Normally, when people think of education reform, they think about policies that affect schools and school systems. But everyone has a unique role to play in making sure that students graduate ready for success in college and their career. Communities should look for ways they can use their resources to meet the needs of Tennessee students, whether it be through internships, youth apprenticeship opportunities, after-school programs, contributing technology or school resources, or providing wraparound support to students.
Fortunately, in Tennessee, many schools, business partners, and communities have already begun forming these critical partnerships to raise student achievement. These partnerships support education in a variety of ways, from improving early literacy to developing technical skills in high school students to investing in technology. Here are four examples of community partnerships that are supporting education in Tennessee.
1. Developing Technical Skills: Maplewood-Bridgestone/Firestone Partnership
Maplewood High School in Metro Nashville Public School has developed a community partnership with Bridgestone Americas that is one-of-a-kind in the nation. Maplewood’s has 100 students now running their own Firestone Complete Auto Care center. The proceeds of this auto care center goes back into the program to train, educate, and prepare students for a career in automotive repair, mechanics, and business skills.
2. Increasing Early Grade Literacy: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Dollar General’s Literacy Foundation
Both Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Dollar General Literacy Foundation take important steps to increase early grade literacy in Tennessee. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gives Tennessee students a free age appropriate book every month until the age of five. Parents just need to sign up online to receive the books.
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation aims to increase access to literacy programs for children and adults and to create models or best practices to increase high school graduation rates through various grant programs. Their grants providing funding for libraries recovering from disasters, summer reading programs, and youth literacy programs. The Dollar General Foundation also donated one million dollars to support the Tennessee Department of Education’s Read to be Ready initiative. Their website contains a listing of grants and grant applications, along with a donations and volunteer finder page.
3. Investing in Technology: Maryville City Schools
Maryville City Schools, a 2015 SCORE Prize finalist district and a 2011 SCORE Prize Winner, created the program iReach, to distribute iPad and Dell laptops to each student in the district along with extending Wi-Fi to across the county. This 2 million dollar initiative was made possible through partnerships with local libraries, higher education partners, and community partner grants.
4. Setting a Regional Focus: The Niswonger Foundation
The Niswonger Foundation, like the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, supports programs in education through grants. But unlike the Dollar General’s Foundation, the Niswonger Foundation narrows its focus to Northeast Tennessee. In doing so, they can highlight and promote best practices, specific to that region. Their two main programs are the School Partnership program and the Niswonger Scholars program. The School Partnership program is specifically designed for the challenges of rural education and looks for ways to prepare high schools students to be college or career ready. The Niswonger Scholars program provides students college scholarships and also commits them to returning to Northeast Tennessee to work after college graduation.
This is the final post in a series of SCORE Sheet blogs about school-business partnerships in Tennessee that focus on helping students develop skills for postsecondary education and the workforce. Read all the entire series here: