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School Reform Initiative

What is an Initiative?

An Initiative is a coordinated effort designed to achieve a Goal. Initiatives contain Actions that, when executed together, will help the City achieve one or more of its Goals.

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Improving quality educational opportunities for pre-K through 12 students starts by
  • recognizing low-cost opportunities for learning advancement,

  • funding programs proven to bolster academic achievement and higher graduation rates, and

  • understanding the influence that our larger socio-economic environment has on educational outcomes.

By leveraging and enhancing the strengths of the public, private, and charter school systems, as well as existing community resources, Trenton can create a network of educational options for local students and support students’ ability to take advantage of those options[1].

Create an Education Task Force

The City of Trenton, in partnership with the Trenton School Board and community education stakeholders, should fund an Education Task Force that will fund and conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the public school system. This report should identify a path forward for the City and School District that will allow it to educate its youth so that they have the foundational workforce skills needed to be successful in the labor market. The task force should take an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community/civic engagement. This approach poses the opportunity to improve student learning while also creating stronger families and building healthier communities. Such efforts will reinforce the reality that schools are the centers of many of Trenton’s communities and can be centers of support for both students and their families.
Moreover, the City should hire a City liaison to the Board of Education and State agencies. This liaison would assist in brokering partnerships between the three entities and identify opportunities for collaboration that would benefit Trenton Public Schools.

Core Goals

Core goals of this initiative should be to: improve parent/guardian engagement, leverage community support to encourage educational attainment and reduce the achievement gap, and create educational programs that match students’ skills with local and regional employers’ needs. Providing more quality educational opportunities for pre-K-12 students will allow Trenton to improve attendance records, graduation rates, academic achievement, and college and career readiness in Trenton’s full range of educational institutions, including public, private and charter schools. This programming - combined with the partnerships between pre-K through 12 schools, colleges, and employers that are promoted by many of the Workforce Development initiatives - will prepare students to succeed in both post-secondary education and employment.

Short- and Medium-Term Efforts

While the City is actively involved in the lengthy process of evaluating and enacting system-wide education reforms, the City should continue to leverage community programs and initiatives to improve education in the short- and medium-term. This includes:
  • Leveraging the Capital City My Brother’s Keeper program, which is already being implemented by the City;

  • expanding its community schools program;

  • investigating the creation of a University-Assisted Public School; and

  • attracting teachers to live and work in Trenton through housing incentive programs, among other efforts

In the short- and medium-term, the City should also work with the School Board to investigate how they can leverage existing school infrastructure to better support students and families. These actions should be seen as steps that lay the foundation for long-term coordinated reform work.
[1]An example of these education options is Children Defense Fund Freedom School model, which is a nationally recognized evidenced based program that has been operating by Shiloh CDC in the City of Trenton for the last 8 years. This program provides summer academic and cultural enrichment activities that helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. The model has been proven to stem summer reading loss. Eighty one percent of participants in the program either maintained or improved their reading level during the summer of 2015. All of the youth who completed the Freedom School program have either graduated from high school or are underway to graduation. Of those graduating, so far, all are enrolled in a post-secondary program.

Actions that support this Initiative

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