The partnership, comprised of leaders from the Omaha Education Association (OEA), Omaha Public Schools (OPS), and The Empowerment Network will use the funding to support joint work that will improve the quality of instruction to increase achievement rates for low income and minority students, while raising performance for all students.
Over the next six months, the team will develop a proposal that describes their approach to make this effort enduring. Based on a review of their proposal, the Omaha partnership may receive a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the NEA Foundation to implement the strategy. The implementation grants will be announced in the fall. The Omaha proposal will be considered along with a proposal from a Lee County, Fla. public education partnership that also received a planning grant.
"We look forward to this opportunity to work with the district to develop a plan that will foster a greater sense of trust and collaboration in our schools,” said Chris Proulx, OEA President. “Research shows that a dominant factor in high student achievement is having highly effective teachers. Building a stronger culture of collaboration in all schools in OPS will enhance the efficacy of teachers as they work with every student in the district. The OEA is grateful to the NEA Foundation for providing the district and our association with this opportunity to work together to benefit students and to model effective collaboration.”
“The NEA Foundation grant offers a unique opportunity for teachers and administrative staff to build on the foundation of the ongoing instructional programs and initiatives which have been established to close the opportunity gap among groups of students in the Omaha Public Schools,” said Dr. John Mackiel, Superintendent, Omaha Public Schools. “In light of the significant gains that have been made, even more growth is possible given the funding and resources for more intensive staff development activities and classroom instruction specifically focused on success for the needs of the district’s socially and economically highly diverse student population. We look forward to the opportunities afforded by the NEA Foundation planning grant to move forward as a collaborative partner with the Omaha Education Association to fulfill the mission of the school district to ensure all students achieve their highest potential.”
The partnership’s proposal will focus on ways they will work together to strengthen three areas of intervention in public education:
· Increased teaching effectiveness designed to close the achievement gap by ensuring that teachers have the skills they need to reach the neediest students;
· Community and parent engagement designed to generate support for improvement efforts and to bring necessary resources for achieving the vision and outcomes; and
· System alignment and coherence designed to increase capacity at the district level to ensure school-level success
“Through this Initiative, we increase the ability of school districts, local unions, and communities to work together to boost achievement for all students,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Omaha’s proposal will assess their readiness, build capacity, and develop a shared vision and set of aligned, systemic strategies that close the achievement gaps. And it may qualify for our larger, multi-year implementation grant.”
To date, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $8 million in its signature, district-based Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative. The Foundation piloted the Initiative by investing $6 million in three districts with a high number of under-achieving low income and minority students in Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tenn; Milwaukee, Wis; and Seattle, Wash. With early results from local evaluative efforts showing significant and positive changes in teaching and learning, the Foundation expanded the initiative by awarding grants to three new sites in 2010: Columbus, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; and Durham, N.C
The planning grants are by invitation only and are based on a process and set of criteria that include: student population and demographics; local associations affiliated with the National Education Association; regional diversity; and stable association and district leadership.