Appalachian Kentucky has historically been synonymous with rural poverty, with many of its counties consistently ranked among the poorest in the nation.1 While the War on Poverty of the 1960s and 70s brought new people and programs to the region, the area saw less improvement than many others, and economic instability has only increased in recent years as jobs in small farming, coal mining, and light manufacturing—some of the main drivers of the state’s local economies—have begun to disappear. Today, the poverty rate in the region hovers around 27 percent, nearly twice the national average (and climbs above 40 percent in some counties), and more than one-third of children lived below the federal poverty line in 2013.


Unlike other regions of Appalachia, Berea has a long history of investing in education to counter the forces of poverty and isolation that stand in the way of its residents’ successes. Established in 1855 by ardent abolitionists, who envisioned it as the “Oberlin of Kentucky,” serving women and men, black and white, Berea College is the only leading higher education institution in the country to guarantee debt-free college degrees to all of its students. A small, liberal arts institution, it admits only “academically promising” students from low-income backgrounds — most from Appalachia — and charges no tuition.

In 1967, Berea established a new department, since renamed Partners for Education (PfE), to manage Berea’s new Upward Bound program. Today, PfE coordinates over a dozen distinct federally funded initiatives.3In particular, it manages a set of place-based initiatives serving 35,318 students and families in the southeast region of Appalachian Kentucky.2 In combination, these multiple federal grants and programs are leveraged to create a network of wraparound services to improve students’ educational outcomes and provide them with a path to college. The program uses several of its larger grants to provide a continuum of more intensive wraparound services to students in the four counties—Clay, Jackson, Knox, and Owsley—that make up its primary service region. It also provides a more limited set of interventions in 22 additional counties.


Because Partners for Education has been working for 50 years to cultivate partnerships with a diverse range of community organizations, it was uniquely positioned to develop a coalition to comprehensively serve students and families in the region. These include those who serve both the broad region and a more intensively supported, four-county section of it, as described below:


Partners for Education is led by Executive Director Dreama Gentry, with assistance from Associate Executive Director Renee Hargrove. Hargrove manages a seven-person central administration, four of whom oversee a specific aspect of the program (grant services and compliance, family partnerships, finance and operations, and oversight and assessment) and three program team leads. Gentry, a first-generation college graduate who holds a B.A. in political science from Berea and a J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law, has been Executive Director of College PfE since October 2011, and has worked with Berea since 1995.

Core Partners

Core partners include both public/agency partners and private implementation partners. The former consist mainly of education institutions: primary and secondary schools and school districts in its 26-county service region, as well as several institutions of higher education, including Eastern Kentucky University, Somerset Community College, and Hazard Community and Technical College. As discussed below, initiatives established under the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act have also played important roles in boosting the efforts of PfE and its allies. These efforts are also supported by key private nonprofit organizations—such as Save the Children and the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning—that provide a variety of services including tutoring, program evaluation, and family supports.


Partners for Education employs a cohort of full-time staff to oversee the logistics and operations of its various programs and to support students and families. Most of the staff members have previously worked in education and social service fields in the region—some for decades—and many are graduates of Berea College:4

Berea College Partners for Education employs 10 family engagement specialists, who meet directly with families and help to coordinate services. In addition, three family partnership staff members support the specialists in their work. The major staff contribution comes from the 83 specialists hired by the College to provide academic, college preparatory, and wraparound services to students across Berea’s extended service region. Sixty-two contractors and 18 Berea College students also provide support. All of the staff are led by project directors who manage the day-to-day operation of each of PfE’s major initiatives and report to either the family partnership director or one of three team leads.


