Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NEA Foundation Funds Five Urban School Districts

$50,000 Planning Grants to be Used to Create a Road Map for Potential Multi-Year Funded Efforts to Close the Achievement Gaps in Public Education

WASHINGTON, DC (May 5, 2009) – The NEA Foundation announced today that it will build upon the success of its collaborative Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative by awarding five urban public education partnerships $50,000 planning grants. These partnerships will develop proposals to demonstrate how they will work together to improve achievement rates for low income and minority students, while raising performance for all students.

The planning grant sites are: Kansas City, Kan; Springfield, Mass.; Durham, N.C.; Omaha, Neb.; and Columbus, Ohio. The partnerships comprise leaders from the local teachers’ association, the school district, and the community.

“Preliminary results from our three original pilot sites show powerful evidence of the potential of building and maintaining a collaborative relationship among these groups that is focused on student achievement,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our plan is to advance this work by funding a second set of sites, and in doing so, continue to grow our knowledge base so that we can share these strategies with the public education and philanthropic sectors in the years ahead.”

Specifically, the partnerships’ proposals will focus on ways they will work together to strengthen four areas of intervention in public education:

- Local association district capacity and collaboration to generate a shared understanding of the problem, frequent and ongoing communication, and an agreed-upon set of strategies to address the challenges;

- System alignment and coherence designed to increase capacity at the district level to ensure school-level success;

- Family and community partnerships designed to generate support for improvement efforts and to bring necessary resources for achieving the vision and outcomes; and

- Quality teaching designed to improve teaching and learning as a means of closing the achievement gaps by improving the professional lives of teachers.

“We have found that these areas of intervention together bolster the likelihood that local impact can be sustained as they address and change the conditions and structures that we believe most directly drive student achievement and performance,” said Sanford. Each of the sites’ proposals will assess their readiness, build capacity, and develop a shared vision and set of aligned, systemic strategies that close the achievement gaps. The best will be awarded multi-year implementation grants.

“We believe that by working collaboratively within the local public education system, we can best identify and leverage any assets, address existing weaknesses, and share information inside and outside the system, a solution that is far more practical, effective, and doable than many others we’ve seen,” she said.

Since its inception in 2004, the NEA Foundation has spent about $6.2 million on its signature Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative, working with districts in Chattanooga/Hamilton County, Tenn., Seattle, Wash., and Milwaukee, Wis.

“With less than a year to go at our first site in Chattanooga, we are seeing gains across the board. Teachers now receive data-driven, professional development to address real instructional challenges. Parents and the community are more engaged. And test scores, especially for low income and minority students, are rising,” said Sanford. “The achievement gap has dropped 13 percent in reading and 10.5 percent in math from 2004 to 2008. Equally important, our initial support has catalyzed the community to extend this work from the five original to all 21 middle schools in Hamilton County, so that our work is taking on a life of its own.”

Sanford added that schools in Milwaukee and Seattle were also reporting early successes. An independent, third party evaluator has been tasked with reviewing the data, and details about progress being made through this work will be released later in the year.

“In addition to the improvements made at each of our pilot sites, we have gained important insights about how educators and communities can best approach challenges,” Sanford said. “Although the problems they faced were different at each site, as were the solutions and the results, our collaborative, research-based, teacher-driven approach was the same. It works, and we’re eager to extend it into new sites.”

The planning grants are by invitation only and were selected based on a set of specific criteria that included: student population and demographics, local associations affiliated with the National Education Association, regional diversity, and stable association and district leadership.

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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