Vision 2020: Three cheers for Austin schools, Austin Aspires

Published 7:01 am Sunday, July 17, 2016

By Greg Siems

Vision 2020 director

The kids may be out of school for now, but education in Austin has remained a hot topic this summer. Early last month, Austin Public Schools was recognized by the Center for Digital Education as the eighth best district of our size in the entire country. Later in June, the website GoodCall ranked Austin as the 45th best city in the nation for teachers.

Email newsletter signup

And now, as the Herald reported earlier this week, Austin Aspires has officially joined and been recognized by the national StriveTogether Network for its efforts in promoting cradle to career education in our community. Austin Aspires is a non-profit that began in 2014 to fulfill the goals of Vision 2020’s Education Leaders committee, and we couldn’t be prouder of the work they’ve done so far.

In order to join StriveTogether, Austin Aspires had to meet a series of benchmarks that indicate our community is engaged, focused on a common vision for education, and committed to being accountable for improving academic outcomes. The Austin Aspires Leadership Table has convened representatives of business, government, schools, philanthropic organizations, and faith communities to review data and set goals for the future, which can be viewed at

The biggest thing to know about StriveTogether is that it helps communities get things done. It’s not just another organization that is all talk and no action. Of the 60 communities currently implementing the StriveTogether framework, almost all have seen dramatic improvements in kindergarten readiness, standardized test scores, and college retention rates. As I mentioned above, Austin Aspires and StriveTogether focus on “cradle to career” education, making sure that every learner has the opportunities to explore their interests and achieve their fullest potential.

More than 9,600 organizations and 8.2 million students are involved in StriveTogether, making it a truly nationwide movement. Through this network Austin Aspires will have access to the tools, knowledge, and other resources it needs to improve educational outcomes in our community.

In Austin, Action Teams have formed to pursue Austin Aspires’ goals and are made up of volunteers from across the community. The teams are currently studying ways to measure progress and will soon develop strategies and identify model programs to make Austin a leader in educational excellence. Anyone who is interested in joining an Action Team can contact Jennifer Lawhead, executive director of Austin Aspires, at 507-437-0920 or

Improving education can be a long process and truly takes a community-wide effort, so your support is greatly needed and appreciated. We all have a stake in the future of our town, which starts with the young people in our schools. We owe it to them to provide the best educational experience we can, and, as the recent accolades show, we are already doing a great job. With the help of Austin Aspires and StriveTogether, we can now set our sights even higher.