Blog

  • 18 January 2018

    40% of Escambia residents have a college degree. Achieve Escambia wants to do better.

    By 2025, local education organization Achieve Escambia hopes to increase the amount of residents with at least an associate degree by nearly 20 percent.

    The push to increase post-secondary attainment comes as part of Achieve Escambia's new partnership with the Florida College Access Network, a statewide organization focused on widening access to post-secondary education.

    Based on Census Bureau estimates, only 40.1 percent of residents in the county in 2015 had at least a two-year degree. But over the next seven years, the goal is to raise that amount to 60 percent, at the minimum.

    "Your education cannot stop at high school, or you will be stuck in poverty," said Kimberly Krupa, Achieve Escambia executive director. "Just looking at jobs that will require a credential in the future, more than 60 percent will."

    In the end, a post-secondary degree also carries serious ramifications for earning potential. According to the Florida College Access Network's figures, workers in Escambia County with an associate degree averaged $57,106 in annual pay. But those with only a high school diploma averaged a much more modest $26,440.

    More: Achieve Escambia has the data, now what?: Guestview

    To address this issue, Krupa said Achieve Escambia will now serve as the Florida College Access Network's only member in the Florida Panhandle. She explained the work with the state organization will involve Achieve Escambia establishing a coordinating body to identify local impediments to post-secondary education and create an action plan to eradicate the roadblocks.

    Student Jesse Marti learns aviation maintenance technologyBuy Photo

    Student Jesse Marti learns aviation maintenance technology at George Stone. Marti began studying aviation repair and maintenance while as a student at Washington High School. (Photo: Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com)

    Krupa said the coordinating body, known as a Local College Access Network, should start meeting in February. The group's first meetings will explore the access gaps along the local education spectrum and likely include bringing together officials from the Escambia County School District, Pensacola State College and the University of West Florida to better understand the issue.

    Although still early in the process, Krupa mentioned several possibilities to tackle the county's barriers to post-secondary education. They included more engagement with parents to explain the benefits of higher education, encouraging more high school students to enroll in advanced placement courses and increasing awareness of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, which provides funding awards for students of merit.

    More: Achieve Escambia is data-driven endeavor

    Another possibility involves a concerted effort between Achieve Escambia and the Florida College Access Network to boost completion among Escambia County high school seniors of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

    According to the Florida College Access Network's website, 59 percent of Florida high school seniors who complete a FAFSA qualify for a Pell Grant, an award for low-income students that does not need to be repaid. But the state ranks 34th in FAFSA completion, which has led the state organization to conclude Florida students annually fail to take advantage of $100 million in Pell Grants.

    "And for students who complete the FAFSA, they also have the opportunity to qualify for not only Pell Grants but other forms of financial aid and scholarships," said Laurie Meggesin, executive director of the Florida College Access Network.

    Lastly, Achieve Escambia also intends to highlight technical certifications as another beneficial form of post-secondary education. The school district's George Stone Technical Center offers a range of certifications. They could factor mightily for the future earnings of the county's students.

    Jeff Strohl, director of research at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, said as of today, about 46 million people hold a certification across the U.S. labor market. Although certifications do not supplant a traditional degree in their impact on job earnings, Strohl said they often accentuate a degree and lead to higher pay.

    "The reason we think they help is they're really a good signal to employers about a validated skillset," he said. "Certifications are very work- and skill-oriented. Their prospects moving forward are quite high as employers are looking for better and better signals from students about being able to do the job."

    Moving forward in the organization's efforts to increase post-secondary attainment, Krupa said Achieve Escambia will focus on three areas of certification.

    "The largest growth we're seeing in our certification programs is based on industry demand," she said. "We know that growth in industry certifications is going to catapult. Advanced manufacturing, IT, cybersecurity, those certifications are through the roof."

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  • 11 January 2018

    How Escambia, Santa Rosa counties factored into Florida graduation rate increase

    Florida hit a 14-year high in high school graduation rates in the 2016-2017 school year, and both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were part of the uptick. 

    Gov. Rick Scott announced the increase Wednesday. Data shows the statewide rate rose to 82.3 percent, an increase of 23.1 percentage points since the 2003-04 school year and 1.6 percentage points since 2015-2016. 

    Statistics on the Florida Department of Education website indicate that Escambia County saw a 3.4 percent bump while Santa Rosa increased by 0.7 percent over the course of the past two school years. 

    Click here to see how the graduation rate in Florida's school districts compare.

    "We want every Florida student to have access to a world-class education so they can succeed in the classroom and their future careers, and that is why my recommended Securing Florida’s Future budget includes historic funding for education for the sixth consecutive year, including significant investments for teachers and students in our K-12 system," Scott said in a press release.

    "I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to make sure our students have the resources they need to continue to build on this accomplishment for years to come,” he said.

    Graduation rates for black or African American students, Hispanic students, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students have steadily increased in the past five years. 

    Jake Newby can be reached at jnewby@pnj.com or 850-435-8538.

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  • 30 December 2017

    Too many classroom seats empty when school returns

    Students report back to most of our local education institutions on Wednesday. Many of their seats will be empty.

    That’s because holidays are notorious times for attendance to slump. Every year, absences spike in the weeks before and after the winter holiday as families squeeze in a few more vacation days. The same pattern emerges around spring break and over long holiday weekends.

