The Education Innovator #5
Volume IV
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The Education Innovator
 March 9, 2006 • Number 5
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National Association of Street Schools (NASS)
What's New
Innovations in the News

Street Schools Offer a Personalized Education for At-Risk Youth
In the spring of 1985, Tom Tillapaugh, a young educator, opened a school for homeless and at-risk students in Denver, Colorado. The first three graduates, a former street person, a struggling Navy veteran, and a young woman recovering from drug dependency, all earned their high school diplomas in the dining room of a home rented for Mr. Tillapaugh by a caring community member. The Denver Street School, as it became known, grew into larger facilities and inspired others to start similar schools, the first three of which opened in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in Tampa, Florida. By 1996, the four original schools formed the National Association of Street Schools (NASS) and, today, the association has 43 member schools in 27 cities across the country.

All schools within the National Association of Street Schools are built on a faith-based philosophy with instruction delivered in small, personal settings by effective teachers. NASS recommends that participating school campuses enroll no more than 50 to 60 students with class sizes of approximately ten students. The largest NASS member school serves 300 students.

NASS "Street Schools" are private and faith-based, with a philosophy of "access for all." Street Schools enroll students regardless of race, religion, sex, academic standing, or economic status. Students pay tuition to attend NASS member schools on a sliding scale, based on individual ability. Students ages 14 through 20, who struggled with, dropped out of, or were expelled from the public school system may enroll. Street Schools focus on the holistic development of their students, providing services such as career counseling, self-sufficiency classes, daycare for teenage parents, and Student Outreach Services that help students overcome specific barriers to academic success. These services can include helping students solve transportation problems or access medical care and food and clothing banks. In addition, each student is assigned a "faculty advocate" who is a teacher or staff member who gets to know that student's educational background, family, and living situation. In addition to talking with the student each day during school hours, the advocate is required to contact each student every two weeks outside of school either at lunch, during the evening, or on the weekend. The advocate also updates faculty on his or her student's academic and social progress and helps facilitate college and career planning.

Typically, students who enroll in NASS member schools are significantly behind in their academic development. Once students enter a Street School, teachers administer a series of diagnostic tools, including an initial interview and academic assessments, to determine students' areas of strength and weakness. The results are then recorded in a student management software system, developed by NASS, called "SS Tracker." The advocate records this and other information as part of the ongoing monitoring of each student. At the same time, teachers, advocates, and students' families work to create individual Student Learning Plans. These plans are used to guide students in four instructional areas, which make up the NASS educational model: academic development, student support and social skill development, career pathway/economic literacy development, and spiritual development.

The first instructional area, academic development, is based on high expectations for student performance. Teachers expect that, although many students live in conditions that are not optimal for the completion of homework or studying, they will take personal responsibility for their education and turn in assignments that are complete and on time. Teachers engage students in hands-on projects led by active inquiry and tie lessons to state academic standards. As students master concepts in core subjects, their Student Learning Plans are modified and new learning goals are created.

The faculty advocate system shapes much of the second instructional area, student support and social skill development, in which advocates are responsible for helping students build a network of support for themselves by teaching them how to access community services. Students also take classes dedicated to improving their life/social skills.

In the third instructional area, career pathway/economic literacy development, students participate in "Workplace and Employability Skill Training" where they learn how to write résumés and conduct themselves during interviews, as well as other elements of professional etiquette. Teachers are trained in "A Framework for Understanding the Context of Poverty," and learn a sequential strategy for integrating economic concepts into students' core academic subjects. Teachers also utilize technology in their classrooms to help students familiarize themselves with computer programs so that they are better prepared for advanced learning and employment. Additionally, students complete inventories that assess their personalities, career interests, and abilities. These inventories are added to the Student Learning Plans and help teachers and counselors guide students in the creation of concrete "transition plans" for life after high school graduation.

