The goal of the PACES initiative is to reach as many families as possible through a collaborative effort that aims to utilize school closures as opportunities to revitalize neighborhoods and to effectively integrate more holistic programs into existing school campuses.
Using a collective impact model, defined as a cross-sector commitment to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, the PACES collaborative will work together to develop, implement, and evaluate family engagement initiatives that will ensure equity and access to parents and children who are migrant, economically disadvantaged, disabled, have limited English proficiency, and are of diverse ethnic backgrounds. AVANCE believes that establishing and implementing effective partnerships and meaningful communication with parents and the community will increase mutual understanding that will contribute greatly to student achievement and academic success.
The following services will be provided to over 4,000 individuals in repurposed elementary schools transformed into community centers in PSJA ISD over a 3-year period:
- AVANCE Parent-Child Education Program provided by AVANCE to 596 parents/primary caregivers (incl. pregnant mothers) and children 0-3
- AVANCE Early Head Start Colonias Program provided by AVANCE to 175 families with children 0-3 and pregnant mothers
- Just Read program provided by AVANCE to foster a love of reading for 911 children ages 6-12
- Fatherhood classes provided by AVANCE and PSJA ISD for 45 fathers/primary caregivers
- ESL/GED classes provided by South Texas College for 438 adults
- Computer literacy classes provided by PSJA ISD for 1,280 adults
- Citizenship classes provided by AVANCE for 120 adults
- Skills-Based Professional Training (Welding, Auto Mechanics, & Cosmetology) provided by PSJA ISD for 438 adults
- Sewing classes provided by PSJA ISD for 162 adults
- Nutrition & Health Services provided by the Texas A & M University Colonias Program for 4,062 children and adults; services to include 1000 well-baby exams/immunization visits; 192 dental exams, 162 counseling sessions, and monthly health classes
In addition, the project will also create 24 jobs in a region with 10.8% unemployment, including positions for Parent Educators, Early Childhood Instructors, Home Educators, Custodians, and Center Directors.
AVANCE is working with additional school districts, including McAllen ISD, to meet the district's family and community engagement goals. Specific programs and services to be delivered are contingent upon the unique needs of the community; however, at a minimum, services are expected to include:
- AVANCE Parent-Child Education Program provided by AVANCE to 828 parents/primary caregivers (incl. pregnant mothers) and children 0-3
- Just Read program provided by AVANCE to foster a love of reading for 99 children ages 6-12
AVANCE aims to scale this model across the region and, eventually, nationally, thus potentially creating thousands of family engagement centers both in repurposed former school buildings nationwide and in school campuses wishing to become 'full-service community schools' (defined by the U.S. Department of Education as a public elementary or secondary school that convenes multiple partners to provide a coordinated and integrated set of comprehensive academic, social, and health services that respond to the needs of its students, students' family members, and community members.)
- PSJA ISD convenes monthly in-person meetings of PACES collaborative.
- Align the PACES goals and objectives with improved outcomes of the Grade Level Reading Campaign, to include school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.
- Develop a roadmap, agree on goals and metrics for measuring success, and secure additional funding.
- Launch public campaign, in partnership with Project ARISE.
- Work with partners to provide holistic family engagement services to one site in Alamo, Texas (Bowie - Parent/Community Education Center) and three sites in McAllen, Texas beginning in September 2014. (The McAllen sites to be determined by an external needs assessment of the 27 district elementary schools.)
- Conduct evaluation of year one activities, and revisit project plan to take into consideration any lessons learned.
- Work with partners to continue providing services to year one sites and to provide holistic family engagement services at one site in Pharr, Texas and three additional sites in McAllen, Texas, for a total of 8 sites.
- Continue public outreach campaign.
- Work with partners to continue providing services to year one and year two sites and to provide holistic family engagement services at one site in San Juan, Texas and three additional sites in McAllen, Texas, for a total of 12 sites.
- Continue public outreach campaign.
The traditional strategy utilized by the nonprofit sector is one the Stanford Social Innovation Review refers to as 'isolated impact.' Nearly 1.4 million nonprofits attempt to create unique solutions to major social issues, often competing against each other and, significantly, 'exponentially increasing the perceived resources required to make meaningful progress.'
Specifically, in regards to social services, a diverse array of programs exist to provide assistance to families in poverty. Direct service providers trying to 'meet their numbers' may operate in competition with one another, which renders inefficiencies in service delivery and operations. In addition, families may not be aware of the resources available to them or how to access them, and service providers may not be reaching all the families they are capable of serving. Families may be receiving similar, duplicate services from different providers instead of varied types of services that they may need the most. Frequently, these types of services are often physically delivered in separate locations, thus making coordination difficult for families (e.g. a job training program may be delivered across town from an early childhood education program.)
Central to the concept of delivering holistic family engagement is establishing a collaborative network of partners committed to collective impact and identifying a centralized location that is convenient and familiar to families. The PACES initiative is piloting the use of former elementary school buildings repurposed by the local school district, in collaboration with community partners. Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) is a leader in repurposing buildings and revitalizing communities. Previously, the district converted an abandoned Wal-Mart into the College Career & Technology Academy, where high school drop-outs ages 18-26 complete high school and enroll in college courses provided on-site by South Texas College.
School closures are not unique to South Texas. Researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, RAND and Vanderbilt, using data from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, identified 70 urban school districts that shuttered schools between 2000 and 2010, closing on average 11 schools per district. Rather than shuttering campuses and moving on, districts, nonprofits, businesses and local leaders can share best practices on how to reimagine these spaces (including current school campuses) for larger, public good. Far greater impact is realized by rethinking how resources are allocated and shifting the mindset from isolated to collective impact.
The PACES collaborative welcomes the opportunity to secure funding partners to support expansion and evaluation of the PACES initiative as well as family engagement partners to bring this holistic model of family engagement to scale.
In addition, PACES seeks media support in documenting the implementation and expansion of this landmark collaborative.
The PACES collaborative can share best practices on how to align family engagement services into a holistic model for a community-based setting. AVANCE can also offer culturally competent curriculum and provide training and technical assistance to schools, non-profit organizations, and early childhood and family engagement programs.