United Way’s Learn Well education initiative is extending its focus to include at-risk youth in grades 9 through 12. Starting this fall, strategies to help high school students graduate on time prepared for college or a career will be added to current work supporting academic success at the preschool, elementary and middle school levels.
A strategic design team of about two dozen educators, business leaders, health and human service providers, faith-based leaders and community advocates met over four months to identify the strategies that would be most effective in increasing high school graduations.
They examined local and national data and best practices and heard input from Tarrant County principals, staff and students. Ultimately the strategic design team identified three strategies:
- Supporting and engaging parents in their child’s academic career
- Improving student performance and engagement
- Creating a collaborative system of support
“We know from talking with parents that they don’t always know how to help their children at home or how to be involved when time, energy and money are in short supply,” said Emily Furney, United Way Community Development Vice President. “Students don’t always understand the consequences of their actions, or they have trouble juggling school, athletics and work. Some feel there is not enough time to learn or get help during school.”
United Way is seeking proposals from Tarrant County school districts who are interested in using collaborative partnerships with community organizations to implement the three identified strategies using research-based practices. During the coming school year, 9th grade students at risk of dropping out of high school will be the focus. In year two, United Way will support services for new 9th graders as well as 10th grade participants. Services will expand annually until they cover 9th through 12th grade. United Way and an independent evaluator will be closely involved, monitoring progress and offering suggestions for any needed course correction.