The staff are complemented by a large volunteer corps that works in multiple areas of Berea’s PfE initiative. Several AmeriCorps grants provide Partners for Education with 105 AmeriCorps volunteers, who work full-time in select middle and high schools. In addition,the federally funded Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), run by PfE for its service region, trains volunteers each year to provide free help with income tax preparation to residents of Eastern Kentucky. Andthe Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership trains parents to become volunteer advocates for public schools. Finally,both directly and through its partner organizations, PfE enlists college students as mentors and tutors, who interact with students both in person and electronically over Skype.5

Comprehensive Services for the Primary Service Region

Through a 2011 federal Promise Neighborhood grant, a 2012 federal Investing in Innovation grant, and a federal 2014 Full-Service Community Schools grant, Partners for Education is able to deliver comprehensive, wraparound services to the 9,986 students in its primary place-based service region and their families.6

Early childhood and elementary services

PfE works with a handful of public and private organizations to ensure that all children within its primary place-based service region have access to high-quality early learning opportunities. These begin at birth and include both classroom- and center-based as well as less formal, community- and home-based efforts. (As discussed in the policy section below, children in the city of Berea also benefit from Kentucky’s robust state prekindergarten program.)

  • Through the Promise Neighborhood grant, PfE was able to help Save the Children, which works to improve health and educational outcomes for young children, expand its work in Clay, Jackson, and Owsley counties.7
    • Many families with children ages birth-to-three participate in Early Steps to School Success, a Save the Children Program aimed at preparing students to enter kindergarten ready to learn through a combination of home visits, book exchanges, “transition to school” activities, and programs to help parents develop knowledge and skills to support child development and create strong family-school relationships.8
    • Save the Children’s Literacy Program provides students ages five-to-twelve with books, as well as tools and guidance to develop their reading skills.
    • Save the Children’s Healthy Choices program provides participating students with healthy snack options and 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • PfE works with Community Early Childhood Councils to host activities and events such as Week of the Young Child, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and Kindergarten Transition Programs, as well as to disseminate child development information to parents. Other activities, such as the Community Storywalk, help parents and children learn together through hands-on, outdoors, and physical activities.
  • Three early childhood specialists work in preschool classrooms throughout the Promise Neighborhood area and provide in-home tutoring to children over the summer, as necessary, to ensure that they are kindergarten ready. And PfE provides coaching, professional development, and support for using evidence-based practices in Headstart and preschool.

Academic/in-school enrichment

As is true of its early childhood effort, PfE offerings to enhance classroom academic support span elementary, middle, and high schools to serve both students and teachers at the individual, classroom, and school-wide levels. As a foundational practice,Partners for Education places one full-time academic specialist in every Promise Neighborhood elementary and middle school and two or more in every high school.9 Other programs are supported by various grants.

  • All eighth graders and three-quarters of ninth graders in the Promise Neighborhoods counties receive traditional, face-to-face mentoring over Skype for 30 minutes twice a month through a program called Connecting the Dots. Most of the mentors are current college students, many of whom grew up in Kentucky and come from low-income backgrounds.10
  • In order to stem summer learning loss, PfE created a summer program with the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning that mails books to middle school students over the summer and hosts online book club meetings. This program, which served 329 students in 2015, reflects the unique needs of students in areas of rural poverty, and the importance of targeting programs that meet them.11
  • Through its Accelerating Academic Achievement in Appalachian Kentucky (A4KY) program, Partners for Education offers Advanced Placement test preparation, high school academic counseling, and college counseling for families in Clay, Jackson, and Knox counties.
  • In Knox County, both Knox Central and Lynn Camp schools have full-service community schools coordinators. Teachers in these counties also receive extra support:
    • The Collaborative for Teaching and Learning, a 20-year-old organization that provides professional development to teachers and school and district leaders, provides professional development to teachers of young children in Clay, Jackson, and Owsley counties focused on supporting the development of math and early literacy skills.
    • Advanced Placement (AP) and pre-AP middle and high school teachers in Clay, Jackson, and Knox Counties receive professional development through the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) teacher training program.


Family Community Resource Centers, which are one product of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, help to support the physical and mental health of all of the region’s students. Berea High School, for example,  houses the Berea Family Resource and Youth Services Center, which offers health and education services for families, including expectant parents and crisis counseling, and referrals to community agencies, free of charge for all members of the community who have children. In addition, Promise Neighborhood grants have been leveraged in several ways to enable PfE to enhance the well-being of area students and their families.

