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Discipline Revolution Project Sample Clients

Facilitated community of practice for principals of highest performing schools across the state.
Worked across systems to address de-criminalizing the way communities in Phoenix think about student behavior
Developed strategy to embrace DEI values while growing their footprint in diverse – geographic and ideologic – markets
Advise on data-driven strategies for communities and cities to set and track key equity metrics across agencies
Convened a learning work session with key district and charter leaders and members of the Broad community to address over-policing of Black students
Provided coaching and facilitation for education superintendents and state commissioners across the country; envisioned ‘leading while female’ initiative
Helped revise giving strategy with an equity lens
Provided evaluation of New Dawn Charter High School’s academic performance to determine the effectiveness and quality of its program
Provided district-wide strategy to improve the academic outcomes of 16 – 22-year-olds who are off-track, including recommended shifts in policy and practice related to enrollment, accountability, discipline, instruction, socio-emotional support, current and future portfolio offerings, and staff capacity.
Helped create Let’s Adopt Reform! Initiative — a national policy and advocacy agenda to radically improve adoption and improve outcomes for kids in school
Following a pilot program with the Louisiana Department of Education, EBR engaged DRP to work with the Executive Director of Alternative High Schools to reimagine their alternative schools
Worked with leadership to develop training modules using research, case studies, and data to make the case for school-based and system-wide reform.
Supported six Superintendents and their c-suite to devise multi-year plans to replace harsh, biased discipline systems with ones that keep kids safe, and avoid shame and exclusion
TWS envisioned and facilitated a 10-month, virtual community of practice with seven school systems (six traditional and YES Prep)
Developed training module for Equity Bootcamp in Harris County, Texas
Supported team to define core values and align practices to values; provide executive coaching to key leaders on the senior team
recognized students with disabilities were being segregated from their peers and suffering from poor academic outcomes. Further, the district had been embroiled in a 30-year consent decree related to special education. The TWS team envisioned an entirely new approach to special education and a multi-year plan to get there
Provided training to leadership of district and select schools in an equity audit of their systems aimed to articulate necessary changes – in policies, practices and mindsets – across the district
Tapped TWS’ Discipline Revolution Project to pilot a radically different approach to the Alternative Education Pilot Program. The TWS team worked with the state to shift policies and incentives, and with two parishes to put in place on-the-ground pilots
Provided coaching and strategic advising on leadership framework with an equity lens
Supported work on the charter application, including support with K-12 curriculum and development of accountability structure
Envisioned and facilitated a four part series for all principals and their leadership teams on the intersection of rigor and relationships
Created a framework for better serving over-aged, under-credited students and disconnected youth in Washington, D.C.
Supported CEO and VP of Education Partnerships to rethink how they engage systems leaders to use their content
Led a community of practice for school leaders, funders and advocates in Memphis. TWS created workshops to create a common understanding and align efforts to implement and support discipline reform, restorative practices, and preventative measures schools and the greater community
Supported senior team of Summit Public Schools to review equity work across central office and schools.
Provided leadership and content expertise, facilitated a series of working group webinars and participated in launch of state-wide pilot on expanding the definition of charter success
Working with the district leadership, DRP helped develop and implement a multi-year plan to be a district, organization and community that exemplifies critical consciousness, equity, and inclusion.
Coach senior team to support anti-poverty initiative in the central valley of California

Five Phases of Work

While each engagement is different, typically there are four or five phases of the work.

Phase One – Context and relationship-building

Create conditions for success, build teams, finalize year-long calendar​.

  • Interviews, document review, context​
  • Launch work teams
  • Solidify goals, approach, calendar

Phase Two – Norming

Norm frameworks and tools, ensure common understanding of goals.

