Challenged Schools

The Children’s Cabinet is committed to enhancing educational outcomes and workforce readiness in Petersburg, Norfolk, and Richmond through the Challenged Schools Initiative. These three school divisions were selected because they have the highest percent of unaccredited schools in the state. With the smallest population of the three divisions, the Children’s Cabinet decided to initially focus on Petersburg. The goal was to learn how to effectively build trust, engagement, support, and collaboration with localities and then apply the lessons to Richmond, Norfolk, and other localities.

While the Cabinet was open to investing new resources for evidence-based, locally driven programs and policies, it first hoped to improve outcomes by facilitating better coordination between local and state child-serving entities. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) sought to improve academic outcomes in the Challenged Schools Initiative through: 1) enhanced quality of teacher preparation, teaching, and instruction; 2) strengthened school leadership; and 3) improved community supports to maximize readiness to learn. VDOE exclusively focused on the first two objectives, while the Children’s Cabinet’s focused on the third objective with an emphasis on improving student attendance. To move the needle on attendance, the Children’s Cabinet worked with Petersburg to design interventions targeting physical health, mental health, housing stability, prevention services, school climate, and discipline practices so students come to school ready to learn.

How we measure success

  • Increased attendance for school divisions in the Challenged Schools Initiative
  • Improved student outcomes for school divisions in the Challenged Schools Initiative

 Outputs and outcomes to date

  • A grant was awarded to place three social workers in Petersburg schools.
  • 12 trainings on trauma-informed care are planned for diverse, child-serving agencies across the city
  • Over 500 students accessed free meals, public transportation, and activities at the library and YMCA during winter and summer breaks.
  • Pilot project is planned to stabilize housing for students.
  • The Algebra Project, a national model in STEM education, returned to Petersburg, training 67 teachers.
  • The United Way became the backbone organization and is raising funds for a full time partnership director.
  • Petersburg City Public Schools became a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsor and provided 3,000 meals on a daily basis across 15 feeding sites in Petersburg. The school district no longer relies on external stakeholders to feed students in the summer.
  • The Partnership was recognized when the U.S. Secretary of Education, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, a U.S. Congressman, the First Lady of Virginia, and the Virginia Secretary of Education visited Petersburg to celebrate collaboration between Children’s Cabinet, Petersburg City and Schools Partnership, and No Kid Hungry VA.
  • The Children’s Cabinet supported five grant applications for the Challenged Schools Initiative through letters of support and/or technical assistance.  One grant has been awarded, and the remaining four are still under review.

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