This week, we spoke with Sagar Desai of Dallas County’s Commit! Partnership to learn more about the highs and lows of communicating with students. Sagar and his team use texting to connect students with the counselors and resources they need to successfully enroll in college. Read the Q&A to learn more about their texting program.

What is the Commit! Partnership?

The Commit! Partnership aims to improve student achievement from cradle to career in Dallas County through a cross-sector partnership of Colleges, K-12 School Districts, Foundations, Corporations, and Civic leaders that uses data and collaboration to create alignment between stakeholders.

How do you measure a student’s success?

Our ultimate goal is entry into the workforce. To achieve that goal, community leaders have created eleven indicators that start with Pre-K enrollment all the way to college completion. For this specific project, our success is measured by an increase in college enrollment after graduating from high school.

What are the greatest challenges to communicating with students?

Students don’t respond to e-mails and rarely take the time to come by the counselor’s office, except for desperate circumstances. Phone becomes an effective form of communication, except that students often change their mobile numbers.

What are your goals for improving communication with students?

We are providing timely information to students to help them in their college journey. Students are more proactively reaching out to counselors and asking questions as challenges arise
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How has texting impacted the relationship between partner schools and students?

Texting has created a medium to better connect schools and colleges to students, especially during the summer months when schools are closed and counselors are “off-contract.” Through texting, students were able to connect with counselors, even though the schools were closed.

 Through our summer melt intervention, we got valuable feedback from students. For example, we learned from text messaging that students needed to access their transcripts during the summer. However, school offices were not open at convenient times. In response, the district is looking to find ways to provide students’ access to transcripts.

What’s been the response to texting?

Students love it! They find it easier to communicate with counselors on an as-needed basis. Text also forces brevity, as opposed to e-mail. Students appreciate targeted and brief conversations, as opposed to long e-mails.

How do you measure engagement?

We measure how many texts students respond to, and what types of questions they ask.

What’s the most rewarding part about working for Commit?

We get the opportunity to work across districts and colleges and better understand the whole system. It’s incredible to work with leadership across systems and develop integrated solutions that improve student success.

What’s a memorable texting conversation you’ve had with a student?

Students finalized financial aid applications and scheduled campus visits. The most exciting interactions were watching an advisor uncover a missing document to help a student get back on track to enrolling in college.

Thanks, Sagar!

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