800 Boston Students Pledge to Make Positive Choices

Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task ForceFor the seventh year running, the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force is gathering 800 fourth through sixth graders from Boston public schools at a Youth Summit at Boston College. The summit culminates the substance abuse unit in the City Connects-New Balance Foundation health and wellness program, which is conducted by CCNX health coordinators.

The Youth Summit, developed in partnership with the Task Force, CCNX, and the Boston Police Department, aims to arm students with the necessary information and skills that will empower them to make positive choices about drugs and alcohol. The students will hear first-hand about the perils of substance abuse from other youth in recovery and engage in interactive activities to learn more about the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the Health of Massachusetts report from the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, alcohol abuse in children and teens is a strong predictor for addiction problems in adulthood. The prevalence rates of alcohol use, binge drinking, and illicit drug use are all higher in Massachusetts than the national average. Learning positive choices early is essential; the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that children who began drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives.

New National Numbers on High-poverty Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics has just released its 2010 Condition of Education report, an in-depth examination of 49 indicators on the state of education across the country. This year’s report includes a special section devoted to profiling high-poverty public schools and their students, staff, and outcomes.

Lunch

The report used the percentage of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) through the National School Lunch Program to determine school poverty status. High-poverty schools had 76 to 100% of students eligible for FRPL and low-poverty schools had up to 25% of students eligible.

How does this compare to Boston? According to the most recent data from the Boston Foundation’s Indicators project, approximately 71% of Boston Public School students–roughly 40,000 students–qualify for FRPL. Nationally, there were 16,122 schools that were considered high-poverty, which shows a 5% increase over the past decade (12% of schools in 1999-2000 versus 17 percent in 2007-08).

The report says that for both elementary and secondary schools, there was little difference between the distribution of school support staff between  high- and low-poverty schools. At high-poverty elementary schools, 62% of all staff were professional instructional staff, 5% were student services professional staff, 16%  were aides, and 17% were other staff. The numbers at low-poverty elementary schools were very similar.

Despite the staffing levels being nearly identical, the report reiterated the outcomes of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments in reading, mathematics, music, and art, where students from high-poverty schools did not perform as well as students from low-poverty schools.

  • The full report is available here.

Boston Increases Reading Scores on Nation’s Report Card

Good news for Boston in the latest release from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP):

Fourth graders in Boston Public Schools had NAEP reading scores higher than the national average for public school students in large cities in 2009. Of the 11 urban districts examined, Boston was one of four that showed an increase in average reading scores. You can view more data about Boston’s fourth grade reading scores here.

NAEP also surveyed eighth graders’ reading proficiency. While they too had above average reading scores for public school students in large cities, there was no significant difference between the 2009 and 2007 results.  Eighth grade reading scores are available here.

However, urban schools still lag behind the nationwide average. Taking all of the 11 urban districts’ results into consideration, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement:

Today’s report shows that the reading achievement of students in our largest cities has increased over time. At the same time, the results also show that cities have significant work to do . . . In cities, towns, and rural areas across the country, we have to work together so that all children are receiving the world-class education they deserve.

Education Secretary Visits Boston’s Quincy School

Secretary Duncan
Secretary Duncan

On a day-long visit to Boston today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be holding a round-table discussion about school-community partnerships at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. The Quincy school is one of City Connects’ largest elementary schools with nearly 800 students and two site coordinators.

Josiah Quincy Elementary School, Boston
Josiah Quincy Elementary School, Boston

Mary E. Walsh, executive director of CCNX and the Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at Boston College, and Pat DiNatale, CCNX director of implementation, will be representing City Connects in the discussion, which will also be attended by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Superintendent Carol R. Johnson.  Following the discussion, second- and third-grade Quincy students are scheduled to perform a traditional dance in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Secretary Duncan is also planning to pay tribute to Boston Educators of the Year as part of a discussion with them about effective strategies for academic success.

Eliot School Kicks Off Walking Club

On May 4, 33 seventh grade students from the Eliot School clipped on  pedometers and set off for a two-mile walk down the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the heart of Boston to launch the school’s Walking Club.

Eliot School seventh graders hang out with Wally the Green Monster before setting off on their Greenway walk.

Developed by clinicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for students and their families, the Walking Club was a pilot program at the Eliot implemented by Amelia Tonkin, the school’s City Connects-New Balance Foundation health and wellness coordinator. Tucked into Boston’s cozy North End neighborhood, the Eliot doesn’t have a gym, so Amelia embraced the opportunity to motivate her students to exercise outside of school. BIDMC provided a pedometer for each student, as well as one for a family member, to help walkers keep tally their steps; the launch yesterday racked up 4,500 steps alone! The students were joined by State Senator Anthony Petruccelli, who represents the North End and applauded the Walking Club’s focus on exercise as a way to prevent future medical conditions like obesity and high blood pressure. Wally the Green Monster, team mascot of the Boston Red Sox, also cheered on the walkers.

“We know that physical fitness is a vital part of a well-rounded education,” said Traci Walker-Griffith, principal of the Eliot. “We are thrilled that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is collaborating with our teachers and students on such an important issue. We are also excited that we are able to fold the important educational aspects of this program into our curriculum.”

The Walking Club kit teaches students about the many physical and mental proven health benefits of walking. It includes vocabulary words, a walking quiz, a chart of key muscles used when walking, and a diary to record their exercise. It also explains how to calculate heart rates and evaluate the level of intensity of the exercise.

Despite warm temperatures, the Eliot School students walked 2 miles from their school down the Greenway and back. “The  Walking Club will ensure that our students and families engage in health and wellness initiatives available within Boston’s urban location,” said Amelia Tonkin. “By educating our students about the benefits of walking and how to use pedometers, we look forward to utilizing this partnership to keep the Eliot community healthy in an enjoyable way.”

Watch WCVB Channel 5’s coverage of the walk here.

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