Currently, NASS is adapting an economic literacy curriculum developed by the Powell Center for Economic Literacy in six Street Schools that serve urban, low-income students. Creators of the curriculum hope that it will provide concept-based strategies to teach economics to students who need a way to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. In addition to the curriculum, NASS also is part of the ele:Vate Initiative, an effort to guide schools in developing "mini-economies" and student-run school businesses.

In the final instructional area, spiritual development, students may engage in Bible classes, mission trips, and overnight and weekend retreats.

Each NASS member school is different based on the community and the population of students it serves. For example, at the Denver Street School (DSS), a comprehensive high school and the original street school, students enjoy an Information Technology program, a full-time guidance counselor on staff, and a Career Pathways program. The Pathways program enables business owners in the Denver Metro area to provide career-based learning opportunities to students. All students may engage in job shadowing, and eleventh and twelfth grade students participate in internships with local organizations and businesses. The school also offers its students athletics, special education, and challenging curricula in core subjects. DSS currently has two campuses and is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools. Over its 20-year history, DSS has graduated close to 200 students, 80 percent of whom are attending college or are serving in the workforce or military.

Craig Patterson, a DSS alumnus, college graduate, and current vice president in the mortgage industry, notes, "The Street School is like a second home to me. It not only gave me an education, but a moral code to live by. It taught me how to live my life."

NASS and its schools work to educate at-risk youth, but the overall organization also serves as a clearinghouse of information and support to educators who wish to start a Street School or need assistance with their existing private school. NASS schools follow a system of accreditation that promotes quality alternative schools for at-risk youth, continuous school improvement, and success for students who have not performed well in traditional school settings. In 2005, the Commission for International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA) recognized NASS as an official sponsor for CITA Accreditation. CITA brings the American educational accrediting agencies into one organization for groups like NASS that have schools in more than one accrediting region.

Recently, NASS established the S.O.S. (Schools of Shelter) Fund to admit students who have been displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In addition, S.O.S. is providing scholarships to evacuee students to attend NASS member schools and is hiring displaced teachers and other school personnel. The S.O.S. Fund was initiated through an investment of the First Data/Western Union Foundation, which provides disaster relief to communities and offers scholarships to nontraditional college students.

Since 2000, NASS member schools have maintained an 88 percent retention rate and serve on average over 2,500 at-risk students per year, more than 73 percent of whom are minorities and more than 65 percent of whom live at or below the poverty level. During the 2004-2005 academic year, NASS students raised their cumulative grade point averages (GPAs) by more than 1.1 points from the time that they first entered the Street Schools' network. NASS students also raised their reading levels on average 1.4 grade levels. In addition to in-school education, in 2004-2005, NASS member schools provided over 300,000 hours of after-school programming to students.

The work of the National Association of Street Schools and its members was recognized in October 2005 when NASS was invited to participate in First Lady Laura Bush's Helping America's Youth Conference. The organization also received a Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the CCF Targeted Capacity-Building program. The majority of funding for NASS is derived from private sources including individuals, corporations, and foundations. NASS is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Alternative High School Initiative, a network of ten youth development organizations creating educational options through a portfolio of small, alternative high schools.

The Office of Innovation and Improvement is the liaison between the U.S. Department of Education and private schools, such as the schools in the NASS network, through its Office of Non-Public Education.

Resources: Top

What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell announced the availability of more than $1.1 billion in hurricane relief funds. The funding, part of the Hurricane Education Recovery Act, includes $645 million in emergency aid to help cover the education costs of displaced students in 49 states and Washington, DC, and more than $496 million to help states most severely damaged reopen schools under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations Program. (Mar. 2)

Former Girl Scout, Secretary Spellings addressed the Girl Scouts 2006 Board Chairs and CEOs Work Session. She noted that children are not living in the same world that existed in 1912 when the Girl Scouts were founded. She stressed the growth of global competitiveness and announced the first-ever national math and science summit for girls. (Feb. 28)

Secretary Spellings announced the names of 11 new outside peer reviewers chosen to evaluate the growth-based accountability models submitted by 20 states. While continuing to meet the principles of the No Child Left Behind Act, states participating in the pilot program are able to receive credit for students' academic improvement over time by tracking individual student's achievement from year to year. (Feb. 22)

