The City of Mesa is rolling out a plan to improve its graduation rates and its workforce.
If you rewind three years back for Mayor John Giles, he remembers a very sobering conversation with Mesa's School Superintendent about more and more of the city's young kids failing the assessment to get into kindergarten. "If you get a kid showing up for kindergarten and he's behind already, the likelihood that he's going to have a successful third grade reading score isn't what we want it to be," said Giles.
Right now in Mesa, at least one out of every four children under the age of five are in a household that's at or below the federal poverty level. Extensive research on the topic has led to a pretty stunning correlation between poverty and a child's success in school. To get in front of the trend, Mayor Giles is putting iPads, packed educational material, in the hands of pre-kindergarteners. "If we allow the downward trend to continue in our community, it's going to be economically damaging to our entire community."
Mesa is lagging other East Valley cities when it comes to per-capita income, even the number of adults over 25 with a bachelor's degree. More proof for Giles that something needs to be done. "If we have a reputation of an under-educated community and under educated workforce, we're going to struggle to attract quality employers to attract people who want their kids to go to school in our community," said Giles. "That's the image that we don't want to have."
In January, 50 families will get iPads. A mentor will also be assigned to the family to make sure learning exercises are being done. And then by the fall of 2018, the city hopes to expand the program to include up to 1,000 Pre-K students.