Bridging the achievement gap: Simpson Street Free Press

More than just a teen newspaper
Bridging the achievement gap: Simpson Street Free Press

Bridging the achievement gap: Simpson Street Free PressWhat started as a teen newspaper more than twenty-three years ago has grown into a first-of-its-kind after-school program that combines rigorous academic instruction with skills training to help students become prepared for the workplace. Through its curriculum, which received a national award for its innovation in 2008, Simpson Street Free Press offers help to elementary, middle and high school students with core subject areas including writing, literacy, language arts, science and math.

Bridging the achievement gap: Simpson Street Free PressDeidre Green, managing editor of Simpson Street Free Press, who was once a student writer there, says the program’s project-based learning model “supports the classroom but does not replicate the classroom.”

The main offices at South Towne Mall are set up as an incubator where students work on assignments and are required to treat their time on-site as a job, not an after-school activity or just study time. They get business cards and most are paid. Satellite offices are located at Capital Newspapers and local schools.

“The problem we’re addressing is obviously the nagging racial achievement gap that we have in our school districts,” says Green. “I would say that SSFP is a unique program in the fact that we take students from all over and from different backgrounds and we put them all together in one room, and the students don’t know who is from what side of town or who is low income and who is not. All they know is that they’re all working toward the same goal.”

In addition to the newspaper, which publishes online and has a multilingual edition called La Prensa, the students are taught journalistic principles and the importance of civic engagement. The program grew out of a united plea by parents in the Simpson Street neighborhood to give their children an accessible after-school program with high academic and performance standards.

Jim Kramer, executive director of the program, says SSFP has worked closely with local libraries and collaborates with local schools. He says those connections are crucial, especially when so many entities are addressing the achievement gap and competing for funds. Looking to the future, Kramer says SSFP has embraced technology and will continue to try to innovate. “The best way to think of it is we create a one-room schoolhouse effect in twenty-first century newsrooms.”

What is social innovation?

According to Stanford University’s Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a “novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions” and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.
What started as a teen newspaper more than twenty-three years ago has grown into a first-of-its-kind after-school program that combines rigorous academic instruction with skills training to help students become prepared for the workplace. Through its curriculum, which received a national award for its innovation in 2008, Simpson Street Free Press offers help to elementary, middle and high school students with core subject areas including writing, literacy, language arts, science and math.
Deidre Green, managing editor of Simpson Street Free Press, who was once a student writer there, says the program’s project-based learning model “supports the classroom but does not replicate the classroom.”
The main offices at South Towne Mall are set up as an incubator where students work on assignments and are required to treat their time on-site as a job, not an after-school activity or just study time. They get business cards and most are paid. Satellite offices are located at Capital Newspapers and local schools.
“The problem we’re addressing is obviously the nagging racial achievement gap that we have in our school districts,” says Green. “I would say that SSFP is a unique program in the fact that we take students from all over and from different backgrounds and we put them all together in one room, and the students don’t know who is from what side of town or who is low income and who is not. All they know is that they’re all working toward the same goal.”
In addition to the newspaper, which publishes online and has a multilingual edition called La Prensa, the students are taught journalistic principles and the importance of civic engagement. The program grew out of a united plea by parents in the Simpson Street neighborhood to give their children an accessible after-school program with high academic and performance standards.
Jim Kramer, executive director of the program, says SSFP has worked closely with local libraries and collaborates with local schools. He says those connections are crucial, especially when so many entities are addressing the achievement gap and competing for funds. Looking to the future, Kramer says SSFP has embraced technology and will continue to try to innovate. “The best way to think of it is we create a one-room schoolhouse effect in twenty-first century newsrooms.”
It includes these elements:

Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth

Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.

Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.

Can’t be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The M List
Madison Magazine‘s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year’s list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Click here to return to the 2015 M List.

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