Students succeed academically and graduate high school, prepared for higher education, career and community

High school graduates are more economically successful in life, while those who do not graduate find difficulty in earning a family sustaining wage.

Why it Matters

Education is one of the key building blocks to a stable life. It also benefits the whole community: high school graduates have higher earning potential, contribute more to their local economies, are more engaged in their communities, and are more likely to raise kids who also graduate on time.

United Way of Dane County adopts a comprehensive approach to education with programs that make sure children and youth become proficient readers at a young age, stay on track in middle school and earn their high school diploma to ultimately give back to their families and the community.

High school graduation can be predicted as early as the end of 3rd grade, the age at which a child transitions from learning how to read to reading to learn.
Children cannot learn if they are not in school: a 1% increase in Kindergarten attendance can increase on-time graduation by 6%.
Low-income students do not have the access to high quality books in the home, creating a two month loss in learning over the course of a summer, whereas their middle-class peers gain about a month.
Completing Algebra with a C or better by the beginning of 10th grade is a critical gateway to graduation and college.


What we will achieve

Students succeed academically and graduate high school, prepared for higher education, career, and community.


  • Increase the proportion of students of color and low income students who are proficient in reading by 4th grade.
  • Reduce summer reading loss.
  • Improve attendance, especially in the elementary years.
  • Increase the proportion of students of color and low income students completing Algebra by 10th grade with a C or better.
  • Increase the graduation rate in Dane County from 91.4% to 95% by 2020 (interim goal of 93.2% by 2016).
  • Increase the graduation rate for MMSD students from 74.5% to 84.5% by 2020 (or an additional 197 students will graduate by 2020) with an interim goal of 79.5% by 2016.

Key Tactics

Elementary School

  • Schools of Hope – Individualized 1:1-1:3 literacy tutoring for more than 2,000 Kindergarten through 5th grade students across Dane County elementary schools who are below grade level in reading and language skills.
  • Read Up – This summer literacy program addresses the loss in reading proficiency among low-income students during the summer months and the lack of books in the homes of low income families.
    • Students receive 5 books – to date program has distributed more than 3,500 free self-selected books to Madison school children.
  • Here! Every Student Every Day
    • Partnership with seven identified MMSD schools to help improve attendance, with special attention to students of color and kindergarteners.

Middle School

  • Schools of Hope – Individualized 1:1-1:3 literacy and math tutoring for middle school aged children in the Madison, Sun Prairie and Oregon School Districts. In 2015, over 1300 students were tutored by over 550 volunteers.
  • CBITS – The Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools program (CBITS) provides school-based screening, early intervention and treatment for 6th graders who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Students with clinically-significant levels of exposure to violence/trauma, symptoms of PTSD and depression benefit greatly by participating in CBITS groups where they learn skills that help them work through the trauma and manage its effects on their lives. In 2016, 2,500 6th grade students in 4 school districts will be screened across the county.

High School

  • Achievement Connections – Innovative math tutoring program for high school students to help them build basic math skills and pass their classes with a “c” or higher.
    • In 2015 more than 415 students received tutoring in Algebra and Geometry at East, West and Memorial High Schools in Madison, and at Middleton High School.
    • Achievement Connections is an AmeriCorps program, and sub-grantee of Serve Wisconsin.
    • AmeriCorps opportunities.


  • FACE Kids program — United Way, schools, and community partners are helping students with behavioral health needs through the FACE-Kids (FACE stands for Five Agency Collaborative Effort) program. FACE-Kids provides therapist-led school-based group services to Dane County children and youth with a wide range of behavioral health needs. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, grief and loss, self-esteem, and anger management. Groups can be tailored to specific needs identified by schools.

AmeriCorp Serve Wisconsin