3rd Annual A Day in the Life of Montgomery County

If you live or work in Montgomery County, pick up your camera, video recorder or smart phone and join in the fun on April 22, creating the ultimate crowd sourced virtual collage:


“A Day in the Life of Montgomery County” 

This 24-hour event received nearly 1,000 photos from across the county last year.

Join with your neighbors and friends in filling a virtual time capsule of a day in YOUR life and the people living or working with you. Together, we will capture moments big and small in a 24-hour period that reflects us:


From Clarksburg to Takoma Park, from Olney to Potomac…
share a snapshot of your life as you see it

At work, at school, at home in Montgomery County.
show us your view as you live it

Getting in on the fun and excitement is EASY! 

First, snap your picture or capture your video.  Then, just email it (one at a time) to: [email protected].

It’s that easy!!   You can also Tweet your photos: @MyMCMedia with the #ditl.

The Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union (MCEFCU) returns as the title sponsor of a “Day in the Life of Montgomery County.” We would like to introduce the Law Offices of Pasternak & Fidis as our newest sponsor. Giant Foods, LLC of Maryland continues as this year’s presenting sponsor.

Adding to the excitement, Montgomery County’s Executive and County Council have issued renewed proclamations declaring April 22, 2015, an official day to capture and celebrate life in Montgomery County.

This 24- hour event that highlights life in Montgomery County received nearly 1,000 photos last year and we want to top that this year.
In order to do that, we need your help in spreading the word and getting more people involved.

The MyMCMedia.org website is the home of all things Montgomery County with residents, businesses and non-profits contributing blogs and photos. You, too, can be a part of the fun by uploading your videos and images, and sharing what’s going on in your neighborhood, school, church, sports league and business. Contribute ANYTIME, and especially on April 22, 2015 (which is also Earth Day) as you join us for

“A Day in the Life of Montgomery County.”

A complete set of guidelines are available at http://www.mymcmedia.org/day/.


Join in the fun on April 22!







Rethinking How Students Succeed


Twenty years ago, conventional wisdom held that cognitive ability displayed by mastery of core academic subjects paved the way to success in school, career, and life. Today, we know better. Success comes when cognitive skills work in tandem with so-called soft skills like self-control, persistence, social awareness, relationship development, and self-awareness. Practitioners and researchers typically frame their discussions of these characteristics around either social and emotional skills, or academic attitudes and behaviors. Each charts a separate path of inquiry and classroom practice. Yet they share a common destination: developing students whose mastery of noncognitive skills, strategies, attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors enhances their academic and life success. We call such students “effective learners.”

Leaders in the broad field of noncognitive learning not only share this common goal, but they feel it with an uncommon sense of urgency. Only three-quarters of US students who start high school earn a diploma. And only 25 percent of those meet ACT college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math, and science. Incorporating the dropout rate, the percentage of students who leave high school ready for college-level challenges falls to just 19 percent. 1

In their quest to do better, educators typically focus on improving their skills at teaching core subjects, such as reading, math, and science. But research shows that students who develop social and emotional learning (SEL) skills and academic mindsets (for example, a belief that one’s abilities can improve with effort) do better in school. (See “What’s an Effective Learner” at the end of the article.) Yet, the potential for schools to foster more effective learners has not been developed to any significant scale—especially for the students from low-income districts who would benefit the most.

We are at a moment in time when that could change. The quest for scaling up noncognitive learning has inspired researchers and educators to embark on a range of initiatives. Thirty-seven leaders of several of the more prominent organizations leading this work, including the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Character Lab, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, and New Teacher Center recently gathered at Bridgespan in Boston for a daylong convening to discuss the current and future direction of their work, and look for ways to work more closely together.2

These field leaders work against an educational backdrop in which the stakes have never been higher. Forty-two states are moving forward with implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which require students to master more challenging math and language arts/literacy content. At the same time, a number of states have embarked on improving teacher effectiveness—often measured by student learning gains.

