The Intercom Interviews: Erica Peterson, School Innovations & Achievement
From the CASCWA 2023 January Intercom Edition, pages 19-21.
If you have ever been to a CASCWA major event, you have probably talked directly to Erica Peterson! School Innovation & Achievement is CASCWA’s number one sponsor. SI&A provides services to our members and friends throughout California. Erica has worked closely with CASCWA for several years. She truly is an advocate for all educators in student services. The CASCWA Intercom editors are honored to present this excellent Intercom interview! Thank you, Erica!
You have been a major part of SI&A and CASCWA for years. Please share with us a few of your earliest memories of your interactions with CASCWA.
There are so many joyful moments. Early on, I remember becoming involved in the Delta Sierra section when CASCWA legend, Joe Taylor from Sacramento COE, was our section President. He and so many others in Delta Sierra have hosted many excellent professional development offerings for North State CASCWA members over the years. Every statewide and regional CASCWA event has been top-notch, growing my professional knowledge as well as providing space for SI&A to share its expertise in attendance management.
Over the years, you have proven to everyone that you are a true child advocate. At just about every CASBO, CSBA, IATDP, and CASCWA conference, you can be seen behind a table in front of a banner saying, “School Innovation & Achievement.” Your table is one of the busiest at every conference! Please describe for our members and friend a few of the typical conversations that occur.
CASCWA members and SI&A share a common goal and bond; we are passionate about keeping kids in school. The benefits of attending an education conference are the workshops that make you better at your job and the sponsors, like SI&A, who bring proven solutions to you. Typically, our conversations surround listening to the specific challenges a district is experiencing with attendance, family engagement, and data tracking. Then we customize a three-year plan for them using our program, The Achievement Initiative, which we can implement in as little as 3-4 weeks.
When many educators think about SI&A, they think about data-driven educational statistics and results. Tell us about SI&A’s Achievement Initiative and the data-driven results:
The Achievement Initiative is a data-driven Multi-Tiered System of Support to track, manage and improve student attendance. Our customizable communication campaigns help districts effectively communicate and connect with parents about age, grade, and student-specific issues. Districts get remarkable results when families feel supported and connected to their schools. The result is a 40% reduction in the number of students who are chronically absent for the majority of our clients.
SI&A is a major force in improving school attendance. If a brand new CWA administrator were to contact you with the goal of improving attendance in their district, what would be your advice?
The short answer would be to invest in an Attendance Management System. If we understand systems design and its purpose, then we understand that a systems approach is not only necessary but fundamental to closing gaps. It’s going to take a long-term plan and multiple years to get students back on track. An AMS allows districts to focus on actionable data versus data input. Since the AMS integrates SIS data, districts would not need to change procedures. Districts can disaggregate attendance data down to individual students by engaging daily campus reports on a personalized dashboard. This process puts the same level of emphasis on interventions and supports that we give to academics. In other words, managing attendance at the same level of urgency that we do academics.
SI&A’s website is incredible! There is so much information, videos, and connecting links that educators throughout the nation can view and learn more about issues of attendance. We can see your name in several locations on the site! Tell us about a few of the many video and other site pages you would like our members to view?
We pride ourselves on providing thought leadership in this space and deliver that in multiple ways for visitors to consume. Our home page is the best place to start, as it will lead you through a journey of understanding the problem we’re facing and how we’re solving that problem for our district partners. Districts might think they’re being sold software that will create more work for their staff to administer, but that’s not the case with The Achievement Initiative. Our Service Team page explains how we become an extension of a district’s team that never looks away from its attendance data. Of course, we don’t expect visitors to take our word alone for it. Our Partnerships page contains testimonials and clips from webinars that our clients have partnered with us to create. They share how our partnership has benefitted their districts, almost to the tune of making us blush! Read through and subscribe to our blogs, starting with Erica’s Editorial, for news and valuable insights on current trends and issues. Last but not least, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to stay informed about our upcoming webinars and live events where we will be sharing presentations with leaders in education.
CASCWA and SI&A recognize that there are achievement gaps for many of our students in our diverse educational system. What are a few of the areas where we can truly make a difference by making a conscious effort?
I believe in the need to rebuild and nurture good attendance habits. Showing up every day is foundational—both a skill and a habit—which must be nurtured and continuously reinforced. Currently, most districts only send attendance notices to students who have missed multiple days (that’s if they have the time to do it). Unfortunately, most districts cannot do this well and leave it up to the individual schools. This disjointed system of support that differs across the district creates institutional inequity. Implementing an effective AMS designed with consistent processes that have rigor and fidelity across all schools is critical. When we focus on the fundamentals – implementing an LEA-wide solution – we effectively change processes that can lead to behavior/culture changes through a systematic approach and ensure equity.
You have personally seen CASCWA grow over the years. If you can close your eyes and picture the future of CASCWA, what would your vision be?
CASCWA membership is necessary, not an accessory, for successful CWA professionals. My vision for CASCWA is that every school district in California has a CASCWA membership.