Here’s some great news: There is an exciting community partnership here in Pima County that is making real improvements in the education and careers of our children and youth. The Cradle to Career Partnership brings together resources, data and people inspired to action — philanthropists, business organizations, school superintendents and leaders of nonprofits. Earlier this year I was fortunate to be asked to join this partnership, which is on a mission to provide all children and youth in Pima County with educational opportunities to succeed, from cradle to career.

I quickly discovered that this is no ordinary group — they are all business about changing key outcomes, fast.

For example, did you know that only one in six 3- to 4-year-olds in Pima County attends a high quality early education program? The research is undeniable: Children who have high-quality early education are far more ready for school than those who do not. Cradle to Career’s Kindergarten Readiness Network is improving the quality of child-care centers and day-care homes by focusing on what works: helping more early educators to get their degrees in early childhood education, and creating environments that stimulate learning.

After just one year, preliminary data is showing a marked improvement with now one in five 3- to 4-year-olds attending a high-quality program. The goal is one in three by 2020.

This kind of hard-nosed, data-informed and outcomes-driven approach is a distinctive characteristic of Cradle to Career. The statistic above is one part of seven focused goals in the partnership’s 2016 Baseline Data Report, which has had a galvanizing effect.

Two Change Networks, each comprising practitioners working collaboratively, have been launched: Kindergarten Readiness, and the Re-Engagement of Opportunity Youth (16- to 24-year-olds who are disconnected from school and work). The latter, known as Youth on the Rise, focuses on reaching these “opportunity youth” to provide the appropriate range of services. Youth on the Rise partners collaborated to launch the first Re-Engagement Center in June 2014. With Pima Prevention Partnership as the managing entity for the center, Cradle to Career has worked strategically to see more students with jobs and/or in school. Official updates for both efforts will be published in a March 2017 progress report. The other five goals for the partnership are: early grade literacy, middle school math, high school graduation, postsecondary education success and career attainment.

The Cradle to Career concept was developed by Strive Together, a national nonprofit organization that figured out this highly effective approach for communities to improve educational outcomes. There are four “gateways” that signal a partnership’s progress toward improving educational success.

There is a greater likelihood for sustained impact and improvement over time as a partnership moves into a new gateway. Our partnership has recently moved into the third gateway, and earned the Strive Together “Sustaining Partnership” delineation, which recognizes the progress made toward ensuring success for all Pima County children and youth.

We have much to do. As a “Sustaining Partnership” we are excited to continue working throughout our community to refine and improve our results.

By shining a light on areas of positive impact, we can continue to both align our actions and connect resources to ensure successful children, an engaged community and a thriving economy.

If, like me, you’re inspired by the sincere enthusiasm and results-oriented approach of our Pima County Cradle to Career Partnership, please learn more and how to help at

Andrew Comrie is senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Arizona, and a member of the Pima County Cradle to Career Leadership Council.