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.
"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 had given up on herself, and the system had failed her. Now, her life is transformed.
These benefits are now available across the state to tens of thousands of people.
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?
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.