The Story Behind DC Action’s Innovative Work

An interview with DC Action for Children’s Executive Director, HyeSook Chung:

A nominee and speaker for the 2014 5th Annual CLASSY Awards on May 2nd and 3rd!

What was your reaction when you received news of DC Action’s nomination in the 2014 CLASSY Awards?

Funny you should ask me this! After they informed me that DC Action was a Top 5 nominee in the Education Preparedness category, I dropped the phone – once again - surprised with the attention our small but mighty organization (a staff of less than 4) is getting for trying to make a difference for DC children and their families.

Once I learned what The CLASSY Awards were -- the largest social impact awards ceremonies in the U.S. – I was BEYOND thrilled with this opportunity to share our work with so many other champions of social progress.

 

Well, congratulations on the Top 5 Nomination in the Education Preparedness & Enrollment Category! Can you explain this work further?

Our DC KIDS COUNT project did an analysis of 3rd grade state test scores from 2007 to 2011 and found no evidence of significant changes in proficiency among racial and ethnic groups or by economic advantage or disadvantage. While our analysis went against what DC Public Schools had publicly claimed, we worked to challenge the rhetoric of our city leaders with this hard data to help ALL DC children.

With our incredible partners, DataKind and team of pro-bono data scientists, we created an interactive, web-based map to take traditional child well-being indicators “beyond the PDF book” and into the realm of visualizing and communicating data for collective action.

 

Why is this work so important for DC children?

If children do not achieve proficiency by the end of third grade, they are significantly less likely to graduate from high school. In 2013, only 44% of DC third graders were proficient in reading; even fewer, 43%, were proficient in math. DC 3rd grade proficiency has improved little in the past 7 years, and achievement gaps between black and white students are among the widest in the nation.

We hope to use this data to bring unbiased analysis and policy advocacy to ensure resources for evidenced based programs to improve graduation rates and make a significant progress in improving overall child well-being!

 

Why do you think DC Action’s work is innovative?

Well to be honest, I recently “Googled” innovative and this was what popped up:  ahead of the times, forward-looking, advanced, favoring or promoting progress, featuring new methods, original, the introduction of something new.

So in this light our interactive web-based maps were innovative and pushed the envelope – moving forward to something new and more useful to go beyond just another “book on the shelf."

 

What makes our data visualtion work so innovative?

I would say both the process and product are innovative.

The process was extremely innovative as we ended a long-term relationship with a very traditional think-tank and hired a Brooklyn-based start-up connecting us to entrepreneurial data scientists. I had this hunch – we could do more with the KIDS COUNT brand and go beyond simply providing data-analysis but to actually invest in work to make positive outcomes for DC children. Why focus on data analysis if we aren’t using it to make a difference in the lives of children? Seems like a basic question, right?

The product is also innovative for a variety of reasons. For the first time, DC KIDS COUNT is providing analysis at the neighborhood level. We felt it was critical to look more in-depth and introduce a “new way” of analysis framing the conversation regarding childhood assets. Children and their families live, play and grow-up in neighborhoods. In order to improver outcomes we need to better understand if assets children need are missing. 

 

Last question: I heard that there will be a very interesting key note speaker at the awards weekend. Can you confirm this?

Haha! I couldn’t believe they asked me to be part of this elite list of speakers. I am honored to have been selected to further share our work with other amazing social champions and to hear their stories!

 

Thank you, HyeSook, and hope to join you in San Diego this weekend for the 2014 Classy Awards ceremony!

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