NEA Foundation awards Springfield schools a $50k planning grant

"The NEA Foundation announced today that it will build upon the success of its collaborative Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative by awarding a Springfield public education partnership a $50,000 planning grant. The partnership, comprised of leaders from Springfield Education Association and Springfield Public Schools will use the funding to develop a proposal to demonstrate how they will work together to improve achievement rates for low income and minority students, while raising performance for all students.

Based on a review of its proposal later this year, the Springfield partnership may receive a five-year, up to $1.25 million grant from the NEA Foundation to implement its strategy. The proposal will be considered along with proposals from four other urban public education partnerships that also have received NEA Foundation planning grants. The additional sites are: Kansas City, Kan.; Durham, N.C.; Omaha, Neb.; and Columbus, Ohio.

"We are really excited about this grant" Springfield Education Association President Timothy Collins said. "It has tremendous potential to help the children in the Springfield Public Schools.

"These funds will give us the opportunity to continue the important work we are already doing with the Pioneer Valley Project to increase parental involvement, which has proven time and again to make a dramatic difference in the overall success of our students," Collins continued. "In addition, the grant will help us deepen and expand the joint labor/management collaborative work in which the Springfield Education Association and Springfield Public Schools are engaged." 

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to build these programs," the SEA president added. "These initiatives are extremely beneficial to the entire Springfield school community -- especially our students -- and are already producing positive results in schools across the city."

"Collaborations and partnerships like this one are crucial to our school district as we work to create a culture of educational excellence for all of our students" said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alan J. Ingram. "I am delighted that we have come together under this NEA Foundations planning grant. I look forward to the valuable insight that all parties involved will contribute as we work together to help ensure that all of our students perform at their maximum potential." 

Specifically, the partnership's proposal will focus on ways they will work together to strengthen four areas of intervention in public education:

  • Local association district capacity and collaboration to generate a shared understanding of the problem, frequent and ongoing communication, and an agreed-upon set of strategies to address the challenges;
  • System alignment and coherence designed to increase capacity at the district level to ensure school-level success;
  • Family and community partnerships designed to generate support for improvement efforts and to bring necessary resources for achieving the vision and outcomes; and
  • Quality teaching designed to improve teaching and learning as a means of closing the achievement gaps by improving the professional lives of teachers.

"We have found that these areas of intervention together bolster the likelihood that local impact can be sustained as they address and change the conditions and structures that we believe most directly drive student achievement and performance" said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. Springfield's proposal will assess their readiness, build capacity, and develop a shared vision and set of aligned, systemic strategies that close the achievement gaps. And it may qualify for our larger, multi-year implementation grant."

Since its inception in 2004, the NEA Foundation has spent just under $6.2 million on its signature Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative, working with urban districts in Seattle, Wash.; Hamilton County (Chattanooga) Tenn.; and Milwaukee, Wis.

"Preliminary results from our three original pilot sites show powerful evidence of the potential of building and maintaining a collaborative relationship focused on student achievement among these groups," said Sanford. "With less than a year to go at our first site in Chattanooga, we are seeing gains across the board. The achievement gap has dropped 13 percent in reading and 10.5 percent in math from 2004 to 2008.  Equally important, our initial support has catalyzed the community to extend this work from the first five middle schools to all 21 middle schools in Hamilton County."

Sanford added that an independent, third party evaluator has been tasked with reviewing the data, and details about progress being made through this work will be released later in the year.

"In addition to the improvements made at each of our pilot sites, we have gained important insights about how educators and communities can best approach challenges," Sanford said. "Although the problems they faced were different at each site, as were the solutions and the results, our collaborative, research-based, teacher-driven approach was the same.  It works, and we're eager to extend it into new sites."

The planning grants are by invitation only and are based on a process and set of criteria that include: student population and demographics; local associations affiliated with the National Education Association; regional diversity; and stable association and district leadership.

The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a nonprofit, public charity created in 1969 and sustained by contributions from educators, corporate sponsors and others.  The NEA Foundation offers grants and programs that support educators' efforts to close the gaps in student achievement, increase classroom innovations, salute excellence in education and provide professional development.  For more information, visit www.neafoundation.org