Community partners unveil $15 million investment in middle school students
OnTrack Greenville implements innovative high school graduation initiative at four middle schools
A coalition of community partners on Thursday unveiled an innovative new initiative to keep middle school students engaged and on track to graduation.
OnTrack Greenville is a community-wide initiative to ensure all middle school youth stay on track toward high school graduation. The initiative is beginning by implementing a comprehensive, evidence-based dropout prevention strategy—called an Early Warning and Response System—designed to support middle grades students and their families.
“Middle school is a time for students to explore their strengths and start to think about their future,” said Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster. “But, it is also a time when too many students start to disengage with school and take the first steps on the path towards dropping out of high school, putting their futures at risk.”
Piloted effectively in other communities around the country, the Early Warning and Response System will utilize real-time data to identify students beginning to disengage from school as indicated by attendance, behavior, and course performance. By identifying students early, a coordinated team of educators and community experts can match students with the right response interventions and then monitor each student’s progress over time. OnTrack Greenville’s three-year goals include a 25 percent increase in math and English/language arts proficiency, a 75 percent reduction in chronic absenteeism and a 50 percent decrease in disciplinary referrals and suspensions.
The initiative was accelerated last fall when the Corporation for National and Community Service awarded United Way of Greenville County a three-year, $3 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to support the work. The grant includes the potential for an additional $2 million in continuation funding over two years based on appropriations and performance.
“The Social Innovation Fund is committed to scaling and building the evidence of innovative, community-based programs,” said Lois Nembhard, Acting Director of the Social Innovation Fund. “Through OnTrack Greenville, Greenville County’s middle school students, who are at risk of dropping out, will receive the tailored support they need to not only stay in school but to thrive.”
During the special event at Berea High School on Thursday, OnTrack Greenville announced Social Innovation Fund subgrants to five organizations that will implement evidence-based programs at the schools: BELL (Building Education Leaders for Life) will receive $232,961 for a summer program to help rising sixth graders who are struggling academically; Communities In Schools will receive $341,529 to expand case-management services at each school; Greenville County Schools will receive $237,269 to hire mental health specialists and provide a teen leadership class for each participating school; Greenville Health System was awarded $187,264 to implement health clinics at each school; and Public Education Partners will receive $190,329 to provide specialized literacy training to teachers.
The federal funds will be matched dollar for dollar by United Way of Greenville County and a collective of private foundations and corporations, and matched again by the five funded subgrantees, for a potential community investment of $15 million over five years.
Led by United Way, Hollingsworth Funds and the Community Foundation of Greenville, the newly formed Greenville Partnership For Philanthropy has committed support for OnTrack Greenville from The Daniel-Mickel Foundation, Fluor, Gilreath Family Fund, The Graham Foundation, John I. Smith Charities, Jolley Foundation, Lockheed Martin, Piedmont Health Foundation, and ScanSource
Charitable Foundation. Additional support is being provided by Wells Fargo.
“The generous response we’ve received for this initiative from Greenville County Schools, the Riley Institute at Furman University, the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy and all of our partners says a lot about our community’s commitment to collective impact,” said Ted Hendry, president of United Way of Greenville County. “By working together, we can eliminate the barriers that block our kids from achieving the successful future that we want for every child in our community. It’s our best hope for their future, and our best hope for the future of our community.”
OnTrack Greenville will begin this summer and during the 2015-2016 school year with a targeted focus on the high-need schools serving students in the White Horse community: Berea, Lakeview and Tanglewood middle schools, and Greenville Early College. The goal is to build on the successes and lessons learned over the next five years in the White Horse community to provide an effective model that can be expanded to other schools and other communities.
About the Corporation for National and Community Service
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service and champions community solutions through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.