    Attendance is a topic usually reserved for fall’s back-to-school rush. September is Attendance Awareness Month and enrolled students across Florida public schools are counted in October.

    But winter and spring are the seasons when absences accelerate, and when chronic absences begin to surface as alarming problems that can hold students back.

    It’s the first day of school all over again.

    All families want what is best for their children, but they don’t always realize how absences can stack up, resulting in real academic problems.

    Missing just two days of school per month can set a student back one to two years of learning, according to a new Attendance Works report, which also finds that students who miss the most school have the lowest test scores. This statistic is true at every age, in every subject, in every racial and ethnic group and in every state and city examined. While students from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent, the ill effects of missing too much school hold true for all socio-economic groups.

    How are we doing locally?

    Nearly one out of 10 students in Escambia County public schools were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year, the last year for which data is available. That’s an increase from the 7.6 percent chronic absentee rate the previous year, but on track with the Florida state average of 10.10 percent. Florida considers students who miss 21 or more days of schools as “chronically absent.”

    Skipping school is not a new concern. In the late 19th century, a quarter of juveniles jailed at the Chicago House of Correction were there for truancy. As a 2017 Brookings Institution report notes, absenteeism is also a staple of our popular culture, from Tom Sawyer to Ferris Bueller.

    At Achieve Escambia, our partners recognize that school attendance is no laughing matter. Attendance behaviors start early. That’s why we’re embracing the message, “Early and Often.”

    Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by third grade. Students who cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school. Those that do graduate are less likely to be ready for college, and students who require remedial courses in college are less likely to graduate.

    It’s time to break that cycle.

    Through our kindergarten readiness network, the Achieve Escambia Preschool Success Task Force is embarking on a collective impact campaign that will use data to drive strategy around attendance, putting the spotlight on the importance of regular attendance, from prekindergarten all the way up to graduation, college and career.

    While we’re working on this campaign, what can you do to help students finish strong through the end of the school year?

    There’s an emerging body of research pointing to what works. We need more caring, trained adults who can serve as mentors in our schools and connect to chronically absent students. We also need more social workers and psychologists on school campuses to address the factors driving chronic absenteeism. Collaborating with local charities and agencies to address chronic absenteeism can also be effective. The Nashville school district has joined forces with the city’s after-school program to share student demographic data and results on interim tests, with great results. The program identifies students who are struggling academically and pairs them with tutors to receive additional learning. School and city leaders in Grand Rapids, Michigan, have launched an advocacy and training campaign for educators that has resulted in a 25 percent drop in absenteeism and an increase in student test scores.

    Inspired by results like this, our local campaign will target what’s driving chronic absenteeism in Escambia County - the reasons why students are absent from class: from lack of awareness that kids need to be in school every day, to medical issues, social-emotional issues and trauma stemming from abuse, neglect, homelessness and other factors.

    By using data as a mechanism to drive change, our partners in collective impact will develop a strategic vision that recognizes the reasons why students are absent from class, and what we as a community can do about it.

    When our teachers, principals, policymakers, business leaders and others have access to robust data on the extent and nature of an issue as serious as chronic absenteeism, we are all in a better position to provide students with the supports they need to stem this crisis in our schools.

    Kimberly Krupa is director of Achieve Escambia. She can be reached at director@achieveescambia.org.

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  • 9 December 2017

    Education Key in Movement Toward Stronger Economy

    There’s a growing understanding across Florida of what it takes to create the talent we need to grow a strong, diversified economy that provides pathways to prosperity for all Floridians.

    During a recent stop in Panama City, I had the privilege of participating in this movement alongside peers in business, education, government and economic development.  Together, we pledged to join the “RISE to 55” campaign established by state leaders to raise the percentage of working-age Floridians with a degree, industry certification or educational certificate from the current 47 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

    While the creation of new policies by our political leaders is critical to achieving this goal, the collaboration of community partners is equally important to making a difference.  Rarely is government policy “one size fits all.” Local partners must band together to better understand the realities of post-secondary pathways for all residents, establish common goals and develop unique solutions that will overcome barriers to higher education attainment in Northwest Florida. 

    Through Gulf Power Company, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with partners and programs that are already modeling what needs to be done to increase our community’s competitiveness. Achieve Escambia, for example, is the county’s first collective impact effort that brings numerous cross-sector partners together to strengthen the workforce development pipeline from cradle to career, in an effort to ensure prosperity for all citizens. Engaging cross-sector partnerships is one avenue for making post-secondary education more accessible and ensuring educational offerings are tailored to the specific needs of our business community, thus resulting in family-sustaining wage employment for the graduate. 

    An appropriately trained workforce is essential to the growth and diversification of our economy. Raising the level of post-secondary educational attainment is sure to open the doors of our community and the state to business expansion and investment, and enhance our quality of life by creating meaningful career opportunities for current residents and future generations.    

    When the “RISE to 55” movement reaches your community, I hope you will join me and answer its call.

    Jennifer Grove is community development manager at ‎Gulf Power Company.

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  • 2 December 2017

    FAFSA No. 1 Priority in Accessing College

     

     

     

    Like so many first-generation college students, my senior year of high school felt like entering a funhouse of mirrors. Everywhere I turned, a new mirror popped up, distorting my view of how to access this strange new world of higher education.

    Thanks to my guidance counselor, I quickly learned about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It was my ticket to the future.

