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Edgewood Is Changing

The following post was written by Derrick Beasley, Community Support Liaison at Alliance for Children and Families member agency Families First in Atlanta, Georgia. Families First, through its multiple locations, collaborations with community partners, and virtual services responds whenever and wherever they are needed. Families First is a 120+ year old organization that is building strategy to go beyond direct service and lead a cultural transformation to galvanize community responsibility for all children. Derrick was a member of the first cohort of New Voices Civic Engagement Fellows in 2011.
 
I recently read an article on Colorlines.com that detailed gentrification in Oakland, California. The article caused me to reflect on a similar, yet different transition in the Edgewood neighborhood on the East side of Atlanta.
 
As community organizer and family coach first entering the neighborhood three years ago, I quickly noticed that Edgewood was a neighborhood undergoing some serious changes. If you drive through the neighborhood today, you will notice a relatively new retail district anchored by major retailers including Target, Best Buy and Lowes, several newly renovated homes, a few residential construction projects, a large, old and highly subsidized housing development, several churches and several abandoned or dilapidated single family dwellings.  This is not a particularly unique scenario in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Atlanta.
 
While neighborhoods in Oakland are experiencing tension related to affordability of housing, the tension in Edgewood and its adjacent, also-gentrifying neighborhoods is coming to a head in the form of public education.  As the city struggles to recover from a school district-wide cheating scandal, and enrollment in public schools in Edgewood drops, the neighborhood has seen an influx of influence from its newer, more affluent residents.  Issues of race and class have arisen from both sides of the debate over what to do with neighborhood schools whose effectiveness has been brought into question.  These issues have been a threat to the progress of Edgewood for the last several years. However the same issues that pose a major challenge also make it poised to transform into a neighborhood inhabited by a diverse, thriving population.
 
Between place-based philanthropic efforts and other nonprofit entities, Edgewood has more than a few organizations and individuals committed to ensuring those with the least resources still have a voice in the change that is coming to the neighborhood. My organization, Families First, is committed to building capacity of the current parent voice in the neighborhood while building bridges to the newer parent voice to ensure a unified vision for education. While there are pieces of this puzzle that are outside  our sphere of influence, we know that we can equip parents whose voices have not been heard in the past with the tools to amplify their voices and communicate their own vision for their community to those in positions of power.  We also know that change can be a positive thing for Edgewood as long as it is built on a foundation of equity, inclusion and respect.

What Early Childhood Development Means for Strong Neighborhoods

The strength of a community depends on the health and wellbeing of its residents. New scientific research also suggests that the wellbeing of an individual may have a lot to do with his or her community. The latest developments in understanding brain science suggest that 90% of brain growth occurs in the first five years of life, so growing up in a stimulating, supportive, and healthy environment is integral to a child’s success.
 
A recent op-ed from Susan Dreyfus, President and CEO of the Alliance for Children and Families, cites the latest brain science as further evidence of the need for comprehensive early childhood education, such as the universal pre-K proposed by the President. Truly high-quality early education would reach outside of the classroom, to include family-engagement and home visiting. Ms. Dreyfus says, “Without the support of quality early childhood development programs, these children face lifetime deficits in skills and abilities that can have a long-term impact on our communities and our nation's productivity.”
 
Policies that help children today will help build the neighborhoods of tomorrow. Myriad research suggest the positive impacts that quality early care has on an individual’s educational attainment, lifetime earnings, overall health, involvement with crime, and general livelihood and stability. The data are there that an investment in children now is an investment in our communities for the future.
 
Just as a child grows up to impact his or her community, fostering a supportive and stable neighborhood environment has a huge impact on a developing child. To further explore the latest science on the interplay of individual development and community development, we are pleased to announce that Dr. Jack Shonkoff will be one of our featured plenary speakers at the upcoming Neighborhood Revitalization Conference. Dr. Shonkoff is a professor, a pediatrician, and the Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. His work examines the role of environment and early child care on brain development, and what it means for future wellbeing.
 
We look forward to welcoming Dr. Shonkoff, as well as numerous other researchers, academics, practitioners, policymakers, thought leaders, and more at the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference. The Conference will take place July 24-25 in Washington, DC. There’s still time to submit workshop proposals! Keep watching the main Conference website for up-to-date information on registration, speakers, and more.

Upcoming Community Schools Forum Focuses on Strong Schools, Strong Neighborhoods

The following is a guest blog post from Martin Blank and Reuben Jacobson at the Coalition for Community Schools and Institute for Educational Leadership. The Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, is an alliance of national, state and local organizations in education K-16, youth development, community planning and development, family support, health and human services, government and philanthropy as well as national, state and local community school networks.Their upcoming national forum will take place April 9-11, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
 
Strong neighborhoods require strong schools. Strong schools require strong neighborhoods. That’s what teachers, community members and organizers, nonprofit and higher education leaders, faith-based groups, United Ways, and neighborhood leaders will be talking about at the 2014 Community Schools National Forum in Cincinnati April 9-11.
 
A community school functions as a unique and essential center of the neighborhood -- a place where the resources of school and community are aligned to support students’ academic and non-academic development. Together with community partners, including human services nonprofits of many kinds, community schools provide academic, physical, social, emotional, and enrichment opportunities and supports to our nation’s vulnerable children; and they strengthen families so that they are better able to support their children’s education.
 
