By Associated Press - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

STONEVILLE, Miss. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Education is awarding a Mississippi nonprofit group nearly $30 million over five years to provide services aimed at improving academic outcomes in two Washington County school districts.

The $6 million initial award was made Tuesday to the Stoneville-based Delta Health Alliance, which has run a similar effort in Indianola since 2012. The alliance will provide similar services to children in the Leland and Hollandale school districts.

The alliance says it will work to improve young children’s readiness for kindergarten, improve performance in the two school districts, and make sure students graduate and go on to college.

The Washington County effort was one of six new Promise Neighborhoods announced by outgoing Secretary of Education John King. Federal officials funded another 12 earlier, including the one in Indianola, which King praised when he visited on a bus tour in September. To date, the program has awarded over $286 million.

One of President Barack Obama’s signature education initiatives, promise neighborhoods are meant to provide services including preschool, tutoring, summer camps and access to social services in an effort to boost academic achievement in schools. The neighborhoods are modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City.

No nationwide evaluation of the effort has yet been completed.

The “Deer Creek Promise Neighborhood” includes not only the school districts, but city governments of Leland, Hollandale and Arcola, area medical and housing organizations, the Delta Council and Mississippi Delta Community College.

“Education is a key to promoting economic growth and well-being of our state, and I’m pleased the Department of Education is making this investment in the Mississippi Delta,” U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said in a statement.

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