Summit Brings Schools, Businesses and Non-Profits Together to Improve K-12 Education

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A summit in Des Moines on Wednesday brought together Iowa schools, non-profits and businesses to talk about new ways to improve K-12 education.

Wednesday's event is one of over 100 summits happening this year across the country, organized by America's Promise Alliance, a coalition of national organizations dedicated to boosting the national graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership teamed up with the United Way of Central Iowa to put this summit on in Central Iowa, the only summit of its kind in the state. Over 200 participants from local schools, businesses and non-profits heard from panels and took part in brainstorm sessions to come up with ways to improve graduation rates in Central Iowa, where the average is already at 92 percent, officials say.

"Businesses can collaborate with schools to provide job-shadow opportunities, career days on-site, or provide work-based learning projects - there are many ways businesses can engage with our schools," said Mary Bontrager with the Greater Des Moines Partnership. "And it provides that contextual relevancy to the students on what they're learning in the classroom, and how that can relate to future opportunities for them."

While Central Iowa already meets the goals of America's Promise Alliance, school officials say there is still much work to be done for immigrant, low-income, and minority students. Representatives with the APA say their summits prove helpful for communities across the country, where embracing a holistic approach to learning has taken over.

"Knowing that improving graduation rates isn't just about the work that happens inside the school day - it's also about the work that happens outside of the school," said Lane Russell with APA. "And that it's a community effort; it's this collective effort of folks coming together that really makes a huge impact - not only improving the graduation rates for students but also building stronger communities."

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