At a meeting at Fairleigh Dickinson University (NJ), Secretary Spellings spoke to business and education leaders about the importance of American competitiveness and the need for increased math and science education in this country. (Feb. 22)

Secretary Spellings addressed students, teachers, and other officials as part of the Columbia College Lessons in Leadership Speaker Series in Columbia (SC). Secretary Spellings noted that advancing opportunity is not just an education issue; it's an economic, social, and national security issue. (Feb. 17)

A U.S. Department of Education study finds that students who engage in rigorous academics in high school are more likely to complete a bachelor's degree, regardless of their major course of study. The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion From High School Through College examines the High School Class of 1992 as it moved from high school to higher education and includes comparisons to a previous report, Answers in the Tool Box, which followed the High School Class of 1982 from high school through college. (Feb. 14)

Secretary Spellings issued a statement on President Bush's presentation of the National Medals of Science and Technology, calling the honorees "dedicated pioneers, discoverers, and inventors." (Feb. 13)

"If we raise our expectations, our students will rise to the challenge." This was Secretary Spellings' message before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee. She spoke about the importance of "raising the bar" in mathematics instruction. The Secretary noted President Bush's call for 30,000 adjunct high school teachers and an additional 70,000 teachers to lead Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes in math and science. (Feb. 9).

Secretary Spellings issued a statement on the Deficit Reduction Act, which President Bush signed into law on February 8. The Secretary cited the Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National SMART Grant programs, which aim to reward high-achieving students who take challenging academic coursework in high school and encourage students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. (Feb. 8)

Charter Schools

The Louisiana Board of Education unanimously voted to engage the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to provide support services to the New Orleans Recovery School District. Services will include evaluation of charter proposals, staffing the Superintendent's Advisory Committee, developing and implementing operations and accounting requirements, and providing oversight of the new schools. (Feb. 16)

Closing the Achievement Gap

The Coalition for Community Schools 2006 National Forum will focus on how community schools create an environment in which all students can attain academic excellence. Participants will explore conditions for learning through changes in leadership, policy, systems, and practice. The forum will be held June 14 through June 16 in Baltimore (MD). (Mar. 2)

The Mid-Atlantic Equity Center Annual Regional Conference will focus on "Promoting the Achievement of Culturally Diverse Young Males." The conference, scheduled for March 24 in Washington, DC, will be divided into two portions: the psychological and social factors that influence academic achievement, and effective policies and practices that support boys' achievement. Online registration is available. (Feb. 13)

Examples of Excelencia is a national initiative designed to identify and promote programs and institutional departments that help to improve academic achievement for Latino students in higher education. The competition is open to programs and departments at community colleges, baccalaureate institutions, and graduate institutions. The application deadline is April 15. (Feb. 6)

download files PDF (823KB), Fragile Futures: Risk and Vulnerability Among Latino High Achievers, a study from the Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), shows that differences in academic performance between separate groups of high-achieving students are as significant as differences between low- and high-performing students. In 2002, for example, the top fifth of Latino students who took the SAT scored means of 598 and 646 on the verbal and math sections, respectively. White students, however, scored 65 points higher on the verbal section and 74 points higher in math. (Dec. 2005)


The 2006 winners of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Prizes for Excellence in Education have been announced, with Caroline M. Hoxby receiving the prize for Distinguished Scholarship and David Levin and Michael Feinberg receiving joint recognition for Valor. Ms. Hoxby is a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University 's Hoover Institution and member of its Koret Task Force. She also teaches economics at Harvard University and directs the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Mr. Levin and Mr. Feinberg are the creators of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). (Feb. 27)


The Wallace Foundation, a private foundation that supports ideas that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for individuals, has awarded Harvard University a three-year grant to establish a program for public school leaders. Executive Education has partnered with Harvard's Business School and School of Education for the initiative. The first weeklong session of "Executive Leadership for Educational Excellence" will run this summer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (Feb. 13)

