This post was written by Paul Koehler, Director of the Policy Center at WestEd.

We’re pleased that WestEd has been selected as one of three recipients of a GradNation State Activation Grant designed to support organizations with innovative approaches to increasing graduation rates across the United States.

WestEd will receive $200,000 to fund a multi-year effort to raise graduation rates in Arizona by working with the Mayors Education Roundtable, an organization comprised of 16 mayors across the state dedicated not only to improving students’ test scores, but also to increasing educational attainment and providing support for young people.

One in five young people in Arizona has not completed high school, and a similarly large proportion of young people in the state are disconnected from education and employment.

WestEd, with support from Collaborative Communications, will work with mayors to create targets and action plans for measurable improvement in high school graduation rates over the next three years, both in individual cities and statewide.

Why work with mayors to increase high school graduation rates? Because low graduation rates directly affect the economic and social well-being of communities. Arizona’s mayors understand the importance of working locally to make practical improvements in communities, and good geographic and bipartisan representation of the Roundtable allows them to connect their efforts for statewide impact.

While state representatives might spend more of their time on budget issues, the Roundtable is committed to keeping high school graduation rates on the policy radar screen in the state, noting that higher graduation rates lead to clear economic benefits to the state.

What does WestEd bring to the table? We’ve been working together with states, districts and schools for many years to turn around the lowest-performing schools, which has given us a deep understanding of the unique, context-specific challenges schools face.

In addition, through our work with five of the 22 Comprehensive Centers around the country, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Education, we’re able to understand and address the challenges districts and schools face. Collaborative Communications brings important communications and messaging support to the effort, helping to share lessons across cities and the country.

This is a three-year effort, and we will check in on this blog periodically to give updates on our progress with the Mayors Education Roundtable.

The funder of the grant is America’s Promise, with support from Pearson.