Obama launches ‘Together for Tomorrow’ school improvement challenge

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“Together for Tomorrow,” 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 to spur community engagement in turning around our nation’s lowest performing schools, 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.  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 it is being coordinated by the Education Department and is part of the Administration’s TFT initiative unveiled in February.  With a goal of 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, to submit their plans. Details on the challenge can be found at http://TFT.challenge.gov.)

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