A Model Program: The Alliance Schools Initiative

From the Center for Public Policy Planning, Austin, Texas (cppp.org)

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The Alliance Schools Initiative is a community-based program to increase student achievement in low-income areas throughout Texas. Since 1991, the Alliance Schools Initiative has focused on bringing parents together with teachers and community leaders to try to solve problems in schools, learn about school reform practices, and to work together to address the needs of children and their families. The number of schools participating in the Alliance Initiative has expanded to 118 in 1997-98, serving 80,307 students in Texas. About 50 more schools are in the process of becoming Alliance schools. Among the students in Alliance schools, 83 percent are considered economically disadvantaged.

The Alliance Schools Initiative is a partnership between the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation (TIAF) Network, the Interfaith Education Fund, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The initiative focuses on restructuring the relationship among stakeholders in school communities, including parents, teachers, school administrators, students, community and business leaders, and public officials. The initiative teaches the art of communication - exchanging ideas, debate, and compromise - in order to change the culture of schools and neighborhoods.

The strategy used by this initiative increases parental engagement, teacher morale, and student success at Alliance school campuses. Some methods used by Alliance schools include:

  • Core teams, consisting of the principal, teachers, parents, and other community members, are trained to conduct house meetings where community members, parents, and school staff communicate their concerns and construct a plan of action for the school.
  • Walk for Success, or neighborhood walks, where teachers, parents, church members, and administrators walk the streets of the neighborhood and engage parents in conversations about the school.
  • School staff receive important training to offer education, services, and training for parents and community leaders who participate in school reform efforts.
  • At one Alliance school in Dallas, a core team, consisting of the principal, teachers, parents, and other community members, hand-delivers report cards to the home of every student with at least one failing grade.
  • A staff person keeps parents apprised of important dates and informs them of their children's scholastic performance.
  • Parents learn how to help their children with homework.
  • Other classes that can be offered are based on needs identified by the parents themselves. Possible class choices include: parenting skills, English as a Second Language, adult literacy, and computer literacy

All of these strategies are designed to get parents more engaged in their children's education.

It seems to work; the original Alliance Schools have increased the average percentage of students passing all sections of the TAAS standardized tests by 33 percent since 1993. Between 1997 and 1998, 87 percent of all Alliance schools increased their percentage of students passing all sections of the TAAS. The increase in students passing was 9.9 percent of students in the average alliance school compared to 4.5 percent for the state as a whole. Economically disadvantaged students improved at an even higher rate (8.3%).

  • Alliance Schools Concept Paper. Interfaith Education Fund. Fall 1998
  • Roosevelt High School (the Alliance Schools Initiative): An inner-city high school joins a statewide effort. (1997). Family Involvement in Children's Education. Dallas, TX. Web site: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Famlnvolve/rhs.html

[A personal note: I was involved in an early school to use the Alliance Initiative, Zavala Elementary in Austin, Texas, where I also tutored for a few years. One result: Zavala attendance had been very low; after a few years of Alliance work it was one of the top Austin elementary schools in attendance. For more information see the book Teaching the New Basic Skills by Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy, which describes the Initiative and its Zavala implementation plus other reform initiatives. Also see the Center's website www.cppp.org/kidscount/education .]

Copyright © 2001 CPPP used by permission