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Newark Mayor, superintendent launch alternative high school partnership.

Newark, N.J., Mayor Coty A. Booker and Newark Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Clifford B. Janey together announced a partnership to reduce local dropout rates by developing new student-centered alternative high schools during a press conference held last week in Newark.

Over the next two years, the partnership will open a total of nine new schools and programs. Each alternative school model features a rigorous and relevant curriculum, project-based learning, close student-teacher relationships, leadership development and youth voice.

The partnership will also include several other educational and economic development groups that will assist in developing the alternative high school models. These include: Newark Public Schools; Essex County College; Gateway to College National Network; and Big Picture Learning. A newly signed Letter of Agreement among all of the parties affirms a three-year commitment to the overall cooperative effort. Related agreements and memoranda will support specific individual school development initiatives.

"Our survival as a city and as a nation relies on our capacity to properly prepare our young people for the future," said Mayor Booker. "The partnerships that the City of Newark is building with the National League of Cities, the Alternative High School Initiative and local partners such as Newark Public Schools and The Nicholson Foundation will equip them with the tools necessary to flourish, laying the groundwork for their continued success now and for many years to come."

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Newark, along with the cities of Nashville, Tenn., and Indianapolis, is one of three pilot cities nationwide in which Alternative High School Initiative (AHSI) has established a "Place-Based Partnership." All three cities are opening new alternative schools. Efforts in Newark will build upon existing community and school infrastructure, and will align with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's current initiative to address the state's dropout rates.

"Newark Public Schools welcomes AHSI's assistance in transforming its alternative schools and looks forward to spreading stronger student-centered practices throughout all of Newark's high schools," said Superintendent Janey.

Through the Newark-Alternative High School Initiative Partnership, the city and school district will work with its partners, as well as The Nicholson Foundation, Rutgers University, Newark Alliance and AHSI to ensure students struggling in traditional high school settings, including out-of-school youth and those at risk of dropping out, have the opportunity to graduate prepared for college, work and life. AHSI is a network of 12 youth development organizations actively supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-convened by NLC and Big Picture Learning.

The Newark-AHSI Partnership will open a portfolio of innovative alternative high school models in Newark including:

* A Gateway to College program that will enrich a current Essex County College dropout recovery program with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation. Gateway provides high school dropouts ages 16-20 with a means to complete their high school diplomas, while also earning significant college credits.

* Three Big Picture Learning schools, which offer a rigorous, personalized curriculum combining demanding academic work and experiential learning. The Schumann Fund for New Jersey will support Big Picture Learning as it works to start three Big Picture Schools in Newark.

* Four new Performance Learning Centers, a program of Communities In Schools, that builds on the success of a learning center launched under the name of Newark Workforce Development Institute. These will offer self-paced online courses for rapid credit recovery, personal support, and project-based learning.

* Two or more DiplomaPlus schools, which allow students to progress at their own pace in personalized learning environments. In New York City, Massachusetts and other places, these schools have high graduation and retention rates, as well as high percentages of students passing state exams.

"We are excited to provide a variety of schools that can support under-served, and out of school youth," said Elliot Washor, co-founder and co-director of AHSI/Big Picture Learning. "As a co-convener of AHSI, Big Picture Learning looks forward to taking part in a systemic approach to serving all kids along with the City of Newark Public Schools and the participating AHSI organizations."

NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families led the process by which AHSI selected Newark as a pilot site and now provides technical assistance to the local leadership team.

"Mayor Booker's leadership, the city's partnership with Superintendent Janey and the Newark Public Schools, and assembling of resources is exemplary and is paving the way toward much broader opportunities for Newark high school students," said Audrey M. Hutchinson, program director for Education and Afterschool Initiatives, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
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Title Annotation:partnership between mayor Coty A. Booker and schools superintendent Clifford B. Janey
Author:Karpman, Michael; Moore, Andrew O.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2008
Words:745
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