A- A+

Building a Stronger Workforce Begins with Education

Building a Stronger Workforce Begins with Education.

June 6, 2019

We know why children are dropping out of school.  

By fourth grade, a child must know how to read in order to learn, and yet, one-fourth of third graders are not proficient in reading. By sixth grade, if a student is not attending school, passing classes or behaving well, they have only a 10% chance of graduating on time.  

Having a high school diploma is critical to getting good-paying jobs that employers in the Greater Des Moines (DSM) community need filled. Luckily, we have solutions that are getting more kids across the finish-line.  

United Way of Central Iowa’s 2019 Community Impact Report highlights how over the past decade, the graduation rate in our community has increased by more than 10 percentage points to 93.7%. That means more than 4,000 students have graduated from high school than otherwise would have if the graduation rate had remained the same.  

How is this happening?  

Three Ways Students Benefit  

Mastering Literacy 

70.3 percent of DSM kindergarteners were proficient in literacy skills during the 2017-2018 school year, up from 55.5% just three years prior. In particular, the number of preschoolers in Book Buddy who showed mastery of pre-reading skills doubled over nine months of reading twice a week with volunteer mentors.  

Reading with Mentors 

1,057 children read with reading mentors in the past year through our READ to SUCCEED initiative that is engaging the whole community in helping students read proficiently by the end of third grade. In addition, 55,000 donated books were distributed throughout our community so at-risk children have access to print, the key factor in boosting reading exam scores.  

Participating in United Way-Funded Programs 

40,161 youth participated in United Way-funded school and/or out-of-school programs in 2018. Even though many students face circumstances that make it difficult to focus on school, 93.2% of these students had good attendance and 90.4% passed all classes.  

Working together, we are making great progress in giving all DSM students a chance to graduate. Every dollar invested, every hour of time given, every book or backpack donated is leading to thousands more kids having the support they need for lifelong success.  

As we inch closer to our community’s Goal for 2020 in Education — that 95% of DSM students graduate high school — we need everyone to play their part in supporting our students. Summer is a time when many kids, especially those in low-income households, lose the reading skills they gained during the year. By reading with a student weekly for six weeks this summer, you can help them start the next year on track.  

Sign up for an information session at unitedwaydm.org/power-read.  

Education Drives our Greater Economy (EDGE) is an initiative of Capital Crossroads: A Vision for Greater Des Moines (DSM) and the region focused on improving education attainment from early childhood learning through life-long learning. Under the leadership of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, EDGE aims to ensure that 75% of DSM working-age adults have postsecondary degrees, certificates or other credentials by 2025 that align with workforce needs.  

Kate Bennett

Kate Bennett is a community impact author for education with United Way of Central Iowa.