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Northside Achievement Zone receives $28M grant to close achievement gap

The Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), in partnership with the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), Minneapolis Public Schools, and more than 50 community partners, has been awarded a $28 million Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). NAZ is one of only five organizations across the country receiving implementation grants. The grant will help expand and improve services that directly engage North Minneapolis families by promoting developmental and educational attainment and life-long success for children from birth through college.

Minnesota's achievement gap is consistently among the largest in the nation, with arguably the most significant effects noticed among African American students in North Minneapolis. The Northside Achievement Zone, in cooperation with CEED, is committed to reducing this gap through improved and expanded educational services and a wide array of family support initiatives. CEED faculty and staff, for example, are working on program design, management, and evaluation, partnering with other community experts in early childhood, elementary education, behavioral and mental health, housing, and career and financial development.

"The NAZ mission is to build a culture of achievement in a geographic area in North Minneapolis to ensure all youth graduate from high school college-ready," according to the USDE project description. "NAZ is an organization that anchors a collaborative of over 50 service providers who work together to create a 'cradle to college to career' continuum of solutions, with strong schools at the center."

CEED's director of community engagement Scott McConnell says, "NAZ is modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone and is designed to expand and improve services to children, their families, and the schools and programs that serve them in a 234-block area in North Minneapolis. We have a chance here, working with NAZ and its educational and human services partners, to extend the University's commitment to integrating research and practice and to working together to reduce Minnesota's persistent educational disparities."

"Promise Neighborhoods recognizes that children need to be surrounded by systems of support inside and outside of the classroom to help them be successful in school and beyond," says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the official announcement.

With this new funding, NAZ will engage parents with aligned education support, including nine committed and innovating schools within a continuum of support service, and will provide effective whole-family support programs. This approach connects families to high-quality services through a "high touch" process, in which parents are supported by skilled coaches from their own community who work with them to set and implement family plans of action. The plans are then tracked through an online achievement planning and data system.

Faculty, staff, and graduate students from CEED, led by McConnell and research associates Tracy Bradfield, Lauren Martin, and Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, will help NAZ to develop, improve, and evaluate Family Academy (a parent education component for young children and their parents), and to build and implement an internal evaluation system that monitors and helps improve all components of NAZ.

The grant will provide up to $6 million in the first year and the remaining funds over four more years.

CEED and the Northside Achievement Zone are also recipients of funds from a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant announced by the Obama administration Dec. 16. Approximately $45 million over five years will expand capacity and infrastructure of Minnesota to serve its most high-risk preschoolers through a variety of initiatives. Minnesota is one of nine states to be awarded funds through that grant program.

For more coverage of the impact of these grants and more on children and families, see these Star Tribune news and editorial articles.

See more in this MinnPost article.

See video from the NAZ announcement:

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