The Hollywood We All Need to Know


“This is remarkable leadership in action,” Secretary Arne Duncan told the press at the Hollywood FamilySource Center, following a roundtable with community stakeholders of the East Hollywood Promise Neighborhoods project. (Official Department of Education photo)

Cross-posted from the OII blog.

A small youth and family resource center is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall at the intersection of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in warm, sunny Los Angeles. It’s in “the other Hollywood,” where instead of calling for the lights, camera, and action of movie making, community leaders are in search of the solutions to poverty, mental health issues, and learned helplessness. Since 2013, with the help of a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Hollywood FamilySource Center has become the “one-stop-shop” for local families in need of help.

On March 19, Secretary Arne Duncan, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods team, visited the center, which is operated by the Youth Policy Institute (YPI). The goals of the center are to increase family income and students’ academic achievement. During its fourth year of operation in 2013-14, more than 3,140 clients benefited from the Center’s core services: adult education and computer literacy classes, tutoring and enrichment programs to improve children and youths’ academic skills, medical and dental health care, and a number of other services.

Our day began with an administrative meeting that involved ED, HUD, YPI staff, partner organizations, local residents, and youth. The meeting was comprised of about 20 people. Several principals shared stories, both of successes and challenges, within their individual schools. Some described ways that YPI is working with their schools to provide academic support through the use of tutors and a College Ambassador program. Others shared academic strides that students are making at their schools. For example, a few years ago, the charter for the Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School was not expected to be renewed; however, within one year, the school restructured its model and included resources of YPI. As a result of the restructuring and resources of YPI, scores on the school’s Academic Performance Index ( the annual measure of test score performance of schools and districts) increased by 66 points. It is now one of the highest scoring elementary schools in the City of Los Angeles.


Secretary Duncan listens to youth, parents, local teachers and school administrators, and representatives of community-based organizations during the March 19 roundtable. (Official Department of Education photo)

After the initial morning meetings, Secretary Duncan participated in a roundtable discussion, followed by a press conference. He heard heart-felt stories from homeless youth, parents, community residents, teachers, school administrators, and representatives of community-based organizations such as the STEM Academy and the LA Youth Network. Among the changes brought about by the Promise Neighborhood, 700 families now have college savings accounts as a result of a partnership with Citibank that assists low-income families with understanding the need to save for postsecondary education. “The difference [is] they understand you,” one student said. And that seems to be the missing link in so many students’ lives. The need for caring, loving adults who genuinely understand and take interest in young people echoed throughout the Secretary’s visit.

Closing the “opportunity gap” for students in East Hollywood through the efforts of YPI and its partners, Secretary Duncan noted, is the critical first step in closing the achievement gap. What he saw at the FamilySource Center is “remarkable leadership in action,” he told the Los Angeles Times, which followed his day-long journey in this article.

Promise Neighborhoods acts as an umbrella, creating a comprehensive program that makes the participating organizations think about their work differently. Gone are silos of individual services being offered to families, and in their place is a network of organizations holding each other accountable, so that significant changes can be made in the lives of young people and their families. YPI is able to offer cradle-to-college and career services and supports to community residents. Now that YPI has a Choice Neighborhoods planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it plans to expand its efforts to reach seniors and disabled members of the local community.


The Promise Neighborhoods effort, combined with support from other federal agencies, is cause for optimism among the roundtable participants. (Official Department of Education photo)

YPI is the only Promise Neighborhoods grantee that was awarded both a planning and implementation grant from ED, as well as a Choice Neighborhoods planning grant and a Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ). The ED, HUD, and DOJ programs are part of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, an interagency collaborative supporting federal engagement in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. YPI is also the only organization that was awarded two Full Service Community School grant awards.

Earlier this year, YPI was designated as a Promise Zone by the White House, where local communities and businesses will work together to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety.

Secretary Duncan didn’t meet any celebrities in the East Hollywood community he visited last month, but thanks to the help of the Promise Neighborhoods support, he did meet a number of real-life heroes who are acting from a script that’s improving the life of children and families each day.

