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LSNA: A Model of Successful School-Community Partnership

LSNA: A Model of Successful School-Community Partnership

LSNA is a nationally recognized model of successful collaboration between a community organization and public schools, creating a community-centered school that serves immigrant families.

LSNA's close collaboration with local schools began in the early 1990s when LSNA’s Education Commit­tee spearheaded a community effort to end school overcrowding. For years, before LSNA's involve­ment, individual schools in Logan Square had been negotiating with the Chicago Board of Education to alleviate overcrowding. During the early 1990s, LSNA played a crucial role in bringing together schools from across the neighborhood to address this common problem. Local School Councils and prin­cipals signed on to this campaign, joining the LSNA Education Committee, and schools became members of LSNA. Over several years, the campaign resulted in five new annexes and two new middle schools. Just as importantly, the campaign both demonstrated LSNA's power as a community organization and built a foundation of mutual trust and respect among the principals, teachers, parent leaders, and LSNA staff who had been involved in the campaign and witnessed the results.

From this groundwork arose a multitude of programs that have established immigrant families, particularly mothers, as crucial contributors to the life and success of public schools. The following briefly describes some of the programs that have emerged from LSNA’s education organizing and the impact they’ve had on community schools:

LSNA Programs in Logan Square Schools: (download a listing of  Member Schools of LSNA here)

Parent Mentor Program—Since 1995, the Parent Mentor Program has hired and trained more than 1,000 parents, mostly immigrant mothers, to work as classroom assistants in 9 Logan Square public schools. In 2005-06, 130 parents worked as Parent Mentors.

Literacy Ambassadors Program—Beginning in 2003, some 40 teams of teachers and parents in five schools have been holding house meetings on literacy. They help parents devise reading strategies and build bridges from school to home. In 2005-06, 360 Literacy meetings were held with over 400 families.

Parent Tutor Program—LSNA’s newest parent initiative, a federally funded Americorps pilot program, places experienced Parent Mentors in 6 grade schools to tutor children intensively in reading. In 2005-06, 20 Parent Tutors worked one-on-one with over 190 students in K-8th grades.

Community Learning Centers—Starting in 1996, Community Learning Centers (CLCs) have been successfully established in 6 Logan Square schools. Free programs for the entire family are offered after-school and in the evening, including GED and ESL classes for adults and homework help, sports, music and art programs for children. The Centers provide security and free childcare for participants. In 2005-06, 700 families participated on a weekly basis, and 100 adult students earned their GED. For more information, click here to download a list of Community Learning Center schedules.

Student Attendance—Through LSNA, six parents have been working passionately with the attendance office at Kelvyn Park High School to bring students back to school. These bilingual parents call and visit families and arrange meetings with school staff, including the principal, so that they can play an active role in keeping their children in school. In September 2006, Kelvyn Park won a CPS award for the most improved attendance record in the city.

Nueva Generación (Next Generation) Teacher Training Program; Our highly successful collaboration with Chicago State University has 35 parents in their sixth year of studying to be bilingual teachers; they will begin to graduate in December 2006 and work in Logan Square schools. A second cohort of students began classes in January 2006, with 30 more expected in September 2006.

LSNA Organizing Efforts on Education-Related Issues:

Statewide Grow Your Own Teacher initiative: As a lead member of “Grow Your Own Illinois” (a four-year-long collaboration with other Chicago community organizations including ACORN, SWOP, Target, KOCO and Cross-City Campaign, ) LSNA has successfully organized for replication of its Nueva Generación teacher training program. Beginning in September 2006, 10 programs will begin classes around the state, modeled on LSNA’s program to train community-based teachers and funded by the State of Illinois as a new education initiative.

LSNA Education Committee: The LSNA parent-run Education Committee has worked on many issues over the years. Its first victory was the building of 5 school annex buildings and 2 new middle schools in 1994-97. More recently, the Committee spearheaded development of LSNA’s Litearcy Ambassador program. Currently, the committee is working on the following:

- Expansion of Pre-Kindergarten Programs—Compelled by waiting lists of 80-100 families for slots at pre-school centers, LSNA’s Education Committee advocated for funding to open extended day pre-schools in Logan Square. After research and advocacy, and with support from State Senator Miguel del Valle, the Chicago Public Schools agreed to open several new pre-school classrooms in 2005-06.

- Bilingual Education—Based on Parent Tutors’ experience in LSNA schools, LSNA’s parent-run Education Committee has identified third and fourth grades as key points of transition for bilingual students, who may fall behind as they struggle to transition to all-English classes. While LSNA’s parent programs provide much support for these students, The Committee is conscious that bilingual students citywide need additional support and is seeking solutions to this problem.

Health Activities at LSNA schools: (see Health page)

Youth Activities in the Neighborhood:

Kelvyn Park/LSNA Service Learning Project—Partnering with the Social Justice Academy at Kelvyn Park High School, LSNA is providing opportunities for high school students to become involved in their community through research, writing and civic engagement on issues such as immigration and affordable housing.

Prevention—In partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, LSNA is conducting a community study to learn more about what alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs Logan Square youth are exposed to, and what preventative alternatives are available.