If the pressure to improve student outcomes has never been greater, the prospects for funders to help scale noncognitive competencies across school districts—in school and after school—have never been brighter. Four such promising initiatives have zeroed in on the barriers to progress and advanced two priorities to overcome them: integrating SEL and the development of academic mindsets into teaching practice, and acknowledging that before educators can help students develop as effective learners they need support to change their own beliefs and mindsets.

New Efforts to Expand Noncognitive Development

Pioneering efforts by members of the convening to expand noncognitive development fall into four broad categories: collaborations between researchers and teachers; professional development for teachers; systemic reforms in school districts; and complementary efforts between in-school and after-school or expanded-learning time.3 Some initiatives are primarily in service of developing students’ social and emotional competence, while others aim to build academic mindsets and behaviors such as the belief that failure can lead to improved learning. For educators, the lines between these two parallel strands of exploration often blur as they focus on the desired result—more successful students.

Collaborations between researchers and teachers | One promising path to scale up effective learning targets students’ attitudes and beliefs regarding school and learning. A growing number of researchers and teachers are collaborating to identify exactly what can help students develop an “academic mindset,” characterized by the persistence needed to participate in class, complete homework, and study. Many evidence-based SEL programs were developed through a similar collaborative approach. Such collaborations are a way for researchers to break free of university-based settings, where most academic mindset research has been conducted. Researchers have found that school teachers are eager to contribute their knowledge to advance innovation in the field, enabling them to become a source for the best (and perhaps most scalable) ideas grounded in the work they do every day. These classroom-based research initiatives often include multiple cycles of testing and feedback with an emphasis on rapid learning and improvement. The 8th/9th Teacher Network (8/9TN) and Character Lab, cofounded by MacArthur Genius award winner Angela Duckworth, Dave Levin, cofounder of the KIPP Charter Public Schools, and Dominic Randolph, headmaster of Riverdale Country School, provide examples of this approach.

The 8/9TN initiative in Chicago represents a partnership between researchers at the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) and 35 eighth- and ninth-grade teachers across seven Chicago public schools. The 8/9TN project grew out of CCSR’s work on noncognitive skill development and increasing recognition that teachers need actionable strategies to develop students’ academic mindsets. To that end, teachers work together, with input and support from researchers, to identify and develop practices that may be suitable for other schools to adopt.

Character Lab strives to develop evidence-based teaching tools and practices that can be easily and effectively integrated into the school day—a key to scaling up. For example, a mental strategy to boost students’ successful pursuit of goals helped fifth graders in a low-income New York City middle school move up half a standard deviation on their academic performance in one semester. Character Lab aims to help teachers weave this kind of exercise more systematically into their lesson plans and daily interactions with students.

Professional development for teachers | A second promising effort aims to upgrade the training programs teachers routinely enroll in. Many school districts partner with professional development providers to deliver in-service teacher training. Some of these providers serve multiple districts across many states and reach thousands of teachers each year. Given their reach, these providers can play an important role in helping to embed the development of noncognitive skills into the daily practice of thousands more teachers. By incorporating noncognitive competencies into their training programs, providers set a higher standard for other professional development organizations to follow.

The New Teacher Center (NTC), for example, considers SEL and academic mindsets as integral to its training programs. The center provides coaching and professional development, in person and online, to first-year teachers in more than two dozen school districts across the country. This year some 7,000 NTC mentor teachers will work with more than 26,000 new teachers who instruct an estimated 1.6 million students. NTC’s Mentor Academy, for example, has integrated SEL development with its guides for implementing the Common Core. “Teachers need to have these competencies front and center the minute they come into teaching,” says NTC CEO Ellen Moir. To complement its training and mentorship programs, NTC is building an online site with a set of tools and resources, including observation guides and assessment rubrics, focused on SEL and academic behaviors.

Systemic reforms in school districts | A third effort focuses on helping school districts integrate noncognitive competencies into district-level policies and practices, extending to every classroom. The Collaborating Districts Initiative, launched by CASEL in 2011, involves eight school districts striving to move beyond the programmatic and often modular focus of most SEL efforts. Rather than teach SEL as a separate classroom exercise once a week, for example, the initiative seeks to embed SEL into teachers’ daily work with students. That means adopting SEL learning standards and assessments, designing professional development programs for teachers, and integrating SEL with existing district initiatives—such as the Common Core. CASEL hopes the collaborating districts initiative will provide successful models that other school districts will follow. Two of the districts involved—Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn.—illustrate somewhat different routes to achieving the same goals.

