Earlier this year, partners were invited to share their perspectives and experiences of The Commit! Partnership as part of a national evaluation to better understand how communities come together to improve educational outcomes. Conducted by Equal Measure, this second annual “Cradle to Career Partner Survey” was administered here in Dallas, along with 15 other communities across the country. You can read the full report here, along with a brief summary slide deck here. Here are just a few of the takeaways: Our community continues to lead on a national stage: Of the 16 participating communities, the Commit! Partnership rated consistently higher across all communities in every category. We are improving our collective ability to do this work: The Commit! Partnership ratings increased from 2015 to 2016. Eliminating locally defined disparities and continuous improvement continue to be strengths. Areas for improvement remain: Among our opportunities to improve are broadening community knowledge of the partnership’s vision, expanding the diversity of perspectives informing that vision, mobilizing the contributions of parents and students, and more effectively bringing about public policy changes that support improved educational outcomes. Thanks to those partners who took the time to participate in the survey. This feedback will help us improve our collective efforts to improve outcomes for all children in Dallas County, from cradle to career.
By: Todd Williams, Executive Director of The Commit! Partnership Most people wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s a high correlation between student achievement and poverty across our nation. But closer data analysis also shows example after example of high poverty schools succeeding, despite poverty’s many challenges, outperforming their wealthier peers. Almost three in four Dallas County children in public schools now qualify for free or reduced lunch, and the city of Dallas ranks 3rd in the nation in child poverty. For a region so plentiful in resources, the disparities in our own backyard are both startling and indefensible. But we can’t let pervasive poverty constrain or overwhelm us. In order to prosper by ensuring every child receives a great education, we must identify practices that are helping students and teachers overcome poverty’s challenges and scale them. The Commit Partnership, a growing educational coalition of roughly 150 institutions including numerous school districts, foundations and non-profits, was founded in 2012. Its mission is simple but impactful: to double the number of area students achieving some type of post-secondary education. By bringing robust data and community expertise to the table, we are working closely together to align our abundant resources and scale what works. "Almost three in four Dallas County children in public schools now qualify for free or reduced lunch." We formed this unprecedented partnership because our current educational outcomes represent the greatest threat to our long-term future. In a competitive market requiring increasing skills gained through college or technical training, we can’t continue to graduate only 14% of our public K-12 students prepared for the next level. There isn’t enough workforce talent to import, and leaving our own children behind is not only morally wrong but financially unsustainable. Since its formation, Partnership review of campus level data has provided great hope, and recent analysis of 2014 results hasn’t changed our opinion. Poverty is NOT destiny. A quality education remains THE most effective solution to breaking poverty’s cycle…yet some claim it can’t be overcome without first solving it. In an increasingly fiscally conservative state, that’s akin to dismissing the power of effective educators while throwing up our hands and saying “we can’t be better”. But our own data shows that we can. Regardless of subject, Dallas County grade level achievement among schools with similar percentages of students considered economically disadvantaged or English language learners is tremendously dispersed, consistently ranging from 40% to 70% in levels of proficiency among schools with similar challenges. "Some high poverty schools are achieving at higher levels than schools with much lower levels of poverty..." Finally, because of valid concerns that “not all poverty is similar”, we looked at absolute elementary school rankings in both math and reading achievement. If “deep” poverty was the overriding factor, we’d expect to see county wide rankings relatively consistent…i.e. if a school’s 3rd graders ranked 100th in math achievement, we‘d expect a roughly similar ranking in reading that was also in line with the relative percentage of their students qualifying for the [...]