Dec 6, 2011

Shared Accountability Outside of Cincinnati

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Last week, my colleagues released a paper that, in part, touted a successful community-school partnership in Cincinnati. Together, more than 300 nonprofits, schools, businesses, community providers, and other organizations, collaborate to provide ongoing support and education for children within their community from “cradle to career.”

Those within the Strive Partnership of Cincinnati-North Kentucky will tell you half the battle is just that: establishing the notion of shared accountability and that “everyone owns a piece.”

To encourage more projects like Strive, the Obama administration last year launched the Promise Neighborhood initiative, which seeks to award grants to communities with established partnerships and plans for working together for the better good of student support and education. Last year, 21 communities received planning grants to begin establishing partnerships. More grants will come this month (stay tuned!), but here’s a quick look at what’s already developing across the country – and what folks hope to achieve, should they receive another round of grants this month:

• In the Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood in Arkansas, schools are working with community providers to implement the Freedom School Model. During the summers, all second- and third-graders will work on literacy skills in an attempt to boost third-grade literacy across the board.

“There’s a lot of concern in our community about the importance of reading and what happens when kids aren’t reading on grade level by third grade,” said Julie Hall, director of the University District Educational Network at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which is involved with the Promise Neighborhood.

In addition, the cause was “one we can really rally around,” she said, as community organizations and schools navigate the sticky terrain that is shared accountability: establishing goals, strategies, and metrics to measure outcomes, so everyone does their fair share.

• In the St. Paul, Minn., Promise Neighborhood, officials plan to create family resource centers in their two target schools. The centers will provide services for mental health, dental, and medical needs, and all families and children within the 250-block neighborhood can receive the services.

Eventually, says Director Angelique Kedem, the centers will serve as a liaison between the residents and community providers, like housing assistance and food stamps.

“The community schools will become a hub, a central point where a family can access a number of resources provided by the community,” Kedem said.

• When Boyle Heights Promise Neighborhood partners surveyed their neighborhood in Los Angeles, they found most residents had health insurance, or at least access to a doctor. But what they didn’t find was sufficient mental health services, said Deycy Avitia, project director for the Boyle Heights Promise Neighborhood. The federal grant, she said, would allow coordination between the Dolores Mission, Centro de Ayuda, and Peace Over Violence to provide clinical mental health services to residents who need them. Like similar models across the country, the neighborhood’s schools will house the services.

All partners involved will meet at least quarterly to share best practices and check-in on progress.

“We need to look not only at what’s happening in schools, but what’s happening outside schools,” she said. “This (Promise Neighborhood initiative) goes beyond the academics and tackles some of the issues deep in the community” that often bleed into classrooms and affect learning.

This article was written by Mandy Zatynski on The Quick and The Ed.

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