Adrienne Hawkins is a management and program analyst for the Promise Neighborhoods Program in the Office of Parental Options and Information

Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is Finalist for Innovations in American Government Award

Last week, The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, announced the finalists for the Innovations in American Government Award. From a pool of more than 600 applicants, the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is one of five finalists being recognized for the positive impact it is having on neighborhoods – and people – across the nation. Neighborhoods like Minneapolis’s Northside, which has the city’s highest rate of crime and can be a dangerous place to live, work, and go to school, but the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) and its partner in the North4 program are working to change that. With assistance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the community is countering the pull of gangs and crime with job training, paid internships, and wrap-around support for gang-involved youth ages 14 – 21.


Bruce Murray a NAZ Connector who helps students and families in the Northside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Since receiving its Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant in December 2011, NAZ has enrolled more than 500 families into its cradle-to-career pipeline of services and family supports and is reaching more than 1300 kids. Each family is assigned a NAZ Connector, someone from the neighborhood, who works with the family to identify needs and barriers, set family goals, encourage behaviors that support academic outcomes, and connect them with promising and proven strategies to support success.

In addition to the Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Northside community is receiving support through the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, DOJ is helping NAZ increase public safety in the neighborhood with a $320,000 supplement to the original grant. This investment is being used for a multi-year expansion of the North4 program for young men like John, a high school senior with a history of gang involvement. The first year of the North4 expansion has provided John (and 32 other youth from North Minneapolis) with job training, paid work experience, and skills development. After graduating from the North4 program, John was automatically enrolled in NAZ. With the help of Bruce, his NAZ Connector, John has secured stable housing for his family and is setting academic, career, and financial goals for himself. But the benefit doesn’t end there – John’s mother, toddler son, and sister are all NAZ connected now and they’re getting the support they need to for a brighter future.

Jane Hodgdon is an education program specialist at the U.S. Department of Education

Mission Promise Neighborhood Partners and Families Launch $30 Million Grant

When you talk about a Promise Neighborhoods Grant in San Francisco, the operative word is “neighborhood.” On a recent Saturday morning, dozens of Mission District families took part as the Mission Promise Neighborhood launched its $30 million ED grant.

John O’Connell High School was the site as the Mission Economic Development Agency and over 30 of its partners hosted a three-hour festival that included a family-resource fair, entertainment, food and giveaways to let the whole community know about a grant to help families of students at César Chavez Elementary School, Bryant Elementary School, Everett Middle School, and John O’Connell High School.

Minority Leader Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi participated in the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s $30 million grant launch at John O’Connell High School, in San Francisco. (ED photo credit: Joe Barison)

While other federal education grants focus on academics, the Promise Neighborhoods Grant helps children and families focus on academics while also providing wrap around support to minimize the impact of a difficult economic environment on learning in the classroom.

“Our program is based on the strong connections between academic achievement and a family’s economic status,” said Victor Corral, interim director of Mission Promise Neighborhood at the Mission Economic Development Agency.

The agenda included remarks by U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who addressed the importance of the Mission Promise Neighborhood grant. “It’s a model for our country, and it works because it’s giving local leaders more resources,” Pelosi said.

The White House was represented by Marco Davis, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. “The Promise Neighborhoods Program is an outstanding example of engaging all aspects of a community,” Davis said.

“This is really our first opportunity to announce [the grant award] to the community at large,” said Jillian Spindle, director of development for the Mission Economic Development Agency. “That’s why we’re at the high school. We wanted a lot of families in attendance.”

The day’s theme of the local community, local leaders and local agencies working together to make education better may have been best summed up by Interim Director Corral, who said, “We’re doing this not for the community, but with the community.”

Joe Barison is the director of communications and outreach for ED’s San Francisco Regional Office.

Ending on a High Note

Chula Vista GreetingFive days, four states and more than 1,100 miles later, the Strong Start, Bright Future, back-to-school bus tour came to a close last Friday at Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista, Calif. Greeted by a Mariachi band, giant “Arne posters,” and hundreds of cheering students, Duncan arrived at Castle Park and took part in a school-wide pep rally.

