What do young people need?

Originally published in the Herald Tribune

Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence (SCOPE) has partnered with the Positive Youth Development Council to help develop a community-wide plan for children and youths. Local organization leaders have determined that developing a research-based, county-wide plan will allow our communities to make better decisions about addressing the needs of children and youths in Sarasota County.

SCOPE is in the process of gathering data through a gaps-and-needs assessment that will provide a foundation on which to build the plan. We are asking adults and teenagers in Sarasota County to take our needs-assessment survey. The links to surveys are on our website, with versions in both English and Spanish: www.scopesarasota.org/sarasotacyp.

The initiative is being funded by Sarasota County and supported by dozens of youth-related nonprofit organizations, many of whom have representatives serving on the Leadership Committee, which is guiding the development of the plan.

As part of the needs assessment, we have so far conducted 12 focus groups, mostly with children and youths throughout the county. It’s amazing what we have learned by listening to young people. One of the questions we ask in our focus groups is: What do you wish adults understood about you?

“They need to understand that we’re trying,” said one young participant at the Laurel Civic Association. Another participant from the Triad Alternative School at the YMCA responded: “We go through different things than they did when they were our age.” These focus groups have given us insight into young people’s issues and challenges, what they like about their communities and their aspirations for the future.

We’ve also been conducting interviews with subject-matter experts. We have had 46 (and counting) in-depth interviews with leaders of organizations specializing in early learning, mental health care, juvenile justice, homelessness and other fields so that we can combine that knowledge to tell a story that would not be revealed by quantitative data and statistics alone.

Despite the variety of perspectives of subject-matter experts, almost all of them agree: We must start investing in children earlier in order to prevent more dire and expensive consequences later on.

Consider this statistic mentioned by one of our experts: The most expensive 10 to 15 children in the child welfare system cost a cumulative $1 million per year. The same expert notes that, according to a national study, for every dollar spent on prevention, $18 are saved.

We ask all of our subject-matter experts what they think can be done to address the needs of children and youths. At the end of the process we will summarize their responses and, along with other data and information, they will be used by the Leadership Committee to determine the recommendations, strategies and action steps that go into the plan.

The surveys for adults and teenagers are the last leg of our needs-assessment process. The surveys will allow us to get input from parents, teachers, service providers, and other community members.

So far we have received over 200 responses to our adult survey, and over 100 responses to our teen survey. With the help of community members and organizational leaders, we hope to get many more by the end of the month. The findings from our needs assessment will be made available through our website by August

2016 Community Report Card Update: Learning Highlights

SCOPE has begun updating the data in our Community Report Card. Below are some highlights from the Learning section

Some of the indicators below are compared to among seven Gulfcoast counties recommended by Sarasota County government as "comparison counties". These are: Sarasota, Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Pinellas. 

Early Learning

The Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR-K) was part of the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener (FLKRS), discontinued in 2014. It was used in Sarasota County to measure kindergarten readiness in reading of preschoolers. Screening was conducted by Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (VPK) providers. 

  • In the 2013-2014 school year 77% of VPK students in the Sarasota County school district tested “ready” for kindergarten, in Florida State 74% tested “ready”. 
  •  The Sarasota County school district ranked 2nd in students passing the FAIR-K (scoring a level 3 or above), out of seven Gulfcoast “comparison counties”. 

  • The Early Childhood Observation System (ECHOS) was another subset of the FLKRS. It was an observational instrument used to monitor the skills, knowledge and behaviors a student demonstrates or needs to develop.  

  • In the 2013-2014 school year 92% of VPK students in Sarasota County tested “ready” for kindergarten, according to the ECHOS. In Florida State 91% tested “ready”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  •  The Sarasota County school district ranked 3rd in “kindergarten readiness”, according to the ECHOS, out of seven Gulfcoast “comparison counties” 

Teachers

 

  • Sarasota County has the most teachers with advanced degrees out of seven Gulfcoast “comparison counties”

 

 

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  • In 2014-2015 the Sarasota County school district had the 2nd highest teacher's salaries out of all 67 Florida counties, Monroe County ranked 1st. 

 

 

 

Third Grade Reading

  • In 2015-2016 68% of Third Graders in Sarasota County passed the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) in English Language Arts, compared to 53% in Florida. This is the assessment that determines reading proficiency.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
  • In 2015-2016 Sarasota County ranked 4th in out of all 67 Florida counties in the percentage of third graders passing the English Language Arts FSA 

 

  • In 2015-2016 the average scores of White and Black third grade students in Sarasota County differed by 30.2% on the English Language Arts FSA.  In Florida this difference is 27.8%.                                                                                                                                                                                                
  • In 2015-2016 the average scores of non-economically disadvantaged and economically disadvantaged third grade students in Sarasota County differed by 19.6% on the English Language Arts FSA. In Florida this difference is 27.8%

 

  •  In 2014-2015 72% of third Graders in Sarasota County passed the Florida Standards Assessment in Mathematics, compared to 61% in Florida.                                                                                                  

 

  • Sarasota County ranks 9th in out of all 67 Florida counties in the percentage of third graders passing the English Language Arts FSA  

 

  •  In 2015-2016 the average scores of White and Black third grade students in Sarasota County differed by 25.2% on the Mathematics FSA. The difference between White and Black third grade students in Florida is 25

 

  •  In 2015-2016 the average scores of non-economically disadvantaged and economically disadvantaged third grade students in Sarasota County differed by 16% of the Mathematics FSA. In Florida this gap is 23%

District Outcomes: Graduation Rate

 

 

  •  Sarasota County ranked 2nd in graduation rate out of seven Gulfcoast “comparison counties”.

 

 

  •  In 2014-2015 the graduation rates of non-economically disadvantaged and economically disadvantaged students in Sarasota County differed by 10.7%. In Florida this difference was 15.3%

District Outcomes: Drop Out Rate

 

  • Sarasota has the 3rd lowest dropout rate out of seven Gulfcoast “comparison counties” 

 

  •  In 2014-2015 the dropout rates of Black and White students in Sarasota County differed by 5%. The difference in Florida was .7%.

 

  • In 2014-2015 the dropout rates of economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged students in Sarasota County differed by 6.3%. In Florida this difference was 3.1%

Sarasota County Sustainable Communities Workshop Photojournal

By Leah Duncan

On December 1st, the SCOPE staff had the privilege to attend the annual Sustainable Communities Workshop hosted by Sarasota County. We all agreed that the event was extremely informative and inspiring, featuring a broad spectrum of perspectives from Sarasota County, from Florida and from elsewhere in the U.S., on how to have a more sustainable community. Below are some photos from the event.