Tuesday, February 9, 2010

NEA Foundation Awards $3.75M to Close Achievement Gaps in Three Communities

Association-District partnerships will collaborate to target high needs schools; Multi-year efforts in Columbus, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; and Durham, N.C


Washington, DC  (Feb. 9, 2010) – Three partnerships bringing together the local education association, the school district, and community leaders, each have been selected by the NEA Foundation to participate in a five-year, $1.25 million effort to transform sets of the nation’s most challenged schools into local and national models for teaching and learning as part of the Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative. The partnerships selected to receive funding are: Columbus, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; and Durham, N.C.

The NEA Foundation selected the partnerships from among more than 14,000 school districts nationwide to participate in the first major expansion of its Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative. This six-year-old initiative supports union-district partnerships to develop and implement comprehensive, sustainable approaches to closing the achievement gaps and advancing academic achievement. To date, the Foundation has invested $6.2 million in three pilot districts: Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tenn.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Seattle, Wash.

“Good schools, schools that provide real educational opportunity, have a clear focus on teaching and learning. In good schools, skilled teachers and effective administrators agree on strategies, structures, practices, schedules, and resource sharing plans,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation.  “Real opportunities for kids grow when the whole educational system keeps its eye on the prize.”

Each partnership will respond to specific local challenges and achievement gaps, but each proposal was developed using the Foundation’s research-based approach and includes the following elements: collaboration that is grounded in research on best practices in teaching and learning; driven by educators; supported by the community; and focused on improving student performance and creating sustainable systemic reform.

In Columbus, the initiative is a collaborative effort between the Columbus Education Association (CEA), Columbus City Schools (CCS), and United Way of Central Ohio to close the achievement gaps in two high poverty, high minority, and underachieving feeder patterns (elementary, middle and high school).  It will bring targeted support to the participating schools in the areas of professional development and learning, parent and community engagement, and district/association collaboration.

“Our plan includes programmatic interventions that target teaching quality; parent engagement and home visits; and student achievement data that can be used to drive instruction and determine school-level instructional priorities," said Dr. Gene T. Harris, CEO and Superintendent of Columbus City Schools.

In Durham, the partnership is an effort between the Durham Association of Educators (DAE) and Durham Public Schools (DPS), and supported by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC Central University, and local business leaders to close the achievement gap between African-American males and their peers in two feeder patterns (elementary, middle and high school). 

"The selection of Durham Public Schools to receive this award confirms the importance of teachers and school system administrators working together to ensure that every child graduates from high school ready for a career or college,” said Sheri Strickland, President of the North Carolina Educators Association. “The collaboration between Durham Public School and the Durham Association of Educators is a model for what needs to be happening in all school systems across the country."

In Springfield, the partnership between Springfield Education Association (SEA), Springfield Public Schools (SPS), will raise academic achievement for all students while eliminating achievement gaps among Latino/Hispanic, African American, and low income students. In the first year of funding, the partnership will focus on six pilot schools, to be selected competitively based on need and readiness to undertake improvement measures. 

“We came together with a common belief that if we work together to empower the people closest to the actual work – teachers, administrators, and parents in our schools – we can make life better for the children in our charge,” said Tim Collins, President of the Springfield Educators Association.   “The work we did on the NEA Foundation grant reaffirms that when we have open and honest discussions about educating the children in our charge we find there is more we agree on than disagree on.  When, at the school level, we listen to educators’ voices and put our efforts into the things we agree on, we can accomplish great things!”


About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives.We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit www.neafoundation.org for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our blog.

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