Talent Dividend Work

A signed promise for college success

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Talent Dividend efforts in Cleveland are built on two cornerstones: data, and a declaration. 

The Higher Education Compact is an agreement signed by Mayor Frank Jackson, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, partners from 15 Ohio colleges and universities and over 60 community and foundation partners in a formal declaration ceremony in October 2011.

"This is a whole-community effort to create a more college-going culture in Cleveland," says Maggie McGrath, Program Associate at the Greater Cleveland Foundation. "The conversation is so aligned. The Compact has given our partners the inroads to see the big picture and to be strategically supportive."

Getting everyone in the same room and into the same conversation about improving Cleveland's college graduation rates was in itself a major step forward. But to really turn that energy into action, the partners needed numbers.  

"This whole effort is really built on good, useful, smart data," McGrath says. "Our partners have really stepped up to the plate in providing their data and being transparent about it. It's been transformational."
Ohio's higher education partners had never really looked at the data for students that had come to them from CMSD. When they did, "they were astounded," McGrath says. "One president sat back and said, We need to do better."

Similarly, Cleveland's community partners -- groups that tutored children, for instance, or provided after-school enrichment -- previously had no way to know if their kids had taken the ACT, visited any colleges, or filled out a FAFSA. Now, thanks to a high level of data transparency from CMSD and higher education, they are better able to determine if their programs are working and what they can do to better serve their students. 

Together -- and armed with data -- the Compact's partners are working to improve access to college, readiness for college, and persistence through college. On June 11, the Best Practices Task Force of the Compact held an all-day symposium to discuss college readiness in-depth and share innovative, effective and actionable ways tackle that particular aspect of the college attainment puzzle. The symposium will be an annual "learning institute" that will help foster discussion and bridge gaps between Cleveland's K-12 schools and its institutes of higher education.

The Compact has seen some early signs of success. In the past six years, the high end among graduation rates for CMSD alums in partner colleges and universities was 24%. Projecting ahead for 2012 graduation rates (a cohort of students that started in 2006), graduation rates are on track for 32% and could be as high as 47% in the next few years.

The secret to such a striking climb? 

"Higher ed has set goals for themselves," McGrath says. "They literally signed an agreement to spearhead this work."

Source: Maggie McGrath, Cleveland Foundation
Writer: Amy Elliott Bragg

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