    When I applied for FAFSA, it was worse than doing your taxes, and you had to do it at the same time as your taxes, which made for a nightmarish new year. It took my family more than a month to fill out the form, including entire weekends spent bent over the kitchen table, poring over the rules.

    Today, the FAFSA can be completed as early as Oct. 1, using pre-populated income and tax information from an earlier tax year. The entire application takes an average of 24 minutes to complete, from start to finish.

    Many more changes over the years have combined to make filling out the FAFSA the No. 1 most important thing students can do to access college.

    The FAFSA is deceptively simple. Through a single application, every American student can access a broad range of federal loans, grants or work-study programs, including Pell Grants for undergraduate students from low-income families. Many colleges also require the FAFSA to be on file for need-based or merit-based aid packages, which can combine to make college accessible and affordable to even the poorest of kids like I was.

    If it’s so important, why do so few students in our community complete the FAFSA?

    According to our Achieve Escambia partners, only 30 percent of Escambia County students completed the FAFSA last school year, compared to 34 percent statewide.

    Digging a little deeper, we see tremendous variation in FAFSA completion rates among Escambia County 12th-graders, from a low of 22 percent at Northview High School to a high of nearly 48 percent at West Florida High School during the 2016-17 school year.

    Translated into dollars, what these numbers mean is that Florida's high school class of 2017 left as much as $151 million in free federal grant money for college on the table, with millions unclaimed right here in our region, according to a new analysis of Florida College Access Network data by NerdWallet.

    We don’t know all the reasons preventing students from filling out the FAFSA. But we’re determined to find out because it’s such a strong indicator of college attendance.

    In fact, coming together around this issue was a top takeaway among community partners during the Achieve Escambia Career Readiness Collective Action Network kickoff event on November 9.

    Over the next few months, our network will learn how to align resources and support students to complete the FAFSA with a focus on communicating best practices, understanding barriers and inspiring a shared commitment to improve.

    In just a few years, economists predict 65 percent of Florida jobs will require a postsecondary degree or credential.

    As a community, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind. But our students need access and financial resources before they can earn a degree or certificate.

    That’s where the FAFSA comes in. It’s not another funhouse mirror. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your future.

     
    Kimberly Krupa is director of Achieve Escambia, a cradle to career movement working to ensure the success of every child, student and adult.
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  • 14 November 2017

    Achieve Escambia November Newsletter

    Learn what's happening across the Achieve Escambia cradle to career network.
     
    November 2017 Newsletter

    Click here to read  this month's newsletter.

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  • 13 November 2017

    Improving Education Starts Long Before School Begins

    104,249: that’s how many children and youth ages birth to 24 live in Escambia County.

    And that’s our number.

    What will it take to improve their educational outcomes and connections to the workforce? These are the central questions Achieve Escambia is tackling.

    But where do we begin? Doesn’t it start in the home?

    I get these questions a lot, and the answers are difficult to unpack. In fact, family engagement is often called the missing piece in collective impact networks like Achieve Escambia. But parenting adults and family members are the people who arguably can have the greatest impact on a person’s life.

    Why do we have such a hard time talking about this? Because it’s really challenging to conceptualize, much less implement and measure, exactly what we can do as a community to help families succeed.

    As a parent of two students in the Escambia County School District, I have a couple ideas of what we can do to fill in the “missing piece” of family engagement. First, as family members, we can be present in our own neighborhood, school and community to see the unseen and lend a hand to those in need.

    Second, we can all “Achieve Escambia” by using data to question assumptions about our schools and our community, and encourage others to do the same.

    Is that enough? The vast majority of American children spend just 15 percent of their time in school from kindergarten to 12th grade. If we are to influence the other 85 percent, we must find new ways to engage our entire community, including parents and caregivers, in the effort.

    How can we work together to help caring adults build the types of relationships that powerfully influence educational outcomes – character strengths like being motivated to learn, responsible and caring toward others?

    A growing body of research shows such character strengths are as influential as IQ in determining life outcomes not only in school, but also in the workplace, and in areas such as health and criminality.

    In fact, the quality of parent-child relationships is 10 times more powerful than demographics in predicting whether children are developing those critical character strengths. That means more powerful than race, ethnicity, family composition, and family income.

    Most family engagement efforts focus on getting parents to help with homework or to participate in a range of activities at school. For example, the U.S. Department of Education tracks parent involvement based primarily on simple things, like whether parents volunteered, attended an event, or met with a teacher at least once during the school year.

    All of those are potentially valuable endeavors, but many parenting adults don’t have the time or skills, or are not empowered, to serve as their child’s first teacher or push curriculum changes.

    But that’s OK, because parenting adults from all backgrounds still have the capacity to be the change for their children. Call it the power of a loving home – a power we have yet to fully tap into as a community and as a society.

    For our work ahead, the Achieve Escambia network will be exploring ways to turn this amazing evidence into improvement on behalf of those 104,249 babies, kids, teens and young adults who are our future.

    Kimberly Krupa is the director of Achieve Escambia. She can be reached at director@achieveescambia.org.

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  • 28 September 2017

    Achieve Escambia September/October Newsletter

    Achieve Escambia Celebrates VPK Enrollment Increase

     

    Escambia County preschoolers are off to a great 2017-2018 school year!

