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News from EPI Tangelo Park Program embodies a broader, bolder approach to education

In a new case study, researcher Elaine Weiss examines the Tangelo Park Program, an initiative that embodies a “broader, bolder” approach to education.

The program is an effort by community members and educators, backed by funding from Orlando hotelier Harris Rosen, among other sources. Its success in transforming the educational outcomes of students in Tangelo Park, a low income neighborhood in Orlando, Florida, revolves around a three-part strategy: ensuring that all the community’s children are ready for kindergarten through a combination of quality child care and enriching prekindergarten, supporting parents to be full partners in their children’s education from birth all the way through high school, and guaranteeing college scholarships, which helps make college a high priority and provides a practical means to get there.

“The Tangelo Park Program is a prime example of a ‘broader, bolder approach’ to education,” said Weiss, who served as National Coordinator for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. “The program builds on the realization that so much of what students need to succeed happens outside of school walls. It’s only when the whole community is engaged to provide ways to alleviate the effects of poverty that students can truly live up to their potential.”

A partnership between neighborhood schools, community members, and outside groups, the Tangelo Park Program is bolstered by access to vocational programs and support from alumni. The program incorporates free quality early childhood education, family support, health care, extracurricular programs, and extra support for students who are struggling in college. The Tangelo Park community’s cohesion is enhanced by the program—the neighborhood’s residents, community organizations, and educators are central to managing it.

Created in 1993, the Tangelo Park Program began to deliver benefits for students and their families and schools quickly, and has seen those benefits increase over the past two-plus decades. As a result of comprehensive, quality early childhood education, students enter elementary school with well-developed motor, cognitive, and social skills, as well as reading, writing, and basic mathematics skills.

Between 2005 and 2012, at least 90 percent of Tangelo Park’s high school students earned a regular four-year diploma, with a 100 percent graduation rate in 2011 and 2012. 78 percent of Tangelo Park graduates who enroll in four-year college get their degrees, far exceeding state and national averages for low-income and minority students. Moreover, because of the generous scholarship program, Tangelo Park graduates are finishing college without student loan burdens. This model of “integrated student supports” offers critical lessons for communities across the country that seek to improve school outcomes for disadvantaged students, and for foundations seeking to support effective strategies.