(Tulsa Voice) New Initiative Aims to Improve Education with Data-Driven Strategies

(Tulsa Voice) New Initiative Aims to Improve Education with Data-Driven Strategies

BY KATHY TAYLOR

For decades, compassionate people who care about education have worked tirelessly to increase student success in order to keep America competitive in a global economy. We have added a multitude of programs and private resources, yet we are still disappointed with the pace of change. We are program rich but system poor. We loudly rail against dismal schoolhouse grades but fail to produce data that can be used as a flashlight to diagnose opportunities for improvement. Despite our well-intentioned efforts, too many children are falling through the cracks.

The old way of doing things is simply not working. Collectively, we are missing the mark. Kindergarteners are too often entering school unprepared, and sadly, they never catch up. Far too many third graders aren’t reading at grade level. Each year, more than 2,400 kids in the Tulsa area drop out of high school. This drastically limits their opportunities in life and negatively impacts the economies of the cities in which they reside.

Enter ImpactTulsa, an unprecedented regional partnership with a new way of working together to address what we believe is the calling of our time: working as a community to improve education results and student success. In April 2014, a diverse group of leaders—from superintendents, school board members and university presidents, to local funders, CEOs, ministers, parents and concerned citizens—came together under the ImpactTulsa umbrella to declare their commitment to work with one another in a new way. Already, the results are exciting and a growing energy has emerged the desire for changeand the genuine belief this will work.

Why is ImpactTulsa different? It is locally driven with grassroots buy-in and commitment. It uses relevant data to build a road map for continuous improvement, not a reason to point fingers. It identifies best practices and develops plans to spread those practices at the local level, by individual districts and schools—the practitioners on the ground. ImpactTulsa is data-driven action at its best and most sustainable—not a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Together, we have developed a community partnership that has:

  • Agreed on a common set of measurements meaningful in determining the success of a student from birth to employment.
  • Joined to combine data, identify best practices and share that information with partners.
  • Agreed to align resources to spread what works across our region, with a common vision that guarantees every child in our community has a pathway to a quality education.

ImpactTulsa relies on the proven theory of continuous improvement through the use of relevant and reliable measurement to drive decisions. It utilizes an approach of shared accountability an “all hands on deck” community approach with collaboration and no excuses. It calls for putting individual agendas aside to focus on the best outcomes for kids. It asks donors to give less emotionally and more intentionally, based on what the data shows is working.

This new approach has been launched in communities across the country, and it’s working. The philosophy behind this movement fits perfectly with how the Tulsa region has always stepped up when faced with challenges—whether it was implementing a nationally acclaimed early childhood education program, increasing focus on STEM education or ensuring every kid in the area achieves a postsecondary degree without debt.

Tulsans always rise to the occasion when presented a challenge, and now they are doing it once again. This is an unmatched opportunity to join together, not to assign blame, but focus on solutions, arm in arm. Our attention is laser-focused on’ kindergarten readiness, literacy and math, high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment and completion. We will use shared measurements to ensure strategic data-driven investments that provide the best path to success for our kids and our economy.

We invite you to join this partnership today by signing our partnership pledge at impacttulsa.com, sharing the message and coming to Tulsa Community College’s Center for Creativity, Oct. 21 at 5:30 p.m. ImpactTulsa partners will share our first community impact report—which shows our regional education attainment and identifies areas where we can begin to make positive change.

If we want to move forward faster and with better education results than ever before—we must do it together. Join our Partnership. Join ImpactTulsa.

This article appears in the October B 2014 issue of The Tulsa Voice

Kathy Taylor
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