  • In-person and online training
  • Case studies, readings, discussion​
  • “Micro content” — just-right information

Phase Three – Self-assessment and emerging plan

Provide technical assistance, facilitate self-assessment, and start emerging action plan

  • Some remote, some in person​
  • Team images in self-assessment, with triangulation
  • TWS team supports process of shared assessment of assets and need for change

Phase Four – Implementation Planning 

Complete action plan and solidify a collective action team​

  • Invest stakeholders​
  • Sequence the work​
  • Ensure clear ownership with right skill and will

Phase Five – Implementation Support 

Identify areas of action plan where TWS can kickstart the work​.

Our Approach

What makes us different

ThirdWay Solutions’ team members, projects, and goals are laser-focused on equity, and have been since our founding six years ago. Our core team and our extensive network of independent contractors have a proven track record of personal commitment to anti-biased, anti-racist work. We are also recognized for getting results in a diverse range of fields — from school reform and child welfare to marketing and organizational culture. 

Most importantly, our clients appreciate the lens we bring to the work. According to client surveys, 100% of them say they would recommend us to peer organizations. They say we are different because we embrace tensions inherent in realizing deep change.

  • We have field-tested tools and research-based resources — AND we believe context matters so we listen and tailor our work. ​

Our approach has been honed by working with nearly 50 clients and through decades of leadership experience across sectors. Our frameworks and tools are detailed and help our partners quickly diagnose areas of strength and things that need to change. 

AND, we support the work of naming, sequencing, and making plans that are carefully aligned to local and/or sector context. We do not believe in checklists, stock presentations, or one-size-fits-all.

  • We support technical work — AND we catalyze deeper adaptive work for lasting change. ​

We know that sometimes change requires things like rewriting job descriptions, changing core business processes, and rewriting policies. We are detail-oriented and sweat the small stuff. 

AND, we believe deep work related to equity requires shifting values, mindsets, and beliefs. This only happens through experiential learning and deep culture work over time.

  • We get things done with focused plans — AND we become part of your team and know when to adapt and go off-script. ​

Our engagements always include clear phases with deliverables for each, based on goals co-constructed with our clients. At the same time, our clients trust us as elbow partners and coaches and use us as key advisors when ABAR values come into tension with current events and company decisions. During COVID, for example, we pivoted to advise our clients on how to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

  • We are comfortable with discomfort — AND we know that shame and finger-pointing shuts down learning and progress.​

We live by the Baldwin quote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” We recognize this requires discomfort and confronting sometimes brutal facts. We facilitate spaces where this leads to collective action instead of more gridlock.

  • We provide capacity and leadership — AND we are explicit about teaching leadership teams “how to fish” so progress continues well after our engagement.

We always enter engagements at the level of the CEO, superintendent, commissioner, and/or founder, as well as their team. Meanwhile, we concurrently do work with members throughout organizations, to sew change and build capacity top-down and bottom-up.

What we care about

Black students, students with disabilities, and students who identify as LGBTQQ are criminalized in schools.  

  • Black and Latino students and students with disabilities are 3 to 4 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers1.
  • More than 50% of school-based arrests and 32% of suspensions are of African American students, even though they are only 16% of all students2.
  • Young people who identify as LGBTQQ are suspended or excluded from activities at higher rates than their peers3.

Young people who face unthinkable life challenges — usually not of their own doing — are connected to multiple government systems that only serve to compound their problems.

  • Almost 20% of young people under 18 who are incarcerated were part of the foster care system.
  • Children with an incarcerated parent were more than three times more likely to have behavioral problems or depression than similar children without an imprisoned parent, and at least twice as likely to suffer from learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and anxiety.
  • Families who are connected to the child welfare system are all connected to the criminal justice system.

Despite advances in gender equity, women still face unequal treatment and representation in roles, responsibilities and compensation in the workforce. 

Key Frameworks

P-Framework. The P-Framework is a comprehensive approach to conducting an organizational assessment. At its core, the P-Framework and accompanying tools help complex organizations of all sizes examine how their values or principles are — and are not — translating to everything from how they think about talent to how they execute their core strategy.