  • The Kentucky Oral Health Commission awarded grants to all three Early Childhood Councils in Promise Neighborhood counties to provide oral health training for new parents.
  • Partners for Education addresses safety in Promise Neighborhood schools through bystander prevention work, character education, and recovery coaching.
  • The Berea College Promise Neighborhood collaborates with schools and community partners to provide activities such as a run/walk club, summer fitness program, gardening, food preservation, Jump Start program, and more.

Parent and Community Involvement

The FCRCs that were established across the state also act as hubs in the Berea region for parent and community involvement, serving as liaisons between parents and schools, links to community services, and providers of seminars on a variety of relevant topics, among others. In addition, PfE advances other, targeted forms of parent and community engagement.

  • Each Promise Neighborhood county has some form of a Parent Involvement Task Force that focuses on those parents’ specific needs, such as providing math help, addressing issues of bullying, supporting teachers, and helping families of students with special needs collaborate more effectively with schools and teachers.12
  • Partners for Education has hosted several educational summits, including the GradNation Community Summit held in Knox County in June 2015, which focused on the role of community members in empowering students to succeed.13

Comprehensive Services for the Extended Service Region

While students who live in Clay, Jackson, Knox, or Owsley County receive intensive support from Partners for Education, some of the same services are also available throughout the PfE extended service region.

Academic Specialists and College and Career Help

Three federal GEAR UP grants have enabled PfE to employ 62 full-time academic specialists who work throughout the region to provide numerous services to students, including one-on-one tutoring and mentoring, college and career preparation, parent activities, and out-of-school and summer programming. The specialists also coordinate with outside organizations to plan events such as college visits and career fairs.14 Two other initiatives further PfE efforts to enhance students’ college and career readiness and post-secondary success.

  • College For Every Student (CFES), a national nonprofit organization working to enhance low-income students’ pathways to college, has connected over 5,000 students in Partners for Education’s service network to mentors. CFES also provides PfE with three college counselors, who work with students across the extended service region.
  • In 2014, Partners for Education implemented the “WIN Career Readiness System,” a digital teaching and learning tool, in all of its school districts. WIN includes programs for finding high school classes and colleges based on academic and career interests, a database of college scholarships, and courseware and test-preparation tools in pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, reading, and writing/English.15

Family Partnership

Like the smaller region, the extended service region enjoys the supports provided by FCRCs. In addition, Partners for Education employs a Family Partnership Director, as well as 13 full-time staff who manage several initiatives aimed at supporting the families of students in the extended service region. Family empowerment and learning opportunities include one-day and/or one-evening workshops that help families build skills, visits to colleges with their children, and classes that help families learn how to manage their finances.

Through Families and Schools Together (FAST) a non-hierarchical group of parents, school personnel, and community agency professionals meet regularly to discuss issues important to parents and help them build social networks. And Families and Schools Together, World’s Opportunity for Raising Kids Successfully (FASTWORKS), managed by families who graduated from FAST, teams up with “linguistically competent parents and professionals” to “[plan] and [lead]… activities that systematically strengthen children’s bonds to their family, school and community.”16

To improve families’ economic knowledge and stability, The Eastern Kentucky Asset Building Coalition (EKABC), a collaboration between Partners for Education and several other local groups, runs the local branch of the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) and holds sessions on such topics as financial literacy, budgeting, credit counseling, career planning, college and financial aid, and homeownership.17

Targeted programs

Partners for Education also coordinates several more narrowly targeted initiatives that focus on specific groups of students. These initiatives align closely with and complement Berea College’s mission of ensuring that promising Appalachian students have access to and succeed at good institutions of higher education and are positioned to return to their communities to help future generations of students do the same.

