A comprehensive community program for Lifelong Learning and High Performance skills
Low-cost, easy and rapid implementation

A new approach to community transformation

SeeMore Impact Labs began with a grant from the US Department of Education to determine the skills individuals need for success in education, work, and life. This resulted in the CSM Course that builds the skills of High Performance and Lifelong Learning. The value of this course has been vetted across an unprecedented range of use: across venues (schools, colleges, adult education, workforce development, employee upskilling), ages (15 to 65+ years) and educational backgrounds (low-literacy adults to those with advanced degrees).

Building on this breadth of use, community-wide Excel Together Initiatives embed the CSM Certificate into a community as a credential of High Performance and Lifelong Learning -- the skills people need to thrive in college and the workplace. Excel Together works with colleges, the workforce system, and employers to gain college credit, hiring preferences, and other benefits for the CSM Certificate, and with school and training providers to build training capacity. SeeMore Impact Labs works behind the scenes to "get the word out" and build sustained momentum for community-wide upskilling.

The Excel Together Initiative is exemplified by Excel Together West Virginia, which began in summer of 2021 and has built rapid momentum.

  • The community and technical colleges have articulated the CSM Certificate so that it satisfies the general education math requirements for an associate degree across the state.
  • The Office of Adult Education offers the CSM Course, with a personal coach, for free to all adults in the state, and CSM is also being used extensively with TANF participants.
  • Workforce WV -- the state agency that handles unemployment insurance and workforce development -- is adding CSM as a training alternative satisfying the job search requirements for receiving unemployment benefits
  • Workforce WV is also adding a feature to the state jobs database that will offer employers  the opportunity to recognize CSM as a preferred credential.
  • Additional outreach is now occurring with industry associations (e.g. the WV Manufacturers Association), schools, workforce programs (e.g. the state program for subsidized workforce training), manufacturing workforce training (through the Robert C. Byrd Institute), etc.

From Brittany in Charleston, WV: 

"I took a lot of special needs math classes growing up. And so I didn't finish high school – I kinda gave up on it, because I was like I can't do math so I won't be able to do anything. I did the whole stay-at-home-with-kids things for awhile, and only worked at restaurants.

Then the CSM course came along…I've always hated math, but I really enjoyed CSM! I don't know if it was all the concepts for problem solving that it gives to you, or the fact that whenever I got so frustrated that I was going to shut my computer, it would take me to somewhere else for a while.

I managed to finish, and I was so excited! I got my three credits for math, and I started college to be a substance abuse counselor.

I had always wanted to help people, and the only thing that was holding me back in my mind was well, I can't do math. As if the people I was going to be helping were going to say ‘well, can you do math?’.

Looking back, I felt like I wasn't deserving a college degree, because I couldn't get through basic math. It made feel really upset, and I had kinda given up, really. To me, CSM saved me.”

Brittany is now in her second year in college on the dean's list !!

Brittany had given up on herself, and the system had failed her. Now, her life is transformed.

  • The CSM Course and a coach -- free in West Virginia -- gave her the support she needed to build skills.
  • The college credit attached to her CSM Certificate allowed her to go to college with the dreaded math credit in her rearview mirror.
  • And soon, employers indicating CSM as a preferred certificate will lead her to more job opportunities.

These benefits are now available across the state to tens of thousands of people.

High Performance and Lifelong Learning

Six blind men and an elephant

Most communities have dozens to hundreds of programs addressing various education and workforce issues. Almost all of these programs operate in independent siloes, with little coordination, economies of scale, or effective knowledge transfer. But are the issues really as different as they appear?

High Performance and Lifelong Learning skills

Underlying all of the problems, we believe, are a common set of issues related to a lack of personal High Performance skills and the skills and mindsets of Lifelong Learning.

High Performance and Lifelong Learning skills include:

  • Quantitative reasoning and professional literacy
  • Problem solving in real world contexts
  • The ability to learn effectively on your own
  • The skill of making thoughtful, informed career decisions
  • Intention to excel supported by persistence and attention to detail
  • Self-efficacy -- the self-confidence that comes from hard-earned success

These High Performance and Lifelong Learning skills are the foundations for success, whatever you do.

They develop personal resilience and allow an individual person to bounce back from challenges.

They build personal aspirations and allow individuals to grasp for opportunities.

They help students graduate from high school, enter college and succeed -- they are the skills of postsecondary access and completion.

They allow employees to enter rigorous training programs, excel at work, and gain promotions -- they are the skills of workforce development and employee upskilling.

In scale, they can transform the economic prosperity of a community.

