THINK Together is a non-profit organization collaborating with communities, parents, and education stakeholders to transform the system, creating educational excellence and equity for kids. We Teach, Help, Inspire and Nurture Kids to reach their full potential.
THINK Together pursues its mission through three priority program areas: Expanded Learning, Early Learning and Core Learning. ¬We provide Expanded Learning through after-school and summer programs at sites across California and leverage our shared learning platform to provide academic and enrichment elements that are fully integrated with school day instruction, digital learning, STEM and Arts. We also provide a healthy living curriculum that includes physical and mental fitness, character development, and nutrition education.
In partnership with the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, THINK Together provides Early Learning through our Early Literacy and Math Programs at health clinics and schools in Orange County. We provide evidence-based tools to ensure young children have early literacy, vocabulary, and math skills to prepare them for kindergarten. These programs and tools include activities to encourage curiosity and critical thinking.
Our Core Learning model is based on a partnership with the Principal's Exchange, a boutique consulting firm, which uses their “Response to Systems Intervention" method, a research-validated school and district strengthening model. Based on a thorough systems assessment, they provide customized solutions for core instruction during the school day through professional development and restructuring of systems to provide resources to kids who need it the most, thereby fulfilling our vision of educational excellence and equity for all kids.
THINK Together is building a unique shared learning platform across California, including collaborative data sharing partnerships – providing a lens into what's working in schools, and helping innovation travel well within the public school system framework. We have the expertise to derive actionable insights from data and partner with school districts to develop customized solutions around large scale implementation of leading practices.
A core component of THINK Together's organizational strategic plan is to provide staff the opportunity and resources to use a variety of data to continuously provide feedback on program quality and ensure high-quality outcomes. THINK Together engages in both internal and external evaluation practices that involve the collection and examination of both formative and summative data for the purposes of identifying the strengths and gaps in our programming that should be either replicated or improved (formative), and articulating overall program impact on student success (summative). The internal evaluation is led by THINK Together's Director of Action Research, Dr. Tracy Bennett and includes an on-going and annual examination of baseline and follow-up outcomes across several measures including multiple stakeholder surveys, test scores, program attendance and program quality ratings. Outcomes are used for both site-level progress monitoring as well as organizational goal setting.
THINK collects multiple types of data to assess the strength of programming including 1) student level district data such as gender, ethnicity, eligibility for Free or Reduced Meals, grade level, regular school day attendance rates, English fluency, and change from baseline to follow-up in pre- and post-assessments; 2) required operational program elements such as numbers of parent meetings/family nights, site visits by Quality Assurance Coaches, program observation data from principals and Quality Assurance Coaches; 3) results from principal, student, teacher and parent surveys and interviews assessing stakeholders' perspectives on program quality, improvements in student achievement and behavior/attitudes toward school; and 4) staff satisfaction surveys assessing areas of need. Used together, these measures help assess overall program quality by triangulating data results, allowing staff to compare desired outcomes with actual results.
Each day after school and during the summer, students receive academic enrichment in English, Arts, character development, career pathways, nutrition and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and participate in physical activity and homework help. Students who attended THINK Together for at least 150 days per year over three years experienced a statistically significant higher growth rate on California Standards Test (CSTs) scores in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math when compared to non-THINK students - 8.9 points higher in ELA and 15.6 points higher in Math.
THINK Together partners with Dr. Deborah Vandell, the Chair of the Education Department at the University of California, Irvine to measure the effects of its programs. In a three-year study, Dr. Vandell found that students who attended THINK after-school programming had twice the gains in Math on their California Standard Test (CST) scores compared to students not in the program; students in THINK Saturday programs had more than 2.5 times the growth of students not in the program; and those who attended both THINK small group tutoring and THINK after-school or Saturday programming had nearly four times the growth of students not in program.
At our Shalimar Center, nearly 400 students have graduated from high school and attended college where the high school graduation rate is barely 20%. For the last six years, 100% of the students have graduated and gone to college. Many students have gone on to successful careers, including:
• America Arias, an Emmy Award-winning producer at an NBC affiliate in Sacramento;
• Paolo Leon, an architect at McLarand, Vasquez and Emsiek and Member, THINK Together Board of Directors;
• Javier Diaz, M.A., a school-community liaison at Laguna Beach Unified School District;
• Ever Arias, who completed a B.S. in Chemistry at UC Riverside and has been accepted into medical school;
• Rafael Sanchez, completed a B.S. in Engineering at UC Riverside and is a Manufacturing Engineering Planner at RBH Aerospace; and
• Senior Jose Avonce, who will be attending Harvard University.
Principals' Exchange has helped Lynwood Unified meet 70 targets for their Adequate Yearly Progress goals in 2013 compared to only 16 in 2011; there are 136 total possible targets. This resulted in Lynwood being named the most improved unified school district in California with API growth of +12 points in 2013. In addition, the percent of students meeting UC and/or CSU entrance requirements increased from 20% in 2010 to 38% in 2013.