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Faith-Based Organizations

“Today more than ever our students need us. In difficult times, our schools provide safe and stable environments. Even as we face our own challenges, our schools can be that place where children prepare for and believe in a better future. We can help by staying focused on student achievement. We can help by expecting the very best from our students, not just ‘under the circumstances,'
but because we truly believe they deserve and shall have that brighter day.”

—Jack O'Connell, California Superintendent of Public Instruction

Rationale

Faith-based institutions are typically one of the most stable fixtures in a community and, therefore, potentially valuable resources for schools as they work to close the achievement gap. Faith-based partnerships can provide a wide range of services to schools, including those that serve the entire school, such as allowing the use of a congregation's facilities or providing monetary donations. Services may also include those that serve subgroups of students such as mentoring or tutoring programs and services aimed at families. Often a faith-based partner is able to help engage families from low-income and diverse cultural backgrounds who might not feel comfortable in the school setting by providing space for holding conferences, meetings, and informal gatherings.

Research for Action, a nonprofit educational research and evaluation organization, conducted a study in 2008 of the types of supports and benefits schools receive from their faith-based partners, as well as the range of outcomes and impacts that result from these partnerships. The study found that while financial resources of faith-based partners may vary, congregations that have strong neighborhood ties, even if lacking in financial resources, are equally valuable resources through their relationships with children and families outside of school.

Monetary donations, mentoring services, tutoring services, and parental engagement activities were the most frequently reported services provided to schools by the faith-based partner. Over half the schools reported that services were provided at least once each week. Principals interviewed in the study reported that their faith-based partnerships help to improve school climate as well as students' motivation, self-esteem, goal setting, and anger management/conflict resolution skills. Principals also observed a positive impact from the individual attention faith partner volunteers provided to students through mentoring and tutoring programs. Some principals particularly appreciated having positive male role models from the faith partner working with their students.

Schools benefit in many ways from building ties with their community. Strengthening a school's connection to its surrounding community has the potential to increase parent and family involvement and creates opportunities to make students' learning experiences more relevant to their lives outside of school. As schools look to all available resources, faith-based partnerships are one type of community partnership that may serve as a valuable resource to closing the achievement gap.

Resources & Tools

U.S. Department of Education Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
This Web site provides information about grants from the U.S. Department of Education, announcements about upcoming conferences and workshops, grant-writing tips, and partnership ideas.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives
The Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives assists faith-based and community organizations to compete more effectively for federal funds so that they may provide better human services to more people.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
The Faith-Based Initiative originated from the simple idea that our best chance to overcome a community's deepest problems is to tackle them from within, by welcoming those community partners who truly know how to change lives and entire communities.

To Get Involved

To get involved, contact your local house of worship.