Valley school districts join forces to improve student success

FRESNO, Calif.

"The community should see a day like this as us standing together saying we're declaring a new future for our kids," said Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson.

This blueprint for change is the work of a new collaborative called "Fresno Area Strive" and is part of a national "Cradle to Career" movement now operating in 70 cities.

"Fresno Strive will serve the Fresno Metropolitan area in encompassing Central, Clovis, Fresno and Sanger School Districts serving 136,000 students. Plus another 54,000 students in our public and private higher education institutions," said Executive Director Eric Johnson.

Its purpose? To strengthen educational and support systems for students and families by joining community resources to better prepare them for higher education and/or careers.

"As the mayor of Fresno I can tell you that our success as a community will entirely be forged by whether or not we do right by our kids through their educational success," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

California State University Fresno President Dr. John Welty is credited for bringing the concept to Fresno and for being the key initiator of the project. He said it's a way for the community to join resources and work together to make a difference in the region.

"And our goal will be through baseline data to take a look at where we're doing well, where we're improving and if we're slipping back what steps we need to take," he said. "We also joined a network where we have access to national data and people that have solved some of the same problems we face in our community."

The partners have already identified six primary areas of focus in the Fresno Metropolitan area. At the top of the list are kindergarten readiness and high school graduation.

"The superintendents told us when we first started this out, if they aren't ready for kindergarten, we're playing catch up with them and in many cases they never catch up so we're focusing our efforts right now on the entrance to kindergarten," said Fresno Area Strive Executive Director Dr. Tom Crow.

As the P-16 Council for the County of Fresno, the Fresno Compact Board of Directors serves as the Executive Committee of the Fresno Area Strive program. In order to achieve change, it's reaching out to all levels of education, business, nonprofit, community, government and philanthropic sectors to achieve its mission.

As part of the campaign, the group will also focus on attendance, how connected students feel to school and physical fitness.

"It's not just about test scores and academics, do they have positive role models? Extra-curricular activities? Do they feel safe in school?" said Crow.

The hope is by pursuing partnerships, the districts can graduate every student and prepare them for the increasing demands of society and the workplace.

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