    Earlier this summer, one of our kindergarten readiness task forces voted to increase Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) enrollment in our county by focusing on three key school attendance zones. With just a few months to go, the task force set a deadline of September 15 and got to work, spreading the word about the value of early learning to parents and caregivers using a variety of outreach strategies, and coming together across three systems on behalf of local children and families. 

    We are pleased to announce their hard work has paid off.

    To learn more, click HERE.

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  • 25 September 2017

    We must prepare for careers for tomorrow

     What do you want to be when you grow up? About once a week, I find myself quizzing my three children on their career aspirations. I know it’s pointless and guaranteed to backfire, but I can’t help myself. My 11-year-old rolls her eyes and delights in declaring, “I don’t know.” My 9-year-old, a homebody, wants to skateboard and live in my backyard. And my 5-year-old finger-painter wants to be an artist, of course.

    Most kids are like mine, in their little cocoons, practically incapable of imagining life as an adult. Polls show children tend to resort to the familiar — the doctors, teachers, scientists, athletes, firefighters, lawyers and police who fill their books and televisions and shape their everyday experiences. They are woefully underexposed to the estimated 12,000 careers that exist in the world today, and the plentiful pathways to those careers that begin as early as preschool.

    Achieve Escambia is building a movement to flip the script on college and career readiness, to redefine what success looks like, from cradle to career.

    By one popular estimate, 65 percent of children entering kindergarten this year will ultimately end up working in completely new jobs that don’t even exist right now. Further, according to a Harvard Graduate School of Education study, in the 10-year period from 2008 to 2018, the U.S. economy will create 47 million jobs. However, only 36 percent of these jobs will be available to people with a high-school diploma or less, compared to 72 percent in 1973.

    So instead of asking kids what they want to “be” when they grow up, the Achieve Escambia coalition of partners is beginning to ask, “What problems will need to be solved in five or 10 years?” and “How can we align our education and job training systems to the needs of a rapidly evolving employment landscape?”

    This week, Achieve Escambia hosted the first of two interest sessions for people working at the crossroads of workforce development, economic development, career preparation, job training and college completion. Over the course of two hours, we learned what career readiness means to our local community, and how we can build a more prosperous future that leaves no one behind.

    Those of us participating in Achieve Escambia believe dialogue is critical because it provides the foundation, the scaffolding and the coalition needed to cement our ability to prepare for future skills, jobs and industry needs — and to seize local opportunities presented by these trends as they emerge.

     With the world changing at such rapid speeds, it will take community-wide problem-solving to keep children, youth and adults on the path to labor force participation. But by working together, shining the spotlight on solutions, and sharing information, we have every reason to be hopeful about the future of the Escambia County workforce.

    Achieve Escambia and its Career Readiness Collective Action Network launching this fall is one of the most ambitious endeavors happening in Florida right now. But while the work ahead is long-term, we don’t have to wait around to start doing what we can to influence and prepare a child, student or adult on their pathway to achievement.

    Just ask one of Achieve Escambia’s dozens of partners who are re-engaging youth in schools by encouraging career aspirations; exposing students and adults to skills that help them succeed in a variety of fields; and providing coaching, mentoring and development services that translate to productive employment, to name just a few.

    We can all do our part to ensure our community is ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow. For me, that means two things: opening my mind to what “success” looks like, including and beyond the confines of a traditional four-year college degree, and resisting the urge to close the door on careers that my tween, skateboarder and artist may discover and love.  

    Kimberly Krupa is director of Achieve Escambia. To learn more about career readiness or the collective impact movement, email director@achieveescambia.org.

     

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  • 29 August 2017

    Achieve Escambia has the data, now what?

    Achieve Escambia is a voluntary network of organizations and groups working across all 656 square miles of Escambia County. Our bold goal is to break all records of success in the education of children, youth and adults from the time they are born until they are successfully employed.

    How do we do this? How do we improve outcomes, not just for a specific group of individuals, but for the entire population across all ages and through the course of life?

    This is where data comes in. It may not sound exciting, but acknowledging the complexity of a community is a critical first step in changing a life.

    At Achieve Escambia, we embrace the use of data in three ways: to power the work ahead; to hold each other accountable for the long-term performance and impact of our efforts; and to bring visibility to where we are as a community compared to the state of Florida and the U.S.

    On August 22, Achieve Escambia embarked on a journey to use data as a launching pad to improve conditions and outcomes for local children and families. By publishing our 24-page baseline report and launching achievedashboard.org, we are de-siloing data, linking data across the cradle to career pipeline, and unlocking a treasure trove of insights.

    Now that we have the data, what do we do next?

    First, we start talking about. This involves creating a grassroots, cross-sector approach to community change based on problem-solving, learning, discovery and continuous improvement.

    The benefit of data is its ability to incite action.

    Once you know that only 66% of Escambia County children are ready for kindergarten, you can’t not know. Our goal is to take that knowledge a few steps further by building our collective capacity to do something about it. What good is raising awareness if we can’t help a 4-year-old learn their ABCs?

    Second, we connect people, programs and providers in a system of shared accountability and agreement on the road toward sustainable and scalable practices. That means harnessing human capital to reverse course and become a vibrant community for all.

    Achieve Escambia is a community-wide effort to keep children, youth and adults on the path to labor force participation. It is heart and soul work that will involve engaging the most powerful and the least powerful to talk, work together and create solutions that are appropriate, compatible, quantifiable and here to stay.