In Austin, SEL Director Sherrie Raven has led the school district’s initiative with a three-pronged strategy: teaching SEL to elementary school students using the evidence-based Second Step program;4embedding SEL in curriculum at all grade levels; and integrating SEL throughout the school day from the classroom to the cafeteria.

Austin hired 14 coaches to work with teachers on incorporating SEL into their daily activities. “The most critical thing for success has been the involvement of SEL coaches,” says Raven. “These coaches keep SEL at the forefront for principals and teachers, and they are building administrators’ and teachers’ capacity to sustain SEL implementation efforts over time.” Among their many activities in schools, coaches reinforce a common language for SEL competencies, work with principals to determine how to integrate SEL into school culture, and partner with teachers individually and in groups to identify what works and how to better support SEL throughout the school day.

In Nashville, the school system chose not to hire SEL coaches, says Kyla Krengel, the district’s SEL director. Rather, the district tapped its academic and instructional specialists to provide SEL support for teachers and administrators. The district is also working to embed SEL into existing programs and initiatives, including its project-based learning initiative in which students explore real-world problems and do a significant amount of individual exploration as well as group work. Project-based learning efforts began in high schools and will be rolled out in Nashville’s elementary and middle schools as well. Nashville’s academic specialists also help to integrate SEL support with the training teachers receive for implementing the Common Core. The district plans to review its teacher evaluation framework, seeking to identify links between teacher effectiveness and their SEL competencies.

Complementary efforts between in-school and after-school or expanded-learning time | The fourth effort involves after-school and expanded-learning time initiatives. Several of these programs already build noncognitive development into interactions with students. There are increasing examples of programs that work more closely with the schools where they are housed to ensure that students experience the same support for skill and behavior development during school as they experience after school.

WINGS for Kids, for example, is an after-school program teaching kids how to behave well, make good decisions, and build healthy relationships. Students participate for three hours each day throughout the school year. The staff typically spends the first hour providing direct SEL instruction, and then reinforces these lessons with teachable moments over the next two hours as students complete their homework and engage in enrichment activities.5 WINGS also works to bridge the gap between students’ in-school and after-school experiences. Program directors collaborate with school administrators and teachers to ensure that students in school are exposed to the same SEL concepts encountered in WINGS. The WINGS staff and teachers also assess students’ SEL competencies with a series of behavior rating scales. This allows the WINGS staff and school’s teachers to develop joint plans for providing additional supports as needed to students who may be struggling with specific concepts.

An increasing number of schools are also using expanded-learning time as a venue for developing effective learning behaviors. Through its ExpandED Schools initiative, The AfterSchool Corporation (TASC) has developed a survey to help teachers and expanded-learning time educators measure students’ academic “habits of mind.” TASC then collaborates with instructional teams at schools to create action plans to help students become effective learners. Citizen Schools is another leading expanded-learning organization that provides low-income middle school students with hands-on, after-school apprenticeships focusing on social and emotional skill development. The apprenticeships emphasize 21st century skills, such as communication, collaboration, data analysis, advanced literacy.

What’s Preventing Greater Scale?

While nascent, these four initiatives show promise for charting multiple ways educators—and entire school districts—can help students develop noncognitive skills, attitudes, and mindsets. However, those involved in advancing the noncognitive field realize that their efforts touch only a small number of students. Four barriers impede scaling up to a larger number of students.

District agenda overload | Administrators and teachers are weary from coping with multiple competing priorities, initiatives, and programs. Few districts have escaped deep budget cuts in recent years, eliminating teaching positions and long-standing programs. Many schools face high teacher and leadership turnover. Superintendents and school boards often fail to involve teachers in decisions that affect classroom practice. In this context, any new effort to develop students’ noncognitive capabilities may come across as just another district initiative when there’s simply no room to squeeze in another well-meaning program.

