PLATTSBURGH — Less than 20 percent of all ninth graders make it to the post-secondary finish line, says State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
“That is unacceptable.”
So with her help, Clinton County became the first rural community in the nation to join the Strive Network.
Strive is an evidence-based education reform initiative with a proven track record of improving student success in Cincinnati and Kentucky school districts since it was created in 2006. The cradle-to-career network brings together regional civic organizations, school districts, business and industry, colleges, and elected officials to improve the education pipeline in Clinton County.
“We need to do something about student attrition in our community,” Zimpher said, speaking at Clinton Community College.
She said it must stretch beyond schools to families and the neighborhood.
“Establishing a cradle-to-career network and obtaining the deep but necessary commitment from all involved is no small task, but the challenges are ultimately overshadowed by the rewards that these networks bring to communities and students,” Zimpher said.
Strive, co-created by Zimpher, has positively impacted college and high-school graduation rates, fourth-grade reading and math scores, and the number of preschool children prepared for kindergarten.
Part of the challenge is determining where differences can be made, Zimpher said. It might mean ensuring children come to Kindergarten ready to learn or smoothing that transition from middle to high school.
“We don't have millions of dollars to buy our way out of student attrition,” Zimpher said. “What we have are our own hands at work. We need to reinvent the way we do our work.”
The four pillars of Strive are shared community vision, evidence-based decision making, collaborative action and investment and sustainability.
“Help them see their best investment is to invest in evidence-based strategies that will give them a better return on their investment,” Zimpher said.
Over the past five years, Strive has helped boost eighth-grade math scores in Cincinnati by 15 percent and increased college enrollment by 10 percent. Its success spurred many regions across the country to adapt the concept, including several areas in New York State, with the assistance of SUNY.
Garry Douglas said a key step is developing an appetite for education as a transformational power in life early on. The president of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce thinks that appetite is lacking in many families.
“The clearest way to increase appetite is to have good jobs.”
Paul Grasso, executive director of the North Country Workforce Investment Board, stressed closing the achievement gap.
“We need to engage people sooner in the education process,” he said. “We need to instill in them the importance of education. We find with the young people we deal with that education has no value, so we need to instill in them the values they need to have at a younger age.”