    We can do this. Our community is blessed with hardworking and dedicated local government officials and staff, businesses, philanthropic organizations, housing and social service providers, faith groups, higher education leaders and residents who care. The next step is to collectively move from empathy to ownership.

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  • 24 August 2017

    Our baseline report and online dashboard are now LIVE!

    Our baseline report and online data dashboard are live.
    But we're just getting started.

    Help us spread the word.

     
     

    In the report and dashboard, we've laid out the foundational elements of Achieve Escambia and drawn a map inspired by two years of conversations.

    Now that we've released where we are today, we need you to help usher in a better tomorrow.

    We're leaning on the generosity and commitment of our entire community to turn data into action, innovation and improvement.

    By working together, talking together and dreaming together, we will tap into the power of collective impact to generate deep, wide and sustained impact on cradle to career challenges facing Escambia County. 

     

    Get involved in the Achieve Escambia movement today.

    You can help accelerate change by:

     

    Read WEAR's article on our launch event HERE!

    Read PNJ's highlight from our launch event HERE!

    PNJ explores our data in more depth HERE!

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  • 28 July 2017

    Achieve Escambia is data driven endeavor

    As a member of the Achieve Escambia Leadership Council, I am asked, “What makes Achieve Escambia different from similar efforts?” I respond explaining what Collective Impact means, which in simple terms, means a variety of agencies agreeing to come together to coordinate their efforts to achieve better outcomes and results using resources each agency already has at their disposal.

    Achieve is trying to use the Collective Impact model to improve the effectiveness of the processes we have in Escambia County to prepare young men and women to enter the workforce and lead successful and productive lives. The efforts necessary to reach this goal start not upon college or high school graduation, or in middle or elementary school; its starts in pre-school and even before that at birth. This is why our key slogan is Cradle to Career.

    The efforts of Achieve Escambia are significant in that the major tool we use is the data that describes and defines our community. As a member of Achieve Escambia’s Data Team, I have been a part of the process to gather this data and select the key indicators. The members of the Data Team represent almost every major institution that plays a role in the Cradle to Career continuum. Every point on the Achieve Road Map, and accompanying Dashboard, is being scrutinized based on what the data collected says about that particular point.

    Achieve Escambia is seeking not only to accumulate data about various programs and aspects of our community, but is also looking to validate the accuracy of the data that is already being used.

    Here is an example of why this is important. Currently, State education offices report that less than 70 percent of the children who are 4 years old in Escambia County attend Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, otherwise known as VPK. That is roughly 2,400 out of 3, 850 children, and places Escambia well below the state average. However, as we collected more data we realized there are many 4-year-old children who are participating in preschool, but not necessarily the state VPK program.

    From the initial data we have collected we have determined that over 600 children attend private preschools that do not participate in the VPK program, many of which are faith-based programs; there are about 200 children every year that participate in the Head Start program, but not VPK; and the parents of around 150 children every year exercise parental choice and decide to leave their child with the early learning provider they have been attending, sometimes since birth, even though that provider does not offer VPK. This adds up to around 950 children. So that means we have 3,350 children, or approximately 87 percent, attending some type of preschool when they are 4 years old. While not perfect, it is certainly better than 70 percent, and when it comes to addressing improving these numbers it is much more manageable.

    This example highlights the need for thorough, in-depth data collecting and the accompanying analysis before solutions are developed and any actions are taken. Otherwise actions taken may be inappropriate or resources may be wasted trying to fix something that in the final analysis may not be broken, or at least less broken than originally thought.

    From this type of data analysis, it was determined that kindergarten readiness was a pressing need in our community, and where Achieve ought to focus its first efforts. As a result Achieve Escambia’s first Collective Action Network, or CAN, was launched in November. The Kindergarten Readiness CAN has already initiated two Indicator Task Forces, or “ITFs.” One is focused on increasing the percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in VPK programs in Escambia County. As the lead agency for VPK in Escambia County, the Early Learning Coalition is working with other Achieve Escambia partners toward improving this outcome area, and we hope to see an increase in VPK enrollment numbers as early as this fall.

    If you or your organization is doing work with children from birth to age 5, we encourage you to join our Kindergarten Readiness CAN. If you are not in the early learning field, you can still get involved. Talk to your friends and family about the importance of early learning. Encourage them to register for VPK at elcescambia.org. The VPK program is free for every 4-year-old residing in Florida. If later learning and career readiness are of interest to you, please get in touch with Achieve Escambia. Achieve will be establishing more Collective Action Networks as we explore all the way points on our Road Map we have developed of the Cradle to Career continuum. We encourage you to check out our website at AchieveEscambia.org to get more information and how you can become involved in our community’s efforts to prepare our children for a successful future.

    I believe Achieve Escambia will make a difference in Escambia County. I am encouraged that the foundations of our efforts are rooted in our own data, because as they say your own data is the hardest to refute, but it is also the most reliable means for good, albeit sometimes hard and uncomfortable, decision making. We are starting by trying to improve the number of children we get ready to enter kindergarten. I cannot think of a better place to start. How we go about this, and how successful we are in our efforts, will be determined by the data. As Kimberly Krupa, the new director of Achieve Escambia, said upon being hired, “I cannot wait to put data into implementation.” Neither can the rest of us, because our children will not wait to grow up while we figure it out.

