Monday, October 26, 2009

City Year

Hello Friends of City Year Cleveland –

I share recent comments by City Year CEO and Co-Founder, Michael Brown, and U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, regarding the challenge to add scope and impact to our collaborative efforts with local school districts, principals, teachers and parents.

Last year, just over 80% of the Cleveland elementary and middle grade students with whom we worked in coordination with teachers and principals showed improvements in literacy and math (Benchmark Tests and Ohio Achievement Tests).

These are good results but we look to expand our impact this year. Cleveland school specialists, principals and teachers have helped strengthen our academic support and behavior coaching for students at K-8 schools. In addition, a team of 10 corps members is providing Ohio Graduation Test tutoring to an average of 45 juniors and seniors every day at Collinwood High School.

Please read the remarks below and respond with any comments or questions.

Yours in service,

David W. Anderson
Deputy Director

City Year Cleveland
The Leader Building

526 Superior Avenue, Suite 408 | Cleveland, Ohio 44114

T: 216.373.3413 | C: 216-255-1897 | F: 216-574-3401 |

give a year. change the world

Dear City Year Community,

As we embark on a new school year, all of us at City Year renew our commitment to mobilizing diverse young leaders in full-time service to help keep students in school and on track to graduate.

Every 26 seconds a student gives up on school in America. More than 12 million students are projected to drop out over the next decade, resulting in more than $3 trillion in costs. The statistics are staggering and this is a national challenge which demands bold action.

In June, City Year held a National Leadership Summit to launch In School & On Track: A National Challenge, an ambitious initiative to reach at least 50% of all students falling off track in the 20 U.S. locations in which we serve.

We were honored that United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined us at our National Leadership Summit, and challenged us to dramatically scale our impact across the country:

"As we think about what City Year can do going forward we need greater scale so that in all of your locations, we think about doubling, tripling, quadrupling your presence.... I'm convinced that City Year is perhaps uniquely positioned to be our partner and to be the partner at the local level to transform schools that have historically struggled."

We are energized and motivated by his call to action and we pledge to do whatever we can to ensure that students in high poverty schools across the country can succeed.

I have shared below and on our Web site the complete transcript of Secretary Duncan's remarks. You can also click here for a video of his talk.

Earlier this month, 1,500 City Year corps members pledged 2.5 million hours of service to help increase the nation's urban graduation pipeline in the 20 communities where they serve.

From the beginning of the school day until the last child leaves the after-school program, diverse teams of City Year corps members leverage their near-peer relationship with students to focus on reversing the early warning "off track" indicators -- low attendance, poor behavior and course failure in math and English -- that research has proven are strong predictors, as early as 6th grade, that a student will not graduate with his or her class.

We are inspired by their commitment and their idealism, and grateful for your support for their work.

We look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to help students in high poverty communities succeed in school and life.

Your in Service,

Michael Brown
CEO & Co-Founder
City Year, Inc.

Remarks by Secretary Arne Duncan
City Year National Leadership Summit: A National Service Response to the High School Dropout Crisis

Washington, D.C.
June 9, 2009

Thank you so much. Wow, what an introduction. I try not to have an entourage but like having a City Year entourage, I've got to figure out how to take them with me more places. I'm really honored to be here.

I'm probably one of the biggest fans that you're ever going to find of City Year for a number of reasons and I know I'm preaching to the choir here but there are so few opportunities for our children who live in impoverished backgrounds who often live in segregated impoverished backgrounds to get the chance to get to know and to work with and to have as mentors and role models a diverse set of people who are absolutely committed to seeing them be successful and its hard for our children to experience a better life, it's hard for our children to think about working in an integrated setting if they never see people who don't look like themselves and don't look like each other working together so what City Year has done for our children around the country I'm just so absolutely grateful for.

When I ran the Chicago public schools I pushed very hard and was pleased over time to sort of convert all of the City Year teams there just to work in schools, I was a little bit selfish. They were doing lots of other great work in the communities and the hospitals and other things but I kept saying if we're really going to make a difference we've got to have you in our schools and the tangible difference that we saw some of our toughest schools on the south side and north side of Chicago was absolutely remarkable.

We have an opportunity today I think and maybe I'm overly optimistic, maybe a little naïve, I think that we have an opportunity to transform education in our country and let me tell you why. We have a President, we have a First Lady, we have a Vice President, we have his wife, who are absolutely committed to education. And it amazes me that day after day week after week despite fighting two wars despite the toughest economy since the depression they keep coming back to education. Absolutely, consistently - what are we doing, how are we getting better. Secondly we have a bipartisan congress, both sides of the aisle, are welcoming, both sides of the aisle know how much further we have to go, despite some successes our dropout rate is far too high, our graduation rate is far too low. We have to get better. We also have more good ideas, more great schools than ever before. In the past 5, 10, 15 years we've seen this flourishing of non-profits like City Year, great success stories, charter schools, and places in inner cities, urban, rural, toughest of communities where the vast majority of students are succeeding. We have absolutely put the lie in any myth that poor children can't learn, that children of color can't learn or can't be successful.

