Higher Expectations, Racine County, and Partners Receive National Recognition

Higher Expectations for Racine County one of first five StriveTogether partnerships to be named a "Proof Point" community because of its work to demonstrably improve outcomes and change systems.

StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to improve education for every child, today announced Racine County is the third community in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network to earn the “proof point” designation.

Communities in the StriveTogether Network commit to improving outcomes for major milestones in a child’s life. The work of each community partnership is coordinated by a local organization — in the case of Racine County, Higher Expectations for Racine County. Progress is measured locally along a career-to-cradle continuum, from employment outcomes working backwards purposefully and deliberately to kindergarten readiness.

Proof point communities demonstrate that systems are changing and a majority of community education and employment outcomes are improving or being maintained year after year. Racine is seeing improvements across five of the seven outcomes being tracked by Higher Expectations. High school graduation rates have risen to 77 percent in 2015-2016 from 70 percent in 2011-2012, with the gap between black students and all students closing by 4 percentage points since 2010.

“Since we launched publicly in April 2014, our county has aligned around the vision of a ‘fully capable and employed’ Racine County workforce,” said Jeff Neubauer, Higher Expectations executive director. “Earning proof point designation and recognition is due entirely to the work of our partners and the people of Racine County. Working together, we have achieved this rigorous designation faster than any other community in the nation. Now our great challenge and opportunity is to engage more people and find more resources to bring our work to scale and reach our collective goals from career to cradle!”

Activities and achievements by Higher Expectations’ partners across the county include:

  • Increasing the number of full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) classes in the Racine Unified School District from 0 in 2014-2015 to 10 in 2017-2018. Racine Unified, in partnership with Higher Expectations, used national research and local data to make the case for expanding full-day 4K. By expanding to Title 1 schools, the district is also making a very significant financial investment to increasing high-quality early learning programs for low-income students.

  • Increasing tutoring minutes by 82 percent for students in the Schools of Hope program during the 2016-2017 school year. United Way of Racine County tracked data and made adjustments weekly with support from Higher Expectations. One school saw a significant relationship between tutoring minutes and reading growth for the first time.

  • Engaging more than 110 employers and 270 volunteers for the Academies of Racine, which provides students with opportunities to gain skills needed in a 21st century workforce.

  • Improving completion rates at University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Gateway Technical College in each of the last two years.

  • Decreasing unemployment rates between the city of Racine and Wisconsin, leading to the smallest gap in the last 25 years.

  • Becoming the only community in the country to be selected for each of the following competitive, national initiatives: StriveTogether Accelerator Fund, Lumina Foundation Community Partnership for Attainment, Ford Next Generation Learning Career Academies, Society of Manufacturing Engineers Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (SME PRIME), and now Proof Point status in the StriveTogether network.

Building on this momentum, Higher Expectations, Racine County and their partners are poised to:

  • Create deeper alignment in the workforce development space to meet current and future economic opportunities.

  • Accelerate post-secondary completion goals as part of an exclusive Talent Hub Designation by Lumina Foundation, which was awarded to Higher Expectations.

  • Increase access to workplace learning opportunities for high school students that extend beyond the classroom.

  • Expand intensive literacy training for elementary teachers and high impact tutoring programs.

  • Continue to expand and improve high-quality full-day 4K programs and early age book distribution initiatives.

“Getting better results for kids takes vision, dedication and hard work — which Higher Expectations and its partners have demonstrated,” StriveTogether Interim CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “We are well on our way to reach our goal of five proof point communities in 2018.”

Read more about the five Proof Point communities at StriveTogether's website.