Lack of consistently positive school environments | Students need to experience consistent support throughout the school day to develop the SEL skills and academic behaviors that characterize effective learning. It takes a supportive environment for these skills and behaviors to translate to actual learning outcomes. Conversely, classrooms with negative environments “stifle perseverance and undermine academic behaviors, which results in poor academic performance,” concludes a Consortium on Chicago School Research report.6 Creating the right classroom environment starts at the top with district and school leaders who make noncognitive factors a system-wide priority. And it extends to every adult who is interacting with students throughout the school day. Such consistency is hard to find in any school, much less an entire school district.

Lack of adequate preparation for educators | Educators need to understand and be able to model the attitudes and behaviors they endeavor to instill in their students. Unfortunately, most haven’t been trained to put noncognitive factors at the forefront of their work, and supportive professional development opportunities are scarce. At the top of the list of behaviors educators need to model are a growth mindset—believing that their own and their students’ abilities are not fixed but can be developed through dedication and hard work—and a sense of self-efficacy—believing in their own and their students’ ability to complete tasks and reach goals. These are building blocks for student success because they reflect a fundamental belief that effort produces results.7 Educators also need building blocks to develop trusting relationships with their students, including learning how to show empathy and respect. This implies significant changes for teaching training and coaching, which today largely focuses on pedagogy and classroom management.

Inadequate measurement | Assessment remains a huge challenge for the field, as evidenced by the questions yet unanswered. How exactly do you measure development of noncognitive factors? How do those measures change with students’ age? Are some interventions more effective than others? Participants at the convening viewed this lack of clarity around measurement as a serious obstacle to field advancement, both in terms of progressing research to develop practical classroom practices and of attracting funders to support continued research. “This community needs to have a set of metrics that show SEL and other noncognitive skills are foundational to student success,” says Moir. “We’re never going to get into funders’ portfolios unless we build a common language to measure success.”

Educating a New Generation of Entrepreneurial Leaders

Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world,” said the late Nelson Mandela. What can we do to develop a new generation of empowered and entrepreneurial leaders through our schools? We often pay lip service to ideas such as “21st-century learning” and “entrepreneurial leadership development,” but the reality is that the vast majority of schools are not adequately preparing students to lead and collaborate with others to create positive change in the world. Fortunately, there are shining examples of schools from which we can learn—schools that take responsibility for preparing all of their students to become changemaking leaders.

One example is in Ahmedabad, India. A group of fifth-grade students from the nearby Riverside Schoollabor in a factory, tediously rolling traditional incense sticks for eight hours. This is not a form of indentured servitude but an important curriculum lesson engineered by the school to teach empathy. The children leave the factory exhausted, but also awakened to the needs of the world and often charged with a commitment to do something about child labor.

In Johannesburg, South Africa, emerging leaders from across the continent participate in lab sessions at the African Leadership Academy that introduce them to design-thinking principles; they learn to deeply understand the needs of their local communities, and develop and implement sustainable solutions through the school’s Student Enterprise Program.

A continent away, at the Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, N.C., students between the ages of 5 and 18 are exposed to experiential lessons on self-agency, teamwork and collaboration, innovation and execution, resourcefulness, and adaptive persistence while they strive to put their change projects into action.

And at the WeSchool and iFEEL, a business school in Mumbai, India, a seven-month Global Citizen Leader program tasks first-year students with understanding the lives of the poor and co-creating solutions for poverty alleviation. A formal evaluation at the end found that 92 percent of the students reported a rise in social awareness and empathy. Furthermore, 80 percent of the students subsequently indicated a readiness to take on social challenges and felt they had the capability to create change.

The pioneering efforts at these schools are purposefully incorporating changemaking leadership into the educational journey of all students by implementing a systemic, deeply integrated strategy throughout enrollment. By engaging all of their students through a systemic design, these schools recognize that everyone can become a leader of consequence. Further, they recognize that preparing students to become effective and enlightened leaders is critical to their future job prospects, leading deeply fulfilled lives, and becoming positive contributors to society in increasingly difficult times.

