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Obama Administration Opens Together For Tomorrow School Improvement Challenge

A new inter-agency initiative may provide an interesting opportunity for Promise Neighborhood communities. See below for a press release from Department of Education about the initiative.

Together for Tomorrow (TFT), the joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to spur community engagement in turning around our nation’s lowest performing schools, today launched its School Improvement Challenge for the 2012-13 school year on http://TFT.challenge.gov.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the launch today during a town hall in Dubuque, Iowa.  He said, “When it comes to turning around low-performing schools, the Department’s investments and the work of schools and districts aren’t the whole solution.  Our schools need the engagement of communities to support and sustain school improvement.  This Challenge will help foster partnerships to propel school improvement and produce better outcomes for students.”

"For decades, faith and community groups have been critical partners in strengthening schools," said Joshua DuBois, special assistant to the President and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  "In today's global economy, more needs to be done to provide every child an education that will enable them to succeed.  By mobilizing partnerships between faith and community-based groups and local schools, this Challenge will foster a sense of shared responsibility that is key to strengthening educational success for all our students."

“Time after time, we have seen how committed parents and community volunteers can make a powerful difference in the educational outcomes of our students," said Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer.   "Through this Challenge, we will shine the spotlight on the many ways citizens and communities can help young people achieve their best in school and prepare for success in life."

The Challenge is an opportunity for schools and districts, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations to join with other partners in efforts to improve their neediest schools by raising key measurable student outcomes: Attendance, Behavior, Course performance and College access, known as the ABCs.   Plans can be submitted to catalyze new partnerships as well as spotlight and expand exemplary initiatives already working to raise student achievement and strengthen a community culture of educational success.  Plans can encompass a single local community or a regional, state or national effort with multiple sites.   The Challenge is not a new grant program, but rather an approach to better coordinate  resources and efforts, including many through existing Education Department and CNCS programs.

All schools and communities that meet the criteria for the challenge will garner national recognition for their efforts and become part of the Together for Tomorrow learning network.  Selected applications will also be invited to attend a special event in Washington, D.C.

The Challenge announced today is being coordinated by the Education Department and is part of the Administration’s TFT initiative unveiled in February.  Focusing on achieving positive results for students in our nation’s lowest performing schools, TFT aims to change the fundamental relationship between schools and community partners so that education improvement is viewed as everyone’s responsibility.

Applicants have until June 29, 2012, to submit their plans.  Details on the challenge can be found at http://TFT.challenge.gov.

Job Opportunity with U.S. Department of Ed

The Department of Education has asked us to spread the word about a great opportunity to lead its work on Promise Neighborhoods and Full Service Community Schools. The incumbent will perform the following duties:

(1) Direct and oversee all activities for the program grant competitions; awarding of grants; monitoring of grants; as well as directing and overseeing the non-competitive award process. Adapts well to changing situations and circumstances, often in the late stages of completing a project or assignment.

(2) Supervise and manage staff while assisting them in achieving their professional objectives.

(3) Ensures that the implementation support is aligned and consistent with Department policies and initiatives.  Develops strategies to provide technical assistance to Promise Neighborhoods in a manner that maximizes resources; works with offices in the Department, as well as other Federal agencies and organizations, to coordinate efforts and ensure that resources to support Promise Neighborhoods and other entities are used effectively and efficiently.

(4) Represent the program to stakeholders and outside constituencies, including working with other Federal agencies and initiatives. Possesses substantial knowledge of cross-area interaction among issues in educational reform, neighborhood transformation, and understands broader comprehensive issues.

The deadline for applications is Monday, March 5. Read more and apply online here.

Education Department Releases New Guidance on Data Sharing

The U.S. Department of Education has released new guidance on data sharing under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The new regulations were published December 2 in the Federal Register (see here). An analysis from the Forum For Youth Investment is here.

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Geoff Canada Debates Diane Ravitch on NBC

Great debate. If the following video doesn't appear, you may need to install the latest version of Flash. You can also check it out on the NBC web site here.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Community Schools Happenings

Our friends at the Coalition for Community Schools have been busy! Here are a few updates from them:

Report: Financing Community Schools: The  Coalition for Community Schools has recently released a new report, Financing Community Schools: Leveraging Resources to Support Student Success.  The report finds that community schools have organized themselves to address constant financial challenges by breaking down funding silos and leveraging resources to support students. The report clearly shows that community schools efficiently leverage dollars to support student learning. The report highlights five findings:

1.    Community schools use the bulk of their resources to directly assist schools in meeting their core instructional mission, while also strengthening the health and well-being of students, families and neighborhoods.
2.    Community schools leverage $3 for every dollar invested by school districts.
3.    Collaborative leadership structures support finance and other key functions at the school and system level.
4.    A mix of public and private sector partners expands financial, as well as technical and political capacity.
5.    Full-time site coordination contributes essential site level capacity at minimal cost.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Shital C. Shah at: 202-822-8405, x100.

February 16 Capitol Hill Briefing: A briefing will be held February 16 at 2 pm. It is being co-hosted by Senator Sanders (I-VT), Senator Brown (D-OH), Representative Hoyer (D-MD), and Representative Chu (D-CA).  See the Dear Colleague letter that they have sent around. The briefing will feature community school initiatives from Evansville, IN; Cincinnati, OH: and Portland, OR. Please send it to your contacts on the Hill, urging them to join us on Feb. 16th at 2pm at the Capitol Visitors’ Center (SVC- 212).  Please RSVP here.

February 17 U.S. Department of Education Community School Briefing: Will include panelists from Evansville, IN; Cincinnati, OH; and Portland, OR, who will discuss the vision and strategy of community schools, how successful community schools are improving outcomes for children, families, and communities on the ground, and how the principles of community schools can be embedded in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. RSVP to Sarah Zevin at: sarah.zevin@ed.gov or 202-260-8363 by Monday, Feb. 14.

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by Dr. Radut