  • Talent Search. The federal TRIO talent search program, which began in Berea in 1991, serves about 800 students each year. TRIO provides counseling, career and college activities and visits, tutoring, and other school-based services to low-income and first-generation students in Clay, McCreary, and Pulaski County middle and high schools “who have the potential to succeed in higher education.”18
  • AmeriCorps. In 2013, 60 AmeriCorps volunteers were sent to work full time with high school students in Knox, Leslie, and Perry Counties, where they “strive to create college-going cultures in their high schools.”19 Another AmeriCorps program, ParterCorps: STEM, places 20 full-time volunteers in Madison County high schools. These volunteers work as mentors, college advisors, family connectors, and in- and out-of-school tutors with students who are taking algebra, with the goal of “connecting the math to STEM careers.”
  • Upward Bound Math and Science. The Berea College Upward Bound Carter G. Woodson Math and Science Institute, founded in 1999, provides high-quality college preparatory experiences for 9th- to 12th-graders with an aptitude for math and science. Each year the program serves approximately 60 low-income and first generation students across seven high schools in Estill, Jackson, Lee, Madison, and Rockcastle counties, providing “intensive academic summer programs at Berea College, college visits, cultural field trips, ACT preparation, and financial aid and college application assistance.”20
  • Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (GCIPL). Organized by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, this program provides motivated parents with the training and tools they need to become advocates for public schools.

Foundational Policies and Practices

PfE has been able to successfully support area students and their families over an extended period of time, and in an increasingly sustainable manner, due both to a set of internal practices and as a result of state and federal laws and grants that have supported its work in the region.

Specific practices have made the work of Partners for Education possible.

Berea College

The College, which is a totally unique higher education institution, is instrumental in PfE efforts in several ways. First, of course, it houses Partners for Education and manages the many federal grants that enable the delivery and coordination of a range of supports they make possible. And it provides substantial staffing and other resources to enhance the impact of those grants. Less directly, but perhaps no less critical, its history and mission serve as important guideposts. In an isolated, poor, rural region in which education levels are very low and aspirations for higher education and the advantages they confer not widely shared, Berea promotes the importance of attaining these goals. Moreover, it makes them attainable, and it encourages its graduates to return to their communities and “pay it forward” — encourage and support future generations of students to do the same. Indeed, throughout this study are examples of former students who have assumed staff and leadership roles within PfE and its many allied organizations. Finally, by emphasizing both the equal status of women and men and the societal values of hard work and service, it straddles the line between traditional and progressive values and brings new perspectives to the world of higher education within the region and nationally.

Given these unique features, it is tempting to assume that Berea is not a replicable institution and, thus, that other communities facing similar obstacles to boosting education as a means of community and regional development can not look to it as a viable strategy. But within the context of today’s urgent conversations about how to make high-quality higher education more accessible, affordable, and relevant to a much greater and more diverse swath of US graduates than ever before, perhaps Berea should instead be viewed as a pilot case to be studied, and adapted and/or replicated in other contexts.

Community/parent engagement

Involving parents, community members, and leaders in this work has played a vital part in the success of students because it has allowed for local ownership of results. Families and community members want their students to succeed and are willing to do what is in their power to achieve that goal. In collaboration with parents and community members Partnerships for Education is able to accomplish projects and goals that are not feasible without their support.

Evaluation to improve practice

Evaluation is built into Partners for Education’s work; external evaluators collect a broad range of data and use the information to improve both implementation and outcomes. PfE contracts with the Evaluation Consulting Group and REACH Evaluation to manage the assessment of its various initiatives using a set of “customized longitudinal data” that track progress on a variety of metrics.21 And the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning, a core partner organization, collects data on school readiness, classroom rigor, and college-going culture, as well as providing professional development.22

State Policies have also been key to supporting PfE work.

