Grant Awarded to Study Impact of Student Support on Immigrant Children

Researcher Eric Dearing, PhD, associate professor of applied developmental psychology at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and member of the City Connects evaluation board, has been awarded a 3-year, $150,000 Young Scholar award from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) for his project, “Student Support in High-Poverty Elementary Schools and the Achievement of English Language Learners.” This award is the first for the newly renamed Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College, which is dedicated to developing the most effective ways to address the out-of-school factors that influence how students learn and thrive in school.

Dr. Dearing’s work will be focused on immigrant children who are English Language Learners (ELLs) receiving student support through City Connects. Nearly 25% of schoolchildren in the United States are immigrants or the children of immigrants who are disproportionately likely to grow up poor and attend schools that are not properly equipped to promote their learning. Dr. Dearing’s study will inform policy decision makers on the value of systematic student support for improving the lives of immigrant children, in and out of school.

“Immigrant students who are learning English are the fastest growing group of students in US schools and, as a group, they face exceptional barriers to school success,” said Dr. Dearing. “From a research perspective, this award is very exciting because it will allow me to take advantage of natural experiments and quasi-experiments as evaluation tools, providing the first careful examination of whether systematic student support can be used to promote the achievement of immigrant children.”

Dr. Dearing will focus on four specific research questions:

  1. Is the achievement of immigrant children improved through systematic student support?
  2. Does child English proficiency moderate treatment effects such that ELLs demonstrate exceptionally positive treatment effects?
  3. Is the accuracy of special education referrals for immigrant children, particularly ELLs, improved by City Connects?
  4. What is the optimal constellation of student support services for immigrant children?

The FCD’s Young Scholars Program (YSP) focuses on understanding the changing faces of the nation’s children as reflected in the current demography of the United States. YSP seeks to support a new generation of scholars conducting research on the development of children in immigrant families from birth to age ten, particularly those who are living in low-income families.

For more information:

  • Follow FCD on twitter @fcdusorg
  • Read the full press release here (pdf)

City Connects in Education Week’s ‘Futures of School Reform’ blog

As we wrote about earlier this week, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville has been writing this week about the importance of addressing non-school factors in education reform. Today, he authored a blog post, “Bolder, Broader Action: Strategies for Closing the Poverty Gap,” that mentions City Connects as a successful strategy for addressing out-of-school factors. As Secretary Reville wrote:

“… the challenge now is to translate our analysis into action by implementing a series of strategies, coupled with measurable outcomes, to ensure success.”

We feel strongly about evidence informing our practice and have conducted rigorous evaluation of our work. Learn more about City Connects’ positive impact on:

Out-of-School Factors In the News

Central to our philosophy at City Connects is that the out-of-school factors affecting students have a great impact on their ability to learn and thrive in school. (You can read about how we address out-of-school factors for children here.)

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute has written beautifully on the subject, most recently in an issue brief, “How to Fix our Schools.” In the brief, Rothstein reiterates research that demonstrates only one-third of the achievement gap in schools is due to quality of instruction.

“Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors,” he wrote.

Two great articles published recently advocated for addressing out-of-school factors. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Jeffrey R. Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University, jointly authored a commentary, “Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors,” in Education Week. Reville and Henig wrote:

“Our vision of the future of education reform is simple: American schools won’t achieve their goal of ‘all students at proficiency’ unless they attend to nonschool factors.”

They propose a multi-tiered solution comprising data that links student outcomes to services, quantifiable indicators of success that are measured long-term, and benchmarks that can provide feedback on student progress. Reville wrote an accompanying blog post, “Closing the Poverty Gap: The Way Forward for Education Reform,” about the relationship between poverty and student achievement in Massachusetts.

In the New York Times, Lisa Belkin considers attempts to increase parental engagement in schools in her article, “Whose Failing Grade Is It?“. Belkin introduces several pieces of state legislation aimed at mandating parents’ involvement in their children’s schools as a means to improve student performance. Belkin quotes Diane Ravitch, an education historian, who argues that parent education should be targeted to parents when their children are born up to age five. Ravitch goes on to say:

“…We need to acknowledge that the root problem is poverty.”

These two pieces call attention to the impact out-of-school factors can have on children–something we believe in strongly at City Connects. Our systematic approach to supporting students strengths and needs has proven effective; you can read about our results here.

City Connects’ Partner ReadBoston Featured

Photo by Dawkeye/Flickr

In a recent story on elementary school students’ reading achievement, “Making Sure Mass. 3rd Graders are Strong Readers,” WBUR interviewed the founder of one of City Connects’ community partners, ReadBoston.

