Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. It is essential to getting and keeping a job with a livable wage and health benefits. And, it is fundamental to a community’s economic prosperity: a well-educated workforce attracts world-class jobs!
The first three education focus areas build toward high school graduation, a major milestone on the path to successful adulthood. Over their lifetime, high school graduates earn 74% more than those who drop out. High school graduation is the single most powerful predictor of whether a young person coming from generations of poverty will break the cycle.
Enter School Ready to Succeed
Children learn best in loving, nurturing relationships and through everyday experiences. These essential connections hard-wire the brain for future learning, especially in the early years. Whether children are at home, with relatives or friends, or in childcare, the quality of early experiences is key to later school success. The St. Landry-Evangeline United Way has replicated the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program to improve the language skills of children from birth to age five, by providing a free age-appropriate book each month that is mailed to the child’s home. This program, while directly benefiting the child, also helps equip parents with providing learning opportunities and bonding moments with their children.
Read Proficiently by 4th Grade
The ability to read, write and comprehend written information is essential to success in an academic environment and many children who have not achieved a proficient level by grade four find themselves left behind as their curriculum advances. The St. Landry-Evangeline United Way supports initiatives that provide reading and literacy opportunities for children such as free book and reading programs and after-school tutoring.
Make a Successful Transition to Middle School
Middle school is where the rubber meets the road. Many disadvantaged children begin to fall behind; greater levels of truancy and behavior problems lead to out-of-school suspension. Most high school dropout prevention efforts start in high school – which is too late, according to research. Students’ academic achievement by 8th grade has a greater impact on college and career readiness than high school academic work. Research shows that students’ readiness for college and career can be boosted with focus on middle school activity. Students from 4th grade through high school spend less time in school and more time in a variety of other environments, including formal programs and community service. The St. Landry-Evangeline United Way supports local programs that are working on these important middle grade transitions through tutoring and mentoring programs.
United Way works to end America’s education crisis
Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. But with more than 1.2 million children dropping out each year, America faces an education crisis. The cost? More than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.1 These trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.
In 2008, United Way launched a 10-year initiative to cut the number of high school dropouts in half by 2018. It’s an ambitious goal, but by utilizing our core strengths — a national network, committed partners and public engagement capacity — we can achieve it.
We can’t focus on high school alone. High school dropouts are 12 years in the making, usually starting early childhood education behind schedule. United Way's model focuses on supportive communities, effective schools and strong families — strategies and approaches rooted in research. Tackling the education challenge requires reframing education on a birth to 21 continuum.
Our Focus Areas
Quality Child Care
Children learn best in loving, nurturing relationships and through everyday experiences. That hard-wires the brain for future learning, especially in the early years. Whether children are at home, with relatives or friends, or in childcare – the quality of early education is key to later school success. St. Landry-Evangeline United Way is committed to working with daycares, early childhood education programs and partnering with community partners to create and maintain quality child care.
Children entering kindergarten with skills they need to succeed are more likely to graduate from high school and become productive workers. But almost half of America’s kindergarteners are behind. In St. Landry and Evangeline parish communities, 64% are not prepared to enter school.
St. Landry-Evangeline United Way promotes and encourages parents, caregivers and communities by supporting early learning through Public service advertising, a resource-rich Web site (Born Learning) and educational material (all in English and Spanish) that offer fun, concrete ideas to help young children learn.
Louisiana four-year high school graduation rate continues its upward trend, reaching 77.5 percent in 2015. The state education department says that's an all-time high and the fifth year the rate has improved. The education department says black students remain below the average, but their improvement outpaced the state as a whole. The graduation rate for African-American students was 71.4 percent in 2015, up from 67.9 percent the year before and a growth of 12.5 percentage points since 2010. Despite the improvements, Louisiana still lags the nation.
Louisiana's high school graduation rate grew 2.9 percentage points from the 74.6 percent rate in 2014. By comparison, the nation's graduation rate that year was 82 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the latest year for which national data was available.
Communities in Schools, one of America’s leading drop-out prevention partnerships provides important data related to students in America. Discouraging trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.
The graduation rate in 2009-10 in St. Landry parish was 63%. St. Landry-Evangeline United Way is funding mentoring programs and after-school initiatives, putting volunteers in classrooms and supporting dropout prevention programs.
To ensure that children get early exposure to books – which helps build literacy skills and is a factor in graduation rate, St. Landry-Evangeline United Way launched Dolly Parton Imagination Library in 2008. Almost 2000 children are receiving a book each month in the mail, and strong community support is expected to raise that number.
To reach our goal, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect communities to their schools: parent involvement; literacy volunteers in the classroom; mentors for disadvantaged students; business leaders engaged in early childhood advocacy. Volunteer to help.