From Edutopia: Knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be the key to a successful future. Here's why a STEM education matters and how you can inspire students to pursue STEM careers.
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Brownsville native Cynthia “Abby” Lozano, a freshman business major at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, carries a full class schedule and works 20 hours a week.
"The School of Business project carries out a portion of the continuum plan of the Partners for Postsecondary Success Initiative spearheaded by United Way of Southern Cameron County. UTB joined area partners to focus on six critical points identified by PPS to shepherd students toward high school and university graduation followed by gainful entrance into the workforce: preparation, connection, entry, progress, completion and employment."
What's better than data? A free workbook that helps you figure out how to use data for better nonprofit decision making!
Strategy outlined for chronic disease prevention
To improve the nation’s health, preventing chronic diseases needs to be prioritized, says a report issued Jan. 29 by Trust for America’s Health.
To achieve that goal, the organization calls for advancements in the public health system, including increased funding, and the partnership of public health officials with physicians, health care payers and educators
The recommendations come on the heels of a Jan. 9 report that showed Americans on average die younger and experience higher rates of disease and injury than populations of 16 other high-income countries. That report was published by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.
Key initiatives suggested by the Trust for America report include:
- Eliminating co-pays for preventive services that received an A or B grade from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
- Integrating community-based strategies into new health care models, such as by expanding accountable care organizations into accountable care communities. (ACCs work across sectors, such as housing and education, and work with physicians and public health officials to improve health.)
- Providing effective, evidence-based wellness programs at all workplaces.
These recommendations were made in response to data showing that more than half of Americans have one or more serious chronic diseases, a majority of which could have been prevented.
Learn about the creation and distribution of TED nominated video “Statisticks” from Upic member United Way of Lake County (IL).
Many United Ways are focusing on preparing children for school and life through a variety of educational partnerships and collaborations like Success by Six.
Last fall, Upic member United Way of Lake County produced an animated campaign video which tells the story of how small interventions in early in a child’s life can fundamentally change the direction of their life. The video not only received the attention of their community, but was recently nominated as a finalist for a TED award.
In this podcast episode, UWLC staff members, Jennifer Yohan and Valerie Peterson share the journey of creating and sharing this informative and educational viral video which is perfectly aligned with their educational agenda.
The infant mortality rate for Shelby County dropped in 2011 for the first time to below 10 deaths per 1,000 live births, the lowest ever for the county, and officials credited a countywide collaborative effort to help babies see a first birthday.
The rate of 9.6 deaths per 1,000 live births marks a 35 percent decline from 14.9 per 1,000 births in 2003. African-American infant deaths went from 21 per 1,000 births in 2003 to 13 per 1,000 births in 2011.
County statistics go back to 1930, when 98.9 infants per 1,000 died, a number that by 1960 had fallen to 29.9.
It's a "stubborn indicator to move," said Yvonne Madlock, director of the Shelby County Health Department.
Officials credited advances in public health and public health policy.
"We need to continue to better identify why babies die in Shelby County and strategies to develop appropriate interventions, implement those well, evaluate, modify and change systems as we need to," Madlock said.
The work involves helping women gain access to quality health care before they have babies, during their pregnancies and between pregnancies.
"We've got to make sure everybody in our community moves out of Third World status so we don't have the levels of poverty and unemployment and lack of access to care that one should not expect in a developed nation," Madlock said.
We've got to make sure everybody in our community moves out of Third World status so we don't have the levels of poverty and unemployment and lack of access to care that one should not expect in a developed nation.
Yvonne Madlock, director of the Health Department.
There are many public and private agencies that can take credit for the drop in infant deaths, said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
"I think our health department has done a good job of really educating the community and making the community aware that this is one of the more critical public health issues that we have in our community," Luttrell said.
The county Community Services Division and the faith community have been key players, he said.
The county mayor singled out the Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, one of the oldest and largest neonatal centers in the country.
"The neonatal unit has really done a superb job," Luttrell said.
The drop from 14.9 to 9.6 is a huge decrease and the staff is proud to be a part of it, said Kelley Smith, nurse manager at the newborn center.
"The babies that we do get are the sickest babies and the moms are sick," Smith said. "When our babies are born they're already born having to struggle."
The Med has encouraged breast feeding those sick babies, with about 75 percent receiving mothers milk that is rich with antibodies during some portion of their time in the unit, Smith said.
It is also a part of the Vermont Oxford Network, a collaborative of 900 of the world's neonatal units.
"We collaborate with them in developing best practices and see what works and I think that's been huge," Smith said.
Although the falling infant mortality rate is promising, it is still much higher than the national infant mortality rate of 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births.
While encouraging responsibility on the part of childbearing women, the community must look at systems changes, Madlock said.
One example, she said, is presumptive eligibility with regard for TennCare.
