A national organization this week presented a local education trailblazer with its top award for his work in education and reducing gaps in academic achievement in Ohio and across the nation.
Tom Lasley was recognized by StriveTogether with the Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion award before 600 leaders from around the nation at the organization’s meeting in San Francisco, Calif. Lasley is the founder, CEO emeritus and director of policy at Learn to Earn Dayton.
Lasley told the Dayton Daily News that the award “focuses attention around the intellectual capital that Dayton and Montgomery County need for next-generation jobs and to meet workplace demands in the future.”
He said it’s “critical that major funders see this is working.” Lasley said it is also critical to foster positive workforce models for stakeholders and to help young people secure the skills for next-generation jobs to provide economic mobility from lower socioeconomic areas.
The national award, named in memory of a Washington state youth advocate, is presented each year to a member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network who embodies the passion, commitment and persistence Henningsgaard modeled.
After serving as dean of education at the University of Dayton, Lasley founded Learn to Earn Dayton, aiming to increase the number of adults in Montgomery County who have a college degree or credential to 60% of the population.
The local “Learn to Earn” program has been around since 2013 and is affiliated with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center and the Dayton Foundation, he said.
Lasley said he was most proud that the Dayton program is one of three in the nation to progress in receiving the StriveTogether “Systems Transformation” designation.
“We created the infrastructure, bringing together stakeholders and patrons to achieve strategic outcomes,” he said. “It shows the incredible support of the community and that it makes a healthier community.”
Lasley said there still needs to be improvement to increase the number of proficient readers by the end of the third grade in underrepresented groups. He also said that third grade reading proficiency is a predictor of whether a student will graduate from high school.
“It needs to be a priority,” he said. “It’s not a silver bullet but it could help increase school attendance and reduce a number of issues.”
He also said another area of improvement is the need for skills training to maximize economic mobility for young people.
Lasley is an authority in the educational field, having helped shape policy and legislation surrounding the science of reading, attainment outcomes, FAFSA completion, student debt mitigation and more.
He has been committed to data, and his vision helped Learn to Earn Dayton develop data-driven best practices in achieving cradle-to-career outcomes, earning national recognition.
“Tom has dedicated his career to being the most recognized and respected champion for students in Ohio, and across the country,” said Learn to Earn Dayton CEO, Stacy Wall Schweikhart, who nominated Lasley for the award. “He combines his intellect, relational expertise and a deep passion for education to align partners, address policy and advocate for the changes necessary to close gaps in student achievement. We are incredibly proud that his many years of leadership were recognized nationally with this prestigious award from StriveTogether.”
As a member of the Cradle to Career Network, Learn to Earn Dayton is part of a national movement to help every child succeed in school and in life, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. Learn to Earn Dayton is leading regional efforts including early-grade reading proficiency, chronic absenteeism, student voice, two-generation supports, and career pathways.