The 2019 Annual Impact Report is now available. Learn about what we did in 2019 and where we are headed in 2020. Read more...
How much time does it take to change the way a system works? Or the way an organization works? Or even the way a single person works? From the onset, Building Our Future has taken the approach that Kenosha County is “program rich but system poor.” What this means is that we have a lot of people and programs doing great work, but, more often than not, they are doing their work separately. If they were able to work together, a much more powerful force could be created. In 2018, Building Our Future brought together 64 different organizations to form 3 networks and 62 individuals in our community engagement work to this point: creating a system that works for everyone in the county.
Outlined in our 2018 Annual Report, we’ve done much to lay a foundation and create the space for this work to happen. In Smart Beginnings, our network has done incredible work around increasing developmental screens (using the ASQ-3), increasing the number of screens over the year by 94%. Our Early Grade Reading network, though young, has created a multi-faceted strategy, combining landlords, older students, and encouraging a love for reading to expand out-of-school access to books. We’ve also worked closely with the United Way of Kenosha County to expand their tutoring program, Readers Are Leaders, to 3 more schools and 100 more students. Our College & Career Readiness work has created both an asset map and needs assessment in the county, and will see their factor exploration culminate in a meeting February 5th, wherein subject experts will convene and discuss factors that lead to high school truancy.
Our work has also supported efforts like the Lumina Talent Hub, a collaboration between Kenosha and Racine Counties on increasing Post-secondary Access and Success, and the Higher Education Regional Alliance (HERA), a confederation of post-secondary partners representing 96% of students in the M7 region.
There is, however, a long way to go. In spite of the great work our partners have done in the past year, our 3rd grade reading proficiency still sits at 39% and our 8th graders’ math proficiency is at 38%. In both subject areas, the percent of economically disadvantaged students who are proficient is about 30 percentage points fewer than their counterparts, and the proficiency gap between black and Hispanic students and their white counterparts ranges from 20-40 percentage points. These gaps perpetuate through high school completion, post-secondary enrollment and completion, employment, and average wages.
In 2019, our partnership will be looking to build on early success to reduce gaps delineated by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, so that every child can truly live up to their full potential. This includes implementing strategies, improving existing efforts, expanding our partners’ ability to use data, and even expanding our own team to emphasize community engagement.
How to Get Involved
If you live in Kenosha and care about future generations, you should grab a copy of the Baseline Report 2017 that was released by a local non-profit, Building Our Future.
Building Our Future is Kenosha County’s first cradle-to-career collective impact effort focused on education and workforce development.
The baseline report is filled with information that measures success in school, utilizing testing results along with demographics. It’s also important to know that the measurement going forward will be the same so that comparisons to the baseline will show areas of progress or areas of decline.
A report like this cuts several ways. It measures all students and then divides students up, depending on the color of their skin and if they come from an economically challenged environment.
Here’s the problem, many people see the indicators and make them the problem rather than a measurement of the problem. When some read a report like this, they extend their own, personal beliefs and use the measurements to blame others or make excuses for inequities.
We’ve heard the blame game many times: it’s the test’s fault, it’s the teacher’s fault, it’s the student’s fault, it’s the parent’s fault, it’s because they are black, it’s because they are white, it’s because they are poor, etc.
Here is one example of the data:
Third grade English/Language Arts (ELA): Measuring reading skills is important because research has shown that third-grade reading proficiency is linked to high school performance, graduation and college enrollment for Wisconsin students.
In Kenosha County, about 45 percent of the students are meeting state ELA norms for third grade, and 67 percent of economically disadvantaged students are below proficient standards. When it comes to race, 56 percent of white students are proficient, 13 percent of black students are proficient, and 27 percent of Hispanic students are proficient.
Did you just fall into the trap of casting your personal bias or beliefs on a group of students because of the way the measurement tool works? To be sure, when conclusions are drawn on the measurements instead of defining the real problem behind the measurement, polarization and lines in the sand are drawn and everyone starts pointing the finger at something or someone instead of digging deeper.
Editorial written by and published in The Kenosha News