Times are calling for a dramatically different means of supporting student success.

According to the Annie E. Casey 2014 Kids Count report, Arizona ranks 44th in the nation in education. We have consistently remained in the 10 worst performing states for more than a decade regardless of which institution is doing the ranking. Education Week, The Arizona Republic and even the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council all rank this state as underperforming.

The problem is these rankings come out and we do a fine job at complaining about the situation and an even better job casting blame, but there has not been focused coordinated action at the local level to offer up a solution. For decades, our community has worked to improve child and student achievement through a set of piecemeal reforms and siloed systems and programs.

Today, despite these collaborative efforts, statistics show that not much has changed.

The time has never been more urgent and I believe our community is ready for something different. United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona convened a small group of leaders in September to learn about a methodology 55 other communities are using to move education outcomes for children from birth to career.

This approach was first promoted by community leaders in Cincinnati, and an effort was launched in 2006 to target what was labeled as a problem of “being program rich and system poor.” Their effort, known as the Strive Partnership, is contributing to several key outcomes in its region, including a 16 percent increase in the number of fourth-graders reading at grade level, a 24 percent increase in the number of eighth-graders passing state math standards and a 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates.

This small group of Pima County leaders has grown to 35 and is proposing a countywide partnership to use the same methodology. What’s different about this effort as compared to what has been attempted in the past is that it isn’t a program and it isn’t about taking a curriculum or set of services that worked in another community and plopping them here.

It’s about developing infrastructure in our community to collect, share and use data to scale up and enhance what works as well as further test promising practices, strategies and interventions to get results for all children and youth. Goals of this proposed partnership include:

  • Every child is prepared for school.
  • Every child succeeds in school.
  • Every youth who is not in school reconnects to education and career pathways.
  • Every youth graduates from high school college and career ready.
  • Every youth has the opportunity to attain a postsecondary credential leading to a career that can sustain a family.

Each of these goals will be measured by seven shared outcomes each with its own set of detailed measurements. These outcomes include:

  • Kindergarten readiness.
  • Early grade reading proficiency.
  • Middle school math proficiency.
  • High school graduation.
  • Re-engagement of opportunity youth.
  • Postsecondary enrollment.
  • Postsecondary completion.

The community has an opportunity to learn more about this approach, hear how other communities have made this work and become involved by attending the Community Interactive on Education being presented Thursday by Arizona Public Media and the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. Attend and be a part of the solution.

Amanda Kucich is the senior director of youth development at the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and the lead staff member developing a cradle-to-career collective impact partnership in Pima County. Contact her at akucich@unitedwaytucson.org