The Challenge

There is a major education crisis in America. We are in jeopardy of losing the next generation due to a horrific dropout epidemic.

Our country’s education statistics are staggering:

  • 7,000 adolescents per day drop out or are expelled from our nation’s high schools, according to America’s Promise Alliance” (America’s Promise Alliance, 2020).
  • “Black and Hispanic/Latino students are still graduating about eight and five percentage points behind the national average, respectively” (America’s Promise Alliance, 2020).
  • “In 2017, the average high school “event” dropout rate was 4.7%, contrasting with 3.5% in 2007.
    • This rate includes students between the age of 15 and 24 in grades 10-12 who left high school between the beginning of one school year and the beginning of the next without earning a diploma or alternate credential
    • Recipients of GED or other alternative credential don’t factor into the dropout rate.
  • In 2017, the average high school “status” dropout rate was 5.4%.
    • This rate includes students between the age of 16 and 24 not enrolled in school and do nothave a diploma or alternative credential.
  • 36% of students who have a disability (physical or learning) drop out of high school.
  • 73% of high school dropouts indicated their parents tried to talk them into staying compared to 37% indicating their school tried to talk them into staying.
  • 53% of dropouts said their parents offered to help them with personal problems vs. 24% indicating their school offered to help.
  • 75% of high school dropouts never participated in an alternative program or school” (, 2020).

Without a high school diploma, young people: 

  • Are more likely to be incarcerated or involved in the juvenille or adult justice systems (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2018).
  • Will earn an average of $12,000+ less than their peers with high school diplomas (Statistica, 2020).
  • Have a shorter life expectancy and more health issues (CDC, 2010).
  • Less likely to vote and/or be an active participant in the democratic process of America (CIRCLE, 2012).

Our Solution

We believe that every student in America matters, regardless of their background or circumstances. Therefore, StreetSchool Network seeks to plant and equip faith-based schools in our nation’s urban cores to ensure that our most at-risk students have equitable access to high-quality education, as well as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Street Schools have long been an oasis of hope in deserts of darkness and despair.

Our History

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 people experiencing homelessness in downtown Denver. As members of this home were working hard towards rehabilitation and more meaningful productive lives, there was one component missing… 

Tom saw that the lack of non-traditional educational opportunities were a barrier to their success. 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 dropouts off of Colfax Avenue 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 of Street Schools (later rebranded to StreetSchool Network™) 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 Cognia), 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 37 schools operating in 29 cities serving nearly 4,000 students with amazing results. Many of the cities where you will find network schools are places like Philadelphia 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 nationwide to develop a network of schools that specifically reach out to students who have not succeeded educationally and 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.

The Goal of the StreetSchool Network™

The goal of the StreetSchool Network™ is to provide services that help network schools develop and thrive as they seek to assist high need students living in at-risk environments in becoming productive, contributing members of society through educational and spiritual intervention. StreetSchool Network™ resources its schools in each area of school development and supports the sharing of best practices among the network, leading to the goal of accreditation for each of our network schools.

Services to StreetSchool Network™ Schools



The StreetSchool Network™ is able to assist schools in working toward candidacy in the accreditation process and facilitate their efforts as candidates to become fully accredited schools.   This process results in AdvancED regional accreditation as well being recognized as a Certified StreetSchool Network™ School. StreetSchool Network™ continues its support of accredited schools by helping to resource school improvement plans and providing annual accreditation and data reviews.


StreetSchool Network™ advocates for Network Schools by facilitating national ministry and education partnerships and creating national awareness of the StreetSchool Movement in Washington, D.C. with elected officials and through national press releases and articles in national publications as well as on the StreetSchool Network™ website.


Communication & Networking

Through the StreetSchool Network™ website, newsletters, forums, and e-mail updates, StreetSchool Network™ staff members facilitate information sharing between StreetSchool Network™ schools. StreetSchool Network™ staff and supporters aid in the sharing of best practices, problem-solving and relationship building.


StreetSchool Network™ offers coaching and training to schools to assist them with local fundraising efforts and board development.

Products & Resources

StreetSchool Network™ services Network Schools by developing products in-house that meet the needs of those carrying out the unique school model (StreetSchool Network™ Resource Bank, StreetSchool Tracker powered by RenWeb, Student Profile, Student Learning Plans, and other resources).

Student Profile and Student Learning Plans

Students are supported by the role of their advocate in planning for and transitioning to post-secondary training, employment or college. The specially designed Student Profile and Student Learning Plans are available in RenWeb for advocates to track a student’s progress toward transition and support them in preparing for life after high school graduation.

StreetSchool Tracker powered by RenWeb

RenWeb is StreetSchool Network’s™ school management database partner that offers complete school management software (grading, reporting, lesson planning, parent and staff communication, etc.) as well as customized solutions such as the specialized Student Learning Plan.

Strategies for Continuous School Improvement

For network schools, StreetSchool Network™ provides a process for continuous school improvement. The Network staff helps develop, resource, and annually evaluate each school’s School Continuous Improvement Plan (SCIP). This allows for StreetSchool Network™ staff to support school development in a focused way, providing resources and professional development to support each school’s most important priorities.

Summer Conference

On alternate year, the StreetSchool Network™ welcomes staff from around the country to come together for a conference and family reunion. Whether you are an old friend or new to our family, you will benefit from the fellowship, learning, problem-solving, sharing of best practices, professional development, and spiritual refreshment. From keynote speakers to intensive seminars, discussion groups and time exploring the Denver area, our goal is to have every attendee leave refreshed, equipped and ready for another school year on the front lines.


StreetSchool Network™ offers training and professional development services to network schools to help guide them in all areas of School Development including: Organizational Development, Financial Resource, Development, Personalized School Climate, Academic Development, Personal/Social Development, Career Development, and Spiritual Development for those desiring to start and operate a StreetSchool Network™ member school. This is accomplished through orientation, the StreetSchool Network™ conference, and through personal coaching, regional training, and site visits.

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”
Thomas Paine, A Letter Addressed to the Abbe Raynal on the Affairs of North America