Ensuring Every Child is Prepared to Thrive
“We do a disservice to people when we provide them resources but don’t also empower them to chart their own path,” says Anna-Stacia Allen, Executive Director of Navigate STL Schools. “I liken it to the old proverb: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’” Just a few weeks into her new assignment with the newly formed nonprofit, Allen has high hopes for the organization to help parents find the best school for their child to thrive. “We don’t make these decisions for them, but give them what they need to consider their options.”
Funded in part by a YouthBridge Think Big for Kids Grant in 2019, Navigate STL Schools began as an initiative of The Opportunity Trust, an intermediary organization working toward transforming St. Louis public education systems. “With the YouthBridge seed money, we were able to design, launch and begin promoting a mobile school finder, as well as find Anna-Stacia to lead it and our larger efforts going forward,” say Eric Scroggins, The Opportunity Trust Founder and CEO.
Launched at the end of April, the school finder at https://navigatestlschools.org compiles publicly available data on all traditional, charter and independent schools in the region into a single location. Information also is gathered directly from schools. Parents can review profiles of schools in such areas as safety and climate, teacher qualifications and student learning, and compare them to the average of all schools within the city or state. They also can find information on timing and processes for school enrollment.
“This is data that’s already available,” says Allen. “The problem is that it is hard to find and decipher, often outdated, and is especially challenging for low-income parents with limited time, computer access and familiarity with some of the terminology. We’ve streamlined and organized the information in a comprehensive, yet easy to digest, mobile-first format.”
Allen says the site – visited to date by over 2,000 users searching profiles of more than 110 schools – is one tool of several that the organization hopes to provide over time. “Our vision is to also offer in-person assistance for parents to review options, schedule school visits and prepare enrollment paperwork,” she says. “For parents, we know that finding the right fit in a school is the first step in preparing their child to live with purpose in the world of tomorrow.”
Another purpose of the site is to help inform advocacy. Even with hundreds more schools to add to the site, Allen says the disparities in schools – some within the same district – are glaring. “Enrollment timelines are all over the place and an example of something we can advocate for schools to make uniform.”
Scroggins says the pandemic has underscored the need for a systemic, regional approach to education alignment and improvement. “We found out that many schools couldn’t respond as effectively because they didn’t have consistent modes of communications, or clear instructional and technology strategies,” he says. “When those pieces are missing, it’s really hard to turn on a dime.
“Transformational change is clearly needed and will take time, but if we’re committed to transparency and accountability, collaboration and learning from others’ success, I believe we can get there.”
If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.