June 3 2019

AchieveMpls shares insights from Gates grant at Harvard Strategic Data Project Conference

Kevin Salkas and colleagues at Harvard Convening
Kevin Salkas with group at Harvard University convening
Our Career & College Center Manager Kevin Salkas (second from left) is joined by Morra Lee Keller, NCAN Director of Technical Assistance; Bill Debaun, NCAN Director of Data and Evaluation; Roxanne Del Campo, doctoral student and Gates grant data coach; and Amy Fineberg, Jefferson County Board of Education Advanced Programs Specialist,


Our Career & College Centers Manager Kevin Salkas recently traveled to Harvard University to present at a Harvard Strategic Data Project Annual Convening breakout session on lessons from the first year of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s To and Through Advising Challenge grants. Over 200 education leaders gathered at the convening to explore ways to better utilize data to improve student outcomes and advance equity in public schools.

AchieveMpls and Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) – along with 19 other school districts around the country – received Gates Foundation capacity-building grants last year in partnership with the National College Access Network (NCAN) to support best practices that boost postsecondary outcomes for underrepresented students.

In the breakout session, An Obstacle for Every Season: Lessons Learned from Changing Postsecondary Advising in 20 Districts, Kevin joined a Gates grant data coach and representatives from NCAN and the Jefferson (Alabama) County Board of Education to talk about successes and challenges in this initial planning year of the grant. They shared insights on strengthening college advising, increasing FAFSA completion, using data to advise students more effectively for college success and reducing “summer melt”, which occurs when students who are accepted to college fail to enroll in the fall. They also addressed the complexities of moving equity-driven, systemic change forward in large school districts.

This was the second opportunity this year for our team to share their experiences with the Gates grant with education leaders from around the country. This winter, three members of our joint AchieveMpls-MPS team participated in a Gates Foundation grant “community of practice” gathering in Dallas.

As part of our Gates grant work, this summer the AchieveMpls-MPS team will be piloting a new student texting campaign to reduce summer melt. 200 MPS students who have been accepted to a local college will receive regular texts throughout the summer to remind them about deadlines and other steps they need to complete before fall classes begin. Our team will also continue to work closely with NCAN and our Gates coaches to implement other practices, conduct ongoing evaluation and incorporate new findings and ideas throughout the process.