The Times, Shreveport, La., on how Step Forward is headed in right direction:

May 31

The Times, Shreveport, La., on how Step Forward is headed in right direction:

How can we better educate our children from cradle to career? That’s the primary question being posed by a new effort developing in northwest Louisiana thanks to Step Forward.

Their approach, outlined in a recent gathering of about 80 community leaders and a meeting with The Times editorial board, challenges business, faith, education, civic and non-profit groups to come together to find ways to improve student achievements and guide them on to careers in which they can not only survive, but thrive.

Step Forward is a Community Foundation initiative that’s being spearheaded by Carolyn Spaht. Spaht is a Shreveport native whose former jobs included stints as chief of staff and assistant superintendent in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and as executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Communities in Schools.

We applaud Community Foundation, Spaht and the Step Forward steering committee in getting this effort off the ground. ...

Modeled on the Strive Network, a nationally recognized reform effort out of Cincinnati, Step Forward aims to create “productive citizens” in our community by aligning the efforts already underway in Bossier, Caddo and DeSoto parishes toward that goal.

“This is not an effort to recreate or do a new project, but find those places of excellence that are already in the community and building on those,” Hickman said.

While most of what they are currently working on is a draft form to set up the structure and goals for Step Forward, the initiative is already sparking excitement and energy about bettering education that we expect to see develop and grow in the coming months. Commitment, accountability and partnership are key to this effort, Tyler said. “We want to focus and come together as true partners.”

And what we find refreshing about Step Forward is its holistic approach to betting our community. For instance, Spaht identifies three key factors for a thriving citizen in our community. “Good education, good understanding of what it means to be a citizen in this community and the third is economics. Do you have a job?”

Ultimately, we, as a community, must discover a way to fit all those pieces together to make a whole that works here. And that effort must go beyond offering just what the state’s education system is focused on.

Indeed, Hickman points out that achieving a collective impact is imperative. The bottom line, though, is we must begin to change the way we are thinking about educating our children from the moment they are born and do a better job of creating a culture of learning all around us in every part of the community. We look forward to the promises offered by Step Forward, but the hard work is just starting for both the initiative and this community.


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