Early Childhood Education

As noted above, Berea benefits from state policy that makes all three- and four-year-old children whose family incomes fall below 160 percent of the poverty line eligible to enroll in high-quality, publicly funded preschools, which also serve any child with developmental delays or disabilities, regardless of family income level.23 The Kentucky Department of Education conducts voluntary evaluations of state-funded preschools’ environments using the STARS rating system, to identify high-quality early learning. (The ratings will become mandatory in 2017.) As of 2013, 41 percent of preschools in the state had chosen to participate.24

Establishment of Family Community Resource Centers across the state

The Family Community Resource Centers (FCRCs) that have been embedded in communities across Kentucky as part of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act complement and boost the efforts of Partners for Education in a variety of ways. Run by the state Department for Community Based Services Cabinet for Health and Family Services, they are designed to enhance children’s school readiness and odds of academic success. Designed to be flexible to meet the community’s unique needs, each FCRC nonetheless serves core functions of connecting families to schools and a range of community resources, strengthening ties within the community to empower parents, and offering such critical supports as mental health supports and afterschool enrichment options.25

Federal policies have benefited PfE but also posed challenges.

Time-limited competitive federal grants

As described in detail below, Berea’s services in Clay, Jackson, Knox, and Owsley counties are supported by three different competitive, time-limited federal grants. As discussed in other Broader, Bolder Approach case studies of districts that rely on Promise Neighborhoods and other grants, such funding streams come with both advantages and disadvantages. Such funding mechanisms allow organizations with a demonstrated need and robust plan of action to quickly scale up and provide a level of service that would otherwise not have been possible. However, it is not clear that this strategy is sustainable, as it requires grantees to reapply for the grant every few years and/or to attract private investors to match or replace the public funds. Moreover, the vast majority of school districts in need cannot access the grants, so they support only a minority of the children who would benefit from them.

Expansion of health care coverage has been challenging in rural areas

Although more Kentucky families have coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Berea County Promise Neighborhood director Beth Dotson Brown says that

“The ACA doesn’t address the lack of available health care resources in our three, rural counties. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily contribute to improved health outcomes in our Berea College Promise Neighborhood. Our families still lack the health care resources they need in their counties to make it feasible for them to get the care they need.”


Partners for Education, which has a $25.8 million federal investment, operates on an $18 million annual budget, funded primarily through a combination of these federal grants, with some added support from private entities.

