Educational Attainment Alliance Established to Support Regional Attainment Goals
Educational attainment is critical to generating economic opportunity and building a vibrant community. Community Council volunteers and United Way of the Blue Mountains have come together to support the establishment of a regional Educational Attainment Alliance. The goal of the alliance is to improve educational attainment while also addressing issues of access, equity, and quality throughout the region, which includes Columbia and Walla Walla counties, and the Milton-Freewater area.
The creation of a regional educational attainment alliance comes from a recommendation issued in the 2016 Community Council Education as a Path to Economic Growth study. That study identified investments in human capital – knowledge, skills and behaviors that support employability in living-wage jobs – as essential to generating economic growth in our region. The report acknowledges that not everyone has to earn a four-year degree to get a good job, and an array of educational options is crucial to fostering opportunity.
The Blue Mountain Educational Attainment Alliance is organized around a “collective impact” framework, which seeks to bring together stakeholders from different sectors in order to leverage a greater impact. Within this model, there is a Steering Committee that sets broad goals and strategies, and a number of working groups that support the implementation of the goals. The Steering Committee, which was convened earlier this year, is made up of superintendents, college/university presidents, students, parents, and partners within the non-profit, philanthropy and business sectors. The entire effort is supported by a “backbone organization” that convenes meetings, facilitates communication, supports fundraising efforts, and generally acts as the administrative glue. United Way of the Blue Mountains is the backbone organization supporting this effort.
At the broadest level, the Educational Attainment Alliance seeks to build a strong educational ecosystem that recognizes and fosters the talents of all students, from cradle through career. The Steering Committee met several times throughout the spring to identify the first priority area. Collectively, they decided to focus on the middle school years as an initial target. As a transition from elementary to high school, the middle school years are a pivotal time in a student’s educational path. These are years of possibility and exploration, and success during middle school can lead to greater success in high school, and beyond. Specific goals within this priority area will be determined this fall as a Middle School Working Group is established.
Commitment from leaders in education, business, philanthropy, and the non-profit sector is proof of our region’s commitment to education. Engagement with additional stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, elected officials, and service providers will help us build a stronger educational ecosystem in our region that supports attainment for all.