MPN-ESSA Passage-Blog 121515
by Raquel Donoso, Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood

There was some great news on December 10th, as President Obama added his signature to the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), now officially the law of the land. ESSA is a reauthorization of the five-decades-old Early and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act of 1965.

The President had pushed for ESSA’s passage before the calendar turned to another year, seeing the bill as a way to address gaps in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The administration explained what needed to be remedied as follows: “The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right goals: Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher. That’s the right thing to do, that’s the right goal. Higher standards are right. Accountability is right … but what hasn’t worked is denying teachers, schools and states what they need to meet these goals.”

Seeking social justice and equity in education, a cadre of community-based organizations worked tirelessly to help get this act passed. This included the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink.

Of ESSA’s 1,061 pages, these specific items pertain the most to the continuing work of Promise Neighborhoods:
• Ongoing funding of existing Promise Neighborhoods (based on performance to date).
• Establishing the Promise Neighborhoods program as a pipeline of services to foster academic achievement for students from underresourced communities.
• Requiring support of existing Promise Neighborhoods, with regards to planning, implementation and evaluation.
• Support for full-service community schools that improve access services for students residing in low-income communities.
• A mandate that three Promise Neighborhoods grants be awarded annually, based on availability of funds, by the Secretary of the Department of Education.

As director of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), I understand the significance of ESSA’s passage. This is exciting news for all Promise Neighborhoods, as they are now being given the continued opportunity to make long-term impacts in our communities. The Mission Promise Neighborhood, now well into its third year, is starting to see improved family economic success. This is translating to student academic achievement and a college-going culture being created in homes throughout the Mission District of San Francisco.

The MPN team, community partners and our families thank all who worked for the passage of ESSA–a bill that is vital to promoting social equity across the nation.

Read the full ESSA Act.

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Guest Blog-MPN-Erika Bernabei PolicyLink Blog_v2When I consider how the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink (PNI) does its work with the 50+ communities in our network, I think about how we have developed the national infrastructure for improving the educational and development outcomes for the poorest children in America. PNI has developed a disciplined approach to thinking and moving from talk to action, and a system of technical assistance that:

  • Helps local leaders achieve results more quickly and effectively,
  • Makes the case that cradle to career solutions are working across America, and
  • Scales up, refines and sustains results

PNI’s support has always been demand-driven by leaders who are implementing a Promise Neighborhoods cradle to career strategy. When we began as a collaborative between PolicyLink, the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, we knew that leaders would be starting this journey to achieve results at scale from different stages of readiness. Consequently, we spent our first year listening to their needs and co-designing and implementing our system of supports.

After that first year, based on the feedback we received, we realized that in order to support local leaders, we needed to develop a strong, results-driven infrastructure. Doing so allowed leaders to focus on the hard work of implementing their vision rather than determining the tools they need to do their work. We developed a system of supports that is free, optional and based on the management tool Results-Based Accountability. It includes access to a data dashboard (Promise Scorecard) and a case management system (Efforts-to-Outcomes™) that provides communities with the tools to visualize and use data for learning, continuous improvement and shared accountability.

We also offer communities of practice in the following subject areas: asset building/family financial security, boys and young men of color, data, early childhood, health and policy. Additionally, we offer opportunities for peer-to-peer coaching and learning, and intensive support for Promise Neighborhoods implementation grantees to build their expertise in becoming results-driven leaders through our Skills to Accelerate Results (STAR) Leadership Development Program.

This set of resources allows the entire PNI network to speak the same language of results, coach each other, and share evidence based best practices. In fact, just this week PNI released the Promise Neighborhoods Peer Learning Tool, which highlights examples of promising solutions and competencies for implementing and sustaining this work culled from Promise communities who were willing to share their experiences with their colleagues! You can access this tool, and a host of other resources, by visiting the PNI website.

Sixteen million, or almost one-quarter, of American children live in poverty. If the Promise Neighborhoods movement is successful, at least 1.6 million of these children will have the obstacles to opportunity removed. Achieving this goal will require us to remain focused on consistently achieving results over the next 20 years. And, as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Erika Bernabei, Senior Program Associate
Promise Neighborhood Institute at PolicyLink

Erika Bernabei manages the Promise Neighborhood Institute’s technical assistance to support the ability of Promise Neighborhood leaders to advance equity, opportunity and results for children and their families. She manages PNI’s suite of supports–including leadership development, data infrastructure and training on data use, access to experts on cradle to career solutions and problem solving coaching –that accelerate the ability of Promise Neighborhoods initiatives to transform their communities. Prior to joining PolicyLink, Bernabei worked on youth justice issues at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York, NY, and in the housing division at Legal Aid in Oakland, CA. Bernabei holds an MA in Politics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is a PhD candidate in Education Leadership at New York University.

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