Recently the United Way of Southeast Missouri announced its "Mobilization Plan for Ensuring the Success of Our Children," a report filled with recommendations on how to meet its clear and ambitious goal of increasing the graduation rate to 90 percent in the Cape Girardeau School District by 2018-2019.
The 61-page report sets forth 10 strategies for dropout prevention: providing quality early childhood care; connecting families with resources; engaging students; focusing on attendance; focusing on literacy; promoting high expectations of all students; expanding gifted programs; identifying and addressing critical needs early; leveraging and aligning existing support systems; and engaging families in the importance of education.
The organization has outlined four strategies for immediate implementation to help achieve these goals. These include: Developing forums for parents to learn what tools are available for them to help their child succeed; increasing mentorship and tutoring; increasing cultural awareness training at schools and in neighborhoods; and showing teachers our appreciation on a regular basis.
The 100 plus Cape Girardeau-area leaders in attendance to learn about the United Way plan also had a chance to hear from Chris Nicastro, Missouri's commissioner of education.
Nicastro gave the state's academic performance a C grade, and in an effort to spearhead improvement, she outlined in a video four goals, which she said mirror the United Way's goals, under the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Top 10 by 20 initiative. These goals include:
* All Missouri students will graduate college career-ready.
* All Missouri children will enter kindergarten prepared to be successful in schools.
* Missouri will prepare, develop and support effective educators.
* DESE will improve departmental efficiency and operational effectiveness.
These are important goals, especially considering Nicastro's statement that in a few years "70 percent of the jobs in the state are going to involve some sort of advanced degree."
While strategies to meet these education goals, both on the state level and locally, have been outlined, success will only be attained through a collaborative approach. The United Way recognized in their report that families, schools and the community all play a vital role in our students' education.
The school year might be winding down, but the local drive to improve graduation rates isn't. Consider today what role you might play in this effort.