One smart goal

October 10th, 2014

News Coverage:

Published: October 10, 2014 3:00 a.m.

One smart goal

Education enhancement has economic benefit

Northeast Indianas Big Goal Collaborative has its own big goal, which is probably the place to start when considering its progress. The end game is to raise the region's lagging per-capita personal income figure to the national average, in turn injecting an extra $1.2 billion into the local economy and raising the standard of living.

To get there, we need better-paying jobs, and those better-paying jobs need better-educated employees. The Big Goal Collaborative aims for 60 percent of the region's residents to hold a college degree or high-quality credential. That's the percentage of jobs that will require higher educational attainment in 2025, according to research from Georgetown University. With just 37 percent of residents holding a degree or certification today, there's much work to be done.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership on Wednesday released a snapshot on the state of education, designed to gauge progress toward the Big Goal since it launched in 2012. But the snapshot also adds a note of urgency: At the current rate of progress, the region will fall far short, with just 45 percent of residents with post-secondary training by 2025. There's much work to do.

The collaboration piece of the Big Goal Collaborative is the work of five groups targeting specific education areas, including early childhood learning, kindergarten to grade 8, high school completion, technical education and post-secondary completion. Each of those groups has set goals intricately tied to the ultimate Big Goal.

The early childhood learning group's goal of increasing the percentage of children who start school ready to learn, for example, sets the foundation for school success down the line. The high school completion group's goal of raising graduation rates is key to ensuring the region's residents can go on to earn a degree or certification.

A closer look at the snapshot shows exactly where work is needed. For the K-8 proficiency measure on 8th grade language and math test scores, the overall regional rate of almost79 percent proficiency falls to just over 59 percent for children from low-income homes. Bolstering math and English skills in students from poverty could place or keep those students on the path toward graduation and college.

The Big Goal Collaborative is using a framework developed by the Strive Partnership, a successful program in the Cincinnati area built on four “pillars” designed to improve academic success in the region's urban core.

One of those pillars is developing a shared community vision, which is what the annual scorecard is intended to do, according to Ryan Twiss, the Big Goal Collaborative's director.

“What the real purpose is, is to gauge our movement, not at the super high-level outcomes, but on the smaller goals,” he said. “If we can move these, we can better reach the Big Goal. It's a call to action – an opportunity to create more of that shared vision.”

Answering the call can be as simple as volunteering. The Allen County Education Partnership's Project Read is one opportunity to help struggling young readers and, in turn, help increase the number of area students reading at grade level by the third grade.

There are plenty more opportunities through the groups targeting different levels of the education continuum.

If it all seems too daunting, go back to the end game: Raising the per-capita personal income figure for northeast Indiana to the national average injects $1.2 billion more into our economy and improves quality of life for us all. It's a goal worth pursuing.