Following a strong and strategic start with the launch of Great Idea Grants in 1986, the Consortium quickly won hearts and minds among educators across the Mon Valley. In turn, it also began gaining community support.
With a foundation laid, our organization began building improvement strategies and resources around schools. Among the earliest were Partnerships in Education, Horizons and Educator in Residence.
The Partnerships initiative, which drew business and community supporters into schools, prefigured the Future Ready Partnerships initiative that we offer today. Both had some goals in common, such as giving students firsthand exposure to working professionals who could help them understand how classroom lessons apply to the real-world. Through the early iteration, the Consortium helped establish internships for seniors with the U.S. Bureau of Mines, an Energy Olympiad for middle schoolers with Equitable Gas as chief sponsor, and the PAX project, which introduced elementary students to video and voice technologies with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
The Horizons program engaged 30 higher ed partners in helping remove geographic and cultural barriers that can keep kids in low-income families from considering, much less attending, college. With programming that started in middle school, Horizons acquainted these students with our region’s post-secondary schools through campus visits and college mini-fairs, among other ways.
Educator in Residence brought high profile figures in education into the Mon Valley for full-day discussions on cutting-edge education research, controversies, and topics of specific concern to member districts.
The Consortium’s first five years were busy ones. In addition to creating supportive programming, the organization also managed to host the National Dropout Prevention Conference, with the late (Ret.) Gen. Colin Powell as keynote speaker. It also launched two demonstration projects around literacy—Even Start and Family Foundations Early Head Start.
Finally, the Consortium launched a School Renewal initiative and the School Restructuring Project. They were seminal efforts to remake schools from within. You can read more about them next month in CPE History, Chapter IV.