Parental Involvement

Focus on Families! How to Build and Support Family-Centered Practices in After School, a new resource from the Harvard Family Research Project, aims to give after-school providers, local decision makers, funders, and others information about how to create or expand existing family engagement programs. The guide provides a research base for the importance of family engagement, strategies for engaging families, case studies, and an evaluation tool for improving family engagement practices. (Feb. 13)

Raising Student Achievement

A new Education Next report, Getting Ahead By Staying Behind: An Evaluation of Florida's Program to End Social Promotion, examines school retention. In 2002, Florida began mandating that third graders score at the Level-2 Benchmark on the state assessment in order to graduate to the fourth grade. The report's authors compared low-scoring third grade students in 2002, who were subject to the retention law, with low-scoring third graders the year before the law was instated. They found that on later tests, students identified for retention (whether or not they were held back) performed better than students for whom retention was not a possibility. The authors note, "The policy's greatest benefits could result not from retention itself, but rather from increased efforts on the part of teachers and even students to avoid being retained in the first place." (Spring 2006)

Teacher Quality and Development

USA Today is accepting nominations for its 2006 All-USA Teacher Team, a recognition program for outstanding teachers. Administrators, students, colleagues, parents, and others may nominate teachers. Nominees must complete a form explaining how they achieve success in their classrooms. All K-12 teachers are eligible. The deadline for nominations is April 29. (Mar. 8)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting applications for its Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers, scheduled for summer 2006. The weeklong residence-based programs are designed to give participants experience in interpreting significant historical sites and using primary sources. All K-12 educators, including home-schooling parents, are eligible. The application deadline is March 15. Email or call 202-606-8463 with questions. (Jan. 31)


iEARN (International Education and Research Network) and the Daniel Pearl Foundation have launched PEARL (Prepare and Educate Aspiring Reporters for Leadership) World Youth News, an international news source with articles written, edited, and published by secondary school students from around the globe. High school students may join the news service at no cost as PEARL Reporters by successfully completing an online training and certification course developed by Karen Freeman from the New York Times and Melvin Mencher, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University's School of Journalism. (Feb. 1)


Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
In New Orleans (LA), purple symbolizes help. Project Purple, an initiative of the Rex organization, matches its members with fledgling educators in 11 charter schools on Orleans Parish's east bank. The aim of the project is to develop business skills among charter school staff members to transform them into "management experts." [More-The New Orleans Times-Picayune] (Feb. 27) (subscription required)

With the increase of charter schools in Arizona , more parents are "shopping around" for their child's education through careful research and financial planning. To compete with charter schools, school districts are moving toward more specialization to attract students. Vail School District allows parents to choose a high school for their child, Catalina Foothills School District focuses on the arts as part of a well-rounded curriculum, and Tanque Verde Unified School District offers small class sizes. There are 517 charter schools in Arizona , with four more schools planned to open in the fall. [More-The Arizona Daily Star] (Feb. 23)

School reform: check. Next priority: teacher quality. Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, founders of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), a national network of public schools that helps raise the academic achievement of disadvantaged students, note that their next challenge is to focus on teacher training and certification. Mr. Feinberg and Mr. Levin started teaching fifth graders in inner-city Houston 14 years ago. KIPP students consistently outperform their counterparts in traditional district schools, and more than 80 percent of KIPP students from the classes of 2004 and 2005 are enrolled in four-year colleges. Already, KIPP operates a training program for principals at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. [More-U.S. News and World Report] (Feb. 20)

Homeless Students
About one out of every 25 students in the Racine Unified School District (WI) is homeless. Four years ago, the Families In Transition (FIT) program was designed to provide services to homeless students. According to the federal McKinney-Vento Act, public school systems are required to create assistance programs for homeless students. The FIT program advocates for students and helps them with issues such as acquiring records, enrolling in free breakfast and lunch programs, gaining access to tutoring programs, and obtaining referrals to other social service agencies. [More-Journal Times Online] (Feb. 2)

