During the summer of 1979, Tom Tillapaugh, founder of the Denver Street School and president of the StreetSchool Network™, visited a group home for young homeless people in downtown Denver. As members of this home were working hard towards rehabilitation and more meaningful productive lives, there was one component Tom saw that was standing as a barrier to their success: they did not have high school diplomas. As an educator himself, Tom saw the critical need for an educational outreach to these young people which would not only instill a sense of self-esteem, but also provide the tools for self- sufficiency.
In 1985, with five students around his dining room table, Tom opened a school for high school drop-outs in an inner-city neighborhood in Denver, CO. Tom found that he had to adjust techniques and procedures from the traditional classroom to meet the special needs of his unique student body. As the school began to flourish, it wasn’t long before word spread about the work being done. People began calling from around the country to ask how they could replicate the Street School Model in their city.
In response to those requests, Wendy Piersee joined Tillapaugh in 1996 and together they co-founded the national association to develop services and provide accountability and resources to Street Schools around the country. In 2003, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected the StreetSchool Network™ as one of eight educational intermediaries whose model was chosen for replication through the Alternative High School Initiative.
In 2005 through the leadership of Todd Goble, the StreetSchool Network™ was approved as an sponsoring corporation with the Commission for International and Trans-regional Accreditation (now AdvancED), allowing StreetSchool Network™ to help its network schools prepare to be a candidate for accreditation, select schools to be candidates, provide annual reviews, and resource and support their ongoing School Continuous Improvement Plans.
Today, there are 46 schools operating in 30 cities serving nearly 4,000 students with amazing results. Many of the cities where you will find network schools are places like Denver and Cleveland where high school graduation rates hover between 30-40%. Network schools have made significant progress in the past few years in incorporating digital tools to support data collection on student outcomes, and standardized testing to allow for data-driven decision making on adjusting instruction to support student achievement.
The StreetSchool Network™ is recognized nationally for its efforts to stem the drop-out crisis by working nation- wide to develop a network of schools that specifically reach out to students who have not succeeded educationally nor have numerous risk factors that contribute to educational failure. Network schools educate the “whole student” through programs that contain academic rigor, personal/social development, career preparation, economic literacy and spiritual/character development.