Giving Thanks

November 26, 2019

The season of giving thanks is here. At Saga, we are especially grateful for many things, including the astonishing amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to replicate our work with fidelity and deliver high quality supplemental instruction. We have entire teams dedicated  to improving and developing our training, curriculum and assessments, and data analysis–all so that the AmeriCorps members who serve at our school sites have the resources and the skills they will need to thrive as academic coaches and mentors. As a result, even if one is new to education, the ability to deliver high-quality, personalized instruction that helps young people thrive can be achieved. In the spirit of gratitude, we’d like to shine light on our remarkable teams and express the importance of all that they do.

Curriculum Team: full of wisdom, driven by academic excellence 

Curriculum developers are veteran teachers/educators who are responsible for creating lesson plans, assessments and activities for students and AmeriCorps members that align with national and district standards, AND can be modified to align with the sequencing of classroom teachers at individual schools.

We often get the following question, “there is a lot of curriculum for teachers out there, why do you need to develop your own?” Most curriculum today is geared towards a traditional classroom setting and trained teachers, specifically. Our team meticulously develops content so that it is appropriate for a tutorial context, outlining tips, main ideas, solutions, problem banks and activities that are usable by our AmeriCorps members and effective for students.  The curriculum team continuously refines lessons and assessments, all while developing new materials for different grades, projects or initiatives.

 To learn more about our academic approach, check out our previous blog: How to differentiate your lessons when tutoring with Saga

Data Team: energized by numbers, dream of spreadsheets

We use data to guide instruction and to monitor our progress in many areas at Saga. For our programs, we regularly review the following types of data: student attendance, student math class grades (at every Progress Report and Report Card), student scores on each of the five administrations of the foundational skills assessment (total and by skill category), parent communications made by AmeriCorps members, number of observations received by AmeriCorps members, and AmeriCorps member satisfaction and engagement indicators.

The student-level data we collect from daily reports and assessments are invaluable to our school-based teams and AmeriCorps members.  They use this data not only to drive conversations with students about their performance (whether it’s related to attendance, math class grades, or basic skills assessment scores), and also  to differentiate their tutorials to meet individual student needs.

The data teams doesn’t just develop and manage dashboards and analyze data;  they open the door to organization- wide discussions about improvement.

Recruitment/HR Team: all about people

HR plays a key role in developing, reinforcing and changing the culture of an organization as we shift from a start-up to a more sophisticated and complex organization. This unit oversees payroll, performance management, recruitment and onboarding and is helping to develop and reinforce the values of the organization. They recruit nationwide for a diverse pool of applicants and oversee the screening and qualification of candidates of our AmeriCorps members as well as leadership staff.

This team makes gracious sacrifices ensuring that the most talented individuals serve our students–and are often away from home, traveling far and wide, establishing partnerships with other service-driven organizations and colleges and universities.

At Saga, we believe that it is crucial that our team reflects the student populations we serve. The closer we get to creating a space for diversity to thrive in our organization, the more value we will be able to provide to the social sector, and the more impact we will be able to have on the communities we serve. This is not only a priority at Saga, but for each school district we support (Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C.). To learn more read our previous blog: Diversity makes our story great.

Site Directors: bring it to a whole new level

The Saga Site Director is an invaluable source of support, feedback and guidance at each of our school sites. Site Directors deploy the core concepts and language learned during training to refine and develop each AmeriCorps member throughout the entire year so that they can rise to become effective instructors. Our Site Directors are in the classroom alongside service members, providing daily feedback, support, and resources they need to serve our students.

Saga AmeriCorps members grow because of our intensive daily feedback system. Each AmeriCorps member is formally observed by the Site Director weekly, and more frequently in 5 minute observations. Each observation is logged and reported and tracked so that they can carefully monitor progress.

Feedback may touch on effective instructional strategies, student engagement techniques, lesson planning, or may include overall suggestions on how to improve the execution of a particular lesson or concept.

Site Directors are the liaison between Saga and the school. They build relationships with school staff, teachers and administrators, and collaborate with the math department to ensure we are properly aligning our curriculum and focusing on student growth and success.

Directors of Programs: the conductors of the Saga symphony 

The Directors of Programs (DOPs) are responsible for the programmatic performance and operations of each city. Things seldom go according to plan in complex institutions like schools. Saga’s Directors of Programs coordinate with stakeholders internally and externally to develop solutions to complex challenges and communicate regularly with Saga’s senior leadership and school Districts.

 Program Directors lead staff trainings in July and member trainings in August. They observe tutorials, and provide feedback to our Site Directors in a “Coach the Coaches” model. They also support the Site Directors in meetings with leaders at schools, including the principal, math department heads, school programmers, guidance counselors, and teachers.

DoPs capture and share existing best practices, the evidence for growth/success and the communication of newly discovered best practices and share those out with other sites and teams.  They organize quarterly retreats where Site Directors gather to share their practices with each other, and they provide all Site Directors weekly communication to cross-pollinate our sites with the many successful practices generated by our sites.  In turn, our DoPs have weekly time with each other to share the same best practices and to ensure fidelity in our work across sites.

 Finance, Operations and Philanthropy: the unsung heroes

We have a number of other support staff and leaders at Saga who are  responsible for securing the funding we need to serve our students, making sure that we are being efficient with our  resources. They maintain relationships with current funders– report on our progress and activity and make sure that we meet the compliance requirements for federal and local funds.

Our AmeriCorps members: putting idealism to work

Saga Education will help eradicate educational inequality by becoming a leader in working with education to envision a new story where the power of personal relationships nurtures academic, social and emotional growth for young people. Of course, this would not be possible without our AmeriCorps members, who are part of the nationwide movement around the power of community service, where citizens from all walks of life come together to overcome the nation’s greatest challenges.  They are on the front lines of fighting educational inequality.

After 5 years of service to the community, we have become a trusted, national leader in personalizing learning for students and have helped over 12,000 students realize their potential due to the dedication of our diverse, passionate and relentless team. Although we have accomplished much, this is only the beginning of our saga. Imagine what Saga can accomplish if you were part of our story. Please consider applying to serve as an AmeriCorps member with us and subscribing to our blog, because we look forward to sharing this next phase of our journey with you.