The Pfizer Foundation has awarded $100,000 in grants to two educational programs, the Monarch School and the Panamerican Institute, to help homeless and impoverished students in San Diego (CA) and Tijuana , Mexico. The grants are aimed at improving science education in the San Diego region. [More-The Union Tribune] (Jan. 19)

In Springfield (MA), a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act After-School Program enables students who are staying in domestic violence and transitional shelters, cars, abandoned buildings, and emergency assistance hotels to get help with math and reading. This year, about 30 children from kindergarten through eighth grade are participating. [More-The Republican] (Jan. 31) (subscription required)

Private Schools
Students at St. Peter School in Covington (LA) understand how to share. They pair up while reading textbooks at crowded desks in their classrooms and sit side by side in computer labs waiting for their turn to use the keyboards. Enrollment at St. Tammany Parish's Catholic schools has fluctuated in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, reaching a high in the months directly after the storm and leveling off as other schools opened. Schools are still showing an increase in enrollment, from 4,716 in August to 5,052 now, marking a seven percent increase. Most school officials say they have taken in additional students with efficiency and ease, but officials wonder how schools will continue to meet a growing number of students. [More-The New Orleans Times-Picayune] (Feb. 14) (subscription required)

Originally created as a one-day event to celebrate reading on March 2, Dr. Seuss's birthday, the National Education Association's Read Across America Day has grown into a nationwide program. Campbell County Schools (OH) celebrated the day with green eggs and ham, a visit from the Cat in the Hat, and community volunteers reading their favorite Dr. Seuss stories to elementary and middle school students. [More-The Cincinnati Enquirer] (Feb. 25)

In an effort to get children to become readers, an 80-year-old mystery woman from Colorado started a program at a south side school that offers a warm, fuzzy incentive for students who read a certain number of books. For all of the students at St. Sava Orthodox School who meet the goal, the woman, who identifies herself only as Nora, knits them a winter hat. For Nora, a retired geographer who once worked for the U.S. military, knitting the hats is her way of living up to her college motto: "Mihi cura futuri," Latin for "Mine is the care of the future." [More-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] (Feb. 3)

Teacher Quality and Development
Rowan University's Education Institute (NJ) will use a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help student teachers and mentor teachers from three school districts enhance their teaching skills. Rowan University will implement Professional Development Schools through its involvement in the New Jersey Consortium for Middle School Teacher Preparation project. [More-The Gloucester County Times] (Feb. 27) (subscription required)

Teach For America (TFA), the national nonprofit that prepares recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years in under-resourced urban and rural schools, may soon launch a "corps" of teachers in Hawaii. Currently, 3,500 TFA corps members are teaching in over 1,000 schools in 22 regions across the country. If TFA launches in Hawaii, it will place 50 teachers in hard-to-fill public school classrooms this fall, and another 50 teachers a year later, to narrow the annual teacher shortage. Hawaii Department of Education officials say there are still challenges to work out, but they call this a chance to add teachers to the public schools, as well as to attract Hawaii college graduates back to the state. [More-The Honolulu Advertiser] (Feb. 9)

Peter Borghesi thought the transition from a corporate job to a teaching position in an elementary school would be simple. Through the New Jersey Consortium for Urban Education (NJCUE), an alternate route to certification program, Mr. Borghesi taught eight-year-old boys with autism and discovered the challenges of working in an inner-city school with a population of students with special needs. However, by the end of his initial year in the classroom, he notes, "For the first time, I was experiencing a reward that wasn't supposed to be hung on a wall or placed into my bank account. And it felt good." NJCUE receives funding from the Office of Innovation and Improvement through a Transition to Teaching grant to Montclair University. [More-Newsweek] (Jan. 30)

Reminder: Grant Application Deadlines
Transition to Teaching, March 20, 2006

Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Program, April 7, 2006

Congressional Academies for Students of American History and Civics Education Program, April 7, 2006

Charter Schools, May 10, 2006

Please continue to check OII's funding opportunities webpage for updates.


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Last Modified: 07/09/2009