In the following Theory of Change, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County presents our rationale and research supporting a strategic focus on improving Sarasota County students’ readiness for 21st century career, college and life. The Foundation is dedicated exclusively to supporting teachers and school leaders of Sarasota County Schools as they develop innovative academic programs and learning experiences for students.
The Education Foundation of Sarasota County believes that enriching the educational experiences available to Sarasota County students, teachers and schools strengthens all factors of the community and transforms lives. Our mission is to enhance the potential of students, promote excellence in teaching, and inspire innovation in education, guided by strategic philanthropy.
The Education Foundation’s ultimate objective is to help students succeed. In this report, student success is defined as graduating from high school with purpose, prepared to pursue an intentional postsecondary pathway, and with appreciation for the value and necessity of lifelong learning.
Throughout history, significant culture change has taken place when driven by critical communal needs. The urgency stems from the fact that we are two decades into the 21st century but many of our institutions, including the interdependent systems of education and industry, were designed around the needs of earlier centuries.
Concrete meanings of “postsecondary success” and “life readiness” vary among, and even within, sectors. “Postsecondary success” typically is defined as completion of an education program after high school graduation. “Life readiness” refers to a broader view that blends aspects of college and career preparation with 21st century cognitive skills.
Despite the country’s steady progress in the number of students pursuing postsecondary education, an astonishing 5.5 million jobs in the United States were unfilled in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.¹⁵ Collins and Vargas, writing for Jobs for the Future: “How can millions of Americans be out of work or stuck in low-wage jobs, while employers leave millions of jobs unfilled each year?
Experts are encouraging today’s students and tomorrow’s workers to adopt a lifelong learning habit of acquiring skills and knowledge that will empower them to adapt and prosper in future opportunities. The need for lifelong learning echoes across sectors. Selingo, writing for The Atlantic: “Two simultaneous forces in the job market are driving this push toward lifelong learning.
These concerns return us to the meaning of readiness and the question of measuring readiness metrics to support the ongoing assessment and continuous improvement represented in the 21st century mantra: “Tool, retool, adapt, repeat.” As the Education Foundation advances the college, career and life readiness initiatives, we will strive to avoid data interpretation confusion by explaining how we measure our progress.
Pressures challenge students throughout the education continuum. But students are particularly vulnerable to the effects of major changes in their social and academic routines at pivotal transition points: entering kindergarten, moving from elementary to middle to high school, and preparing for graduation.⁴⁷ The Education Foundation encourages piloting innovation that focuses on increasing student motivation and engagement at these key passages when studies have shown that, without targeted intervention, student engagement and enthusiasm drop.
1. See, for example, a representative sampling of sources: Note 1. 2. Bowden, Todd. “Priorities for public schools.” Herald-Tribune, May 28, 2017. 3. “Framework for 21st Century Learning.” Partnership for 21st Century Learning, Jan. 2016, www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework. 4. Revenaugh, Mickey. “What does college and career readiness mean now in the shift to digital learning?”