Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world... -Nelson Mandela

What is the StreetSchool Network?

We are working nationwide to meet the needs of youth and reduce the high school dropout rate by giving students a second chance at educational success through our national network of schools. Our member schools educate the “whole student” through programs encompassing academic rigor, career preparation, life-skills building, economic literacy and spiritual development.

The Challenge

There is a major crisis in education 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, a national youth-focused coalition started by Colin and Alma Powell.
  • Fifty percent of minority youth drop out of high school before graduating.
  • In some urban cores, only 35% of African-American and Hispanic males graduate from high school. The statistics for females are only slightly higher.

Having an uneducated and undereducated populace comes at a terrible cost to the average American. This is a tremendous burden for the taxpayer. Without an all-important high school diploma, young people are:

  • twice as likely to be unemployed.
  • seven times more likely to be on government assistance.
  • three-and-a-half times more likely to get arrested.


The negative impact that this crisis will have on our economy has been estimated at $192 billion per year for each successive class of dropouts.

But worse is the large number of young people who are adrift because of their academic, familial, and societal circumstances. They have no hope for a successful future by any definition and often turn to gangs and drugs.

There can be a debate as to what combination of personal bad choices, poor adult modeling, and society’s oversight can be blamed for their current situation, but the end result is the same. The adolescent feels hopeless with no way out.

Never have the statistics been more dire or the solutions so within reach. There is hope…

Our Solution

Historically, faith-based schools have provided the highest quality education to the neediest students in our nation’s urban cores. They have often been an oasis of hope in a desert of despair. The Denver Street School, a Christian secondary school, was founded in 1985 to serve Denver’s most troubled kids …

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 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.

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