Quality education is the engine that will drive us out of these difficult economic times insofar as we prepare all students for the workforce of the future. Yet, across California and the nation we decry student achievement challenges amid slashed education budgets. In 2007-08, the high school graduation rate in Ventura County was 85%, but that means that nearly 1,700 students left high school without being career ready or college ready. The times call for bold action and cooperative ventures to ensure a future of promise, not of regret. Three years ago a group of committed leaders in Ventura County took deliberate steps to create and support the educational future they wished to see. Thus, the Ventura County Regional P-16 Council was formed. Addressing pre-school through college, the Council intended to provide educational support and awareness to improve academic excellence, eliminate achievement gaps, and advance college preparation and completion for all students in Ventura County. Consequently, P-16 encompasses all public and private educational opportunities. The Regional Council is a broadly constituted group of over 40 key decision makers from education, business, parent groups, and community agencies designed to facilitate partnerships, develop broad-based collaboration, and increase awareness of the importance of education to our collective futures. Its work is guided by the Core Council of the Presidents of Cal State Channel Islands and Cal Lutheran, the Chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District, and the County Superintendent of Schools, as well as the leaders of the Ventura County PTA, First Five, VCEDA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Naval Base Ventura County, United Way and business CEOs. Since its inception, the P-16 Council has initiated linkages between higher education entities to provide mentoring and tutoring to students in key identified high schools. It has successfully competed for grants that have begun to allow area high schools to increase the number of students taking college preparatory classes, the percentage of students taking the SAT test, and to expand the number of students participating in Early Assessment testing for college. In addition, the P-16 Council has developed a Parent Outreach strategy in the County and awarded funds to establish a high school Parent Support group in Santa Paula. And, it has encouraged effective sharing of student data to assess student progress and to identify areas for further attention. Most recently, P-16 has supported the Engineering Design Career Pathways program at Hueneme High School. This rigorous 3-year career and technical education program prepares students for work or college upon graduation from high school. There are many exemplary organizations in Ventura County that touch the lives of our children. With their input, the Council has developed clear direction and is formulating next steps to increase public awareness and attention to student achievement and success. After all, our children now will be our future soon – and the workforce upon whom our economy will depend. Working together toward a common vision across businesses, social organizations, and educational institutions, we in the P-16 Council serve as a resource for our schools and a contributor to the future of Ventura County. We welcome your involvement in this essential effort.
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