EQUITY Framework and Self-Assessment Tools for School Systems. We have integrated the research on anti-biased, anti-racist organizations, behavior modification, achievement motivation, risk and resilience, school culture and climate, and social and emotional learning — along with promising practices from restorative justice, PBIS, MTSS, RTI, and culturally responsive teaching — into one set of actionable, non-jargony tools. 

The EQUITY Framework has six competencies, and each competency has three to five indicators of success. We’ve broken this down into a set of “look fors” in the form of a school-based self-assessment and a system-based self-assessment. 

In essence, our self-assessment helps school teams understand where they are in building school culture and students supports,against the fourth leg of the stool and what it will take to make progress

Sample Clients

Facilitated community of practice for principals of highest performing schools across the state.
Worked across systems to address de-criminalizing the way communities in Phoenix think about student behavior
Developed strategy to embrace DEI values while growing their footprint in diverse – geographic and ideologic – markets
Advise on data-driven strategies for communities and cities to set and track key equity metrics across agencies
Convened a learning work session with key district and charter leaders and members of the Broad community to address over-policing of Black students
Provided coaching and facilitation for education superintendents and state commissioners across the country; envisioned ‘leading while female’ initiative
Helped revise giving strategy with an equity lens
Provided evaluation of New Dawn Charter High School’s academic performance to determine the effectiveness and quality of its program
Provided district-wide strategy to improve the academic outcomes of 16 – 22-year-olds who are off-track, including recommended shifts in policy and practice related to enrollment, accountability, discipline, instruction, socio-emotional support, current and future portfolio offerings, and staff capacity.
Helped create Let’s Adopt Reform! Initiative — a national policy and advocacy agenda to radically improve adoption and improve outcomes for kids in school
Following a pilot program with the Louisiana Department of Education, EBR engaged DRP to work with the Executive Director of Alternative High Schools to reimagine their alternative schools
Worked with leadership to develop training modules using research, case studies, and data to make the case for school-based and system-wide reform.
Supported six Superintendents and their c-suite to devise multi-year plans to replace harsh, biased discipline systems with ones that keep kids safe, and avoid shame and exclusion
TWS envisioned and facilitated a 10-month, virtual community of practice with seven school systems (six traditional and YES Prep)
Developed training module for Equity Bootcamp in Harris County, Texas
Supported team to define core values and align practices to values; provide executive coaching to key leaders on the senior team
recognized students with disabilities were being segregated from their peers and suffering from poor academic outcomes. Further, the district had been embroiled in a 30-year consent decree related to special education. The TWS team envisioned an entirely new approach to special education and a multi-year plan to get there
Provided training to leadership of district and select schools in an equity audit of their systems aimed to articulate necessary changes – in policies, practices and mindsets – across the district
Tapped TWS’ Discipline Revolution Project to pilot a radically different approach to the Alternative Education Pilot Program. The TWS team worked with the state to shift policies and incentives, and with two parishes to put in place on-the-ground pilots
Provided coaching and strategic advising on leadership framework with an equity lens
Supported work on the charter application, including support with K-12 curriculum and development of accountability structure
Envisioned and facilitated a four part series for all principals and their leadership teams on the intersection of rigor and relationships
Created a framework for better serving over-aged, under-credited students and disconnected youth in Washington, D.C.
Supported CEO and VP of Education Partnerships to rethink how they engage systems leaders to use their content
Led a community of practice for school leaders, funders and advocates in Memphis. TWS created workshops to create a common understanding and align efforts to implement and support discipline reform, restorative practices, and preventative measures schools and the greater community
Supported senior team of Summit Public Schools to review equity work across central office and schools.
Provided leadership and content expertise, facilitated a series of working group webinars and participated in launch of state-wide pilot on expanding the definition of charter success
Working with the district leadership, DRP helped develop and implement a multi-year plan to be a district, organization and community that exemplifies critical consciousness, equity, and inclusion.
Coach senior team to support anti-poverty initiative in the central valley of California

Levels of Support

We customize our approach to meet the needs of our clients, whether it’s a light touch or a deep dive.

