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Rochester education group Cradle 2 Career is ready to do more

“This past year, we’ve come a long way,” Interim Executive Director Claudia Tabini said. “The growth and the momentum is amazing. (I’m) very excited about 2022.”

01 Claudia Tabini
Claudia Tabini, interim executive director and director of community engagement with Cradle 2 Career, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

With plenty of disparities to speak of in the local educational system, Cradle 2 Career is one of the organizations trying to do something about the problem – and they’re getting ready to increase their efforts.

As an organization, it's working to create educational equity by making sure all students are ready and able to learn to their full potential.

“When I see those numbers, I see there’s a lot to be done,” Claudia Tabini, interim executive director, said about the achievement gap. “And I’m glad we’re here.”

The organization recently shared some of its new efforts aimed at improving kindergarten readiness. The group also is getting ready to expand its work into a new area. Overall, it has a long-term goal of providing a "continuum of care" for students even after they reach graduation and begin wandering into their careers.

Tabini said Cradle 2 Career is focused on making sure all students have what they need to succeed, regardless of their backgrounds.

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However, a lot of the work needing to be done exists in Rochester's minority communities.

Almost 50% of white students in Rochester Public Schools were proficient in math in 2021. By comparison, only 17.2% of Black students and 15.8% of Latino students were proficient in math the same year. Other metrics show similar gaps between racial groups.

So what does Cradle 2 Career do about the situation?

Cathy Nathan sits on both the Rochester School Board as well as the Leadership Table for Cradle 2 Career. She described the organization as being a facilitator among a group of other organizations with similar goals.

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“Think about taking a whole bunch of arrows going in a bunch of different directions and aligning them in the same direction,” Nathan said. “The notion of collective impact is to really align all of our arrows in the same direction so that we can really bring a lot of force or pressure to bear on solving the problem.”

Tabini described it in a similar way, saying the organization brings people together. But, the organization also works in support capacities, like advocacy and data collection and analysis.

So far, the organization has two “collaborative action networks.” One is focused on kindergarten readiness and the other is focused on high school graduation.

For each network, Cradle 2 Career works with a handful of other organizations to make progress in that focus area. The kindergarten readiness network, for example, includes organizations like the Rochester Public Library, Family Service Rochester, the Reading Center, and more.

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At a recent school board meeting, Tabini talked about a collection of action cards Cradle 2 Career developed to help improve kindergarten readiness. The cards have suggestions meant to help parents proactively get their children ready to be learners.

They’ve also made the cards available in four different languages to reach as many people throughout the city as possible.

“They’re aimed at assisting the parent in understanding the relationship with their child: teaching them when to stop, when to continue, how to look for cues in their child, how to reinforce the social-emotional learning across the board,” Tabini said. “We support families by putting resources in their hands…going to them where they’re at and listening to what their needs are and what their aspirations are for their kids.”

The organization announced it would be deciding a third network to pursue in addition to the kindergarten readiness and high school graduation networks. They plan to launch the new network in the fall of 2022.

Ultimately, there are seven networks Cradle 2 Career eventually plans to have under its belt: Pre-K developmental success, kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency, post-secondary completion, and workplace participation.

Nathan said she thinks the kindergarten readiness network is a great model on which to build the rest. Organizers looked at the data, found the right groups to participate, found the gaps that needed to be filled, and looked at the needs of the families.

Nathan went on to describe the work of Cradle 2 Career as supplementing what students receive through the school system.

“We say this all the time in education: the schools can’t do it by themselves,” Nathan said. “To be honest, we get for kindergarten whatever the community has prepared the students for.”

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Cradle 2 Career is a relatively new player at the table. The organization started in 2016, working behind the scenes with other organizations to help students and families.

According to Tabini, it was a very organic, community-led effort to get the organization up and running.

“The community saw a need,” Tabini said. “That’s why we say we are a community-wide, community-owned initiative.”

Just like everyone else, the pandemic forced Cradle 2 Career to work in new ways and to address needs that didn’t necessarily exist before. It received a grant to give hotspots to 26 families. It wasn’t able to get very much feedback from students, who were burned out from a myriad of other video calls. Tabini acknowledges the group's work would be a little bit farther along if it hadn't been for the pandemic.

And yet it kept moving forward, making progress despite the challenges.

To some extent, the organization is too young to see what kind of overall impact it is having. That will take data and trends over an extended period of time to see.

But, they're laying the groundwork and being hopeful about their prospects.

“This past year, we’ve come a long way,” Tabini said. “The growth and the momentum is amazing. (I’m) very excited about 2022.”

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