In January 2010, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected United Way Worldwide to assist in developing teacher effectiveness efforts. The foundation provided United Way Worldwide funding for Increasing Teacher Effectiveness Challenge Grants at 14 United Way offices in Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee to advance their efforts to positively impact education.
The grants align with UWW’s national education goals to cut high-school dropout numbers in half by 2018 and better prepare college-ready students. The grants also desired the states to organize local communities in developing communication, advocacy and mobilization strategies to increase teacher effectiveness statewide. Clarity 1st (ZSP) was selected due to years of success in public policy, marketing communications, community engagement, and leadership roles on state level education advisory boards to serve as Florida's state grant managing consultant.
Floridian's were marching on the state Capitol in protest. Divides between stakeholders was never greater with emotions high and combative.
Florida's grant implementation was not awarded until eight months after the other states which coincided with the legislative session and start of the education mood of unrest.
A large scale campaign was organized that held over 100 face-to-face community meetings of Listening Sessions, Power Lunches, and one on one interviews, plus a Virtual Summit so citizens from Key West through Brandon and Oviedo up to St. Augustine and across to Okaloosa could come together for a true statewide accessible town hall by sitting in front of their desktop or library computer.
We compiled the first overview of all teacher related Governor, Dept. of Education, National, State and Local task-forces recommendations and issues which were our starting that data that after each event was synthesized with the community comments we collected. The end product was presented to the Florida Legislature where all recommendations were immediately endorsed for the responsible agencies to embrace.
Not only did we deliver by mobilizing the state around common education reform action, we helped the healing process that was critical to ongoing improvements in education for Florida.