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Meet the partnership facilitator: Jenny Scala

Jenny Scala partnership facilitator picture

By Cora Goldston
August 17, 2017

Jenny Scala may be new to the Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance (MCRRA), but this isn't her first collaborative research rodeo. Scala previously has worked on several Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) projects, working with educators and policymakers to support the use of early warning systems. Now, Scala will build new REL experiences as the MCRRA partnership facilitator.

Under the previous REL Midwest contract, Scala supported the implementation for treatment schools in the Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS) study. EWIMS is an intervention that seeks to identify students who are at–risk for dropping out of high school. This intervention allows administrators to provide additional supports with the goal of putting students back on track to graduation. After one year of implementation, findings showed that students were significantly less likely to fail courses or be chronically absent in EWIMS schools than in comparison schools.

Before joining REL Midwest, Scala worked on a REL West project to support early warning systems for students with disabilities in Utah. Says Scala, "We wrote a guide for staff who have some experience with early warning systems and want to go a step further. The goal was to provide guidance if districts are using national thresholds but aren't getting students back on track. The guide helps districts choose local early warning indicators to support their students."

REL Midwest has also explored the importance of local context in early warning systems – check out our report on determining the most accurate early warning indicators for three Ohio school districts.

Another critical element of the partnership facilitator's job is helping policymakers understand research and make informed decisions. As a member of the REL Northeast and Islands team, Scala provided the Puerto Rico Department of Education technical assistance with early warning systems. She helped Department staff understand how such systems work, what indicators they may want to include, and how to implement a system.

Now Scala is using her research and technical assistance experience in a new role. As the MCRRA partnership facilitator, Scala's goal is to engage members throughout the partnership's time together, not simply when the partnership shares research results. A reciprocal exchange – what Scala calls "two-way" communication – is crucial for the partnership’s success.

Scala's role also includes facilitating discussions between partnership members from different agencies. She intends to make the most of these opportunities. "Everyone's time is sacred," Scala says "When we pull people together, it will have a purpose." In addition to the primary partnership in Minnesota, Scala also will facilitate the MCRRA community of practice, which includes representatives from other states who work on issues related to career readiness. The community of practice is an opportunity to share the primary alliance's work more broadly and identify questions or issues in other states that might become Ask A REL reference desk requests or quick turnaround requests for data.

Scala is excited about the opportunity for MCRRA to explore several topics. She notes the opportunity to focus on career readiness in rural settings, as some of the partnership members represent rural districts. Scala also looks forward to examining career readiness beyond college readiness. As Scala notes, "There are a lot of jobs and growth opportunities that require postsecondary training and expertise, but not a four–year degree." Scala sees it as a "civic responsibility" to prepare students for all types of postsecondary pathways. "One key question is, 'How do we make sure that all students are equipped to be positive contributors to society?'"

In this article, MCRRA member Paula Palmer describes how individual learning plans may help students prepare for a variety of postsecondary opportunities.

Ultimately, Scala hopes partnership members will benefit long after participating in MCRRA. "I hope all members are able to articulate value from participating in the alliance," Scala says "It could be access to knowledge and research, it could be access to training, it could be a lot of things, but I hope alliance members can articulate how their participation will benefit their future work."

When Scala isn't working on the REL, she is stand–up paddling and sea kayaking. Scala says she has seen quite a few whales!

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Author(s) Information

Cora Goldston Staff Picture

Cora Goldston

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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