Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cradle to Career Movement Gives Teachers a Boost in Fostering Student Success!

Last night, I attended the LEAF annual talent fest, a benefit for the St. Cloud school district's educational foundation. A fabulously talented group of students, sang, danced, delivered comedic routines, and wowed a packed house at the Paramount. Tech Graduate, Mark Scharenbroich, of Nice Bike fame, emceed the program, and after watching the first act, he asked teachers and coaches in the audience to stand up for a huge round of applause.

We were witnessing the results of the combined efforts of children, parents and dedicated teachers. It got me to thinking, what if the great teachers we have in St. Cloud, had a whole lot more help from the community at large to assure that all students had their talents developed as the students who performed on the stage. Just think how it would transform our community, if we all worked together to make sure that the talents of none of our children is wasted! Suppose that all of our students were prepared for a successful career. Suppose that everyone, from parents, to communities of faith, to the professional community and business, started by believing that if we work together, we can realize the talents of all of our children. Suppose we gave our great teachers a boost and said, hey, they can't do this all by themselves. Let's give them a hand!

Earlier in the week, I heard a presentation on the efforts of the Cincinnati Strive consortium to do just that. Cincinnati "Strive Together" is a regional network that strives to assure that all children in the Cincinnati region are successful "from cradle to career." The thrust of the initiative is to marshal community assets in a coordinated way. By assets, I mean families -- parents and children, faith communities, non-profits, public and parochial schools, seniors, the business community, technical colleges and universities. By cradle to grave, I do not mean that the government takes over the rearing of children, or that family responsibilities become government responsibilities. On the contrary, the idea of success "from cradle to career" is to use existing resources, public and private, more wisely, with more accountability, targeted to clear measurable objectives.

Across the country, a variety of urban regions are adopting the strive model for reviving, restoring, and preserving their most precious resource -- the next generation. Cincinnati Strive Together writes:
Education is perhaps the most important engine of economic growth and individual financial gain, and there is little doubt that our success in growing a stronger economy and lifting incomes will depend on getting better results in education, cradle to career. To achieve these results, for every child, every step of the way, from cradle to career Greater Cincinnati leaders at all levels of the education, nonprofit, community, civic, and philanthropic sectors are working together as part of the Strive Partnership to tackle some of our most pressing challenges, and to take advantage of some of our biggest opportunities.

As such, the Strive Partnership serves as a catalyst for working together, across sectors, and along the educational continuum, to drive better results in education, so that every child is Prepared for school, Supported inside and outside of school, Succeeds in school, Enrolls in some form of post-secondary education and Graduates and enters a career.

The Portland area has adopted the Strive model as well. "A broad coalition is coming together across Portland and Multnomah County to create an accountability framework known as cradle to career. Portland State University is leading the effort with the Leaders Roundtable, cabinet members of Mayor Sam Adams and County Commission Chair Jeff Cogen and others to replicate an approach first developed in Cincinnati. Portland's first Community Report was issued last November."

A community with high levels of educational attainment provides far-reaching social, cultural, and economic benefits. Evidence is clear that a better-educated population reduces unemployment, crime, welfare dependence, and the need for costly interventions and incarceration. Educational success also contributes to quality-of-life advantages such as the arts, civic engagement, and vibrant urban neighborhoods. Some of these benefits can be quantified by dollars. For example, increasing the number of individuals who earn a two-year or four-year degree by age 24 by 1 percent is estimated to boost the local economy by $1.6 billion annually.

The first Portland Community Report explained:
We have come together to develop a comprehensive and data-driven strategy to analyze both our educational and our social/community indicators so that all students can succeed. We are laying important groundwork so that decision making by parents, educators, government policy makers, business leaders, and others can be based on evidence. Data and analysis help leaders support programs and practices that work and help them reject those that don’t.
In Cincinnati, community leaders came together to form an executive leadership team, representing university, non-profits, government, business, and K-12 education. They agreed to focus on three key student success indicators and to prod all elements of the community to work to lend their efforts to improve performance in those areas.

The Catholic diocese joined with the Strive effort building on over two decades of support for improving educational results in the community. At one time, parochial schools in southern Ohio had been regarded more as an escape from school integration. But Archbishop Joseph L. Bernedin believed that Catholic education must be a part of the effort to end the cycle of poverty in Cincinnati. He argued that the cycle of poverty could only be broken through education and made it his mission to help children coming from disadvantaged households. As result the Catholic Inner-City Schools Education Fund (CISE) was created.
CISE began as a ministry to children from poor neighborhoods to help them overcome challenges using the knowledge, faith and discipline that comes with a Catholic school education. Today, the fund makes a quality education available to families in need across the Tri-State. Students are presented with an excellent faith-based education, strong curriculum and caring individual attention from staff, teachers and principals. CISE helps with tuition costs, academic enrichment programs, operating expenses, intervention professionals and capital investments in Cincinnati private schools.

Currently, CISE aids about 1,400 students in Catholic elementary schools and more than 200 CISE alumni in Catholic high schools. Most of these students are being supported through scholarships funded by targeted donations from supporters of CISE. And so Catholic education is an integral and formal part of the community initiative.

The diocese explains:
Across the greater Cincinnati area, disadvantaged students thrive in inner city Catholic schools thanks to the great commitment from principals, teachers and staff. In the past three school years, about 95 percent of CISE students graduated from private high schools and about 88 percent of students went on to higher education at institutions such as Vassar, Xavier University and the United States Military Academy at West Point. This Cincinnati-based program is the perfect case study for other Catholic schools around the nation. CISE clearly shows the importance of Christian schools’ ministry to inner city students and what can be achieved when those students are given the tools to succeed.
In St. Cloud, we have begun to look at ways that we can energize the entire community to become more actively involved in a community wide effort to assure student success. The District has developed success indicators that are more ambitious, even, that the goals established by Cincinnati's "strive together." You can find the scorecards that we use to measure our progress towards those objectives on on the web by clicking here. But what we have not yet been able to do is to build a community momentum of support behind those objectives.

Look. I know from experience that we have fabulous teachers in the St. Cloud and other area schools. But the truth of the matter is that they can't overcome today's obstacles all by themselves. How could we get everyone on board to make our schools better together? How could we create a culture of parental responsibility in this community? How could we encourage employers, seniors, governmental leaders, parochial school leaders, and the media to get on board on a community wide effort to drive up success of our children? Perhaps Cincinnati's efforts show us the way.

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