One in five schools considered high-poverty

The latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ “The Condition of Education 2013” report, released in May, shows that one in five schools was considered high poverty in 2011, an increase from one in eight in 2000. More than 16 million children live in poverty in the U.S. At City Connects, we continue to believe that the until we address poverty and the myriad ways it impacts a child’s ability to learn and thrive, the achievement gap will persist.

Today, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville has a commentary in Education Week advocating a “massive redesign” of the education system. Our current model is not working, he writes, and schools alone are not equipped to confront the many challenges of poverty:

I believe that our experience demonstrates, as Richard Rothstein and others have argued, that schools alone, conceived in our current early-20th-century model, are too weak an intervention, if our goal is to get all students to high levels of achievement. Even when optimized with high expectations, strong curriculum, and expert instruction, today’s schools have not proven powerful enough by themselves to compensate for the disadvantages associated with poverty. Of course, there are notable exceptions of individuals and schools defying the odds, but these schools are isolated examples at the margin. We have not been able to scale up their success. The exceptions have not proven a new rule, though some practices have shown promise. The gaps, on average, persist. After 20 years of school reform experience, the data don’t lie.

His ideal 21st-century school would “[meet] every child where he or she is, [provide] education and support beginning in early childhood, and [include] postsecondary learning.” Reville writes that this new model  “should not mass-produce education, but should tailor the education to the individual, much as a health-care system does.”

At City Connects, we tailor our work to the individual strengths and needs of every child in a school across four areas: academics, social/emotional/behavioral, health, and family. Each student in a school is connected to a set of services and enrichment activities that address his or her unique needs. Evaluation of our work shows that by addressing the in- and out-of-school factors impacting students, they are better able to achieve in school–even if that school is high-poverty.

For more information:

 

The impact of poverty and out-of-school factors in the news

Central to City Connects’ work is the belief that addressing the “out-of-school” factors impacting students helps them come to school ready to learn and thrive. Children living in poverty face especially pervasive and severe out-of-school factors, like hunger, homelessness, and violence. Three recent articles from Education Week address different aspects of these out-of-school factors and are worth a read:

  • Time to Put Forward a New Reform Agenda
    On EdWeek‘s “Bridging Differences” blog, NYU professor Pedro Noguerawrites, about the importance of urgently addressing the needs of children living in poverty. “…Poverty is harming millions of children and the schools they attend, but we can’t take the position that nothing can be done until we eliminate poverty … their parents don’t want to hear that we have to wait till we muster the will to reduce poverty. Moreover, there are schools that are showing us right now that if we address the academic and social needs of poor children, they can not only achieve, they can thrive.Noguera calls for the federal government to create “a comprehensive support systems around schools in low-income communities to address issues such as safety, health, nutrition, and counseling,” which is similar to City Connects’ work.
  • Must Teachers Shut Down Our Compassion to Survive Education Reform?
    Another EdWeekblog, “Living in Dialogue,” used the adversity faced by victims of Hurricane Sandy to show how teachers can respond to students who have experienced trauma. Because the hurricane affected everyone, “teachers cannot help but respond and modify their instruction. This normalizes the trauma for these students and allows them to see that their feelings of helplessness and frustration, even depression, are normal and can be shared. However, in the case of the storms of poverty, the evictions, the foreclosures, the divorces, the days when there is no dinner to eat, the night their father is arrested and sent away for years – these insults to their being are individual and almost always hidden. They are hidden because the students are ashamed of being poor.”Author Anthony Dowd, a former teacher, wrote, argues that schools and teachers need to respond to the effects of poverty as they did the hurricane: “We do not require that poverty be fixed before we can teach, but we insist that it be responded to, as it often interferes with the healthy growth of the children we care about.”
  • Research Traces Impacts of Childhood Adversity
    And finally, a research story from EdWeek about the relationship between childhood adversity and poor academic achievement. “The stress of a spelling bee or a challenging science project can enhance a student’s focus and promote learning. But the stress of a dysfunctional or unstable home life can poison a child’s cognitive ability for a lifetime, according to new research. While educators and psychologists have said for decades that the effects of poverty interfere with students’ academic achievement, new evidence from cognitive and neuroscience is showing exactly how adversity in childhood damages students’ long-term learning and health. Those studies show that stress forms the link between childhood adversity and poor academic achievement, but that not all adversity—or all stress—is bad for students.”

Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence

There is a growing body of research about the detrimental impact of poverty and non-academic factors on student achievement. A new paper published by Helen F. Ladd, the Edgar T. Thompson Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, compiles a great deal of this research and provides four recommended policy changes to decrease the impact of poverty on children and education. The paper, “Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

One of her four recommendations is to directly address the educational challenges face by children with low socioeconomic status. Ladd, also co-chair of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education,  advocates for increasing early childhood and pre-school programs, adding school-based health clinics and social services, more participation in after-school and summer programs, and improving the quality of schools for disadvantaged students.

At City Connects, we know that linking children to a tailored set of services aligned with their individual strengths and needs across academic, social/emotional, health, and family domains, has a real positive effect. The resource-rich settings in which we work, Boston and Springfield, allow our School Site Coordinators to link students to a host of services and enrichment opportunities based in the community. This suggests that in addition to creating services in schools, students would benefit from taking advantage of the services that already exist.

Ladd and Edward Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times, co-authored an op/ed in Monday’s Times based on the paper, titled “Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?” Largely summarizing the conclusions in her paper, the op/ed challenged education reformers:

“…Let’s not pretend that family background does not matter and can be overlooked. Let’s agree that we know a lot about how to address the ways in which poverty undermines student learning. Whether we choose to face up to that reality is ultimately a moral question. “

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City Connects at the Council of the Great City Schools Meeting

On Friday, City Connects executive director Mary Walsh and director of new practice Patrice DiNatale will be presenting at the Council of the Great City Schools 55th annual meeting in Boston. Their talk, “Addressing Out-of-School Factors to Drive Achievement,” will share the City Connects model of student support and our results. The Council of the Great City Schools is a national organization representing 65 of the nation’s largest urban school districts. This year, Boston Public Schools is hosting the meeting, which is focused on education reform.

For more information:

  • Attend the panel on Friday, Oct. 28, 9:15-10:30am in the Helicon room, 7th floor
  • Keep up with conference news on Twitter with hashtag #cgcs11 or follow the Council of the Great City Schools @GreatCitySchls

Poverty and Education Reform

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has an important piece on her blog, The Answer Sheet, today: “Public education’s biggest problem gets worse.” The problem in question? Poverty.

The post is in response to startling data released yesterday by the US Census Bureau showing that the number of Americans living in poverty in 2010 increased to 46.2 million people, or 15.1%. This is the highest percentage in the 52 years that poverty estimates have been published, according to another Post story. Strauss writes:

The effects of poverty on children matter in regard to student achievement. That is not to say that efforts to improve teacher quality, modernize curriculum, infuse technology into the classroom where it makes sense and other reforms should not be pursued. But doing all of that while ignoring the conditions in which kids live is a big waste of time.

She then goes on to explain how poverty affects childrens’ academic achievement, psychosocial development, and health. This parallels what we do at City Connects and is what our School Site Coordinators focus on in schools (read more about how we support students academics, social/emotional, health, and family wellbeing). We believe that every child deserves to come to school ready to learn and thrive, and that every child can do this if his or her strengths are supported and needs addressed. Our 10 years of data prove that attending to the non-school factors that impact the lives of children is an effective strategy. Poverty cannot be ignored in the context of education reform.

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Both/And: Improving Education in Schools and in the Community

City Connects team member Matthew Welch penned a thoughtful guest post on BC professor Andy Hargreaves‘ blog, “Both/And: Improving Education in Schools and in the Community,” in which he proposes a way to stop the cycle of blame in education reform. The achievement gap is not just the fault of teachers, nor can it be solely attributed to out-of-school factors like poverty. Schools and the communities are jointly implicated and both should be part of the solution.  Matt writes:

“As a conscientious public, we should do whatever we can to improve [schools], focusing special attention on their most important element: teachers. But we should also acknowledge that there are bigger issues that schools are not equipped to address. The good news is that much of that expertise is already there—often already paid for—in the communities surrounding schools.”

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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.