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.
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