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Advanced Practice 2: Organizations Managing For Results

Advanced Practice 2: Organizations Managing For Results

Citizen Schools: Managing for Results by Design

Boston-based Citizen Schools designed an after-school program based on assumptions about how children learn and retain knowledge as they get older. This nonprofit organization helps children in fourth through eighth grades develop key skills to succeed in the 21st century. Citizen Schools provides small groups of students "cognitive apprenticeships" focused on learning through producing in projects designed to build the desired skills. A volunteer from the community in a professional career, called a "citizen teacher," works with each group of students. Using a dual cycle of managing for results, Citizen Schools is a learning organization that feeds back measured results, which are used to improve both delivery and design of programs. By managing for results to get better at what they do, Citizen Schools has attracted foundation investments to grow from one prototype experience at a Boston community school to serving 1,340 children at twelve Boston campuses as well as affiliate campuses throughout Massachusetts and four other states across the country.

How Citizen Schools Manages for Results

Citizen Schools measures and assesses how well its students are progressing on desired skills, how satisfied students' parents are, and how well its citizen teachers are doing, in order to improve program delivery through regular operational adjustments to get better outcomes. With double loop learning (see Figure), Citizen Schools also uses performance feedback to improve program designs by testing its design assumptions about how to achieve outcomes, and evaluating parts of its design based on results.

For example, Citizen Schools learned that citizen teachers needed more preparation and guidance, so staff now regularly provide feedback and support to teachers between sessions with students, reviewing how the last session went and making suggestions for improvement. This design enhancement also strengthens program delivery through the inner performance feedback loop because the guidance to citizen teachers keeps improving the learning experience for students throughout their apprenticeships. These performance feedback cycles have enabled Citizen Schools to regularly enhance its program design and delivery over the years to improve performance and expand operations.

Citizen Roles in Community Improvement

Consistent with Advanced Practice 2, citizen roles are limited, but they do go beyond some results-management efforts that only view citizens as stakeholder-customers. Citizen schools considers its students its customers for whom it wants to improve outcomes, and also considers their parents and regular school teachers to be other important stakeholders who help the students succeed, and they solicit feedback from these stakeholders to help gauge performance. Citizen Schools also recruits citizen volunteers in the community—the citizen teachers—to play key roles as collaborators and coproducers, essential to making the Citizen Schools model work.

Additional Community Improvement Themes

Consistent with Advanced Practice 2, Citizen Schools is very strong on two improvement themes: the use of performance feedback and strong accountability to achieve desired results and focus resources on achieving results. These two themes work together for Citizen Schools, with the commitment from President Eric Schwarz that the organization will use the information it gains from measuring performance to learn how to improve results. Citizen schools also uses several key collaborations: with the inner city public schools where it runs its programs, with the volunteer citizen teachers, and with its investors, such as the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF). Besides investing in the growth of Citizen Schools across the country, EMCF has helped Citizen Schools build its evaluation capabilities to better determine student skill development. EMCF has also invested in a long-term evaluation in which Citizen Schools is collaborating with an external evaluator to learn how much their program makes a difference in student success in the years after they leave the program.

Back to The Model in Action.

Back to The Model in Action