Watch a video of the rally.

Following the pep rally, Duncan joined local school officials, education stakeholders and community leaders to talk about Promise Neighborhoods, which focuses on cradle-to-career initiatives that call on the entire community to provide comprehensive place-based supports such as high quality early learning, rich after-school activities, and crime prevention. Following the town hall, Department staff continued the dialogue with with community participants.

Since receiving a Promise Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Castle Park has a nearly 100% attendance rate, improved scores in core subject areas, and all students are in algebra by 8th grade.

During the event, Secretary Duncan also gave a recap of his back-to-school tour, and what the key takeaways have been for him.

“We have seen firsthand how courageous educators, committed parents, and caring communities are pulling together to tackle tough educational challenges,” he said. “Successful solutions and effective innovation inevitably originated at the local level, not in Washington.

Tough problems, like turning around persistently low-performing schools, require collaborative, comprehensive solutions that threaten the status quo.

Tough challenges force people out of their traditional silos and push them beyond their comfort zones. That takes courage—and a commitment to doing what works.

In the end, it takes a community to provide a world-class education. It takes outstanding principals, great teachers, high-quality preschool, after-school tutoring, arts, and sports programs, affordable health care providers, and accessible community recreation centers.

And by the same token, it is also true that no community ultimately succeeds without a good school at its center. The single surest path out of poverty today is still a great school.

Read the entire speech.

Secretary Duncan wraps up the last day of the tour in the video below, but at Castle Park he noted that after four bus tours, “I never finish a bus tour without being reminded of the ingenuity and commitment and passion of our teachers and students for an education.”

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and blogged and tweeted his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Advancing Family and Community Engagement in San Antonio

san antonio mayor

“Families want the chance to achieve the American Dream and to pass the baton of opportunity to their children” – Mayor Julián Castro, who spoke about his Pre-K 4 SA early childhood initiative.

During our recent visit to San Antonio, we had the opportunity to learn how community organizations and schools are working together to engage families in education.

We heard from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro how the community has rallied to support the expansion of pre-kindergarten education.  In November, San Antonio residents approved funding for Pre-K for San Antonio that will provide over 22,000 four year olds with high-quality pre-K.  President Obama has put forth a “Preschool for All” proposal in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which calls for a partnership with states in making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school.

We joined a family engagement convening hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and we were able to see first-hand the work of two-generation approaches to education development at AVANCE and the Intercultural Development Research Association.

During our visit to the Eastside Promise Neighborhood we learned how family and community engagement efforts being led by the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County are moving forward the three goals of Together for Tomorrow:

  • They are laying the groundwork by dedicating staff and volunteers to cultivate and sustain partnerships;
  • They are focusing on the ABCs, Attendance, Behavior, Course Performance, and College Access through things like parent volunteers doing visits to homes when students are repeatedly absent; and
  • They are celebrating and inspiring families and community members to get involved through events that are organized and executed by parents.

We also organized a community discussion to share about Together for Tomorrow, to learn more about local promising practices and examples of school-family partnerships, and to gather feedback to shape the Department’s family engagement efforts.  Hedy Chang from Attendance Works joined us to announce a new toolkit, Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence

The event was live streamed and the video is available here. We were joined by our partners, the National Center for Family Literacy, and will be working with them over the coming months to deepen our family and community engagement efforts with Together for Tomorrow.

Brenda Girton-Mitchell is director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education

Duncan Addresses School Safety During Promise Neighborhoods Announcement

Duncan Giving Speech

Secretary Arne Duncan spoke on the importance of school safety at a Promise Neighborhoods grant announcement. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

In his first public comments since last week’s Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke on the importance of school safety at the Neval Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C., at an event where he also announced the 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant fund.

“No one should ever have to go through what [Newtown] is going through,” Duncan said during a speech that was preceded by a moment of silence. “They are strong. They are resilient. They are united. But they will be forever changed,” he said.

On Wednesday, Duncan traveled to Newtown, Conn., to talk privately with teachers and school staff from Sandy Hook Elementary School and to attend the wake for principal Dawn Hochsprung.

