Impact Week: Making Progress in Education


Education is called the “passport to the future.” United Way partners and programs strive to make sure every child in our region has the chance to earn that passport.

Editor’s note: We’re celebrating Impact Week—highlighting how support for United Way is changing lives. Read our Impact Week overview here.

Jennifer Nottingham, Associate Director for Community Impact, said United Way BCKR works to improve high school graduation rates to 83 percent by 2030 while reducing racial and economic disparities.

“In 2014, about 78 percent of kids in our region graduated, slightly behind the state average,” Nottingham said. “But dig a little deeper, and the story is a lot worse.

“Students from low-income families graduated as low as 62 percent of the time. For African-American students, that rate fell as low as 58 percent,” she added. “Neither our kids nor our region can thrive unless we improve those numbers.”

United Way focuses on three education priorities: early childhood success and kindergarten readiness; early grade reading achievement; and social and emotional well-being. Each is a critical factor in a child’s ability to learn, graduate and thrive beyond high school. Currently, United Way supports 29 education programs through 21 partner agencies, investing $1,730,000 annually in strategic grants. [See all of United Way BCKR’s investments, partnerships and collaborations here.]

Making Headway

An interim study by AGS Data LLC on behalf of United Way BCKR shows progress. The study looked at changes through United Way programs and partners from November 2016 through June 2017. Here are some highlights:

• 59.6 percent of all pre-kindergarten children in these programs showed improved success and school readiness, with 65.5 percent of black children and 81.3 percent of Asian children showing progress.

• 100 percent of students in one preschool program improved or were on track toward school readiness.

• 82.6 percent of all K-12 students increased their social emotional competence—meaning they are better able to deal with their emotions (including trauma), manage their behavior and learn better in the classroom.

• 77.7 percent of African-American students increased their social emotional competence, and 100 percent of Hispanic students did the same.

• African-American students make up 65.26 percent and 36.57 percent of students in United Way education programs in Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties, respectively. That’s compared to 19.05 percent and 13.25 percent of the overall student population. This reflects United Way’s commitment to addressing racial disparities that affect graduation rates.

These results serve as a snapshot of progress; a comprehensive report for the full program year is due in 2018. United Way BCKR will gather and report data on a continual basis.

“It’s exciting to see the needle move in such a short time,” said Nottingham. “We have a long way to go, but we’re learning where our education partnerships are bringing hope to kids across our region.”

Click on the following links to see a progress report and a geospatial map related to United Way’s work in Education:

Education Progress Report UWBCKR 10 2017

Education Geospatial Map UWBCKR 10 2017

Tomorrow: Building Financial Stability