    Bruce Watson is the Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County and serves on the Achieve Escambia Leadership Council and is an Achieve Data Team Member.

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  • 24 July 2017

    Direct from the Director

     

    Last week, Achieve Escambia hosted a breakfast meeting for more than 60 local education leaders. Many of them had never been in the same room before. They came from child-care centers, public schools, private schools, career academies, colleges and universities, and workforce development agencies.

     

    We used our time together to dream big. For more than an hour, we tackled big questions and wicked problems. That is, large-scale, long-term, complex problems that would be impossible for a single organization to tackle on its own. How can we put students at the center of our community? What is the one thing we can do to make things better for Escambia County children, youth and young adults? How can we align our efforts to improve outcomes from birth to employment?

     

    By asking open-ended questions like this, we slowly began offering up solutions. In fact, our one-hour listening session inspired nearly 200 original ideas. Clearly, Escambia County educators have thought about this before.

     

     

    What’s different now is that we now have the local capacity, through the Achieve Escambia movement, to develop a long-term framework for measuring progress toward our bold goals and for unifying partners to make a difference together. We are building the scaffolding to collectively and positively impact future generations. This means developing a collective system to not only use data in our decision-making, but to begin using the word “future” as a verb in our community.

     

    We have a lot of problems to tackle. As the social entrepreneur Ari Walach said recently, “2017 is not peak civilization. There’s a lot more we can do.”

     

    As a collective impact movement, Achieve Escambia is both a process and a way of thinking - that there is not one of us who is smarter than all of us.

     

    Working together, we will expand what we know about our community’s state of education, cradle to career. Working together, we will deepen our understanding of what’s possible to change the lives of Escambia County families. Working together, we will use our role as influencers and changemakers to reflect forward, to steadfastly do our part to move the needle, knowing it takes patient urgency to see the results of today, tomorrow.

     

    There’s a place for everyone in the Achieve Escambia movement. Contact us today to get involved.

     

    - Kimberly Krupa

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  • 22 June 2017

    A Chief's Corner

     

    I have to admit, my retirement has involved more work than I ever imagined, but it’s a blessing! For local families, the summer break from school is upon us. It’s a wonderful time for our teachers and students to rest, recover and relax from the busy school year which just wrapped up. While taking a break from the school year is important, the work of Achieve Escambia continues on!

    A new chapter for Achieve Escambia

    Just as there has been change in my life, the winds of change are moving in Achieve Escambia. We are proud to announce the hiring of Kimberly Krupa, as our new Director. Kimberly brings more than 15 years of nonprofit management, fundraising and strategic planning to Achieve Escambia.

    I am excited about Kimberly’s hire because of her experience working with collective impact organizations. As we work to improve results in the cradle to career spectrum, I always want to remind our friends and partners that Achieve Escambia is not a program, but a movement. Achieve Escambia is working to bring our community together, to align efforts to better prepare our children for success. It reminds me of Proverbs 11:14 which says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

    Kimberly Krupa brings important experience and leadership to our team, and we are excited about this next chapter in this long-term effort.

    Right now, Achieve Escambia’s Kindergarten Readiness effort is underway. Those who help prepare children with a strong foundation for starting school are gearing up to remind parents of benefits of participating in voluntary prekindergarten (VPK).  The VPK program is free to all 4 year olds whose birthday falls on or before September 1, 2017 and it’s designed to help kids improve their reading, math, language and social skills. Click here to learn more about VPK in Escambia County. This is just one important way we, as a community, can help more kids be on track for the start of kindergarten and remain on track as they advance through school.

    Last month I was proud to help celebrate the opening of the new Brownsville Community Center. The Board of County Commissioners and their team have done a great job of renovating the building that used to belong to the Brownsville Assembly of God. The old saying goes, you can tell a lot about someone’s priorities by where they spend their money. Well, our county has prioritized community centers where people of all ages can come together to learn, exercise or fellowship together.

    David Alexander, III

    Chief of Pensacola Police Department (Retired) and At-Large member of the Achieve Escambia Leadership Council

     
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  • 21 June 2017

    Accomplished Collective Impact Veteran Hired as Director

    Achieve Escambia’s Leadership Council is proud to announce the hiring of Kimberly Krupa as Director. Krupa brings extensive collective impact experience with her, including leadership at Second Harvest – Feeding South Louisiana; a community empowerment campaign for Tulane University; and a long-term disaster resilience project to help New Orleans neighborhoods recover after Hurricane Katrina.

    “We are excited to have Kimberly join Achieve Escambia to lead us through this exciting phase of work to improve educational outcomes, cradle to career,” said Debbie Calder, Executive Vice President of Greater Pensacola Operations for Navy Federal Credit Union and current chair of the Achieve Escambia Leadership Council. "Kimberly brings a passion to this position and her experience as a collective impact leader will help build on the momentum of bringing our community together to align efforts so everyone is empowered to achieve success.”

    Achieve Escambia is a collective impact partnership which shares a vision and strategy for improving cradle to career outcomes through a structured, evidence-based, long-term approach.

    “Since my family relocated to Escambia County just a few months ago, I’ve been overwhelmed and inspired by the heart this community has for helping others,” Kimberly Krupa said. “I am a believer in the power of collective impact because only by aligning our efforts can we help improve educational outcomes and change lives.”

    Krupa will officially begin working with Achieve Escambia on July 10.
     
