The Weekly Connect 6/26/17

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

The City Connects blog looks at how City Connects works inside community schools to help them get the right services to the right children at the right time.

The Educational Equity Index measures which cities do the best job of educating low-income students.

Members of Congress have a plan to boost federal spending on special education.

New Jersey, Illinois, and Louisiana are using ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) to help English-language-learners.

To read more, click on the following links. Continue reading

The View from Room 205 – Chicago Public Media Looks at Poverty in an Elementary School

Image courtesy of Chicago Public Media

Can schools make the American dream real for poor kids?

That’s the question Chicago Public Media asks in its multimedia story, “The View From Room 205.”

“The little kids I’m going to tell you about are fourth graders,” reporter Linda Lutton says in the audio section. “They go to William Penn Elementary on Chicago’s West Side.”

On the first day of school, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, head of Chicago Public Schools at the time, tells the students, “There’s no dream you can’t achieve, if you stay focused and persistent.”

It’s this phrase, “focused and persistent,” that the story confronts by asking whether children and public schools can overcome the challenges of poverty on their own.

Continue reading

A New Moment

City Connects

 

We think this is a new moment.

Here at City Connects, we have the insights, the tools, the programs, and, now, the opportunity to transform education.

Our approach is simple and effective: help each child succeed in school by addressing the problems each child faces outside of school.

We’ve been doing this work for decades. We’ve seen kids come to school in slippers instead of boots. We’ve seen them fill their backpacks with food from school that becomes dinner. And we know that many children have other health and economic problems that make it tough for them to learn. That’s why City Connects created a system to provide children with customized help. We link them to the right services and enrichment opportunities in their schools and communities.

Early on, skeptics said it could take 10 years to see the effects of this work. But once we started collecting data, we were as surprised as anyone to see positive impacts after just one year. And today, research continues to show that City Connects has a robust impact on kids over the long term.

The obstacles that kids face outside of schools are substantial. Poverty, poor health, and other social problems have a strong grip. As Robert Putnam writes about his hometown in his book, “Our Kids:”   Continue reading

50th Anniversary of the “War on Poverty”

Today marks 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the State of the Union address that is now known as the “War on Poverty” speech. On Jan. 8, 1964, he said:

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope–some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”

These words still ring true today. The stresses of poverty have a disproportionate impact on children. According to Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), children represent 24% of the U.S. population but comprise 34% of all people in poverty. That’s more than 16 million children, or about 1 in 5. (For more information on the demographics of children in poverty, this NCCP fact sheet provides a thorough summary.)

To learn more about the War on Poverty from 1968 to the present, check out these resources:

We’ve also covered poverty and its impact on children in past blog posts:

Support All Students to Close the Achievement Gap

Over on ASCD‘s “The Whole Child” blog, City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh has a guest blog post about how schools can counter the impact of poverty on students. In “Support All Students to Close the Achievement Gap,” she writes:

How can schools, with their limited resources, address these barriers to learning? Traditionally, the approach has been through “student support,” a catch-all phrase whose definition varies from school to school and district to district. Typically, it encompasses the role of counselors. Often, only the most vulnerable and at-risk students receive the lion’s share of the attention. Student support can be approached differently, in a way that dramatically enhances its effectiveness. It works best when delivered in a comprehensive, systematic approach to each and every student in a school.

For more information:

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 connection between students’ health & poverty

Research shows that out-0f-school factors (like hunger or homelessness) contribute to two-thirds of the achievement gap, with the other third being attributable quality of instruction and curriculum. One in five children in the US lives below the federal poverty level; poverty is one of the most pervasive of these factors and it impacts children across all four of City Connects’ domains: academics, social/emotional, health, and family. The connection between poverty and health has taken center stage in the media lately. The New York Times’ Well blog  recently featured a post written by a pediatrician, “Poverty as a Childhood Disease,” which described how poverty impacts a child’s health:

Poverty damages children’s dispositions and blunts their brains. We’ve seen articles about the language deficit in poorer homes and the gaps in school achievement. These remind us that … poverty in this country is now likely to define many children’s life trajectories in the harshest terms: poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and health problems from obesity and diabetes to heart disease, substance abuse and mental illness.

APA_Task_Force_Strategic_Road_Mapver3-1The post highlighted a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty, an effort unveiled at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies earlier this month. It called poverty “the most important problem facing children in the United States today” and advocated for a consistent and unified voice speaking out about children and poverty.

For more information:

  • On Twitter, follow the Academic Pediatric Association  @AcademicPeds

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.”