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Dayton groups earn two national honors for education efforts

Dayton’s collaborative push to improve student education outcomes, led by Learn to Earn Dayton, was singled out twice this week as one of the top efforts of its kind in the nation.

Dayton was one of 10 communities nationwide to receive a $150,000 planning grant from the Together for Students Initiative for its creation of education partnerships across the community. There were 86 applicants, and most of the other winners were larger cities, including Chicago, Nashville and Washington D.C.

Strive Together, another national education nonprofit, gave Dayton and Montgomery County its highest designation, saying it had reached a “proof point” in its work to improve upward mobility for children. Dayton joins only five other cities, including Dallas, Cincinnati and Portland, in receiving that designation.

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Tom Lasley, CEO of Learn to Earn Dayton, said Dayton has been building the infrastructure to improve education equity – making sure disadvantaged students have strong opportunities and real pathways to success.

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“(Funders) want to know, do you have partnerships in place, do you have all of the school districts involved, have you aligned your efforts and do you have similar goals?” Lasley said. “And we’ve done that, around goals of kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, eighth-grade math, high school graduation and college graduation (or credentials).”

Lasley acknowledged it can be hard to grasp the work on educational equity, as the Together for Students award celebrated “creating the conditions, climate, and culture necessary for learners to achieve their dreams.”

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While it’s more than just hiring an extra teacher here, or using a different textbook there, Strive Together recognized Learn to Earn for concrete efforts like getting more low-income students to fill out financial aid applications to access college funding they didn’t know was available. They also cited a training program to help Trotwood-Madison teachers decrease suspension rates and increase academic performance for black male students.

“Part of what we do is to train (educators) on what are best practices … whether it’s around mitigating chronic absenteeism, or dealing with disruptive kids who have traditionally been suspended,” Lasley said.

Learn to Earn officials hope this week’s recognition leads to more funding. Lasley said the cities who received Together for Students’ $150,000 planning grant likely will have a chance to earn a large implementation grant in the future. Learn to Earn has already applied for a grant from the Ballmer Group, which is tied to Strive Together.

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“Dayton and southwest Ohio has a very low economic mobility rate, and part of the reason for that is we have relatively low educational attainment rates,” Lasley said. “If you’re really attacking the equity issue, you have to figure out how to get more people advocating for change.

“And you have to get more young people from under-represented populations to be able to be successful as they pursue credentials or degrees or skill sets to let them get a living wage job after they graduate from high school,” he said.

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