The theme for this year’s Forum is Community Schools: The Engine of Opportunity. It’s a theme that reflects our commitment to equal opportunity for all students, and the belief that that community schools, with their deep and sustained partnerships between schools and community organizations and institutions, are the “engine” that will prepare our young people to succeed. This Forum comes at a key moment in time. There is a growing conversation about the importance of student engagement in learning, and the influence of out-of-school factors, including poverty, on student achievement. Community schools and their partners work in both areas knowing that there is no “silver bullet,” no one program, that can accomplish the work we need to increase opportunity, decrease inequity and help young people succeed.
 
The conference is being held in Cincinnati because of their successful Community Learning Centers initiative that has recently been featured on NBC’s Education Nation, Marketplace, and The New York Times. This district-wide community school strategy (community schools are called ‘community learning centers’ in Cincinnati), represents a unique and sustained partnership between the school district, school board, teachers union, and more than 400 community partner organizations. Cincinnati is demonstrating how partnerships can help schools fulfill their core academic mission while offering students the opportunities and supports they need and deserve to thrive.
 
The Forum will cover a variety of topics such as community organizing and community schools, the relationship between community schools and other place-based initiatives (including Promise Neighborhoods and Cradle-to-Career); engaging learning; expanded learning; and family community and engagement.
 
In addition to engaging site visits and workshops, the Forum will include presentations from: Christopher Edley, Co-Chair of the Commission on Excellence and Equity; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the California Senate Education Committee; Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra; Rev. William Barber, Chair North Carolina NAACP; Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President, Annie E. Casey Foundation; Hedy Chang, Director, Attendance Works; Michael McAfee, Director, Promise Neighborhoods Institute; Dianne Piche, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Joseph Bishop, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; and Ira Harkavy, Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.
 
To learn more about the Forum and to register, please go to www.communityschools.org.

White House Announces Inaugural “Promise Zones”

Last week, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Obama reiterated his long-standing commitment to neighborhood revitalization and community building by announcing the first five “Promise Zones.” Each community designated a Promise Zone will be targeted for comprehensive, interagency, cooperative assistance with projects aimed at fighting poverty and blight. Up to 20 Promise Zones will be designated in the next four years. The first five are: San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
 
The Promise Zones initiative grew out of the White House’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), meant to encourage place-based policy development and interagency cooperation for the purpose of creating “Ladders of Opportunity” out of poverty for some of the country’s most-blighted communities. Through NRI, low income neighborhoods were targeted for community-based housing, education, and public safety projects that prioritized local needs and resident-centered decision making. NRI and Promise Zones both acknowledge that every community is unique and so needs individualized responses to fighting poverty.
 
Eligible applicants were limited in the first round of Promise Zone designations to existing NRI grantees, but the next round will be open to any community that meets the eligibility criteria. The application may be available as early as February, 2014. For more information about each of the five new Promise Zones, read below.
 
Los Angeles, CA (Neighborhoods of Pico Union, Westlake, Koreatown, Hollywood, and East Hollywood): Los Angeles’ Promise Zone will work toward increasing housing affordability, expanding their existing community schools model, improving career and technical education opportunities, improved public transit infrastructure, and charging local political leadership with improving efficiency.
 
We are pleased to announce that Alliance member agency the Youth Policy Institute is a lead partner in LA’s Promise Zone. Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute, said of the announcement:
 
“It was an honor for me to join Mayor Eric Garcetti at the White House last week for President Obama’s historic announcement that Los Angeles had been designated as a Promise Zone, one of only three cities selected in the nation. YPI is proud to be the lead partner with the City in this effort and to be the only agency in the country to have been awarded all three White House signature neighborhood revitalization initiatives — Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, and Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation. YPI believes, as the President does, that a child’s zip code should never determine her destiny.”
 
San Antonio, TX (Eastside Neighborhood): San Antonio’s Promise Zone will focus on job creation and training, the establishment of high quality pre-K programs, improved college access and adult education initiatives, and improved public safety through better street lighting and demolishing abandoned buildings.
 
Philadelphia, PA (West Philadelphia): Philadelphia’s Promise Zone will focus on improved job skills training and adult education, small business development, building a supermarket in the West Philadelphia neighborhood to provide both jobs and better quality food, mentoring middle and high school youth for college readiness, and better community-based policing efforts.
 
Southeastern Kentucky (Kentucky Highlands): In the Kentucky Highlands, the Promise Zone will help to diversify the economy and make it more resilient by leveraging private sector funds to grow small businesses, training youth in entrepreneurship and leadership, and developing metrics to evaluate college and career readiness.
 
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma: The Choctaw Nation’s Promise Zone will focus on improved workforce training, investing in infrastructure, improving education through better data sharing, more parent supports, and early literacy initiatives, and pursuing economic diversification.

Early Learning Bills Introduced in the House and the Senate

The following post was written by Monica Bandy, education policy analyst for the Alliance for Children and Families Public Policy Office. She is a graduate student and a former Head Start teacher, who has been closely monitoring proposed early childhood education reform.
 
On Wednesday November 13th Senator Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives Miller (D-CA) and Hanna (R-NY) introduced companion early learning bills in the Senate and House, respectively. The bills propose exciting new investments in early childhood education. A summary of the contents of the bills is available online. The Alliance for Children and Families’ Early Childhood Education Leadership Board is especially excited about this new development.
 
Now is a crucial time to raise our voices in support of early learning investments! Below are some ways we can help:
 
1. On November 19th a letter urging members of the Budget Conference committee to prioritize early learning investments will be circulated. If you have any state legislators who are interested in supporting the bill please email Monica Bandy by Monday November 18th.
 
2. Show your organization's support for the bills by entering your organization name to this sign-on letter.
 
3. You can also ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor the bill.
 
We want to give a special thanks to our Early Childhood Education Leadership Board for all of their advocacy efforts over the past few months!

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