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America's Promise Ready for the Real World Initiative
Project Title: America's Promise Ready for the Real World Initiative

Who is Involved: Terry Pickeral, Anderson Williams, Bill Hughes and Teri Dary

The Challenge: How can America's Promise design and deliver effective service-learning professional development to middle school teachers in America’s Promise Alliance 12 Featured Communities, resulting in sustainable efforts that are grounded in high quality practice?

The Solution: America's Promise Alliance (APA) contracted with Cascade Educational Consultants (CEC) to design and implement effective professional development to increase the use of service-learning in middle schools within the 12 Featured Communities. Based on the understanding that increasing student engagement at the middle school level will reduce high school dropouts, this initiative focused efforts on changing teacher practice and increase expertise in the use of high quality service-learning as an instructional methodology in the academic setting.

In year one of this project, outreach was conducted in each of the 12 Featured Communities to engage teams of administrators and teachers in targeted middle schools. CEC provided a series of two day workshops in each community to increase quality of service-learning practice, identify strategies for implementation and sustainability, and engage participants in reflective dialogue to stimulate systemic change to address dropout issues. Teams developed plans for an ongoing set of work to be conducted in their school, incorporating opportunities to network and seek continuous improvement in practice.

A final phase of this project was conducted in year two which focused on connecting practitioners in each of the 12 Featured Communities with others to create a cadre of schools committed to service-learning, improved school climate, and youth engagement. Teams that were involved in the initial two day workshops were invited to participate in a series of webinars to enhance their practice and begin to build relationships with other educators across the country. This work culminated in the National Service-Learning Forum, which was held in Washington, DC with teams comprised of 43 teachers and administrators from the Featured Communities participating. The forum further developed local leadership by building upon the skill set developed through the in-person trainings, webinars, and professional learning community interactions.
CEC is currently engaged in or completed the following projects:

Mississippi Center for Education Innovation: designing and implementing a multi-year evaluation of a state-wide education reform effort.

Special Olympics Project UNIFY: assist in the design, implementation and sustainability of a national demonstration project creating school climates that are equitable, safe and quality for all students.

America’s Promise Alliance: design and implement a national service-learning professional development initiative to increase the service-learning knowledge and skills of middle school teachers and principals.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago: provide training and technical assistance to teachers, students, municipal and national leaders to effectively engage students and youth in leadership in schools and municipalities.
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