An innovative partnership to help improve the nation's persistently underachieving schools took another step forward today as the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced the first grants for the new School Turnaround AmeriCorps program.
This announcement comes two days after President Obama created a new federal task force with representatives from cabinet agencies to identify additional ways that the public and private sectors can partner together to support national service as a strategy for tackling national priorities. School Turnaround AmeriCorps is an example of the kind of collaboration the task force is seeking to expand.
Launched in February 2013, the School Turnaround AmeriCorps program is designed to support the placement of a dedicated cadre of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. School Turnaround AmeriCorps members will be placed in schools implementing school turnaround interventions as required by ED's School Improvement Grant (SIG) program or as required through Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility. Members will help keep students on track to graduate by working to increase student academic achievement, attendance, and high school graduation rates; improve college and career readiness; and provide college enrollment assistance and advice.
"In order to ensure that every student receives a quality education, we need to do all that we can to turn around low-performing schools across the country," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "Today's announcement highlights the progress the Department and CNCS are making to increase educational opportunities for thousands of students in disadvantaged communities. As this important partnership continues to move forward, it will remain focused on using innovative strategies to help schools put children on the pathway to success."
The program supports organizations that serve low-performing schools around the country, including those in rural areas, and expands on the efforts of Together for Tomorrow, an initiative between ED, CNCS, and the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
"This partnership illustrates how AmeriCorps members can play a pivotal role in addressing our country's most pressing educational challenges, " said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. "These AmeriCorps members will work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop the best ways to ensure students succeed inside and outside the classroom."
Each year more than 650 School Turnaround AmeriCorps members participating in the initiative will support a variety of intervention efforts aimed at addressing the unique needs of each SIG and Priority school. The 13 awardees will place members in approximately 70 schools in urban and rural communities across the country. Members will support turnaround interventions in 14 states and the District of Columbia. School Turnaround AmeriCorps will leverage an anticipated $18 million in grantee match funding in addition to the $15 million in federal funds during a three-year cycle. The 13 awardees were selected from 66 applicants from around the country.
The School Turnaround AmeriCorps partnership reflects ED and CNCS's commitment to increasing opportunities for students in disadvantaged communities by providing a high-quality education. Through the SIG program, ED has invested over $5 billion in more than 1,400 of the country's lowest-performing schools since 2009. Currently, CNCS programs have a presence in a quarter of schools eligible for SIG funding nationwide.
School Turnaround AmeriCorps will be supported by an initial investment of $15 million in public funds from both agencies over a span of three years. CNCS will seek to raise additional private funds to contribute to this effort. In addition, AmeriCorps members who complete their service in the program will qualify for the Segal AmeriCorps scholarship, which could total $1.5 million a year for all participants.
The following programs will be funded:
- Austin Independent School District (Texas) AmeriCorps members will provide dropout prevention services in Austin, Texas, through activities to increase learning time; improve community engagement; and support the social, emotional, and behavioral health of students, their families, and the community.
- Berea College (Kentucky) Partners for Education, Knox Central High School, and Leslie County High School have created PartnerCorps, an AmeriCorps program that will support and sustain school turnaround efforts at both high schools by utilizing AmeriCorps members as mentors, college advisors, and family connectors to engage low-income and rural students.
- Blackfoot Community Center (Idaho) AmeriCorps members will serve as classroom facilitators for 280 seventh- and eighth-grade students from Snake River Jr. High, providing tools for family and community engagement, establishing a school culture and environment that improves school safety, attendance, and discipline, and addressing other non-academic factors that impact achievement.
- City Year (multi-state) AmeriCorps members will partner with schools in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and the District of Columbia in support of turnaround strategies by improving conditions that help students persist in and complete school. Members will tutor, mentor, and coach 1,900 targeted K-9th grade students, promote a positive school climate and family engagement, and provide extended-day learning.
- Communities in Schools of Miami (Florida) AmeriCorps members will provide tutoring, mentoring, and student support services to increase educational achievement at five low-performing Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
- Denver Public Schools (Colorado) will use AmeriCorps members to tutor students to increase math proficiency at five elementary and middle schools in the system.
- Detroit Parent Network (Michigan) AmeriCorps members will be placed in six high schools in Detroit with the Project Graduation drop-out prevention program designed to improve student graduation rates and college enrollment. Members will serve as academic coaches/advisors; provide individual and family coaching; organize parent/student academic and college nights; conduct workshops on graduation requirements, ACT preparation, and college selection; and aid in the completion of federal student aid and college entrance applications.
- Duluth Area Family YMCA (Minnesota) True North AmeriCorps will place members in two SIG recipient elementary schools to support teachers in the classroom, connect in-school with out-of-school programs, and build site capacity to leverage volunteers for program sustainability.
- LearningWorks (Maine) AmeriCorps members will serve an estimated 1,805 elementary and high school students and 2,290 family and community members through providing extended-day learning, one-on-one tutoring, and fostering community and family engagement.
- Minnesota Alliance with Youth AmeriCorps members will serve six schools in the communities of Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, MN, to support 600 students in sixth through 10th grades at risk of dropping out of school. Members will leverage an additional 300 volunteers in this effort that is projected to put 1,800 youth back on track to graduate on time.
- ReNEW Schools Achieving College Readiness through School Turnaround Support (Louisiana) AmeriCorps members will give academic support in six low-performing, high-poverty New Orleans schools. The members will target approximately 2,000 at-risk students from pre-K through 12th-grade with actions to boost academic gains in literacy and math, increase attendance, and improve student behavior.
- The Springfield College School Turnaround Initiative (Massachusetts) will place AmeriCorps members in nine schools in Springfield, MA, serving 500 at-risk students to implement targeted interventions to improve attendance, academic achievement in literacy and math, behavioral/social-emotional health, and academic engagement.
- Teach for America School Turnaround AmeriCorps (multi-state) plans to utilize 86 members as teachers in low-performing schools to improve the educational outcomes for more than 2,000 students in Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The AmeriCorps teachers will set high expectations for their students while building their commitment to educational equity.