PARTNERS FOR EDUCATION AT BEREA COLLEGE
POISED TO BOOST RURAL EDUCATION CAPACITY NATIONWIDE

With 23 years of experience lifting educational aspirations and achievement for children and families in rural Appalachia, Partners for Education at Berea College, Kentucky, has become a leading thought partner and catalyst in rural education. Its long-term impact is built on four core strategies:

~ lifting educational aspirations 
~ building academic skills 
~ connecting college and career 
~ engaging families

Throughout its 31-county network in southeastern Kentucky, Partners’ impact is felt at various educational levels. Its core work is ensuring all Appalachian students succeed, a goal pursued by braiding available resources. In two communities, Partners braids GEAR UP, Promise Neighborhood and AmeriCorps services, and in others GEAR UP is combined with Full-Service Community Schools, Educational Talent Search, or other programs. About 500 staff provide services to more than 50,000 students.

Outcomes are impressive.

Schools in PFE’s GEAR UP program saw high school graduation increase from 74% in 2012 to 94% in 2017, while the percentage of students meeting ACT benchmarks improved by 3.8% in English, 6.8% in math, and 11.2% in reading.

Leslie County High School, the first school where PFE implemented its PartnerCorps model using local AmeriCorps members, rose from being 224th out of 230 in the state in 2010, to being 16th four years later; composite ACT averages rose from 17.5 in 2010 to 19.9 in 2017. In PFE’s first Rural Promise Neighborhood project, the percentage of children entering kindergarten ready to learn more than doubled between 2012 and 2016, rising from 16% to 36%. In addition, the number of students scoring proficient or above on state math and English language arts assessments increased by thirteen percentage points. More recent Promise Neighborhoods are on their way to similar gains.

To achieve these results, PFE mobilizes an impressive array of resources, on the principle that more programs and components focused in one place maximize the impact. For GEAR UP advising in middle and high schools, PFE’s para-professional certified teachers provide quality professional development, advising, and navigation supports, becoming thought partners to school leaders; its cohort of  local AmeriCorps youth20+ per schooloffer tutoring, mentoring, and other personal support. To avoid “reinventing the wheel,” PFE partners with other organizations doing good work, such as Advance Kentucky, Operation Unite, and Save the Children.

Kentucky’s robust state data system and generally supportive state policies are another factor in PFE’s success.

PFE measures progress using five indicators: percentages of students entering school kindergarten-ready; who are safe, healthy, and supported; whose benchmark math and ELA scores in third and eighth grade show academic proficiency; who graduate college-ready, based on ACT scores; and who earn a two-year or four-year postsecondary degree. 

PFE receives 97% of its funding from federal sources; it has been awarded six GEAR UP grants for partnerships with middle and high schools and three Promise Neighborhood grants, as well $1.6 million for AmeriCorps programs.

In its 2018 strategic planning process, the organization decided to maintain its focus for direct services in its current network of 31 rural Kentucky counties, while devoting 10-15% of its efforts toward building the capacity of other educational service providers in rural America. As part of this effort, it began hosting a Rural College Access and Success Summit, where stakeholders can share best practices that have been proven to work in rural contexts. 

The second Summit was held in Lexington, KY, and attended by more than 500 school leaders, counselors, teachers, college representatives, and personnel from various college access and support programs around the country. The 2020 Summit will be in Scottsdale, AZ, co-hosted by College Success Arizona.

 

Focus of Organization's Work

Four primary strategies:

~ Lifting educational aspirations
~ Building academic skills
~ Connecting college and career
~ Engaging families

Personnel Required

Approximately 500 staff including employees, contractual workers, and AmeriCorps Members.

Population Served

Children and families in 31 rural Appalachian counties in Kentucky.

 

Organization's Accomplishment

Schools in PFE’s GEAR UP program saw high school graduation increase from 74% in 2012 to 94% in 2017, while the percentage of students meeting ACT benchmarks improved by 3.8% in English, 6.8% in math, and 11.2% in reading.

Leslie County High School, the first school where PFE implemented its PartnerCorps model using local AmeriCorps members, rose from being 224th out of 230 in the state in 2010, to being 16th four years later; composite ACT averages rose from 17.5 in 2010 to 19.9 in 2017.

In PFE’s first Rural Promise Neighborhood project, the percentage of children entering kindergarten ready to learn more than doubled between 2012 and 2016, from 16% to 36%. At the same time, the number of students scoring proficient or above increased by thirteen percentage points on both math and ELA assessments. Students in its current Promise Neighborhoods, located in Knox and Perry counties, are on their way to similar gains.

Important Factors for Success

To achieve these results, PFE mobilizes an impressive array of resources, on the principle that more programs and components focused in one place maximize the impact. For GEAR UP advising in middle and high schools, PFE’s para-professional certified teachers provide quality professional development, advising, and navigation supports, becoming thought partners to school leaders; its cohort of  local AmeriCorps youth20+ per schooloffer tutoring, mentoring, and other personal support. To avoid “reinventing the wheel,” PFE partners with other organizations doing good work such as AdvanceKentucky, Operation Unite, and Save the Children..

Kentucky’s robust state data system and generally supportive state policies are another factor in PFE’s success.

PFE receives 97% of its funding from federal sources; it has been awarded six GEAR UP grants for partnerships with middle and high schools and three Promise Neighborhood community school grants, as well $1.6 million for AmeriCorps programs.

Criteria of Success

PFE measures progress using five indicators: percentages of students entering school kindergarten-ready; who are safe, healthy, and supported; whose benchmark math and ELA scores in third and eighth grade show academic proficiency; who graduate college-ready, based on ACT scores; and who earn a two-year or four-year postsecondary degree. 

Future Goals

Partners for Education is a network of practitioners providing direct services to more than 50,000 students in rural Appalachian Kentucky. In its 2018 strategic plan, PFE decided that it must do more than provide direct services.

PFE’s strategic plan now includes a goal that it spend 10 – 15% of the organization’s time building the capacity of organizations working in rural America and convening rural thought leaders to shape a national agenda that ensures all rural students succeed.