Pamela Conboy and Kent Scribner, AZ We See It | AZCentral.com, 10:07 a.m. MST April 18, 2015
Preparing our children for the future is the most important responsibility we have as a community. However, many of our children face obstacles that significantly affect their ability to succeed.
Many children and their families within the Thriving Together community struggle with poverty and all of its side effects. In many cases this includes families who are not always able to access the support systems and additional resources that children need to thrive. These factors inevitably affect classroom performance, which can set the child's academic career off track.
It is imperative that we work together to ensure that students and families can overcome those obstacles.
There are dozens of programs, initiatives and efforts within our schools to support students' success. An abundance of reading and math interventions already exist across the K-12 continuum. And our high schools have never been more focused than they are today on ensuring that our students are prepared for school and life beyond their graduation day.
We all want the same end result — student success. For these efforts to succeed they must be better coordinated.
Imagine if these efforts were organized in a way that put all stakeholders on the same page, and that we measured our efforts in a coherent manner that moves us to take immediate action to yield meaningful results. We're about to find out, thanks to a new initiative called Thriving Together.
Thriving Together is designed to better prepare a quarter-million young people who live within the greater Phoenix metropolitan area for success from birth to career. The unique initiative brings together resources from throughout the community to help students improve educational results as they reach key benchmarks in their development, placing and keeping them on a path to success.
Thriving Together uses data to identify what works inside and outside of the classroom. Where there's room to improve, Thriving Together draws on its resources to offer a path toward enhancing practices and programs. Similar partnerships in other cities have discovered that "silver bullet" solutions do not exist. Instead, they have found that coordinating resources and aligning efforts around a few proven practices results in dramatic improvement for students. Cincinnati, the first city to adopt this approach, is seeing improvement in 89 percent of their goals using this framework.
Thriving Together is a long-term endeavor that will marshal the resources of the business, education, philanthropic, non-profit, civic and faith communities to ensure children, youth and young adults succeed within the boundaries of the Phoenix Union high schools and its partner elementary schools — from the moment that child enters the world until entering a career.
As the anchor entity, Valley of the Sun United Way has secured private funding to bring Thriving Together to our community, while also providing significant infrastructure for the initiative. The many partners bring talent and expertise to the table to get the work done. Partnership resources include data analysis, communications and community engagement, among others.
Thriving Together focuses on several key benchmarks during the educational process where students can get off track, sometimes with detrimental results for their future. Those benchmarks are:
All are key pieces of the puzzle in preparing young people for careers — and if students fall behind at one stage, it affects all the subsequent stages.
Thriving Together is unique in the way it uses data to improve educational results. This is especially important, because it requires school districts to come together and share data in new and innovative ways. We are using data with the goal to replicate successful practices and wins districtwide.
hriving Together has already brought more than 200 strategic partners together from across the community whose expertise ensures the collaboration and accountability needed to create positive change.
These experts work through what we call Collaborative Action Teams to create improved results in each of their areas of focus. As the initiative progresses, we are focused on six key areas listed above and will initially focus on these four key milestones: third-grade reading, eighth-grade math, high school graduation and college readiness and college enrollment and attainment.
With this in mind, Thriving Together recently released its baseline report that provides insightful data around our benchmarks, and we will continue to release an annual report in the coming years to chart our progress.
Visit our website at www.thrivingtogetheraz.org for updates, and see how the work we embark on in the coming months and years moves the needle for our children and young adults.
Dr. Kent P. Scribner is superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District. Pam Conboy is lead regional vice president of Wells Fargo Arizona and chair of Valley of the Sun United Way. Both are co-chairs of Thriving Together.