Low-income women with no health insurance who become pregnant are eligible for 45 days of coverage, allowing them time to apply for TennCare.
However, they may not know it exists or may have difficulty getting to a state office to apply.
"The other thing we've found is a woman gets presumptive eligibility care but is not successful in getting permanent coverage," Madlock said.
Some women wait until their seventh or eighth month to apply for presumptive eligibility so they'll have TennCare when they go to the hospital, Madlock said.
Her office is working to address how presumptive eligibility can be extended through the course of a pregnancy.
The 2011 data shows an improvement in infant mortality rates, but it is also a reflection of changes that began 5, 10 or 20 years ago, Madlock said.
And the solutions to infant mortality will impact what happens to babies 20 or 30 years from now.
"It drives medical costs, it drives education costs, it drives criminal justice cost," she said. "What it means is we lose talent and creativity that we'll never be able to recapture because each of those babies has potential. And it really could be any of our babies. While it's disproportionately experienced in population groups, none of us is insulated from it and its potential."
© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Public awareness, collaboration, public/private partnerships = they work.
By Stacey Knight
The health and wellness of others impact us all. When individuals have the opportunity for better health, the full potential of our young people is realized; business productivity increases, health care costs are lowered, and we all win. More and more people have begun engaging in the conversation and making a difference. After decades of obesity rates going up, we are finally hearing some good news. According to an article in the New York Times and a report from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates in multiple cities across America are going down. Over the past few years, this topic has gotten significant attention. From the White House to houses across America, people have begun to change the conversation from one of weight to one of health and the importance of every individual having access to healthful food and a safe place to be active.
America has answered this epidemic with innovative ideas and a lot of passion and hard work. The community of Santa Cruz, CA decided that its children would get the opportunity to be healthy and live longer and more fulfilling lives. United Way of Santa Cruz County convened more than 150 agencies, parents, schools, health care professionals, media, local business leaders and policy makers to work together to increase access to health and wellness. The coalition has already improved school wellness plans, implemented healthier restaurants standards, and worked with the city to adopt recommendations for safe, walkable, and bikeable streets.
Community members of Birmingham are also moving towards a healthier community. United Way of Central Alabama and YMCA are working with dedicated community members and multi-sector partners to improve the policies that reshape neighborhoods and support active living and healthy eating. Together, they are promoting bike lanes and sidewalks, improving vending machine policies to offer nutritious foods, and building or expanding community gardens in areas where healthful food is limited. The community is also working with child care centers and out-of-school programs to provide healthful food and physical activity, which is a win-win for health and education. In fact, healthy eating and being physically activity are both key to academic performance and graduation.
These lowering rates seem to be due to the bold actions of individuals, government, nonprofits, and businesses, to create environments in which the healthy choice is the default or easier choice. We can all make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others. Start a walking school bus in your neighborhood. Plant a community garden. Invite a high school or college athlete to play with and inspire children to be more active. Teach a kid’s culinary class. There are so many ways we can make a difference in our own home and neighborhood and have a good time doing it. Although it might not be time to throw a victory party, it is a time to celebrate the accomplishments we have made and be inspired to do more -- much more.
This revealing infographic shows just how much non-profits leveraged social media over the past year.
Fundraising for non-profits is no easy task. No matter how noble the cause, getting folks to part with their hard-earned cash presents a tricky challenge.
But, more than ever, non-profits are relying on social media to reach their target audiences and help make the world a better place. Why social media? Because Facebook, Twitter and other networks are where the eyeballs are. In fact, socially shared content makes up 10% of all web content, at least according to analysis by the social platform ShareThis.
2012 saw more social effort and engagement than ever by non-profits, and the following infographic from MDG Advertising provides a handy overview. Based on statistics from a number of non-profit advocacy groups, it reflects a world of newfound potential for rallying people online for social good.
Check it out below for the fuller picture, then share with us in the comments: How can social media best be used to promote social good?
Good news! Santa Fe's Children's Project realizing great results from their early childhood development initiative. Check it out on United Way of Santa Fe County's web site: http://www.uwsfc.org/evaluations
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
What is VITA? VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. It is a nationwide program operated by volunteers from January 15 - April 15. Volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS, and then prepare tax returns for FREE for individuals & families earning less than $57,000.
In 2011, more than 10,000 individuals & families across the state received free tax preparation at one of the multiple VITA sites. Although tax season is still a few months away, United Way is recruiting VITA volunteers now and we need your help!
•Tax preparation volunteer: Training required, walk clients through tax return filing on a one-on-one basis (Training Commitment: 6-12 hours; Volunteer Commitment: 5hrs a week for 14 weeks. Volunteers can choose the site and hours for which they want to volunteer.)