Key frameworks

P-Framework. The P-Framework is a comprehensive approach to conducting an organizational assessment. At its core, the P-Framework and accompanying tools help complex organizations of all sizes examine how their values or principles are — and are not — translating to everything from how they think about talent to how they execute their core strategy.

EQUITY Framework and Self-Assessment Tools for School Systems. We have integrated the research on anti-biased, anti-racist organizations, behavior modification, achievement motivation, risk and resilience, school culture and climate, and social and emotional learning — along with promising practices from restorative justice, PBIS, MTSS, RTI, and culturally responsive teaching — into one set of actionable, non-jargony tools. 

The EQUITY Framework has six competencies, and each competency has three to five indicators of success. We’ve broken this down into a set of “look fors” in the form of a school-based self-assessment and a system-based self-assessment. 

In essence, our self-assessment helps school teams understand where they are in building school culture and students supports,against the fourth leg of the stool and what it will take to make progress

What makes us different

ThirdWay Solutions’ team members, projects, and goals are laser-focused on equity, and have been since our founding six years ago. Our core team and our extensive network of independent contractors have a proven track record of personal commitment to anti-biased, anti-racist work. We are also recognized for getting results in a diverse range of fields — from school reform and child welfare to marketing and organizational culture. 

Most importantly, our clients appreciate the lens we bring to the work. According to client surveys, 100% of them say they would recommend us to peer organizations. They say we are different because we embrace tensions inherent in realizing deep change.

  • We have field-tested tools and research-based resources — AND we believe context matters so we listen and tailor our work. ​

Our approach has been honed by working with nearly 50 clients and through decades of leadership experience across sectors. Our frameworks and tools are detailed and help our partners quickly diagnose areas of strength and things that need to change. 

AND, we support the work of naming, sequencing, and making plans that are carefully aligned to local and/or sector context. We do not believe in checklists, stock presentations, or one-size-fits-all.

  • We support technical work — AND we catalyze deeper adaptive work for lasting change. ​

We know that sometimes change requires things like rewriting job descriptions, changing core business processes, and rewriting policies. We are detail-oriented and sweat the small stuff. 

AND, we believe deep work related to equity requires shifting values, mindsets, and beliefs. This only happens through experiential learning and deep culture work over time.

  • We get things done with focused plans — AND we become part of your team and know when to adapt and go off-script. ​

Our engagements always include clear phases with deliverables for each, based on goals co-constructed with our clients. At the same time, our clients trust us as elbow partners and coaches and use us as key advisors when ABAR values come into tension with current events and company decisions. During COVID, for example, we pivoted to advise our clients on how to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

  • We are comfortable with discomfort — AND we know that shame and finger-pointing shuts down learning and progress.​

We live by the Baldwin quote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” We recognize this requires discomfort and confronting sometimes brutal facts. We facilitate spaces where this leads to collective action instead of more gridlock.

  • We provide capacity and leadership — AND we are explicit about teaching leadership teams “how to fish” so progress continues well after our engagement.

We always enter engagements at the level of the CEO, superintendent, commissioner, and/or founder, as well as their team. Meanwhile, we concurrently do work with members throughout organizations, to sew change and build capacity top-down and bottom-up.

Mold in the cafeteria: Schools’ crumbling infrastructure needs Congress to invest in kids

Every student deserves to attend a clean, healthy, safe and technologically rich school. Yet, we are far from that reality.

It has never been more clear how much our country needs infrastructure repair. While cities from New York to Lafourche, Louisiana, face catastrophic flooding and other once-in-a-generation damage, the multitrillion dollar legislative packages working their way through Congress can’t come soon enough.

As we consider these critical investments in our country’s future, we cannot forget the infrastructure necessary to support the education of nearly 50 million children each year.

