Knox Promise Neighborhood will provide services to 10,347 students.
Berea, KY—Knox County and Berea College Partners for Education received some good news moving into the holiday: The U.S. Department of Education will fund the college’s application for a Promise Neighborhood initiative in Knox County beginning Jan. 1, 2017.
In July, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced that the 2016 Promise Neighborhoods grant competition would award $30 million to five organizations to provide their communities with comprehensive services and school supports aimed at improving outcomes for students and their families. The successful grant application submitted by Partners for Education at Berea College will provide academic support services to 10,347 students in Knox County.
“We know that giving students the positive supports provided by Promise Neighborhoods helps to prepare them for success in school and their communities. The kind of interdisciplinary support that this program generates can transform our most distressed communities,” said Secretary King during the July announcement.
Knox Promise Neighborhood is 386 square miles in the heart of central Appalachia and is part of the Nation’s first rural Promise Zone. Berea College’s most intensive work through Promise Neighborhood will focus on Barbourville Independent, Corbin Independent, and Knox County School Districts, all within the Knox County footprint.
The Knox Promise Neighborhood plan creates a complete continuum of solutions to prepare children to attain an education and successfully transition to college and career. The continuum of solutions is aligned with an ambitious and comprehensive strategy for improving schools in the Neighborhood..
“Promise Neighborhood will make a lasting impact on our community,” said Kay Dixon, superintendent at Barbourville Independent Schools. “We are excited about the work of reaching families and students while enriching the future for all in Knox County. The focus of the grant from ‘cradle to career’ will provide opportunities otherwise not available to our schools and community.”
Partners for Education at Berea College has extensive experience in managing similar federally funded projects. Currently, Partners for Education oversees several federally funded projects specifically in Knox County, including two GEAR UP projects (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a Full-Service Community Schools initiative, a Corporation for National and Community Service AmeriCorps program, and an Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant.
The college’s outreach extends beyond Knox County, deep into the Promise Zone, and into 54 of the region’s most impoverished counties. In fact, the Knox Promise Neighborhood is the college’s second Promise Neighborhood grant. In 2011, Berea College was awarded a Promise Neighborhood implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement a continuum of services, cradle to career, in Clay, Jackson and Owsley counties in rural Appalachia. This was the nation’s first rural Promise Neighborhood. Under the leadership of Dreama Gentry, Partners for Education’s executive director, the Berea College team implemented this program effectively and brought measurable results to the Promise Neighborhood counties.
Over the course of the Promise Neighborhood implementation grant, school readiness and proficiency rates climbed. In the 2012-13 school year, the project’s baseline year, only 16.3% of kindergartners within the Promise Neighborhood entered school ready to learn. The most recent report from the 2016-2017 school years shows 35.5% of kindergartners entered school ready to learn. In 2012, 37.1% of assessed students were at or above proficiency in English or language arts. In the most recent assessments from the 2015-16 school year, the rate improved to 49.5% of students meeting this indicator. In 2012, 27.1% of Berea Promise Neighborhood students assessed in math achieved proficiency or above. During the 2015-16 school year, 39.5% of students had achieved at this level.
Partners for Education at Berea College grew out of the College’s eighth Great Commitment: “to serve the Appalachian region primarily through education but also by other appropriate services.” Berea College offers a high-quality education to bright and talented students who have limited economic resources. Founded in 1855 by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Today, Berea College is dedicated to serving students mostly from Appalachia, black and white, women and men, who have limited economic resources and great promise. Berea College is consistently ranked as one of the leading private liberal arts colleges in the United States and earns this recognition by focusing on rigorous academic programs and graduating first generation, low-income students with little or no student loan debt.
In 1995, Dreama Gentry established Partners for Education at Berea College to increase educational outcomes in students, birth to age 24, in rural Appalachian Kentucky. Under Gentry’s leadership, Berea College uses a place-based, student-focused approach to improve educational outcomes in 54 of the most impoverished counties in Kentucky and the nation.