•Cash coach volunteer: Training required. Work on-site with clients with basic financial needs such as: opening a bank account, tips for saving, filing a FAFSA for college scholarships, etc. (Training Commitment: 1hr; Volunteer Commitment: 2-3 hrs a week)
•Greeter: No training required. Greet clients as they arrive on-site to file their taxes. Assist with signing clients in and any other needs that site coordinator may have. (Volunteer Commitment: 2-3 hours per week)
•Tax Site Assistant: Training required, assists site coordinator in daily activities and acts as a Quality Reviewer of returns prepared at the tax sites. (Training Commitment: 6-12 hours for VITA certification; Volunteer Commitment: 10+ hours per week)
In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doubled-down on Brownsville with a $1.5 million grant, not because they saw a community with alarming social/educational indicators – we have that, but those challenges that can be found throughout Texas and the U.S. – but rather because they saw a community that was ready to take action for change. They saw this readiness demonstrated in the depth of our community-wide partnerships and the collaboration of the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan.
THE GATES FOUNDATION WAS WILLING TO BET ON BROWNSVILLE — ARE WE?
As the Brownsville Partners for Postsecondary Success began to systematically improve various gaps along Brownsville’s educational pipeline, it quickly became evident that a change of this size would truly take a community- wide effort – it would take an ALLIN effort. This is the movement the ALLIN posters and billboards you are seeing around the community, and now this video, is asking you to join by visiting http://allinbrownsville.org/all-in/
WHY JOIN THE MOVEMENT?
As you read this, 34% of Brownsville households live in poverty, compared to 11% for the U.S. Our, median income is $30,454, compared to $50,046 for the nation. U.S. Improving these and other negative community indicators will not be the result of any one big decision, but will happen because of thousands of students, parents, educators, and employers aligning their efforts under a shared agenda around education.
Together we can build a better Brownsville. Visit http://allinbrownsville.org/allin/ to find out how.
BROWNSVILLE PARTNERS FOR POST SECONDARY SUCCESS: Brownsville Chamber of Commerce Brownsville Economic Development Council Brownsville ISD Cardenas Development Co. Inc. Community Development Corporation of Brownsville Project VIDA Texas Southmost College United Brownsville United Way of Southern Cameron County University of Texas at Brownsville Wells Fargo Advisers Workforce Solutions Cameron
By Ann O'Brien
This time of year, many people are reflecting on what is truly important in life and all they have to be grateful for. The most common item of the top of these lists: family.
Many successful individuals can point to family as a factor in that success -- perhaps because of their unwavering belief in our abilities, perhaps because they pushed us beyond what we thought we were capable of, perhaps for their financial contributions to our education. But the overarching feeling is, because of their support.
For those of us fortunate enough to be born into families that knew how to best support us, particularly in our academic endeavors, this support almost goes without saying. But in some families, parents who would like to help their children succeed don't know how best to do so. As educators, we can help families develop the skills needed to support their children in school and beyond. One model for doing so: Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (1) (APTT).Academic Parent-Teacher Teams
In the mid-2000s, Dr. Maria C. Paredes (2) was Director of Community Education in Phoenix's Creighton Elementary School District and a doctoral student at Arizona State University. Responsible for creating family engagement opportunities, she set up parent workshops, hired parent liaisons and more. One major accomplishment: Repurposing the district's parent-teacher conferences, which she found "mostly ineffective, lack[ing] strategy, ... void of relevant academic substance, and ... without accountability for parents and teachers."
As her doctoral action research project, she developed the APTT model, in which teachers coach parents to become engaged, knowledgeable members of the academic team. In other words, teachers help build parental capacity, developing parental understanding of their children's grade-level learning goals and how to help them meet or exceed standards.The Model
APTT has two main components. The first is three classroom team meetings each year. The "classroom team" consists of the classroom teacher and all the parents in the class. In these group meetings, the teacher reviews and explains class-level academic data, in addition to providing parents with individual data about their own child's performance and helping parents set 60-day SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) academic goals for their children. She or he also models and provides materials for activities that parents can do with their children at home, giving parents time to practice these activities with each other in a small group setting. In addition, parents can share tips among themselves. (See what these look like in action (3) -- the video is long but worth it to get a sense of the type of material covered as well as the level of comfort that parents have with teachers.)
The model also includes one thirty-minute in-depth individual conference between the teacher, a student and his or her family each year. At these meetings, they review performance data, create an action plan for continuous improvement, discuss how to support student learning at home, and develop stronger relationships. Additional individual conferences are scheduled as needed.The Impact
This model appears very promising. Student achievement in both math and reading is up for students whose families have access to APTT compared to students whose families do not. The program also seems to increase student engagement, confidence and attendance, as well as improve parent-teacher communication and parent self-efficacy for supporting student learning at home. Some principals report that the model promotes a sense of community within the school that decreases discipline problems among students and that parents are more comfortable reaching out to other families to resolve conflicts. As Paredes says, "Strangers have become partners in purpose."