“We have to make sure we learn from this awful tragedy as communities and as a nation,” Duncan said during today’s speech. “Every community needs to appraise its values and look at whether the community, parents, business leaders, faith-based leaders, political leaders, and schools are doing all that they can to keep our nation’s children safe from harm.”

Neval Thomas Students

Students at Neval Thomas Elementary School in DC perform during today's event. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Secretary Duncan said that in the coming weeks he is planning to visit schools and communities—in cities, suburbs, and rural areas—to talk about gun control and school safety. On Wednesday, President Obama named Duncan to a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to identify concrete proposals by January for reducing the epidemic of gun violence.

Promise Neighborhoods

Promise Neighborhoods are cradle-to-career initiatives that call on all parts of the community to provide comprehensive wraparound supports to surround good schools, such as high-quality early learning, rich after-school activities, mental health services, and crime prevention.

More than 200 applicants applied for this round of Promise Neighborhood grants. “The hunger for this kind of work in the nation is huge,” Duncan said.

“So many communities are eager today to provide equal access and support to disadvantaged children. So many communities are desperate to replace the cradle-to-prison pipeline with a cradle-to-career pipeline.”

Promise Neighborhood grants are important, Duncan said, because they engage the entire community—asking everyone to work together and to take responsibility for helping children.

Click here to read more about the announcement and for a list of today’s 17 winners, and read a transcript of Secretary Duncan’s speech.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Schools That Can

Shelton Visits Berea Clay

Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton talks with students during a stop at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky as part of the Department's back-to-school bus tour.

For each of the last three years, Secretary Duncan has started the school year with a bus tour visiting schools and communities across the country to find what’s working in education and to hear the concerns, insights, and lessons learned from students, teachers, principals, parents, and the communities supporting them. It’s always a welcome grounding in “real education” — the kind that children and families experience everyday — versus the “education system” policymakers and pundits love to caricature and debate.

This year, I participated more fully than I have in years past — visiting schools, grantees, education reformers, and advocates in California, Missouri, and Kentucky.

In California, I watched a Sequoia High School (Redwood City) student, who entered the school as an English Learner, introduce the music video he produced with his classmates on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus to an audience of more than 500 attendees. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, then shared anecdotes of individual students, whole classes, and entire schools achieving dramatic gains and fundamentally changing learning and teaching practices.

Shelton discussing eMints

Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton discussed eMINTS during a "Education Drives America" bus tour stop at the University of Missouri.

In Missouri, I visited the New Franklin School to see Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation grantee eMINTS at work. Teachers and students were using relevant and engaging project-based and personalized learning powered by technology to improve student engagement, effort, and outcomes. A class of self-directed 5th-grade teams pursued Web quests on American Indian civilizations. High school juniors and seniors completed self-paced accounting courses. Teachers spoke of being renewed by the approach and the new tools. Everyone used words like “ownership,” “empowered,” and “independence” to describe the shift in the school’s learning culture. All of this was especially exciting after hearing from school and system leaders working hard to implement the program despite the challenges of decreased funding, lack of technology infrastructure, and burdensome regulation.

In Kentucky, I visited Sayre School, a high-performing and well-resourced independent school focused on building great character as well as providing rigorous learning opportunities. The students showed extraordinary poise and confidence as we discussed the relative strengths of their program and the infusion of technology as a new, but increasingly ubiquitous, tool. This visit served as an excellent benchmark as I traveled to rural Kentucky to visit the i3 Development and Promise Neighborhoods (PN) Implementation grantee, Berea College, to see their work at Clay County High School (CCHS).

Clay County suffers from all of the ills often associated with Appalachia; but CCHS has leveraged the PN and i3 grants to substantially increase the number of AP classes offered and multiply the number of students taking AP classes and, most importantly, passing AP exams with a score of 3 or better. They’ve used the PN grant to create more comprehensive and coherent student supports that have begun to reverse the dropout trend and increase college going.  Teachers and students spoke eloquently about the impact these efforts have had, not only on their practices, but also on their belief systems.