CSM teaches High Performance and Lifelong Learning skills

CSM uses next-generation adaptive learning technology to simultaneously personalize instruction in academic and how-you-learn, -act and -feel domains. This single course has a surprising range of applications:

  • In a national research study, CSM had the largest math and literacy gains against gold-standard programs from McGraw-Hill and Pearson, and it gains college math credit through a recommendation from the American Council on Education.
  • On completing CSM, opportunity youth signed up for community college in large numbers and showed college persistence and degree attainment much higher than the national average for all students -- a reflection of their strong learning skills and mindsets, and their newfound self-efficacy.
  • In corporate upskilling and tuition assistance programs (e.g. JetBlue and health insurer AmeriHealth Caritas), there was near unanimity from course-takers that CSM made them more effective at work, improved problem solving and attention to detail, and made them more prepared and excited for further education. Note that course-takers ranged from frontline workers with high school diplomas to corporate managers with advanced degrees.

Equity Focus

The CSM Course does amazing remediation, but it isn't a "remedial course". It earns college math credit, and requires 100% correct answers on fill-in-the-blank questions -- that is, A-level work. While it is attainable by individuals from all backgrounds, it delivers world-class skills.

Because of this, the CSM Certificate is not a "them" certificate that "those people" get, but an "us" certificate with recognized value for everyone.

Excel Together

Addressing the entire community in a single program

CSM addresses the underlying problems (the "elephant") across a range of community issues by building High Performance and Lifelong Learning skills in schools, colleges, adult education, workforce development and workplaces. And because of this unprecedented range of use, instead of many different uncoordinated programs, CSM enables a new cohesive approach to simultaneously addressing many problems across a community -- this is the Excel Together Initiative.

Building local value in the CSM Certificate

It's not enough that CSM provides inexpensive, scalable, effective training and certification of High Performance and Lifelong Learning skills -- most adults need concrete incentives to engage in any education or training activities, and education and training programs need a good reason to add CSM to their offerings.

Excel Together addresses this by building value in the CSM Certificate in a local community through:

  • creating articulation agreements with local colleges to accept the CSM Certificate for math credit
  • working with businesses to recognize the value of the CSM Certificate, and provide hiring preferences to people who are CSM Certified

Building Training Capacity

Schools, adult education programs, and workforce development want their graduates to get into college and/or get good jobs (or more skills for better jobs, if you are an employer). By gaining college credit and hiring preferences for the CSM Certificate, teaching CSM becomes one of the most direct ways for these organizations to meet their missions and accountability targets.

These same incentives will draw individuals in the community into those programs. And with more individuals earning CSM Certificates, this builds the value of the credential and the interests of training providers to offer the CSM Course. Use of CSM in the community naturally increases.

SeeMore support and resources

Throughout the Excel Together initiative, SeeMore provides operational and marketing support to expand college credit and hiring incentives, to train and support local CSM coaches, to expand the range of training providers offering CSM, and to market the benefits of CSM to local individuals. All of this support is provided free through the Excel Together initiative.

Equity Focus

While the value of postsecondary training is now universally recognized, 49% of adults don't believe that they have the skills to benefit from postsecondary education (Strada-Gallup, 2020), and only a small fraction of adult education students are directed to postsecondary education.  

Excel Together allows people to build their college math skills and self-confidence without having to take the leap of matriculating at college. People might take CSM at adult education to prepare for a high school equivelency test, or for upskilling while on unemployment benefits, only to discover that they've finished their college math requirement, the scariest part of their degree!

CSM can reach college-resistant people, and transform them into into seeing themselves as potential postsecondary students.

A new approach to system change

Small changes, big results

System change is hard -- systems exists because they have many natural mechanisms to resist change. Excel Together identifies small levers (college credit, hiring preferences) that can move organizational and personal behaviors, transform systems and people's lives. The system doesn't even know that it's being changed, because it's all small, invisible changes that synergistically combine.

Low-cost, easy, and rapid implementation

Most community-wide programs start with getting everyone around a table to talk about how they can all work together -- this requires time and it can be hard to find consensus, with organizations worrying about intrusive coordination reducing their autonomy.

In contrast, Excel Together West Virginia began internally within the community colleges, and the resulting college credit then attracted the interest of the adult education distance coordinator and the head of TANF training, with interest then extending to the Director of the Office of Adult Education, which then led to an introduction to the head of Workforce WV, etc. There was no meeting at which everyone was together to discuss a new, major initiative in the state.

As each organization made internal changes in their organization, Excel Together West Virginia had more to offer other organizations (free use, college credit, preferred credential), making it more useful and likely for other organizations to join.

CSM is so inexpensive that existing funding streams could be identified to cover the cost. In addition, all of the activities were within current policy guidelines.

Equity Focus

One of the most successful college access and completion strategies is dual/concurrent enrollment. This strategy, however, is constrained in that often the high school must pay for the college credit, instructors must be college-qualified, and students must place into college-level classes. These constraints often exclude high schools with financial and instructor constraints and struggling students who don't place into college coursework, and makes it nearly impossible for adult education and workforce development programs to participate.

Excel Together enables any program to gain college math credit for its participants - just add the CSM Course into your curriculum! CSM is very inexpensive, doesn't require college-qualified coaches, and students do not need to place into college classes.

Contact us

We're on the lookout for partners across the US. If you're interested in learning more about Excel Together and how it might apply in your community, please fill in the form below, or write us directly at hello@smilabs.org.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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