Cradle to career: Education matters in our community

In 2016, we began a strategic planning process to understand what we need to focus on to continue being a thriving, growing, competitive community. That process resulted in Believe Greater Dalton, a five-year strategic plan for our communities.

One of the key strategies that came from this process is a focus on education. The goal of our education initiative is to bring stakeholders (businesses, nonprofits, parents, educators and others) from across the community to the table to drive continuous improvement in educational outcomes for our students.

To accomplish this goal, we decided to implement the Strive model of collective impact; a model that has already been implemented in more than 70 communities nationwide. The mission of Strive is to ensure every child can succeed from cradle to career. Collective impact is bringing together different entities all invested in the success of our students and aligning our initiatives and resources to best serve the children of our community. Using Strive, we hope to remove barriers and ensure every child can be successful in Greater Dalton.

A year ago we hired Stephani Womack to as the director of our Education Partnership. For the past 12 months, Stephani and our Education Leadership Council, made up of community leaders, educators, nonprofit entities and community members, has been meeting to discuss education in our community. We are focused on six key areas across the education continuum: kindergarten readiness, early grade reading, middle grade math, high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment and post-secondary completion.

Each of these six key focus areas has a team of people, called collaborative action teams, devoted to it. The action teams met monthly to assess data, determine where our community currently stands in that focus area and place goals for how we hope to improve in that area as a community.

Tonight, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Stage 123 in downtown Dalton, we will release our Education Baseline Report. This report will show community level data that assesses where we currently stand in the six focus areas and show how we hope to improve. In addition to the data, we will highlight the factors that impact success in each focus area and the ones we are specifically working on. Additionally, we’ll discuss our plans for this next academic year. Now that we have established our baseline, we know where we need to improve and can work to address the opportunities.

This model is not about blaming or correcting our school systems. While we are focused on improving education outcomes, we also have many education achievements to be proud of. At its core, this model helps to build bridges amongst community partners, align resources and provide supplemental support to our educators and our children so that every child has the resources to be successful. We hope you make every effort to join us at this critical event tonight at Stage 123.

Brian Cooksey and Joe Yarbrough are Believe Greater Dalton Education Partnership co-chairs.

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