San Antonio Promise Zone Progress on Display at Town Hall

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited San Antonio last month to participate in a town hall discussion on how the President’s Promise Zone initiative is helping the city’s Eastside community create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility. San Antonio is one of five Promise Zones announced earlier this year, and one of three in which Promise Neighborhoods, a program of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, are playing an integral role.

Since 2010, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood has worked to improve educational opportunities for the community’s children, beginning with preschool education. And the efforts are paying off, according to Secretary Duncan, who noted a reduction in chronic absenteeism for 8th graders from 33 percent to 8 percent and an increase in graduation rates at Sam Houston High School from 46 to 84 percent. ”Where a whole community embraces the importance of education,” he noted, “that sets an example for the rest of the nation.”

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The Hollywood We All Need to Know

Arne Duncan roundtable

“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)

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.

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Promise Zones Launched in Five Communities

On Thursday, Jan. 9, President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zones,” 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. Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, the Promise Zones Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class.

The first five Zones — in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma — have put forward plans for how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity. Click here for a fact sheet on the Promise Zones Initiative and the key strategies of each of the five Zones.

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Community Festival Marks Promise Neighborhood Launch in San Francisco

A festive celebration for families and the community marked the official beginning of the Promise Neighborhoods grant in San Francisco recently. Dozens of families in the city’s Mission District attended the more than three–hour festival at John O’Connell High School to officially announce a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was on hand to congratulate the community and leaders of the new Mission Promise Neighborhood, and cited the important contribution the grant will make to local leaders committed to the basic principle of the Promise Neighborhoods initiative: focusing on high academic achievement through wrap-around support for students and families to minimize the impact of a difficult economic environment on the classroom.

The deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Marco Davis, also noted that the Promise Neighborhoods program “is an outstanding example of engaging all aspects of a community.”

Also on hand for the launch was Joe Barlson, communications and outreach director for ED’s regional office in San Francisco. Click here to read his blog about the event.

A Simple Presumption for Arts in Education Week

Arts in Ed Week logo“I start from a simple presumption that I think most parents and teachers share.  And that is that all students – 100 percent – should have access to arts instruction.  All Children should have arts-rich schools.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

And the U.S. Congress agrees. In fact, in 2010, it passed Concurrent Resolution 275 to declare the week that begins with the second Sunday in September Arts in Education Week. The Arts Education Partnership (AEP), in keeping with its role as America’s premier source of information on the role of the arts in the education and lives of our children and youth, is hosting a special Arts in Education Week website to share news of the acknowledgements of the importance of arts education and nationwide events occurring this week.

Secretary Duncan talks with students at one of the ED's frequent Student Art Exhibit Openings at the Department's headquarters.

Secretary Duncan talks with students at one of the ED’s frequent Student Art Exhibit Openings at the Department’s headquarters.

Year-round, there are stories in the media about arts education — often times about the increasing body of research that supports their essentialness in a well-rounded education. For this week, however, AEP asked a group of arts and education leaders to share their thoughts on “What story about the arts in education still needs to be told?” These “untold stories” provide plenty of ideas and inspiration to achieve the goal of arts-rich schools for all children.

As the week is unfolding, others are adding their thoughts to both the AEP special website and its Facebook. AEP also issued a special edition of ArtsEd Digest to highlight additional information and resources pertinent to this week’s nationwide advocacy and public awareness efforts, including links to a number of valuable AEP brochures and reports. And don’t forget to follow the discussion this week about arts education at #ArtsEdWeek.

And watch this space next week for a blog about the opening of the annual exhibit of art works by national winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in the Department of Education’s headquarters, which is part of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and works on issues of national arts education policy and practice.

Promise Neighborhoods Convene to Share and Learn

I was truly inspired by the peer–to-peer learning that quickly developed into the pervasive spirit of this year’s Promise Neighborhoods Directors Meeting. Our annual convening on June 13-14 brought together more than 250 administrators, evaluators, and practitioners to strengthen relationships, forge new ties, and expand our knowledge of how to truly construct a cradle-to-career promise in our communities. Peers shared tips on how to effectively administer the program, apply solutions to nagging community challenges, and effectively use their data to drive results.

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Flint Arts on the Road Brings a Community Together for Education

The U.S. Department of Education was proud to host the Flint Institute of ArtsFlint School of Performing Arts, Flint Youth Theatre, and Tapology for the Flint Arts on the Road student art exhibit, which opened on April 22. Flint Arts on the Road is the first initiative of Flint Cultural Center institutions to produce cross-disciplinary collaborative programming showcasing the special talents of exceptional students in the visual and performing arts. The visit to D.C. for the opening also provided them a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience as they met and performed with their peers at several D.C.-area arts education institutions.

Flint Arts on the Road participants.

Flint Arts on the Road participants.

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It’s Midnight. Do You Know Where Your Basketball Is?

That’s the operative question for nearly 150 young men on San Antonio’s East Side this summer who are participating in the inaugural season of Midnight Basketball at the Davis-Scott Family YMCA. As part of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood, which received one of five Promise Neighborhoods implementation grants in 2011, the new league’s dozen teams compete on Friday and Saturday nights through August 4.

At the heart of all Promise Neighborhoods is the collaboration among diverse community organizations – public and private, non-profit and for-profit, secular and faith-based, academic and extracurricular – and the East Side collaborative, led by the United Way of Antonio and Bexar County, that is making the summer league possible exemplifies that principle. The San Antonio Police Athletic League organized the overall effort, but relied on area churches to recruit the players, who range in age from 17 to 23. The teams’ jerseys were donated by Generations Federal Credit Union and other assistance is coming from the Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which is investing in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood on behalf of San Antonio’s professional basketball organization. In keeping with its goal of ensuring that local students feel safe in their schools and community, $15,000 of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood grant is supporting the summer league. The new league attracted local and statewide media attention, including coverage by KSAT12 News and Texas Public Radio.  

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Call for Peer Reviewers for FY 2012 Promise Neighborhoods Competition

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), is seeking individuals to serve as peer reviewers for the FY 2012 Promise Neighborhoods planning and implementation grant competitions. Promise Neighborhoods is a competitive grant program that supports cradle-to-career services designed to improve educational and developmental outcomes for students in distressed urban and rural neighborhoods.

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April … and All that Jazz: Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month

April 2012 marks the celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM). The U.S. Department of Education is joining forces once again with the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History as well as more than 25 governmental, cultural, and community organizations to support this important cultural and educational initiative.

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