Public funding

  • Promise Neighborhood Grants. With the goal of replicating the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Obama Administration created the federal Promise Neighborhood program in 2010.26 The program allocates competitive grants to nonprofits and institutions of higher education to help them create “a continuum of cradle-to-career solutions” for high-poverty, persistently low-achieving school districts. The grants, which can be designed as planning and/or implementation grants, are distributed over the course of four years, and are intended to give programs the opportunity to demonstrate their potential for success, so that they can attract private investors after the grant cycle ends. Berea College received a one-year planning grant in 2010 and a $30 million implementation grant in 2011. The grant covers Clay, Jackson, and Owsley Counties, and serves about 7,000 students in total, nearly half of whom live in poverty. Some of the funding goes towards transportation, which allows students to participate in field trips and to attend events such as college visits. While many staff and volunteers are physically present in schools, Berea also uses Skype and a books-by-mail programs to provide students with tutors and mentors remotely where in-person contact is not feasible.
  • Full-Service Community Schools. Inspired by the Community Schools movement, the Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grant supports organizations that provide comprehensive, wraparound, in-school academic and social services to students, their family members, and communities. The first FSCS grants were awarded in 2008, with successive grant cycles in 2010 and 2014. In total, FSCS has committed to giving roughly $75 million to 30 school districts and institutions of higher education. In 2014, Partners for Education received federal funding to implement Full-Service Community Schools in Knox County, which helped build on its neighboring Promise Neighborhood Program work. Through FSCS, PfE provides academic, health, career and social services, tutoring, financial literacy support for families, job training, career counseling, youth work programs, mentoring, health and wellness care, summer programming, arts and humanities, camps, and referrals to social services.
  • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). Established in 1999, GEAR UP is a discretionary six-to-seven year federal grant awarded to community-based organizations that leverage local resources to improve college readiness and access for low-income middle- and high-school students. In 2014, $300 million in GEAR UP grants were allocated to 128 organizations serving over half a million students nationwide. Partners for Education is a four-time GEAR UP recipient, winning a first-round grant in 1999 and a second in 2005. The program currently receives three GEAR UP grants, including GEAR UP Appalachia! And GEAR UP Promise Neighborhoods, both of which run from 2011 through 2017. The GEAR UP Promise Zone grant that was added in fall of 2014 runs until 2022. Together, the three grants serve over 13,000 students in PfE’s service region, supporting initiatives such as tutoring, out-of-school programs, test preparation, and college and career help, as well as parent activities in 73 middle and high schools in 33 counties. The on-the-ground implementation comes from 62 academic specialists stationed in schools across the extended service region, who meet directly with students and help coordinate resources.
  • Investing in Innovation (i3). The Investing in Innovation grant program was created in 2009 to support low-performing schools in boosting achievement by fostering effective teachers and principals, using data to drive student success, and implementing standards and assessments that prepare students for college or careers. In 2012, Partners for Education won a $3 million, five-year Investing in Innovation grant. The grant goes to fund Accelerating Academic Achievement in Appalachian Kentucky (AKY), a program run by Partners for Education and AdvanceKentucky that works to support teachers and increase classroom rigor in Clay, Jackson, and Knox counties.
  • Promise Zones Initiative. The federal Promise Zone designation is meant to foster economic opportunity through tax incentives, provision of AmeriCorps VISTA members, and preference on future competitive federal grant applications. The initiative was announced in early 2014, and 13 regions currently hold the designation. South East Kentucky was designated a Promise Zone in 2014. The Zone covers Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry, and Whitley counties. The initiative consists of partnerships among businesses, nonprofits and the public sector aimed at increasing economic opportunity for residents of the region, and is being led by the Kentucky Highlands Investment Initiative. The Promise Zone’s strategic plan involves leveraging $1.3 million private-sector dollars to address health, transportation, and economic development, among other issues. PFE is the lead education partner in the Zone.

Private Funding and in-kind support

  • In 2013, Berea received a School Turnaround AmeriCorps grant, which places AmeriCorps volunteers in a number of schools in several counties in the extended service region.
  • The services provided by Save the Children, the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning, and GradNation counts as part of the private match funding that PfE is required to secure.
  • Philanthropic and corporate support comes from the Blackboard, DuPont, SignalVine, the Steele-Reese Foundation, Texas Instruments, and WINLearning.

Indicators of Progress

The scope of Berea’s many programs, some of which have been in existence for decades, and many of which provide similar services or work in overlapping areas, makes evaluation of specific programs and practices difficult. This challenge is compounded by the state’s enactment of other education reforms in recent years, including the expansion of its high-quality prekindergarten program. Indeed, the broad scope of services described here as well as the range of providers illustrates the difficulty of conducting the sort of rigorous research that both programs themselves seek — in order to better understand what is working well and how to improve  — and that philanthropic funders often demand as evidence that their contributions are being well spent.  Ironically, it is the very interactive effect of many of these programs on one another that both makes each so effective and makes it hard to determine those impacts.

Nevertheless, evidence suggests positive results from many of PfE’s initiatives.

Primary Place-based Service Region

Early childhood services

  • Between 2012 and 2016, seven early learning centers in PfE’s primary service region earned a STARS rating of three or four, signifying that they are high-quality learning environments.
  • Since 2012, 4,009 elementary, middle and high school students in Promise Neighborhood counties have received one-on-one tutoring.
  • Over 5,000 students participated in arts programs in 2013 through Promise Neighborhood initiatives that provide arts training to educators and bring arts programming to schools.27
  • A4KY serves 4,159 6th- to 12th-graders each year, and has provided training and professional development to over 130 teachers since 2012.28

Academic gains

Despite serving a much more disadvantaged student body than state schools on average, Berea area schools have seen substantially larger gains in traditional academic subjects, suggesting that the comprehensive student, family, and school support services serve as effective counters to — though not innoculators of — the negative impacts of isolated, rural poverty that they experience.

