Setting students up for success

Academic Success Mobilization Plan seeks to address student needs in a more holistic way.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

The folks at United Way of Dane County know that a good education is one of the building blocks of a stable life. That’s why UWDC’s Academic Success Community Solutions Team (CST), comprised of experts and community leaders with extensive knowledge of youth and education, have announced a new 2018–2022 Academic Success Mobilization Plan.

After reviewing the results of its 2014–2018 plan last year, the Academic Success CST determined that Dane County’s students are not equally in situations to thrive in the classroom and community, contributing to disparities in academic achievement. “Disparities are not an issue of potential, but rather of students not in a position to receive the same opportunities,” the updated plan notes.

Taking a deep dive into the data, engaging stakeholders including youth and parents, and evaluating the effectiveness of UWDC’s collaborations, the Academic Success CST discovered that in order for students to succeed academically and graduate high school prepared for higher education, careers, and community, they need a set of skills and abilities beyond academic success that is solely measured by academic content mastery. Therefore, strategies of this updated mobilization plan amplify coordinated efforts to improve students’ mental and social-emotional health.

“The mobilization plan is declaring that we understand that in order for children to graduate at incredibly high rates, we have to support them in a holistic way,” says Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent and chair of United Way’s Academic Success CST. “An investment in children and their families is an investment in our community. It’s the most important work we do.”

In this Academic Success Mobilization Plan 3.0, UWDC establishes new community goals that the organization collaboratively expects to achieve in the next five years:

  • At least 95% of all students in Dane County will graduate high school in six years.
  • To meet and exceed this ultimate goal, the community will produce accelerated outcomes for students of color and students from low-income families, achieving an interim goal of a 90% or higher by 2022.

To reach its goals, The Academic Success CST recommends the following strategies:

  • Strategy 1: Facilitate access to additional learning opportunities to enhance students’ mastery of academic content, and continue to focus on third grade reading, eliminating summer reading loss, and completion of algebra by 10th grade. Proficiency in core subjects of math and literacy are critical.
  • Strategy 2: Build students’ social/emotional and non-cognitive skills. Focus on building non-cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies in the areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. These are traits and habits that employers look for in employees and that help students succeed.
  • Strategy 3: Ensure students’ behavioral health and wellness. National research and local experience confirms the importance of providing behavioral health supports that remove or minimize barriers to learning.
  • Strategy 4: Foster connection, belonging, leadership, and academic success with opportunity youth (disconnected or at risk of disconnecting). Engagement and academic achievement go hand-in-hand.
  • Strategy 5: Recognize that family engagement is a key component to improve student success.

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