Improving educational opportunity for all students

In a new OpEd in CommonWealth magazine — “We need a holistic approach to improving student outcomes” — Joan Wasser Gish looks at the power of schools to address poverty and other out-of-school factors to improve educational opportunities for all students.

Wasser Gish is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Boston College Lynch School of Education’s Center for Optimized Student Support – home to City Connects.

“Factors outside of school more powerfully predict outcomes than any factor in schools,” Wasser Gish writes. This makes it imperative to address the impact of out-of-school factors on learning to improve students’ outcomes. How can this work be done?

As Wasser Gish writes, the sciences of child development and learning, and what we know about effective practices, point to the importance of school-based systems that are tailored to meet each student’s needs. Schools cannot close achievement gaps without “a systemic approach to addressing the out-of-school disadvantages that impact students’ academic learning.”

“The greatest effects on academic outcomes are seen where schools have a systematic way to marshal the resources of both schools and communities to individualize student supports in order to help each student be ready to learn and achieve.” To show what’s possible, Wasser Gish draws on the research that’s been done on the City Connects model. 

Research data show that students who get customized support through City Connects during elementary school perform better academically in terms of grades, attendance, and overall academic achievement. High school drop-out and chronic absenteeism are significantly reduced. In addition, teachers often feel better supported in their jobs, and principals report that the model creates a better school climate.

In other words, having “a school-based system that has a laser-like focus on addressing the impacts of poverty and other out-of-school factors by driving the right set of resources to the right child at the right time, over time, gets results.”

As Wasser Gish points out, schools have a real chance to draw from research and build on decades of practice “to create a more powerful system of opportunity.”

Read the full article here.

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