So we've got leadership at the top, we have got bipartisan support from Congress, we have more great ideas out there we just need to scale that up, we need to make sure we're investing in those groups that are making a great difference and then finally and not insignificantly we have a few dollars to play with, we have $100 billion in new dollars going to education, that's a staggering number, it's never going to happen again. At every level - $5 billion dollars to early childhood, $7 billion dollars k-12, north of $30 billion to higher education so we will never have this kind of opportunity again and so I'm unbelievably hopeful but I also feel a huge sense of urgency.

Can we be smart enough, and frankly can we be courageous enough? Can we have the political will to make the hard changes so that every child has the chance to be successful? And our simple task I think is to take to scale what works. We have these pockets of excellence, these islands of excellence - how do we turn these islands into systems of excellence? How do we make sure every child has the chance to be successful? And what I'm absolutely convinced of is that for all the hard work we're going to try to do and for all of the hard work that states and districts are going to try to do, we can't do it alone we need all hands on deck - we need cities, we need states, we need nonprofits stepping up and helping us get where we need to go.

We have a set of schools around the country that are the best in the world. Unfortunately, at the other end of the spectrum we have a set of schools that are basically perpetuating poverty and perpetuating social failure, they are part of the problem: dropout factories where the vast majority of students don't graduate each year.

As we think about what City Year can do going forward, I'd like to put a couple of challenges on the table, first we need greater scale so in all your locations around the country how do we think about not just 2% growth or 5% growth or 10% growth - how do we honestly think about doubling, tripling, quadrupling your presence and then if we can do that (and it's easier said than done) but if we can do that can we work with you? Can we partner with you to go into our toughest communities, where I would argue, where the education system has done a disservice to the community and has perpetuated these social inequities often for decades - not for 2 or 3 or 5 years but for 10, 20, 30 years? Can we partner with City Year to go in there and fundamentally turn those schools around?

And it's actually interesting, if we were just to take the bottom 1% of schools nationally, leave the other 99% alone, the bottom 1% of schools nationally, could we take 1,000 schools a year, 1,000 out of 100,000 and come back with much higher expectations, come back with new teams of adults, and come back with teams like City Year to show our students how much we care about them, to be the role models, to be the partners, to demonstrate the great difference that service can make in their lives. If we could do that, if we could fundamentally turn around 1% of our school each year and do that year after year after year, think about that, we'd basically be eliminating the bottom piece of our portfolio. It would be gone. Schools that for decades have been part of the problem would disappear and we would replace them with schools where routinely 90 - 95% of students graduate and routinely 90 - 95% of those that graduate go onto college.

Why do I know it's possible? Because it's happening all over the country, we have pockets of excellence all over the country. When I was in Chicago I definitely did not think Washington had all the good ideas, now that I'm in Washington I know Washington does not have all the good ideas. The good ideas are always going to be out there at the local but we have to take them to scale. We have to take them, we have to invest in them and build upon those best practices.

I'm convinced that City Year is perhaps uniquely positioned to be our partner and to be the partner at the local level to transform schools that have historically struggled. And I'm so hopeful again, not because I'm naïve but because I've seen it happen. I saw what City Year did for my children on the south and west side of Chicago. I saw year after year marked improvement. This is not a feel good story. I look at the data, I look at the results. And it's great to have role models, but it's great to see graduation rate going up, it's great to see test scores going up, it's great to see schools becoming community centers that are open 10, 12, 13, 14 hours a day.

So I just want to commend City Year's leadership for this absolute, laser-like focus on keeping students in school, keeping them on track. I think the partnership we can develop at a national level will be something that will transform educational opportunities for our children around the country. And what I think all of you know, and what the public doesn't quite yet understand, is that if we give our children, it doesn't matter what background, doesn't matter the race, doesn't matter the socio-economic status, if we give our student long term support, if we have the highest of expectations for them, and if we give them real opportunities to learn and grow and develop and again be exposed to role models - what you guys do every single day - our children can beat the odds and they will beat it on a consistent basis. Not one child out of a thousand, not some miracle story but systemically - class after class, grade after grade, year after year, our students will start to beat the odds and become the norm, not the exception. So I thank you for your extraordinary hard work, for what you have done for our country so far but I think in these next couple of years we have a chance to fundamentally break through and I expect City Year to be with us there every step of the way leading the country where we need to go.

Thanks so much for your hard work. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for your service. You represent the best of what our country's about. I look forward to our continued work together. Thank you so much.

City Year unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world. As tutors, mentors, and role models, these young leaders make a difference in the lives of children and transform schools and neighborhoods across the United States and in South Africa.

Founded in Boston in 1988, City Year has established programs in Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbia, SC; Columbus; Detroit; Little Rock/North Little Rock; Los Angeles; Louisiana; Miami; New Hampshire; New York; Greater Philadelphia; Rhode Island; San Antonio; San Jose/Silicon Valley; Seattle/King County; South Africa and Washington, D.C. City Year is a proud member of AmeriCorps.

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