Rick Weissbourd, who also founded WriteBoston, commented on the reading achievement gap related to poverty: while 37% of third-graders statewide read below grade level, among children from low-income families, 57% do. Weissbourd noted that an early difference in experience with spoken language may be related to the gap; children growing up in low-income families may come to school not knowing as many words as their peers growing up in more affluent families.

Reporter Sacha Pfeiffer dug deep into the issue, asking what factors in the lives of low-income families may be affecting the difference in spoken language experience. Weissbourd’s answer reinforces a core belief of the City Connects mission: poverty creates stress. An example is the pressure of working more than one job, which limits time for conversation with children. Weissbourd also cited the low-level depression that can accompany life under the pressure of poverty.

Like ReadBoston, the City Connects intervention aims to provide supports to students and families that can help address the out-of-school factors impacting achievement. Watch our blog in the days ahead for a description of City Connects’ successful partnership with ReadBoston at one of our schools.

For more information:

Study Shows Poverty Can Suppress a Child’s Potential to Excel

According to a new paper from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, growing up in poverty can stunt a child’s potential to excel cognitively before he or she even reaches age 2.

In the study, published in the journal Psychological Science,  750 sets of twins from both wealthy and poor families were given tests of mental ability. According to the University’s press release, at 10 months, the children all performed similarly. But by 2 years, children from high socioeconomic background scored significantly higher than those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Half of the gains that wealthier children show on tests of mental ability between 10 months and 2 years of age can be attributed to their genes, the study finds. But children from poorer families, who already lag behind their peers by that age, show almost no improvements that are driven by their genetic makeup.

For more information:

  • Read the study here
  • Follow the University of Texas at Austin on Twitter @UTAustin

New Study Shows Achievement Gap Persists

A study released yesterday from the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization representing 66 of the nation’s large urban public school districts,  reports that the achievement gap in education may be wider than has been acknowledged. “A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools” (pdf) looked at the differences between black and white students’ academic and social achievement and concludes that young black males in America are in a state of crisis, performing lower than their peers on almost every indicator. The study examined African-American males’  readiness to learn, National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, college and career preparedness, school experience, and post-secondary experience. Findings include:

·Black children were twice as likely to live in a household where no parent had full-time or year-round employment in 2008. And in 2007, one out of every three black children lived in poverty compared with one out of every 10 white children.

· On the 2009 fourth grade NAEP reading assessment, only 12% of black male students nationally and 11% of those living in large central cities performed at or above proficient levels, compared with 38% of white males nationwide. The average African-American fourth and eighth grade male who is not poor does no better in reading and math on NAEP than white males who are poor.

· Black males were nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school as white males. Black male students nationally scored an average 104 points lower than white males on the SAT college entrance examination in reading.

· Black students were less likely to participate in academic clubs, more likely to be suspended from school, and more likely to be retained in grade than their white peers.

· The unemployment rate among black males ages 20 and over (17.3%) was twice as high as the unemployment rate among white males of the same age (8.6%) earlier this year. In 2008, black males ages 18 and over accounted for 5% of the college population, while black males accounted for 36%of the nation’s prison population.

The Council would like the White House to convene a conference where a comprehensive plan of action could be established.

For more information:

2010 Statewide Test Scores Released

Yesterday, Governor Patrick released the 2010 school and district MCAS results and congratulated 187 newly-named “Commendation Schools” for their progress in closing achievement gaps and improving academic achievement. We are very excited that two of those schools, the Eliot and the Gardner, are City Connects schools!

“There are so many great success stories in schools across this Commonwealth because of the efforts of administrators, teachers, students, and parents who are united and committed to making every effort to ensure that every child that walks through the door receives a high quality education,” said Governor Patrick.

For more information:

The Achievement Gap and Graduation Rates

Less than half of  black males–47%–graduated from high school in the 2007-08 academic year, according to “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education,” a new report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
The report gives a state-by-state look at which U.S. school districts and states. It concludes that without targeted investments to provide the core, evidence-based resources to help Black male students succeed in public education, they are being set up to fail.

The report’s Massachusetts evaluation shows that even though the state has a  graduation rate for black students higher than the national average, the graduation rate for black males is 52% compared to 78% of white males. In Boston, the graduation rates are lower, with 47% of black male students and 60% of white male students graduating from high school in 2007-08. Boston and Massachusetts as a whole both showed slight improvement from the 2005-06 academic year data.

The states with black male student enrollment exceeding 100,000 that have the highest graduation rates for black male students are New Jersey (69%), Maryland (55%), California (54%) and Pennsylvania (53%).

For more information:

  • Read the full evaluation of Massachusetts here
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