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  • 31 May 2017

    Foster Care: Making a Difference

     

    We just wrapped up National Foster Care Month, but for many of us, appreciating foster care families is a year round mission from the heart.

     

    First, let’s talk about the need. Children and youth enter foster care because they need a safe place to live while their parents work to resolve issues that have affected their personal and family life. Currently there are over 1400 children in out of home care in our four county panhandle area, and over 500 of those children are in local foster homes. Some local children unfortunately are placed outside of our community due to not having enough homes locally.

     

    Now, let’s talk about the opportunity to help. The way to meet the greatest need is to become a foster parent. You can visit FFN’s web page and even talk to a recruiter so see what it’s about. You’ll need to attend training and go through the licensing process before having a child placed with you.  The licensing requirements are designed to provide kids in need with a healthy, family-oriented environment.  

     

    If being a foster parent isn’t a good option for you right now, that’s okay! Believe it or not, there are a variety of different ways you can help the foster care process. You can support foster families in your area with a meal, kid clothes, school supplies, baby items, or just a short break. 

     

    Finally, what it’s like being a foster parent. Anyone who works to make a positive impact in the life of a child will tell you the experience is usually more beneficial for the adult than the child. You cannot change what happened in a child’s life yesterday, but you can change what happens tomorrow. Foster parents only differ from the rest of us because the reached out to help children. You can too.

     

    If you want to learn more about supporting our local foster care system, visit our website, www.FamiliesFirstNetwork.org  or give us a call at (850) 453 – 7777.

     

        Shawn Salamida

     

    President, FamiliesFirst Network of Lakeview Center and member of Achieve Escambia’s Operational Support Team

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  • 23 May 2017

    Time to invest in community's future

    As a long-time Pensacola resident, I feel that we all have a responsibility to support the education and economic independence of those raised here. I am proud to be one of the many who are partnering with Achieve Escambia, an exciting effort aimed at improving the educational and financial outcomes for our friends and families, from cradle to career. Achieve Escambia is a collective impact approach to improving educational outcomes in our area.

    When our team at Cox Communications learned about Achieve Escambia, we were excited! The vision,“Every generation achieves success — cradle to career,” aligns with our company’s focus on elevating the educational experience locally. Achieve Escambia’s mission “To align community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success” has the potential to drastically improve outcomes and opportunities for generations to come.

    The importance of investing in our community

    Whether it’s through our Connect2Compete program offering low-cost internet for families on free and reduced lunch, our diversity initiatives, or our involvement in the community, Cox believes in the importance of investing our resources right here at home. There’s a strong, growing list of organizations that are supporting Achieve Escambia’s efforts to align resources to improve educational and career opportunities and we believe that collectively, if we all work towards a common goal, we CAN make a difference in our community. We liken it to fish swimming together in a school or birds in a flock: there is efficiency in working together.

    You might wonder why a business or other local group would want to invest in an effort like this. Education effects so many in our community, but is very challenging to affect change as individual partners. And because such an important change doesn’t happen overnight, those of us involved with Achieve Escambia realize there is no quick, magic formula, and that’s why we’re focused on the long-term approach.

    What is the long term approach?

    Social service programs can help children, adults and families in a variety of ways. Yet Achieve wants to know how can we measure success to achieve a greater impact if all were operating independently? That’s what the partners in Achieve Escambia’s Kindergarten Readiness Collective Action Network (CAN) are working to define this summer. They have met to learn about the many organizations and programs in Escambia County that are providing services to children ages 0-5. They are identifying bright spots and the gaps in that work. Then they’re determining what we can do better as a community to align our efforts so that more of our students can begin kindergarten ready to learn.

    At Cox, we care deeply about education because education and our local economy are interconnected. The children of today are the workforce of tomorrow! Research shows, when our children are ready for kindergarten, they become more likely to be prepared for academic success, high school graduation, career readiness, and they are inevitably set on for a path that will lead to their economic success — cradle to career. We all win when we invest in this long-term approach.

    An investment in our community’s future

    It wasn’t that long ago when communities like ours looked to improve student success and career readiness by asking educators to do more to improve results. The more we learn about student performance, the easier it is to understand why educators can’t do it alone. In order to have the best chance at success, young people not only need guidance and support from teachers, non-profits, families and the community as a whole, but they need all of those efforts to be aligned.

    That’s where movements like Achieve Escambia come in. The collective impact model used by Achieve Escambia is a proven method to align efforts. When working together, we accelerate the pace of our success and ultimately, improve long term outcomes.

    Whether it is making financial contributions, volunteering or aligning efforts, groups from across our community are seeing the importance of investing in our community’s future. Achieve Escambia is not here to compete with any of the talented and dedicated program providers for volunteer time or financial support. Rather, Achieve Escambia is working to bring these groups together, to create a unified vision, a shared strategy and an open forum for collective action.

    What does this mean for Escambia County?

    If you or your organization is involved with children from birth to age 5, we would want you to be part of our Kindergarten Readiness CAN. We recently launched our updated website, and we encourage everyone to check it out: AchieveEscambia .org.

    In order for this effort to be successful, we all need to invest. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure, our community’s future success is based on the work being done today. This is an exciting and dynamic time we’re living in,, and our current and future generations need us to get to work now to make sure they have the best opportunity at a better tomorrow. I hope you or your organization join the Achieve Escambia movement to help our community achieve success.

