Lessons Learned

Why It Works

Lessons from Say Yes Implementation

Say Yes has learned significant lessons about local policies and practices that work to make city-wide change possible.

  1. Sustainable improvement cannot be imposed but must build on and strengthen local capacity. City-wide change requires a clear and solid framework of non-negotiable actions that are flexible enough to enable schools, districts and local partners to codevelop the specific strategies to ensure buyin, implementation fidelity, and relevance to individual school conditions and needs.
  2. Addressing social, emotional, and health needs of children and adolescents through in-school delivery in cooperation with public agencies and service providers is critical. These needs are major barriers to academic success but traditionally receive limited attention from districts and schools.
  3. Extended-day and summer programs for all students provide important opportunities to remove academic, social, emotional, and health barriers through remediation, enrichment, recreation, cultural experiences, mentoring, and preparation for careers and higher education.
  4. Scholarships help students believe they can go to college, but the quality of instruction and the learning program is the crucial factor in determining whether they will be successful.
  5. Collaboration, transparency, and communications among all major partners must be continuous, inclusive, and central to decisionmaking. Full participation by the teachers’ union and school board is critical to the collaboration process and to ensuring full buy-in from educators.
  6. Sustainability of the program requires a commitment to fiscal transparency, committed leadership, and accountability to strong community-wide governance. Dealing with change, resource constraints and unexpected challenges requires visionary leadership that steadfastly keeps its commitments, makes transparency a priority, and provides stability and continuity.
  7. Change takes time. The problems affecting low-performing schools and declining neighborhoods won’t immediately disappear after early interventions are introduced. Leaders must work to produce demonstrable results but be careful to manage community expectations for progress and success.
  8. City-wide change requires sophisticated use of data, assessment, and planning. Curriculum, instruction, and supports for students must be part of an integrated data-driven strategy. Say Yes monitors individual student and school performance, interventions, and other student information to address gaps and priority needs and ensure accountability.