Over the past year the Summit Education Initiative (SEI) has been busy paving a new way, like never before to ensure students success in Summit County.
With lots of local and national research behind them, they’ve concluded what they believe it takes for kids to be successful from “cradle to career”.
They’ve accomplished this by mapping out crucial points in student’s lives and making sure they meet each mark on the road to success.
Currently SEI has a county scorecard on their website (www.seisummit.org) that shows specifically where we stand as a county. It also lists the transition points as of last year, as well as the countywide goal for each one of those transition points.
The Ultimate Goal
Overall, SEI’s ultimate goal is to increase the level of college and educational achievement across the county.
“It’s our goal because we know from research that if you have increased educational achievements there are all kinds of positives, besides bettering individual regional prosperity,” Daren Wimer, Executive Director of SEI , said.
Research shows that with better educational attainment the rate of poverty and unemployment goes down, the level of household income increases and there are all kinds of other positive indicators that occur in the community.
“That’s where everything is pointing – to ultimately increase educational data – because that makes greater individual and regional prosperity. It also means that the graduates have choices rather than consequences when they pick schools,” Wimer explained.
Where Things are at Now
Right now the county educational attainment shows that 37.6% of 25 year olds or older have an associate’s degree or higher, which SEI would like to see increase.
“We’re right in the middle of beginning that conversation with the different stakeholders in the community about what we should shoot for,” Wimer said.
They are working with stakeholders to determine goals and timelines in this area.
Another half of SEI’s effort emerging this year involves organizations who provide out-of-school-time programs.
“It’s all the organizations – mostly funded by foundations – that are working with children and youth after school and in the summertime – non-school time. They’re bringing all kinds of access to help kids,” Wimer shared.
SEI is working to make sure their efforts are all aligned to help the kids be successful in their schooling.
United Way in particular is really encouraging their out-of-school time providers to work with SEI. They even provided SEI with a monetary donation to support their work.
The GAR and Akron Community Foundation are also encouraging their funded organizations to work with SEI. Tallmadge schools are very involved as well.
Partnerships with Schools
Forming partnerships with school districts in the county has allowed SEI to analyze data and give it back in a way that is helpful to student’s success in a way like never before.
“We can say, given the profile of your student population, ‘These are the levels of performance that predict success at the next transition point’. Then we can facilitate conversations at the district leadership level or the building leadership level to get them to the point that they understand the profile of their grade levels or class rooms,” Wimer explained.
This includes which students are on track for success and which students need increased attention and support, and to have meaningful and productive conversations around that.
Staying on Track
“It’s like checking your cholesterol or blood pressure. When you check those things it’s so you can stay on track. Doctor’s don’t look at your cholesterol, see that it’s high and say ‘well that’s it’. We act. We collect data in order to act on that,” Dr. Matthew Beevers said.
“So our goal is always to make sure that when we’re having conversations about student achievement that we’re having this conversation so we can increase opportunities for all students rather than using data as a way to decide we’re not going to make it. We need data as a way to say ‘you can make it against the odds if we invest the right energy and strategies’,” he continued.
How to get Involved
For those with a passion for education and helping in this area, SEI is more of a “backbone,”research organization. They don’t run programs, but they do have suggestions how to support the cause.
“We recommend that people contact their neighborhood schools, whether it’s their child’s school or not, and engage at that level. Or contact any of the out-of-school time providers; they’re all looking for help and support with the work they’re doing,” Wimer shared.
The Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Sisters and asking someone at the United Way of Summit County how you can get involved are all great ideas as well.
“That’s a way you can get really engaged”,” Wimer said.
“United Way specifically has an online system where people can register and express their interest in volunteering and even express what they’re interested in, and there’s a way they connect them with agencies that are looking for help. That’s a nice little clearing house,” Beever said.
In the meantime, keep checking back here for more stories and information on the educational system here in Summit County.
Also, for volunteer opportunities you can visit: www.uwsummit.org .