The case of the Community Indicators

Kids in Colorado.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: We'll get the consumer price index and
some retail sales numbers later this morning.
Those indicators, of course, will provide a small snapshot of the economy. But in Colorado, one community wanted to go deeper.

Marketplace's Special Correspondent David Brancaccio has a new beat called "Economy 4.0." And today, he looks at Community Indicators.
A way to get a sense of what's working -- and what's not.


DAVID BRANCACCIO: The first thing you need to know about Boulder County, Colo., is that -- on average -- it's rich. Household income is the 12th highest in the country. But a charity here wanted to go deeper.

MORGAN ROGERS: It is much more diverse than people think.

Morgan Rogers at the Community Foundation of Boulder County calls herself a "numbers geek."
She combed through statistical data to create a numbers-based portrait of the area. Percentage of hybrid cars: 2 percent. Charitable giving: below the national average. And guess what? People in poverty: 11 percent. Then there are the public schools, where the performance of Latino students severely lagged the rest of the school population.

ROGERS: It surprised a lot of people. We have some kids who are showing up in first grade who can read, who know their numbers, and we have other kids that are showing up who have barely held a crayon -- and they're all in the same classroom together with one teacher.

Shamed into action by the alternative indicators, educators, parents, and politicians focused on the preschool years where, data show, many Latino students get little formal education.

Denys Vigil is co-director of the nonprofit PASO -- Providers Advancing School Outcomes. It's about helping the people who watch the preschoolers.

DENYS VIGIL: They are taken care of by their neighbor, the children are, or by a grandparent or an aunt or something like that. But they don't receive any educational support. They watch a lot of television, I'll say that much.

PASO expands the educational repertoire of caregivers through in-home visits and Saturday sessions, like this one.

PASO session

Here, caregivers use a giant bingo game to help little ones match numbers.

But PASO's program was running out of money. Spurred by the Community Indicators, the Foundation was able to drum up support for its biggest-ever grant, which in turn leveraged 630,000 more from the state. Six hundred preschoolers now have care-givers with the special training. The theory is that communities have to measure the right things to stand a chance of getting the outcomes they want.

In Boulder, Colo., I'm David Brancaccio for Marketplace.

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