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Education Attainment Division

Report Cards are In: Austin Chamber Provides Snapshot of Student Progress

Jessie Azrilian on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:00:00 am

Last month the Austin Chamber of Commerce released its annual Education Report Card compiled of student performance data from 11 school districts in the greater Austin area. The reports provide the business and education communities with a snapshot of the college and career preparedness amongst the future regional workforce.

Partnering with neighboring suburban school districts and economic development corporations, data collected for the report helps profile the needs of school districts in terms of leadership, board policy, and budgetary decisions. Districts then establish goals based on those needs. 

Measurable Success

The results of the reports reflect positive increases in college enrollment. Drew Scheberle, the Austin chamberís senior vice president of talent and education development, says that student buy-in coupled with year round programmatic support is key. Chamber-led programs like Financial Aid Saturdays, which encourage students to complete their own applications for financial aid and college admission, are integral components of the Austin Chamberís regional effort to increase college enrollment from 61 percent in 2010 to 70 percent by 2015. Creating awareness with ongoing targeted communications through television and radio ads and direct mail has been essential to the success of these College-Ready programs.  

Predicting Higher Education Attainment

This yearís report includes data on student post-graduation activity collected through the chamberís Student Futures Project. Over the years, the data has shown a distinct gap in students that indicate plans to continue their education and those that actually enroll in a higher education institution. The data collected through this project, a partnership with the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas, helps identify trends associated with non-enrollment and address the gaps. 

Chamber-District Partnership

Chamber leaders and school district directors alike will attest that partnership between regional chambers of commerce and local school districts occurs naturally as a result of shared goals. Districts will set goals already in alignment with recommendations provided by Chambers who have their pulse on regional workforce needs.  

A Scalable Model

With a full time chamber staff member dedicated to coordinating and analyzing Education Report Cards, outsourcing of the Student Futures analysis to the University of Texas, a media outreach campaign, and a Progress Report Task Force, the Austin Chamberís community report card initiative is indeed comprehensive. While the project may seem a daunting undertaking for many chambers, the model is scalable with the formula for success based on a concerted effort from local business and education stakeholders. 

Funding

Funding for the chamberís workforce and talent development initiatives were derived from a line item within Opportunity Austin, a five county initiative for job creation in Central Texas that began in 2004 with business investments totaling $14.4 million. The third five-year plan for 2014-18, Opportunity Austin 3.0, was announced in December of 2012 with a funding goal of $25 million.  

Takeaways: Key factors to success

  • Student buy-in 
  • Year-round programmatic support for students
  • Targeted communications campaigns to increase awareness about programs
  • Comprehensive data that identifies trends in student outcomes (college enrollment, degree completion, etc.)
  • Goal alignment between school district, business community, and higher education
  • Investment by local business leaders

Share Your Work!

Engaging your business community towards increasing student achievement and outcomes? Partnering with school districts and higher education institutions?  Weíd like to hear from a variety of chambers, small market/rural to metro, to hear about similar programs in your community. 

Please email jazrilian@acce.org or call 703-998-3571.   

 

 

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