The need to think differently about preparing young people for the future is driven by a number of major forces. One is the Millennial generation itself. Half the people living in the world today are under the age of 30. The hundreds of millions of young people born in the digital age are more informed and connected than ever before. They’ve grown up in an era of widespread democracy, with expectations of freedom and equality. They are aware and distressed by the environmental, economic, and political state of the world. Change is very much on their minds: The world we have is not the one that they want. The interest of young people in changemaking is manifest in the surge in social entrepreneurship programs on college campuses and in young people taking to the street en masse for a slew of causes: against economic disparity in the Occupy Movement in the United States, for political representation in the Arab Spring, against corruption via the Lokpal Bill in India, and for affordable education in the Chilean Student Movement. These movements represent the readiness of young people to organize and vocalize their concerns.

Yet, even as young people want and expect more, opportunities are elusive. Job growth is not keeping pace with the increase in schools and college graduates. The current state of youth unemployment is equally dramatic in the wake of economic downturn in parts of Europe; youth employment exceeds 50 percent in Greece and Spain.

The lack of jobs is compounded by the lack of skills among those who have an education. Employers globally declare that educational institutions are not adequately preparing young people with appropriate skills for the jobs they have available. The deficit is greatest in the area of soft skills. In “Expanding the Leadership Equation,” a Center for Creative Leadership survey on workforce readiness, executives named self-motivation, communication, learning agility, self-awareness, and adaptability as the most essential skills required for success in today’s work environment. Furthermore, 90 percent indicated that this leadership development needed to begin before the age of 18.

There is an urgent need for young people to develop the practical skills employers are demanding. At leading-edge educational institutions—such as Riverside School, African Leadership Academy, Ravenscoft, and WeSchool—the focus is on learning agility and the practical application of learning. What’s more, these schools leverage social engagement as a means to develop creativity, collaboration, communication, and resilience. For the students themselves, self-clarity, relationship skills, and the ability to put ideas into action for sustainable and positive change are skills they need to live a life that is self-directed and meaningful.

We need more schools—indeed all schools—to shift away from top-down forms of knowledge delivery with few opportunities for experiential problem-solving, self-discovery, and collaborative co-creation. We need a new future where entrepreneurial leadership development is integrated into every facet of learning for all students. The demands of the world are too great to avoid making this shift. We have models that are working well. The time is now to connect this work and begin to scale it globally.

Youth Entrepreneurship in Africa


How do we promote bottom-up entrepreneurship in emerging economies?

This is the central question that we will be discussing this week at the Legatum Convergence—an annual event held at MIT’s Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship.

Let us explore this question from a youth perspective: Young people represent the fastest growing demographic in Africa. Many are already economically active—some motivated by necessity to help their families. In Nairobi and Dakar, we are seeing young entrepreneurs demonstrate resourcefulness and inventiveness with a range of enterprises. With access to the right opportunities, skills, mentors, social networks, technology, and finance, they have enormous potential to be a driving force for economic growth and social progress.

Young entrepreneurs in Africa need the same basic tools as their counterparts in North America. But, access to financial services and markets, business connections, education and training, mentorship and support systems are often lacking. For example, financial institutions are averse to providing loans to youth-led businesses because these are seen as “risky”.  And while the Silicon Valley ethos of “fail often and fail fast” is associated with learning and backed up with public and private support, this is not the case in many African countries.

As the discussion about entrepreneurship in Africa gains momentum, it is vital to ask how youth entrepreneurship can be developed as a potential pathway to spur job creation. For this to happen, we need to create a dynamic ecosystem of actors and resources that incubate businesses, facilitate access to capital and business development services, and provide assistance in the form of mentorship and peer-to-peer support. And we need to test models to understand what works and what doesn’t in various contexts.

Youth entrepreneurship is a powerful mechanism that taps into the creativity and drive of young people to bring about change, not just in their lives, but in their communities as well. It is an exciting area to explore as we stretch the boundaries of how young people in Africa can engage with their economies, on their own terms.