While politicians can’t seem to agree on the meaning of the word “infrastructure,” too many students attend schools where it rains inside the building when it sprinkles outside – let alone when it rains with the dangerous ferocity we are experiencing with increasing regularity. Children in far too many communities drink water from corroded pipes and eat lunch in cafeterias replete with mold.

Every student deserves to attend a clean, healthy, safe and technologically rich school. Yet, we are far from that reality. The inequity of a school funding system based heavily on local property taxes has been well-documented, but when it comes specifically to school facilities, the inequities are even more flagrant.

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In Guilford County, North Carolina, increasingly warm summers are routinely shutting down schools where antiquated heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems are no match for the sweltering weather. On the first day of classes for Baltimore City Public Schools, 24 schools were dismissed early or closed because of air conditioning issues. Many school buildings, from Texas to Iowa, don’t even have air conditioners in places where temperatures reach more than 90 degrees several months each year.

In Newark, New Jersey, one elementary school was erected 13 years before Abraham Lincoln became president. Some basements still have boilers and insulation that became obsolete in the 1950s. Flooding and floating rats are common on a sunny day – imagine the conditions after a hurricane.

In Chicago, the school district has a whopping $3.5 billion in deferred maintenance. In Guilford County, that number is $2 billion, and for Newark it is more than $1 billion.

An elementary school teacher in Browning, Mont., on Aug. 24, 2021.
An elementary school teacher in Browning, Mont., on Aug. 24, 2021. Rion Sanders, AP

And that’s not simply for nice-to-haves like a new stadium or a state-of-the-art science lab. We’re putting off basic repairs and upkeep to ensure our buildings are safe and healthy enough for hundreds of thousands of children to spend their entire day inside for most of year.

Neglect is wide spread

Sadly, this level of decay and neglect is not unique to Newark, Chicago or North Carolina. Nor are these the most appalling examples: Schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education have cracked floors and no internet.

Despite the best efforts of many leaders, school infrastructure woes have persisted and accumulated for decades across the country. According to the U.S. Census of Governments, school districts reported spending nearly $600 billion in capital expenditures from 1995 to 2004, yet students in the poorest communities and the most decrepit buildings received the least investment.

2006 public school construction report states, “What was true in 1995 is still true today: a school with large minority enrollment, in a district with a high percentage of students from low-income families, is still most likely to be in the worst physical condition.”

There is little to suggest that we have improved upon this disparity even 15 years later.

COVID dollars aren’t enough

The federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars were helpful in terms of mitigating the recent impact of the pandemic, but grossly inadequate in the face of decades of accumulated infrastructure deficits.

By the time districts (especially, but not only, those that serve poor communities) pay for devices for families, tutors for students, personal protective equipment for staff, reconfiguring spaces, ventilation workarounds, staff and contractors for testing and contact tracing, and other emerging needs, the money is spent.

How did it get so bad? When it comes to schools, too many poor communities sit downwind from decades of inequitable public policy. States grossly underinvest in the kind of proactive work anyone who owns a house knows is crucial – like replacing roofs, floors and pipes well before there is an emergency. 

The result? Communities with higher tax bases either invest the money they collect or exert pressure to get this work done. Communities without a local tax base or access to the statehouse experience a compounding effect of dangerous decay, year over year. Districts in poor communities are forced to choose between things like buying textbooks or replacing a roof.

You might be inclined to blame states and local districts for failing to spend money wisely and think long term. Why should the federal government bail them out? But just as the federal government is stepping in to improve bridges, roads and communications infrastructure across the country, we need federal intervention now to bring schools up to modern safety standards. It’s unconscionable to send students to buildings with unhealthy air and water.

Can’t we all agree that our children are worthy of our investment? Can we agree that we want future generations to prosper, and we want our children and grandchildren to live fulfilling lives?

With trillions of dollars on the table, let’s bet on the next generation.

