New Haven’s work on engaging the community as part of the School Change Initiative has been hailed by the White House as a success story that the Obama Administration hopes to spread to other communities. United Way of Greater New Haven President and CEO Jack Healy traveled to Washington, DC this week to share United Way’s experience with other school districts involved with education reform.
“There is some exciting work going on in education reform,” said Healy, “and New Haven’s achievements are at the forefront. There was a lot of learning and sharing of information and best practices. The groups involved felt it was extremely important to share information on what is being learned in school reform efforts, and a network has been set up to help us continue to communicate.”
United Way of Greater New Haven was specifically cited for its work with the Boost! initiative, a partnership between United Way, New Haven Public Schools and the City of New Haven that addresses the social, emotional and physical needs of students. In particular, White House officials praised the three door-to-door canvasses designed to reach out to New Haven families with school-age children: the kindergarten canvass the week of August 18-25, the New Haven Promise canvass on September 15, and the Boost!/New Haven Promise canvass last Saturday, October 13. The canvasses mobilized community volunteers and paired them with school district employees to talk with families about how they could help their children succeed, and to spread the word about the expanded services and programs available in their schools.
New Haven is one of six demonstration communities to take part in Together for Tomorrow, a partnership formed by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), to spotlight and foster partnerships among schools, families, national service programs, and community-based organizations in order to propel improvement of our lowest performing schools.
In addition to New Haven, the other communities are Orlando, Fla., New Orleans, La., Memphis, Tenn., Denver and Center, Colo., and Detroit, Mich. Together for Tomorrow also honored 24 “Challenge” winners that recognize community-led partnership that support struggling schools. “When it comes to turning around low-performing schools, the Department’s investments and the work of schools and districts are only part of the solution,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Our schools need community engagement to support and sustain school improvement."
The New Haven effort is supported by the New Haven Education AmeriCorps VISTA Project, sponsored by the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut. The Project is a collaboration between six non-profit organizations working together with a common goal of closing the achievement gap in New Haven. The six organizations are: AARP Experience Corps, Dwight Hall at Yale, Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs, Inc., New Haven Reads and United Way of Greater New Haven.