Tri-County Cradle to Career



Whole child education connects and supports a young person’s academic learning by also attending to their social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and mental health development and needs.

The implementation of whole child education ideally anchors schools as hubs of their communities. It is a more effective and cost-efficient system of schooling that draws on cross-sector partnerships to ensure that all students reach their full potential and have the knowledge and skills to succeed in life and career. Whole child education builds a new education ecosystem co-created by young people and their families in partnership with educators both in and out of the PK-12 system.

The whole child approach builds on decades of research from the science of learning and development that defines the environments and experiences that children need to thrive.

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In October 2020, E3 and TCCC began a series of focus group engagements with the assistance of sustainable development research and evaluation company IM. Together with four strategic grassroots partners, eight community focus groups were conducted producing over 100 pages of narrative analysis, findings, and recommendations. In total, 52 individuals across three counties participated safely and virtually in community focus groups, and in two instances, participated in one-to-one follow-up virtual interviews with the moderator. The work was conducted in three phases.

During this time frame, October 2020 to February 2021, the effects of COVID-19 and systemic racism were inescapable. Focus group participants shared stories of distress, discrimination, faith, perseverance, illness, recovery, and having to lead in household decision making while overwhelmed by unknowns.

The decision to produce a qualitative report was a timely one. Experiential data from focus group participants was collected, coded, and synthesized with the highest degree of skill. The chief objective for qualitative researchers is to analyze experiential data accurately. Readers are encouraged to review all three project phases, especially their separate findings and recommendations, all in their deserving detail. Overall, it is experiential data provided by those surviving in real-time that is impactful.

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Regional Education Reports

Many factors that affect a child’s ability to learn are found outside the classroom and exist well before a child reaches school age. From prenatal care to strong relationships with positive adult role models, these factors can have a significant influence on a student’s likelihood for success. This report highlights some of the initiatives TCCC partners have already implemented to address the social issues that impact educational outcomes for children in our community. By maintaining focus on both factors inside the classroom and beyond, we have the opportunity to help every child succeed.

The use of data to guide decision-making and make continuous improvements is a key element of the collective impact approach. Eight “Core Indicators” that mark milestones along a student’s educational path from birth to workforce readiness were selected based on national research and broad community input. These Core Indicators appear on the pages that follow and are expressed for the region as a whole, with a preliminary look at where we are and where we have been. Their exclusive purpose is to guide our collaborations and serve as the primary measures of our community’s progress.

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Since our organization was formed, TCCC has focused on learning more about the state of education in our community, including how children are performing today, the factors influencing their performance and the history, relationships and circumstances shaping the response to those factors. Last year’s Regional Education Report focused on the state of our education system as measured by eight core indicators – making clear where we are starting from and establishing a way to track our community’s progress.

This year, in addition to providing updates on the core indicators and proposing preliminary targets for 2025, the report takes a closer look at our vision statements to see where we stand, what we’ve learned, what key factors we must address, and what we’re doing to start moving the needle.

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As a community-wide movement, Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC) has spent the last five years analyzing the state of education in the region in order to identify the factors that must be addressed to start moving the needle on our eight core indicators (see page 4). Annually, TCCC’s Regional Education Report benchmarks how well students are progressing by using data to understand where we are now, where we are going and what needs to be done to ensure every child is prepared for college or career.

In this Report, you will also find success stories and bright spots from throughout the tri-county region. Though there is much work still to be done, the region has seen the initial benefits of partners coming together around a common agenda. Through collaboration, and with each of you, we know this region will achieve even more. We encourage you to study the data in this report, ask questions, start community conversations, and keep working every day to ensure that every child is supported cradle to career.

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As a community, we have proven either unwilling or unable so far to provide from infancy the support that all children and their families need to be ready for school. Then when a student leaves high school, whether as a graduate or dropout, they are sent off largely unready and unsupported. This is systems failure at its worst and at a very high cost in human potential. It is not the fault of any one child, teacher, parent, principal or superintendent; indeed, many are making heroic efforts to change the system. Rather, it is every citizen’s responsibility.

This report is about provoking the disruption of the status quo so that meaningful, systemic improvement that results in significantly improved student outcomes takes place. “Constructive” disruption has the purpose of building something better. In the following pages, we will faithfully report the data that show little or no progress. We will also point to what needs to happen to overcome the inequity and injustice of what’s happening to our children and, frankly, to the adults doing their best within a system that is failing them as well.

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This report – for the fifth consecutive year – documents little progress in how well we, as a region, educate our children. As a result of our work, we’ve learned some things: We know it doesn’t have to be this way. We know every child has the ability to learn. We know systemic racism in education, and in other systems like housing and healthcare, is preventing significant numbers of children, through no fault of their own, from reaching their full potential. We know that despite the best efforts of many educators, the public education system widens the gap among white, Black and Hispanic children in every school.

Just reporting proficiency and readiness rates along with the 2025 targets – agreed upon by community leaders in 2016 – is no longer enough. It has become clear that insufficient attention to equity is the central issue impeding educational attainment. This report first identifies how inequity shows itself across the continuum (pages 5-11), then transitions to actions and disruptions that are needed to cause public education to support the success of every child from birth (pages 12-13). Systems change is hard, takes time and requires that all of us think and act differently with respect to equity for children.

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