    David Deliman is market vice president at Cox Communications and a member of Achieve Escambia’s Leadership Council.

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  • 10 May 2017

    A Chief's Corner

    I must admit, it is a bittersweet time for my family and I. Earlier this month, I retired from the Pensacola Police Department. I can still remember the excitement and optimism I had for the job when I was hired by PPD as a cadet in 1983. My passion, excitement and optimism for the job are still with me, and for that I’m grateful.

    But as Ecclesiastes 3:1 teaches us, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens.” During my time as Pensacola’s Police Chief, I had the pleasure of being part of Achieve Escambia. And even though my season of service to the police department is coming to an end, my season of service to Achieve Escambia and the Pensacola community will continue on.

    A lot of people have asked me, “Chief, what is Achieve Escambia?” From my perspective, it’s an “all-in” partnership that is bringing people from across our community together to discuss how we can align our efforts to help our community become more successful. I like to think of it like a church choir. Escambia County is the choir, and in the choir are educators, parents, pastors, business leaders, doctors and countless others, all doing their part to help make a positive difference in the lives of children and families.

    However, for as long as I can remember, these talented members of the choir haven’t been singing from the same sheet of music. Sure, the choir is loud but the message is lost. Achieve Escambia is working to bring those talented voices to the table to 1) discuss the song selection, 2) determine the beat and 3) agree on how we can determine if the songs are a success. 

    It’s pretty cool. We’ve started first in the area of Kindergarten Readiness, and the choir is starting to come together.

    Later this year, we’ll launch our second area of focus, career readiness. This is going to be a long-term effort and it may take years to see results. But as other communities around the country have shown us, when a community starts talking about what we all are doing and working to align efforts, the outcomes are pretty exciting. Imagine children on track and ready to learn their first day of kindergarten; high schoolers graduating on time and young adults prepared to succeed in whatever area they choose for their life after school.

    I look forward to continuing to advocate for the youth in our community, and continuing to serve with Achieve Escambia. If you’re already involved, thank you and the entire team appreciates your effort! If you’re just learning about Achieve Escambia, please sign up for our newsletter which will help keep you informed on how you can support this effort to improve local lives, from cradle to career!

    David Alexander, III

    Chief of Pensacola Police Department (Retired) and At-large member of the Achieve Escambia Leadership Council

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  • 1 May 2017

    What exactly is Achieve Escambia?

    Over the past 18 months, you may have seen news articles about a movement called “Achieve Escambia” that is working to improve outcomes from cradle to career in our community. In the near future, you will be hearing and seeing a lot more from this effort.

    What is Achieve Escambia?

    The best way may be to describe Achieve Escambia may be to explain what it is not.

     It is not a program that provides a service.

     Achieve Escambia is a collective impact approach to improving cradle to career outcomes. In other words, we’re looking to align the work being done by so many wonderful groups in our community so that they will complement each other.

     Collective impact works to bring educators, non-profits, parents, students, businesses, and faith leaders together to determine how to achieve a specific goal, and how to measure success.

    One year ago, more than 200 people from across the community came together at the Corinne Jones Community Center at Sanders Beach to determine what areas Achieve Escambia would focus on first.

     By an overwhelming vote, kindergarten readiness was selected as our first priority outcome.

    Since then, 30-plus partners have been meeting monthly to discuss bright spots and gaps within our community. The core focus of this group is to help get children ages 0-5 ready for kindergarten. We will soon move into pilot projects and systems improvements, working across sectors and organizations to align resources and efforts.

    Our first baseline report will be launched by the end of the summer. Achieve Escambia is using data to drive our decision making and our partners in this effort include the University of West Florida’s Haas Center, Studer Community Institute, and all cradle to career providers. This allows for all involved to understand our goals and to keep political or emotional factors from being part of the equation.

    Later this year, Achieve Escambia will begin work on our second “Collective Action Network,” or CAN. Working in partnership with FloridaWest, CareerSource Escarosa and other key partners, this CAN will focus on career readiness.

    I am humbled to be a part of such a movement. If Escambia County is to be successful in the educating of all of her children, then it will take an intentional, concerted effort from all of her residents. Some can’t be at the table of change while others are not. Some can’t care, while others care less. For Escambia County to push toward greater success, from cradle to career, then it will take greater efforts from all of us who love and call Escambia County our home.

    You may be wondering, “Why should this be important to me?” Well, the answer is simple. We are working to improve future generation’s economic opportunities. We live in a dynamic and changing world. We want our community’s children to be prepared to succeed. Escambia County has the tools (all the talented and committed groups working with our youth), now we just need to make sure we’re all working toward the same goal. All of us rowing the boat in the same direction will help generations find the economic success we all desire our children to have.

    Many people have asked us, “How can I get involved?” Well, if you or your organization is involved with children from birth to age 5, we would want you to be part of our Kindergarten Readiness CAN. Or there are other areas of focus that might interest you more. We recently launched our updated website, and we encourage everyone to check it out: AchieveEscambia.org.

    This push to align efforts is very exciting for our community. It will take an entire community sharing our vision of improving outcomes, cradle to career, to help our friends and families have a shot at a better tomorrow. The work has already begun. Join us today to be part of the solution.

    Lonnie Wesley is the pastor at Greater Little Rock Baptist Church and is member of the Achieve Escambia’s Leadership Council Executive Committee

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