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Total community, birth-to-career:  Studying the Cincinnati/Strive Experience

Date Published: 06/26/2011


For a lesson in how effective we all can be when business, nonprofits and public education work together, check out this ABC News success story on Cincinnati's Taft Information Technology High School and its effort to boost success and achievement for disadvantaged kids.

Over the next three days I'll be blogging on education issues directly from Cincinnati, where I'm joining a contingent from Grand Rapids and the Blandin Foundation to learn about some encouraging progress in Greater Cincinnati, including northern Kentucky and the rural Appalachian area. A key catalyst in this regional approach is the Strive Partnership, which is being studied also as a possible template for a broader community initiative in the Twin Cities.

Blandin is mounting what I'd describe as a "total community" effort at improving student success, focusing on the north-central rural area it serves in Itasca County, and enlisting business owners, school district officials and a wide swath of other public, private and nonprofit leadership. An important explicit principle in this Blandin initiative is "unprecedented community support."

If the philosophy behind the Strive and Blandin thinking had to be summed up in 10 words or less, I'd choose "total community and total pipeline, cradle-to-career." In other words, involvement and commitment by every significant player in the community, not just the schools and teachers, and simultaneous attention to all potential leaks in the pipeline, not just one or two magic patches or reforms to this or that segment of the education continuum.

At Growth & Justice, we've already done some preliminary work with a policy brief about Cincinnati School District success and we've summarized the gist of these lessons in a Capitol Report op-ed in April. For several years now our primary policy advocacy focus has been on driving Minnesota to much higher post-secondary attainment levels with a comprehensive Smart Investment in Minnesota's Students agenda, beginning in early childhood and continuing to career preparation and job readiness.

We Minnesotans, owing to our mostly deserved reputation as above-average in almost everything, can be complacent, and provincial, even smug. As my mother always said, "pride goeth before the fall" and we are falling behind on some important measurements of school success, especially for kids of color and in low-income households. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Americans in other states and billions of people around the world are trying to do better by their children and their schools, and we most certainly can learn from them.

Stay tuned!!

--Dane Smith



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