Nonprofit Sponsorship: 3 Key Questions

Sponsorship_keyYou’ve probably heard the story of legendary criminal Willie Sutton, who, when asked why he robbed banks, responded, “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” Now whether Sutton actually said that is debatable, but many fundraisers have picked up on the lesson — and Sutton’s grasp of the obvious. You want money? Figure out who has it and who’s “giving” it away.

One answer to the “who has the money” question is corporations. Often a nonprofit’s first way “in” to a corporation is through its foundation or corporate giving program — philanthropic vehicles with which fundraisers are very familiar. But what about nonprofit sponsorship? About thirty years ago, “cause marketing” became a real avenue for major corporate brands to position themselves in a favorable way with their customers. Suddenly, companies were investing in nonprofits and nonprofit causes — not only to support those organizations, but to help build their own brand loyalty. It was a new way of thinking, a new approach.

Fast-forward to today. In 2014, corporate sponsors were projected to spend over $925 million on the arts alone (IEG Property Sector Spending Report, 2014). And the top three companies sponsoring the arts?

  1. Bank of America
  2. Wells Fargo
  3. JPMorgan Chase

As a result of the astronomical growth in sponsorship and cause marketing, many nonprofits have followed the “money trail” and ramped up their sponsorship efforts. This makes a lot of sense as organizations, no longer able to rely solely on funding from foundations, individual donors, and corporate giving programs, scramble for new sources of revenue.

Now, there will always be people and companies motivated by a purely philanthropic mindset, and that’s a good thing. But know that when you’re pursuing sponsorships, you’ll be talking to a corporate marketer, and that person will be looking to evaluate your nonprofit to determine whether the proposed relationship can support the company’s goals, financial and otherwise.Understand a Potential Sponsor’s Business Goals

By now you may be asking, “So how do I make an appeal to a corporate marketer?” The first step is to understand the business goals of a potential sponsor and whether your organization is in a position to support those goals. How? A good indicator is whether you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

  1. Can my organization deliver customers the sponsor wants to reach?
  2. Do I offer tangible benefits that enable the sponsor to engage my audience?
  3. Can I package those assets into a proposal that is priced attractively for the sponsor?

Customer reach? Tangible benefits? Package my assets?

Where’s the discussion about my organization’s mission or the fact we list our funders in our annual report? That’s a discussion you’d have with a corporation’s foundation. If you want sponsorship dollars, it’s time to make a deal!

Headshot_michael_savinoI’ll be expanding on these points and the “corporate marketer mindset” in a Foundation Center webinar, Sponsorship for Nonprofits: Putting a Price Tag on What You Do, on Wednesday, February 25, from 2:00–3:00 p.m. ET. I invite you to join us for this sixty-minute session, in which I’ll walk you through various methods to identify and price your assets and build a sponsorship proposal.

Original source: PhilanTopic

Seven Lessons About Childhood Poverty

Instead of posting an infographic, as we usually do on Saturdays, we decided to mix things up this week and share a compelling presentation put together by journalist and author Jeff Madrick (Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World; Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present), Clio Chang, and their colleagues at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank here in New York City.

Built with an online tool called Creatavist, Seven Lessons About Childhood Poverty opens with a reminder that the official child poverty rate in the United States today stands at 20 percent, the second-highest among the world’s developed countries. The presentation then segues into an articulation of  seven “lessons” about childhood poverty in the U.S. — lessons formulated at the Century Foundation’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative conference last June. They are:

  1. The Stress of Childhood Poverty Is Costly for the Brain and Bank Accounts
  2. Child Poverty Is Not Distributed Equally
  3. The Power of Parental Education
  4. Higher Minimum Wage Is a Minimum Requirement
  5. Workplaces Need to Recognize Parenthood
  6. Government Works
  7. Cash Allowances Are Effective

The length of a substantial blog post, each lesson includes downloadable tables and charts, a short video, and links to related materials.

So grab a mug of your favorite warm beverage, pull up a seat, and start reading. We’re pretty sure that by the end of the last lesson, you’ll agree with Madrick, et al. that “investment in early childhood is the best way to create a better economic life for all Americans.”

Original source: PhilanTopic