of Texas. He returned to Oklahoma in 2003 and was the president of Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. and subsequently president of the American Fidelity Foundation. Lopez concluded his full-time professional career serving as the interim superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public Schools District for the 2013-14 academic year. Prior to his post with Oklahoma City schools, Lopez was Secretary of Commerce for the State of Oklahoma for three years.

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