  • Since 2012, math test scores in the Promise Neighborhood region have increased by 7 percent (compared with 4.4 percent statewide), while reading scores reading have increased by 7.3 percentage points (versus statewide, where they have risen by 5.8 percentage points). Between 2012 and 2014, the share of students labeled “kindergarten ready”29 in the three Promise Neighborhood counties has increased from 16 percent to 42 percent.30 Owsley County’s scores increased the most, from 19 percent to 56 percent.31
  • Students who participated in Save the Children’s Literacy Program read an average of 86 books per year, and 77 percent of students showed reading improvement, with the average improvement equivalent to over five extra months of school.32

Extended Service Region

Family and Community Outreach

  • In 2013, the Eastern Kentucky Asset Building Coalition provided free tax preparation services to 2,231 families in Southern Kentucky, both within and outside of PfE’s service region.33
  • Since its creation in 1997, The Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership has trained over 2000 Kentucky parents, many of whom have gone on to join school boards, serve on school counsels, and engage in day-to-day educational advocacy.34

Students in both of the programs that identify promising disadvantaged students for support outperformed their peers across the state, on average:35

  • In 2012–2013, 98 percent of Talent Search seniors graduated from high school, compared with 79 percent of high school students statewide, and over three-fourths of graduating Talent Search seniors enrolled in postsecondary schools, compared with fewer than two-thirds statewide.
  • In 2013, 73 percent of Upward Bound math and science high school graduates enrolled in postsecondary education (and 83 percent of these students continued in their second term at a postsecondary institution), compared with 63 percent statewide.36


Beth Dotson Brown, Project Director, Berea College Promise Neighborhood, [email protected], 859-985-4163


1. Bill Estep, “Berea College gets $30 million in grants to help students in poor counties,” Lexington Herald Leader, December 21, 2011.


3. Jay Buckner, “Grants Help Berea College and Secondary School Students GEAR UP for College,” BC News on the Web, Oct. 17, 2011.


5. PowerPoint presentation on GearUp Skype Mentoring Program.

6. See the state Department of Education’s Kentucky Schools Directory for up-to-date list of all the state’s schools, including those in the region.

7. This document describes Save the Children’s work with its 31 partner sites in eight counties in service of “Helping Kentucky’s Children Succeed,” including children served and participation in its Early Steps, Literacy, and Healthy Choices programs.

8. Early Steps to School Success responds to specific unmet early childhood needs among low-income US families through a range of strategies that have demonstrated substantial benefits.

9. Jennifer Wohlleb, “A Promising Start: Clay, Jackson, and Owsley Students Benefiting From Berea College Promise Neighborhood Grant,”, April 2013.








17. EKABC’s work extends past PfE’s service region, engaging families across the Eastern half of the state.







24. (p. 91-93)

25. “The primary goal of these centers is to remove nonacademic barriers to learning as a means to enhance student academic success. Each center offers a unique blend of programs and services determined by the needs of the population being served, available resources, location and other local characteristics.”

26. It is worth noting that Harlem Children’s zone operates on a $114 million yearly budget and spends $5,000 per student, while Berea spends less than $1,000 per student through its Promise Neighborhood grant.



29. The Kentucky Department of Education defines Kindergarten Readiness with five developmental metrics: approaches to learning; health and physical well-being; language and communication development; social and emotional development; and cognitive and general knowledge.


31. Beth Brown, Project Director, Berea College Promise Neighborhood, attributes these large gains to two factors: focused summer intervention (home visits to help students work on specific skills plus a summer Kindergarten boost camp to further prepared them) and a teacher coaching initiative that has influenced teacher behavior and enriched the classroom environment. Email correspondence with Elaine Weiss, March 2016.




35. Because these program self-selects promising students, it is difficult to disentangle the effects of these programs from the students’ internal motivation and skills