Tom Vander Ark

10 Ways Faith Congregations Can Improve Edu

Peter Groff, the Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the Department of Education, will be headlining a Teachers College conference on the role of faith congregations in education.   This afternoon, I’ll be outlining these 10 specific ways that congregations can make a difference:
1.  Youth/Family Services: Communities in Schools and interfaith groups like Unified Vailsburg Services Organization are great templates for building a web of support around students.
2. Mentor/Tutor: a church can help organize volunteers to provide tutoring and mentoring for schools during the school day.
3. After school/Summer school: congregations can extend learning by providing faith-based learning during non-school hours/days.
4. Private School: Some faith traditions have a strong tradition of providing high quality private/parochial education, e.g, Catholic SchoolsChristian Schools International, Lutheran Schools.
5. Voucher School: In European countries, faith congregations can run publicly funded faith-based schools.  In a couple US communities, vouchers or private scholarships allow low income students to attend private schools.
6. Alternative Schools: Street School Network members, mostly churches, provide free alternative education to struggling teens.
7. Affordable Private School: Cristo Rey is a network of 24 affordable Catholic schools supported by work-study sponsors.  With improvements in online learning, there is the opportunity to run high quality low cost faith-based private schools that blend the best of online and onsite learning.
8: Charter School: When parochial schools are no longer viable, congregations have converted faith-based schools to public charter schools.  While they can’t provide religious instruction during the day, congregations can still provide services 1-3 above.  Faith leaders can also provide leadership for development of new public charter schools in underserved neighborhoods.
9. Community Development: John Perkins spent the last 20 years championing Christian Community Development–congregations banding together to serve under-resourced neighborhoods.
10. Pray: faith congregations can join together to support kids and teachers with in prayer breakfasts, prayer days, and back-to-school prayer rallies.
Marcus Hall of Education Equality Project did an amazing job pulling this important conference together.

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2 Comments

John Danner
3/27/2010

On #8, there is a fantastic organization called Seton Education Partners working to coordinate these converstions - http://www.setonpartners.org/ - started by Stephanie Saroki and former Kippster Scott Hamilton. Good stuff.

TFT
3/27/2010

Maybe, considering the raping of young children by priests, we should do all we can to keep church and state separate.
I can tell you that I sure as hell don't want religion impinging on my son!
This is a really stupid idea.
Do you even care about humanity?

Replies

Tom Vander Ark
3/28/2010

Faith congregations play a vital role in under-resourced communities--often places where public delivery systems have failed for decades.
The board that hired me as a public school superintendent included a Lutheran pastor that was an extraordinary community leader. Another pastor led a tutoring program and a leadership development program. They defended and supported public education and made our young community a better place to live and learn.
Private and parochial education also have a wonderful tradition in this country. Catholic schools, in particular, have served urban students well for generations. I'm glad there are folks like Cristo Rey inventing sustainability strategies to maintain faith-based educational options.

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