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Funding for Shared Data System to Link Kansas City Nonprofits to Schools

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Turn the Page KC

Turn the Page KC, a nonprofit that works to improve reading proficiency of third-graders, is among the Kansas City, Mo., organizations that will share data with Kansas City Public Schools through a Ballmer Group matching grant.

Youth-serving organizations in Kansas City, Mo., have an opportunity for data sharing with Kansas City Public Schools.

The shared system, made available by a matching grant  from the Ballmer Group, is an effort to coordinate community organizations and schools in meeting the needs of kids.

Schools and nonprofits “have kind of been operating in silos,” said Alexis Zotalis, director of education solutions for Social Solutions, the Austin, Texas, software maker that created the data-sharing system.

Among nonprofits taking part are Turn the Page KC, which seeks to raise the reading proficiency of third-graders, and KC Social Innovation Center, which helps connect young people to jobs.

Some nonprofit agencies still use paper to track the work of their programs, former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told Bloomberg News. Or they use software that can’t talk to a school district software or to other local agencies.

Ballmer and his wife Connie Ballmer founded the Ballmer Group, a nonprofit that works to provide economic mobility to children and families in poverty.

In November, the Ballmer Group, through Social Solutions, made a matching grant to SA Youth, which runs after-school programs at 10 sites in San Antonio, as well as a young adult workforce training program.

“We were able to purchase a new data collection system,” said Melissa Zarb-Cousin, chief of staff at SA Youth.

The software, known as Apricot 360, makes the organization more proactive, Zarb-Cousin said.

Using school grades, attendance figures and other data, it can identify kids who face various risks and can help SA Youth create the right intervention for them, she said.

“Maybe we see 15 percent of students in third grade are not reading at the level of the previous year,” she said.

SA Youth can do “really intensive intervention,” she said, setting up small group assistance after school for the kids who have been identified.

“We can focus one-on-one,” she said.

The system allows for better reporting of results, “which is critical in social services,” Zarb-Cousin said. Funders want a clear vision of how your work is creating an impact, she said.

Prospera Housing Community Services in San Antonio also received funds for software in November.

The Ballmer Group is investing $59 million over five years to fund data sharing among schools and organizations in 20 cities. Funding goes to Social Solutions, which in turn offers a matching grant that allows nonprofits to get the software at a 50 percent discount, Zotalis said.

“A lot of nonprofits have tried to do this on a manual basis,” she said. They’ve gained individual data-sharing agreements with a school district.

The Ballmer Group offers a different route. Ballmer and Social Solutions are looking to set up data-sharing agreements with a number of school districts.

“We’re looking at cities that have some collaboration already happening” between schools and the K-12 services sector, Zotalis said.

This story has been updated.

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