Getting more students ready for college and careers is a job that’s too big for schools to do alone, says Amanda Broun, senior vice president for the Public Education Network, a national association of local education funds (LEFs) and individuals working to advance public school reform in low-income communities.
At its conference in Washington this week, the PEN membership unanimously voted to adopt a goal of increasing the numbers of college- and career-ready students by 100,000 in the next two years. This represents about a 3.5 percent increase.
To meet this goal, LEFs will work in partnership with the schools, community nonprofits, and government agencies, says Broun. Model programs will be shared among those in the network to provide mentoring and help students stay on track academically.
LEFs are community-based advocacy organizations that engage local residents in public education reform. Though independent of their school districts, LEFs work closely with public school administrators, teachers, and boards. They partner with parents, community leaders, businesses, and students.
Broun says students will be considered college- and career-ready by PEN if they do not need to take remedial courses to enter college or job-training programs. The measurement may vary by district, she says, but the idea is to focus on 8-12th grade students to make sure they are taking rigorous courses to prepare them adequately for higher education and the world of work.
PEN is in the second year of a four-year strategic plan to improve college- and career-readiness. The organization was grappling with how to measure its progress. The efforts so far have been very data-driven, says Broun, and there was an interest in tracking the level of community support.
“Having a hard and fast goal brings people together,” she says. “When you put a number next to it, you are holding yourself accountable in a way that is much more galvanizing.”
PEN will announce its progress toward the 100,000 student goal in both 2012 and 2013, says Broun.
Improving college- and career-readiness in the country’s poorest schools will take help from all sectors. “The responsibility is not ust of schools, but whole community to support our children,” she says. “We are all pulling for the same goal.”
There are 77 LEFs in the national network of PEN, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year. At the conference, Broun added, the membership also adopted new organizational standards and set a high bar for organizational accountability and ethics.
Funding for LEFs to work toward this new goal is provided through grants, including support from the City Postsecondary Success Program and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The Gates Foundation provides funding to Education Week‘s parent company, Projects in Education.)
A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.