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'Neighborhood Education Watch' Seeks To Mobilize Communities

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A national organization dedicated to improving achievement for minorities has launched an effort to help communities address their children's educational needs.

The program, called "Neighborhood Education Watch," will try to mobilize communities around education the same way that crime-watch programs spur neighbors to look out for each other's homes, organizers said. The Quality Education for Minorities Network, a Washington-based advocacy group, announced the program this month; it was planned in partnership with several organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Urban League.

The program will bring local organizations, businesses, and residents together to design mentoring and other activities to help support children's learning. A major purpose of the effort, organizers said, is to educate parents about what they can do to encourage their children and create conducive environments for learning.

The Community Role

"In a lot of communities, if parents didn't excel in school, they are at a loss for what to do to make sure their child does," said Ruby Anderson, the director of community outreach and leadership development for the Quality Education for Minorities Network.

"All of the partners are saying that members of the community have to take responsibility for what happens to our children during that transition time between the end of the school day and suppertime, and that no one organization can do it alone," said John Cawthorne, the National Urban League's vice president for education.

Barbara Van Blake, the director of human rights and community relations for the AFT, said the program complements the teachers' union's campaign for higher academic standards and stricter discipline policies. "If we're going to ask that students reach higher standards," she said, "we need to make sure the community is working with them."

The program is being piloted in seven low-income communities where the network has set up community centers on university campuses. The Coca-Cola Foundation is contributing $25,000 to train parents and students at those centers to lead local education-watch programs.

Other partners include the National Council of Negro Women, the National Council on Educating Black Children, and the Points of Light Foundation.

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