Eight-year-old Jaquan was facing many of the same challenges as countless other kids in low-income urban, rural, and suburban communities across the country: subpar schools, inferior healthcare and nutrition, and scarce opportunities to lift his sights above the poverty all around him. Meanwhile, his mom was struggling to pay the rent on a part-time job with a below-poverty income. After Jaquan was placed in a highly restrictive special education program, he began acting out at school and was suspended.
If we’re serious about helping all children get a good education, we need to think differently. We need to learn from the success happening in places like North Minneapolis, where a partnership called Northside Achievement Zone(NAZ) stepped in to help Jaquan’s mother craft a comprehensive plan to get her son back on track.
NAZ’s staff works with local schools and more than 40 partner organizations in the community to wrap children and their families in a comprehensive system of “cradle-to-career” supports. For Jaquan, this meant having a real choice of valuable services, both in school and outside. This included connecting him with a school-based academic specialist to improve his grades, a behavioral specialist to help him tackle the problems that got him suspended, and a mentor who will work with him through high school. Jaquan also was enrolled in local after-school and summer enrichment programs that helped him jump ahead in reading and math.
And through NAZ, his mother was able to get Jaquan’s younger sister into an early childhood education program, which had the added benefit of enabling her to go to work full time.
The results speak for themselves. For example, the children of families enrolled in NAZ’s programs are much more likely to be “kindergarten ready” than other children in the neighborhood (50 percent versus 16 percent). In addition, reading tests over the past three years show a significantly higher percentage of NAZ-enrolled students in grades three through five achieving proficiency, compared to neighborhood peers.
It’s time to take a closer look at what’s happening in cities and towns from North Minneapolis to Berea, KY, to Seattle — places where partners are working together to provide children and their families with essential supports. It’s time for the federal government to help build on what’s working to make sure that all of our kids have choices that allow them to learn, grow, and succeed — from cradle to career.
Read the source article about philanthropy helping education Jeff Edmondson, Michael McAfee, Anne Williams-Isomat The Bridgespan Group
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