Cami Anderson is former superintendent of Newark Public Schools and Alternative High Schools in New York City. Sharon Contreras is the superintendent of Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. Janice Jackson is former CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

This previously ran in USA Today’s Opinion section on September 27, 2021

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DRP Services

Targeted Systems Approach

The DRP team engages with school districts/CMOs over the course of 12-18 months. Our work has two components:

  • The District Implementation Team: In every engagement, we work with a high-level and cross-functional implementation team (which must include the superintendent and/or the CMO CEO) that we launch in partnership with the district and/or charter management organization.
  • School-Based Change: We also work with school leaders and their teams. The scope of the work with individual schools varies depending on the budget and goals of the client.

Superintendents, leaders of charter school networks, state commissioners, and school board members are seeking to solve a particular problem related to equity. This work happens in four phases through our Core Model as follows:

  1. We believe context matters. In Phase One of our work, we spend time interviewing key stakeholders to build our understanding of the local context — challenges and opportunities, current thinking on the work, as well as the goals and fears, and best ways to communicate with the community. During this phase, we help build teams at the central and school levels and introduce our frameworks (EQUITY and P) and assessment tools. At the end of the first phase, the major players in the central office are clear about the EQUITY Framework, the approach of DRP and how the entire engagement will work.
  2. We provide capacity and coaching, teaching leadership how to fish. During Phase Two, we provide training (virtual or in-person), norming the central and school level teams on the EQUITY Framework and laying the groundwork for developing and implementing a strategic plan.
  3. In Phase Three, our coaches work with central and school level teams — through virtual or in-person trainings and school visits — to develop and review the emerging action plans. Our team knows how to get things done and knows when to go off script. By the end of this phase, our coaches will have identified any obstacles and provided the support to create a comprehensive plan.
  4. During our final phase, Phase Four, we reflect on progress to date, solidify the community of practice, and ensure that central and school teams are shifting from planning to implementation.

At the end of the engagement, with a deeper understanding of the EQUITY Framework, clients will have a finalized, two-year implementation plan for central teams and school teams. Teams are clear about how to charter and implement strategies developed with their two-year action plan.

The Collective Action Model

The collective action approach takes one of two forms:

  • DRP convenes district leadership teams from several districts or regions — traditional and charter together — to actively shift away from harsh, biased, and exclusionary discipline and other school policies and practices that disproportionately and negatively impact Black, brown, LGBTQQ students and students with disabilities.
  • DRP convenes diverse leaders from adjacent systems — police, advocates, higher education, child welfare, juvenile justice, and/or school systems — to generate a comprehensive plan to address inequities in how students and families are punished.

The initiating client is typically a superintendent, commissioner, mayor or county executive, advocacy organization, and/or funder with a regional focus. The collective action approach is tailored to each engagement based on the initiator, but some basic elements are typically included.

  • Convene and on-board the right people to the collective: We work with the initiator to recruit and on-board members who are committed to (a) real self-reflection, change, and learning, and who will actively participate to support collective growth; (b) represent diverse stakeholders who need to be at the table in order for system change to occur; and (c) empowered and high-level decision-makers who can translate insight into action.
  • Case for action: Explore the specific, tangible, and research-based consequences of harsh, biased, and exclusionary disciplinary practices in fueling the school-to-prison pipeline; create a sense of urgency for collective and individual action.
  • Vision for success: Understand, at a high level, the six building blocks — and accompanying people, policy, practices, and power-dynamics shifts that need to occur — to make progress on replacing antiquated approaches with more equitable ones.
  • Reflection: Learn about local and national promising practices and research; reflect on local practices that are promising; surface common struggles.
  • Planning: Begin to envision how to make the deep adaptive (mindset and beliefs) and technical (practices and policies) changes necessary to replace inequitable approaches to student behavior with more proactive, ABAR (anti-biased and anti-racist), and developmentally appropriate ones.