One student in particular helped me synthesize everything that I had seen in the past two weeks. As I was ending my visit at CCHS with a student roundtable, I asked the students what impacts the programs had on the school and them. They spoke about the access to more AP courses, the heroic efforts of the new academic specialists to keep kids in school, the impact of grant-funded college visits, and the difference tiny amounts of resources made to teachers who cared but had nothing to work with. Then one standout student I had met earlier in the day, Rex, said:

I know I talked about the AP classes; but that’s not the most important thing.  And, I know I talked about the resources—ROTC students finally having real equipment after having used brooms for years—but that’s not the most important thing. CCHS used to be an I-can’t-school… Now, we are an I-can-school… I can take AP courses. I can go to college. I can do better than my parents.

Evidenced-based programs, technology, professional development, funding — I firmly believe all these are important; but in the end, nothing is more powerful than schools, teachers, and students that believe they can.

The question that motivates me is, what combinations of tools, resources, and know-how can make every school an I-can-school?

Jim Shelton is assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education

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Impact in Place: ED Releases Report on “Place-Based” Strategy

Place matters. And the Obama Administration has made it a priority to study just how much, such as how a community comes together to support residents, and how government, business and nonprofits can increase coordination to improve impact and effectiveness of investment.

From this work, the Department of Education has adopted a “place-based” approach – recognizing that the federal government can support strategies to achieve better outcomes for students and families by taking into account where investments are made and how those investments interact with other resources, policies, and programs. On Friday, the Department released a report on these efforts titled “Impact in Place: A Progress Report on the Department of Education’s Place-Based Strategy.”

Secretary Duncan announces Promise Neighborhoods

Secretary Duncan announced in September 2010, that 21 nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education would receive Promise Neighborhoods planning grants.

The report explains how the Department is able to better align its work with other levels of government to address common challenges. For the first time, the Department is explicitly using “place” as the unit of analysis, not just the set of programs that the agency funds.

Communities that struggle with underperforming schools, rundown housing, neighborhood violence, and poor health know that these are interconnected challenges and that they perpetuate each other. The place-based framework helps the federal government better support a community’s response to such challenges by coming up with solutions that tackle multiple problems.

Earlier this year, Secretary Duncan explained that, “boosting student achievement is not an either-or solution,” and that the broader community should be “attacking both in-school and out-of-school causes of low achievement.” The focus on place gives ED a mechanism to see how its investments focused on “in-school” levers of change interact with “out of school” conditions for learning, as well as the interventions meant to address them. With research showing that out-of-school factors influence students’ experiences in the classroom, the place-based framework helps the Department move to “both-and” solutions.

The Department’s signature place-based effort is the Promise Neighborhood program, an initiative that recognizes the role an entire community plays in a child’s education. Promise Neighborhoods create common metrics of success and a “cradle-to-career” continuum of services by partnering with community-based organizations, taking advantage of multiple investments directed toward achieving the same goal. A similar approach is taken in ED’s recently proposed criteria for the Race to the Top (RTT) District-Level competition. The proposal offers preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and enhance their ability to succeed.

Today’s report shows that ED’s place-based approach not only better targets the specific needs of individuals and populations, but also improves the impact and efficiency of investments.

The report lays out six key elements for the development and success of a place-based strategy, and provides example of implementation. By explaining what it means to be “place-based” and showing how communities around the country have adopted this model, we hope to encourage other communities and agencies to work in a place-based way as well. The report is a first step in showing how to turn the place-based theory into action that produces results for children, families, and communities.

Learn more about Promise Neighborhoods, see a list of last year’s winners and read Secretary Duncan’s speech announcing the program.

Larkin Tackett is Director of Place-Based Initiatives at the Department of Education

Duncan Talks Obama Education Record at Mom Congress

Secretary Duncan speaks to Mom Congress

Secretary Duncan speaks to the 2012 Mom Congress delegates. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

What is the proper role of the federal government in education? Secretary Arne Duncan answered this question Monday at Parenting‘s annual Mom Congress in Washington. “Under President Obama’s leadership, our role here in Washington is to support you,” Duncan said. There’s a transformation underway in public education at the state and local level, he said, that is raising expectations for students and educators.

