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National Initiative Seeks Community Partners to Improve U.S. Schools

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Calling all communities: How can you help boost struggling schools?

That's the challenge the Obama administration recently launched as an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to improving low-performing schools with its new Together for Tomorrow initiative.

The program's goal is to enlist parents and community partners in innovative ways to make a difference for students who attend persistently low-performing schools.

To highlight the program this month, three town hall meetings are planned.

In Memphis, Tenn., on April 12, a demonstration site will be in the spotlight.

On April 18 in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will highlight examples of working partnerships.

And in New Orleans on April 26, the focus will be on demonstration site work between the Tulane Center for Public Service and some of the first line public charter schools in the city.

Later this month, an appeal will be launched on Challenge.gov asking for partnerships in communities across the U.S. to register their plans for the 2012-2013 school year.

"We'll be asking schools and community groups to come together to create plans specifically for the 2012-13 school year," says Michael Robbins, the U.S. Department of Education's senior advisor for nonprofit partnerships. "These could be activities already underway, or new initiatives that emerge."

"We'll be asking them to focus on priority schools, building capacity to manage partnerships, and focusing on student outcomes," Robbins said.

Boosting measurable student outcomes—Attendance, Behavior, Course performance, and ¬≠College access—the ABCs of improving low-performing schools, will be key to the initiative's success.

Together for Tomorrow will also spotlight exemplary programs underway that have strong capacity to manage school-community partnerships and demonstrate progress in the ABCs. Supporting services will involve providing guidance on how to harness existing federal, private and nonprofit funding streams, in addition to connecting local programs with technical assistance opportunities.

Duncan announced the Together for Tomorrow initiative on Feb. 24 during a town hall meeting at Memorial Middle School in Orlando, Fla., one of six demonstration sites for the program.

"Community and family involvement can be the make or break factor in successfully turning around low-performing schools," Duncan said at the meeting. "Together for Tomorrow will provide real-life examples of how to effectively transform our struggling schools, and build a community-to-community support system that can help take this critical work to scale."

Together for Tomorrow is a joint project of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

It is "aimed at changing the relationship between schools and community partners so everyone feels a shared responsibility to improve low-performing schools," Joshua DuBois, special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships said in a statement. "Every child deserves an education that will enable them to succeed in a global economy. Faith and community groups are critical partners in this all-hands on deck moment."

Cities hosting demonstration projects are:


  • Denver and Center, Colo.

  • Memphis, Tenn.

  • New Haven, Conn.

  • New Orleans, La.

  • Orlando, Fla.

Communities interested in details and updates on the Together for Tomorrow challenge can email edpartners@ed.gov or visit www.ed.gov/edpartners.

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