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How Fort Worth Uses Collective Action to Improve Education Outcomes

Fort Worth GradNation Community Summit

To raise graduation rates and increase postsecondary enrollment in Fort Worth, Texas, the city plans on harnessing the power of collective action.

“We are facing a crisis with our kids, and it has to be turned around,” said Betsy Mayor Price at the Fort Worth GradNation Community Summit, hosted by Price and Fort Worth SPARC, on Oct. 10.

More than 400 people attended the summit to shine a light on city’s education challenges and discuss what initiatives and programs can help improve student outcomes.

One challenge the city is trying to solve is a lack of postsecondary enrollment. While the Fort Worth Independent School District has a high school graduation rate of 81 percent, less than 25 percent of graduates will go on to get postsecondary degrees within six years.

“An educated workforce is the backbone of our city, and we need to create that culture,” Mayor Price continued.

‘Our kids are not problems to be solved’

In a student panel, students from Girl Scouts, Paschal High School, and Texas Christian University shared how caring adults helped them overcome personal challenges.

For one student from the Paschal High School Harvest Program, a simple question made all the difference. When he was homeless and beginning his education at a new school in Fort Worth, his principle asked him, “What do you need?” 

“I just want to go to school,” the student responded. “I need an environment to grow in.”

The school worked on meeting his basic needs so he could focus on his education. Today, he has a 4.2 grade point average.

“Our kids are not problems to be solved,” said Dr. Kent Scribner Superintendent of FWISD. “They are assets to be invested in.”

Collective Action in Action

Fort Worth Summit attendees

Fort Worth has created and partnered with a number of different programs designed to raise graduation rates for students and increase their odds of pursuing postsecondary education.

To help more third-graders read at grade-level, school, business, nonprofit, and other community leaders launched the Fort Worth Literacy Partnership on Sept. 26, which is committed to having 100 percent of third-graders reading at grade-level by the year 2025.

The city’s GO Centers provide students with mentors and physical spaces in schools and other locations for students to research career opportunities, college options, and financial aid.

To close the achievement gap and make college more accessible to students, school and community leaders are using AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college readiness system for elementary through postsecondary school that is designed to increase school-wide learning and performance.

Tobi Jackson, executive director of Fort Worth SPARC, said this is the kind of collective action that will improve educational outcomes for students: “Together, we are building a better Fort Worth into an optimum Fort Worth.”

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America’s Promise Alliance is working with community partners across the country to host 100 community summits through 2016. This initiative is part of its GradNation goal to reach a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate by 2020.

Each community summit convenes multi-sector leaders to identify challenges facing young people in their communities and develop strategies to address them.

To learn more about community summits or find one in your area, visit GradNation community summits.