At the Department of Education, our first three years were really about building a foundation for this transformation. We have challenged the status quo wherever it is needed and championed bold reform wherever it is happening along the educational pipeline from cradle to career.

Secretary Duncan explained how the Obama Administration has supported reforms by:

Strengthening K-12 Education

The Administration is investing in courageous leadership at the state and local level, taking to scale practices that close achievement gaps and raise the bar for all students. Investments include:

Investing in Early Learning

The Obama Administration has made an unprecedented investment in high-quality early childhood education with the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge.

Keeping Teachers on the Job

Under the Recovery Act and emergency jobs funding, more than 325,000 teachers were kept in classrooms during the height of the recession.

Investing in Higher Education

The Obama Administration has made the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill.

    • Three million more students are going to college with Pell Grants, thanks to an increase in Pell funding by $40 billion. Rather than adding to the deficit, the Administration paid for the increase by cutting overly generous federal subsidies to big banks that make student loans.
    • Invested $2.5 billion to support adults attending community colleges.
    • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has resulted in 50 percent more applications since President Obama took office.

“The bottom line today is: We can’t stop,” Secretary Duncan said. “The costs of educational stagnation and mediocrity are too high. President Obama has put us on a path to reach our goal of being the best-educated country in the world by 2020, and we have to keep going.”

Arne encouraged the education advocates in the audience—moms from all 50 states and D.C.—to continue working in their communities on behalf of their own children and all children. Parents need to be good partners with their children’s teachers, he told them, but “also need to be partners in bigger, systemic issues.”

Read the entire speech here.

Back-to-School Bus Heads to the Great Lakes

During last week’s #AskArne Twitter Town Hall, Sarah, a third grade teacher, asked if it is possible for Arne to “tour and sponsor real town halls with educators.” This week, ED announced that Secretary Duncan and his senior staff will be holding more than 50 such events next week.

Secretary Duncan stops in New York during last year's back-to-school bus tour.

Starting on Wednesday, September 7, Secretary Duncan and senior ED staff will head to the Great Lakes Region for a Back-to-School Bus Tour. Arne will be making stops in Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Merrillville, Ind., Milwaukee and Chicago, and senior ED officials will be hosting dozens of events throughout the Midwest. The theme of the tour is “Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future.”

Arne will be meeting with educators and talking with students, parents, administrators, and community stakeholders. Among the topics that Secretary Duncan and senior staff will discuss include the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, K-12 reform, transforming the teaching profession, civil rights enforcement, efforts to better serve students with disabilities and English Language Learners, Promise Neighborhoods, the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, STEM education, increasing college access and attainment as well as vocational and adult education.

Click here for additional details on Secretary Duncan’s back-to-school bus tour stops.

You can follow the progress of this year’s Back-to-School tour right here at the ED Blog, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, and by signing up for email updates from ED and Secretary Duncan.

Communities Must Come Together


Secretary Duncan meets students at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School campus, the location of the Promise Neighborhood town hall meeting.

“There is a role for every one of us to play. There is no ‘they.’ It is us. We want to make this an example of what can be done,” said Alma Powell, Co-Chair of America’s Promise, yesterday at a town hall meeting highlighting the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Joined by Secretary Duncan, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, and other guests, Powell’s comments highlight the importance of the Promising Neighborhood grants, and how they can bring individuals and groups together to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity.

During the town hall meeting, Secretary Duncan announced that the Department of Education has an additional $30 million to make a second round of Promise Neighborhoods grants, and explained how important community is to the success of the Promise Neighborhoods Program:

This work is a triumph of common sense. To see this community come together systemically can be a model for the nation.  Schools cannot do this by themselves. The community must come together.

The DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative located in northeast Washington is one of the 21 grantees awarded a Promise Neighborhood planning grant last fall. Grants of up to $500,000 were awarded to nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education working in a diverse set of communities, including major metropolitan areas, small and medium-size cities, rural areas, and one Indian reservation.

