Jennings Foundation Contributes to Success

Foundation Grant Will Expand Academies
Posted on 04/16/2019
Image of Martha Holden Jennings Foundation GrantAkron Public Schools (APS) College & Career Academies Middle School Initiative has been awarded a multi-year grant by the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation (MHJF). The contribution of $500,000 will be invested in installments over the next five years and support the APS Middle School Instructional Framework initiative.

MHJF Executive Director Dr. Daniel J. Kennan, Jr. and MHJF President Anne C. Juster addressed the Akron School Board at its April 15, 2019, meeting to discuss the grant that will help APS design the middle school master plan for College & Career Academies of Akron (CCAA), quickly align middle schools with high schools for continuity, and adjust as necessary the framework of the program as it evolves. Currently, College & Career Academies are in high schools only:

"Aligning our middle schools and high school College & Career Academies will take about five years," said APS Superintendent David W. James. "This will now give students from middle school through high school the immense benefits of this transformative model of education."

The funds will also provide ongoing professional development for 500 middle school teachers who teach 4,700 middle school students as the process progresses.

"For generations now, the traditional model was to educate students in a classroom, mastering academic and testing skills," said Deputy Superintendent Ellen McWilliams-Woods, Ph.D. "Those traditional methods are no longer adequate, and we are going beyond the walls of our schools to reach success. We are tapping into our immense community resources, the knowledge and talent base and the innovators to fortify our students' educational opportunities."

Local data indicates significant workforce readiness gaps (62.4 Report, Greater Ohio Policy Center, 2016; Report on Educational Attainment in Summit County, Summit Education Initiative, 2016; Elevate Akron, 2018):
  • Thousands of job vacancies that can't be filled due to the lack of qualified applicants
  • From 2002 to 2016, the growth in the level of digital skills required for the average job was greater in Akron than 95 of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas.
  • Of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas from 2005 to 2015, Akron ranked among the 10 worst metro areas for the decline in the black employment rateand the five worst for the decline in black earnings.
  • Only 32% of ninth-grade students earn the college and career ready benchmark of a 3.1 grade point average and 6.5 cumulative credits.
  • The average ACT for all seniors in the Akron Public Schools is 17.5 (we administer ACT to all students) compared to the college ready benchmark of 21.
  • There is a significant increase in violations of student code of behavior in middle school grades
To change the trajectory of these results, APS determined the system had to be redesigned, including transforming teaching and learning, redesigning the secondary school experience, and sustaining change through business and civic leadership.

"It is through our hundreds of partnerships that we now have that we are able to pursue this with vigor and excitement," said McWilliams-Woods.

Superintendent David W. James added, "We are grateful to the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation for its dedicated partnerships with Akron Public Schools. Our educational partners are on an exciting journey with us into the future."

Image of Martha Holden Jennings Foundation Grant
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