For the Commit! Partnership to become a true “cradle to career” effort, we must better align our education system to the demands of our regional workforce. As part of last Thursday’s Community Action Breakfast, stakeholders representing K-12 and higher education, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector came together to review some initial data and discuss two critical topics:

  1. Alignment between Postsecondary Education and the Workforce, with a focus on “soft skills”
  2. Student achievement in Math and Science in Grades 4-12

While seemingly distinct, employers often identify a combination of these “soft” (or non-cognitive) and academic skills as those most essential to success in the workplace.

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So, what programs in our community are developing non-cognitive skills (teamwork, oral communication, perseverance, etc.), and how do we know they work? A variety of programs – art-based, leadership development, internships – surfaced. While non-cognitive skills are notoriously difficult to measure, the group shared some ideas already in practice, including longitudinal data (attendance, discipline referrals, etc.) and other teacher-derived measurements.

The next discussion topic centered on Math and Science education in Grades 4-12. Given the large variance in performance between schools, especially between those with large numbers of economically disadvantaged students, the group brainstormed possible ways to bridge this gap, including career exposure (especially in the middle school years), in- and out-of-school curriculum design, and investing more heavily in teacher recruitment and development.

This rich discussion was the first step in a longer process to begin scoping collaborative work. If you’re interested in contributing ideas or input as the process unfolds, please contact Sagar Desai at sagar.desai@commit2dallas.org.