The Promise Neighborhoods program is part of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a cross-agency effort that includes the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Treasury. “Our commitment is broad and deep, and it begins in the White House,” added White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes.

In the coming weeks, the Education Department plans to announce the Promise Neighborhoods application process for the next round of grants. Nonprofits, institutions of higher education and Indian tribes will be eligible to apply. Winners will be selected no later than Dec. 31.

James Guitard

James Guitard is an Education Program Specialist on the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods Team.

21 Promise Neighborhoods Grantees Representative of Broader Movement

21 Promise Neighborhoods Grantees Representative of Broader MovementLast week we were proud to join Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to announce the 21 Promise Neighborhoods planning grantees.  The event in our nation’s capital was a great opportunity not only to publicly recognize the first cohort of Promise Neighborhoods, but also to acknowledge the efforts of all communities across the country engaged in the important work of building great schools and strong support systems for children and youth.

While we took time to congratulate the organizations receiving grants, we also recognized that these grantees are representative of a much broader movement of communities committed to Promise Neighborhoods approach.  From the west in California, to the north to Minnesota, east to Massachusetts, and south to Mississippi, an analysis of the initial group of Promise Neighborhoods  reflects the tremendous need and great potential of all the communities that applied for planning grants.

In large urban areas, mid-size cities, and rural towns, children in 21 Promise Neighborhoods face significant barriers to getting a great education. For example, in one neighborhood, residents require five times the rate of health services as the rest of the city.  In another neighborhood, one in five children has an incarcerated parent.  In another, a study found that only three percent of high school students are college eligible.

These statistics are not unique to Promise Neighborhoods grantees.  In fact, they are just a sample of the challenges facing every community that applied for a planning grant, and the hundreds of others engaged in this movement. 

Similarly, the grantees reflect the broader field of nonprofits, colleges, and universities that are working with districts and communities to turn around our country’s most persistently low-performing schools. Many of these organizations have strong leaders with years of experience and a clear and compelling vision for improving their communities.   They are building new partnerships and sustaining existing collaborations, and continuing to break down silos between agencies and programs at the local level so that no child falls through the cracks. 

The nearly $7 million in matching funds secured by the 21 grantees, which includes $2.3 million in contributions from foundations, businesses, and individuals, is only a small amount of the total funds committed to the more than 300 Promise Neighborhoods applicants.

In the next several weeks, we will post selected information about high‐scoring applications on our website. We encourage the supporters of these applications and all communities engaged in this work to maintain their commitments.  There is a tremendous opportunity to fill the gap between the number of quality Promise Neighborhoods proposals and the limited planning grant funds available from the Department of Education to support those proposals.

In fact, some of the support for Promise Neighborhoods comes from other Federal agencies, which are doing their part to break down “silos” inside the Beltway. We were so encouraged to be joined at the announcement by Melody Barnes, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. We also recognize the commitment and leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder.  These leaders are not only supportive of the Promise Neighborhoods movement, but they are finding ways to align their assets with the program.

Whether or not a community applied for or received a planning grant this year, the Department of Education adds our voice to the chorus of supporters encouraging all communities to continue their efforts in this vein:

  • Build comprehensive plans to ensure each child in your community has the continuum of support they need to be successful from birth through college and career. Follow through on the partnerships required to deliver these plans and ultimately implement your community-based solutions.
  • Design models to provide new or expand highly-effective early learning opportunities, after-school and summer programs, and approaches to ensuring the health and safety of each child.
  • Identify research-based programs where possible and prepare to rigorously evaluate the promising but unproven elements of your plans.
  • Create clear metrics to determine whether progress is being made and use data to make decisions.
  • Work to “braid” public and private funding to ensure the sustainability of projects.

Most importantly, we encourage communities to continue to put providing high quality schools and other educational options at the center of their work.

As this movement grows, the innovative and comprehensive approach of Promise Neighborhoods will blaze the path to improving the lives and life outcomes of children and youth in distressed communities throughout our country.

Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary, US Department of Education
Larkin Tackett, Deputy Director, Promise Neighborhoods

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