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Reducing the need for remedial education through collective impact

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Creating an educated workforce in a particular region takes both big, well-funded, far-reaching efforts and smaller, more focused work that might not make a big difference in the grand scheme of things but makes a world of difference to the people served.
That's been the experience of the Columbus Foundation in its efforts to help their community raise the level of educational attainment in Columbus and central Ohio.
The big thing that has been four years in the making, says Dr. Lisa Courtice, Vice President of Community Research and Grants Management for the Columbus Foundation, is the creation of the Learn 4 Life organization. Learn 4 Life will serve as a backbone organization for a cradle-to-career initiative to help children and youth in Columbus have the chance to succeed.
It's modeled around the idea of collective impact, where community groups set aside turf battles and each do what they do best to attack a problem. At first, says Courtice, the main focus will be college readiness, ensuring that when students go to college they are able to do the work.
"Part of our community's intentional efforts have been to reduce the number of students with remedial education needs, so more student are leaving high school ready for college," Courtice says. "That is probably where I have found we can be most helpful in terms of creating momentum in our community."
To that end, Learn 4 Life has been working with college and university presidents as well as superintendents of schools in the region to make sure that  high school classwork aligns with what students will need in college. Along with third-grade reading, efforts have been aimed at helping students succeed in 8th grade math. Studies have shown that success there is a good predictor of success at college-level math later on.
Another, much smaller initiative Courtice has been involved in is the creation of a scholarship fund for students who were just a short time away from finishing college but would have had to withdraw due to a life crisis right before graduation, or who had fees that needed to be paid before they could be allowed to graduate. It's a small fund in both money and overall impact, but for a student who put in four years of hard work in school only to nearly see it slip away because of events beyond heir control, that funding coming at the right time made a huge difference. 
"It was not enough to move the needle in terms of graduation, but we cared about those students we were able to help," says Courtice.

Source: Dr. Lisa Courtice, The Columbus Foundation
Writer: Amy Kuras
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