Civic infrastructure is the key to addressing economic mobility in Texas – a Central Texas partnership is showing us how it’s done

By: Jennifer Blatz, President & CEO, StriveTogether
Susan Dawson, President & Executive Director, E3 Alliance

There is a deep rooted conviction that systemic barriers far too often limit the education, career, and life success of children across Central Texas, our state, and our country. Improving economic mobility is fundamentally tied to better educational outcomes across every major life milestone. Currently, one in four Texas children live in poverty; this will only change if resources are invested in proven strategies and local leadership is involved. The future of the state depends on this effort.

Policy makers should consider a more comprehensive approach in addressing long-term systemic problems such as the lack of economic mobility so many families face. We must move beyond immediate relief and focus on solutions that address root problems. Effective collaboration between cross-sector partners, including education, business, nonprofits, and government based on data can enable a shared vision and unlock innovative solutions where there is shared accountability for student success. Strategies and initiatives to improve equity and outcomes can be rigorously measured with data for effectiveness and scaled to support many hundreds of thousands of students and families.

E3 Alliance, an Austin-based organization, is proving that this is possible through their work in transforming the systems that shape the opportunity for millions of young people, cradle to career. And the results have proved effective based on data at the region and across the state. It has been nearly 20 years since E3 Alliance first teamed up with like-minded community members willing to challenge the status quo to get better results for children, creating the kinds of partnerships that enable the work to build economic prosperity.

One of the most important factors for building economic prosperity is early childhood education. Thanks to collaborative efforts led by E3 Alliance across the region, the number of children enrolled in high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten programs increased ninefold. That increased enrollment has led to improved school readiness, creating a powerful ripple effect that will continue as students progress in their educational journeys. In addition, E3 Alliance launched the Pathways of Promise, a Central Texas research and implementation initiative designed to strengthen career and mathematics pathways. In just four years, their efforts closed the gap between Black and White high performing students completing 8th grade Algebra I by over 85%.

These innovations are now spreading across the state, especially as other local organizations joined together to pass a bill to equitably invest in education by using evidence-based, decision-making processes. Legislation is now being proposed to drive a multi-measured approach in math policies to improve equity and outcomes through postsecondary education.

An investment into civic infrastructure, like the cross-sector approach of E3 Alliance, needs to prioritize innovation-scaled outcomes over incremental improvement by transforming our systems.

An investment into civic infrastructure, like the cross-sector approach of E3 Alliance, needs to prioritize innovation-scaled outcomes over incremental improvement by transforming our systems. Like the bridges and roads of an area, civic infrastructure – or the collaboration across a community— is crucial for creating better and lasting success. This is the difference between patching up a small crack in our civic infrastructure and laying a strong bedrock for the future. By prioritizing innovation and transformation over incremental improvements, we can establish a sturdy and scalable foundation that can support lasting change in our community. This will allow us to institutionalize the best practices and create a civic infrastructure that can withstand the challenges of the future.

As an early pioneer of StriveTogether’s collaborative improvement approach in using small tests of change and evidence-based decision making, E3 Alliance has invested resources in the most effective strategies for increasing kindergarten readiness among preschoolers living in poverty. Since 2015, they have impacted over 1.1 million students and helped transform multiple low-performing schools to leading campuses with statewide distinctions.

In this effort, E3 Alliance is not alone. They are a part of a national network of nearly 70 communities across the United States, who are using and sharing best practices to provide better education outcomes. Each community prioritizes local leadership, the lived experience of students and families, and evidence-based decision-making processes.

We are proud to announce that E3 Alliance has received national recognition for their efforts in systems transformation. The StriveTogether Systems Transformation Designation acknowledges E3 Alliance’s commitment to advancing equity and improving outcomes for students across Central Texas. This designation is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the cross-sector partners who have collaborated to create lasting change in the region. It is our hope that this recognition will inspire other communities to invest in their civic infrastructure and prioritize the success of every child, regardless of their background or circumstance.