Perhaps one of the best ways to assess the perceived impact of the program is to look at teacher participation. The program started with just nine participating teachers in the Creighton School District. The next year, 79 teachers joined the program. In the third year, 187 participated. Now in year four, about 218 classrooms in Creighton are participating. And the model (which Paredes has copyrighted) has spread across the nation -- it is now reaching about 28,000 students in five states and the District of Columbia.
According to Paredes, one of the greatest challenges implementing this (or any model of family engagement) is some educators' mindset about families. As she says, "We often doubt families' capacity to help their children, and we often have mistaken perceptions of their ability to commit to higher expectations and standards for learning," particularly for the families of disadvantaged and minority children.
This season, as we reflect on the support we've received from our own families, we should remember that all individuals desire the opportunity to provide that support to their children. And we should take advantage of our position as educators to help them do so. While not every school or teacher can participate in something like APTT, we can all take steps to build the capacity of families to help their children succeed.
The U.S. high school graduation rate is now the highest since 1976. And progress is being fueled by significant gains made by students of color. (Find the report, Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, here)
Some 88% of the 1,200 United Ways in our U.S. network are investing dollars, energy, and leadership to improve high school graduation – whether that’s through school readiness, early grade reading, middle school success or cradle to career efforts.
"From the just-released Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, edited by Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D., is a groundbreaking compendium of studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders including community leaders, elected officials, educators, researchers, advocates and other prominent authors.
This powerful collection of nearly 70 articles presents bold and persuasive evidence—as well as examples of effective practices, programs and partnerships—that demonstrate how opportunities after school and during the summer are yielding positive outcomes for authentic student, community and family engagement in learning."
Editor's note: CultureMap Austin partners with Leadership Austin — the region's premier provider of civic and community leadership development — in this on-going series of editorial columns meant to inform Austinites about issues facing our city.
A new report looking at high school dropouts and their employment in the Chicago area paints a pretty bleak picture.
The report, “High School Dropouts in Chicago and Illinois and Their Persistent Labor Market Problems,” looked at numbers from the American Community Surveys of 2009, 2010 and 2011. Those surveys showed that nearly 38,000, or 15 percent, of 19- to 24-year-olds in Chicago didn’t have a high school diploma. GED holders are counted as high school dropouts in that report, but the authors warn that the numbers are likely low as respondents to the surveys sometimes exaggerate their educational credentials.
Those surveys, though, showed that males were nearly twice as likely to be dropouts as their female peers (18 percent versus 10 percent) and breakdowns by ethnicity showed that only 4 percent of white, non-Hispanic youth were dropouts while 18 percent of blacks were and 23 percent of Hispanics did not have diplomas.
“In recent decades, educational attainment in the U.S. has become a more important determinant of personal success and well-being in the labor market, social and family life, civic participation, personal physical and mental health, and overall life satisfaction,” the authors wrote. “Those adults who fail to graduate from high school with a diploma face enormous obstacles in achieving adequate employment, earnings, and incomes over their entire adult life.”
In 2009-2010, 47 percent of Chicago high school dropouts didn’t work at all.
Over the past 12 years, the employment numbers for dropouts age 16 to 19 has seen a devastating decline — In 1999-2000, 38.9 percent of youths were employed, but in 2011-2012, that number fell to 18.2 percent.
Even for those dropouts who did work, their incomes were significantly lower than others their age.
“During 2010-2011, the mean annual earnings of dropouts ages 18-64 in Illinois were only $13,700 versus $18,400 for those with GED, $22,200 for those with a regular high school diploma, and $33,600 for those with an Associate’s degree,” found the report, which was commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and prepared by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.
“The costs of dropping out of high school have increased over time for both the dropouts themselves and for society at large in the form of reduced federal, state, and local taxes and increased expenditures on dropouts in the form of cash and in-kind transfers,” the authors wrote. The consequences of dropping out that they highlight included:
• Lower employment rate, higher unemployment rate, fewer weeks worked per year, fewer hours of work per week
• Lower annual earnings, resulting lower lifetime earnings
• Higher poverty rate
• Lower home ownership rate
• Limited property income
• Lower marriage rate
• Higher dependency in government in-kind/cash transfers
• Lower tax contributions to local, state, and federal governments
• High food insecurity problems
• Higher incarceration rate
By James Bradshaw
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study shows children rank in top dozen of 45 countries
Canada’s elementary-school students are among the world’s stronger readers, thanks in part to the influence of Canadian parents who enjoy and encourage reading themselves, according to a new international survey.
Canadian students ranked in the top dozen out of 45 countries, but can’t quite be called world-beaters: They still trail such recognized education leaders as Hong Kong, Finland and Singapore. Curiously, Canada was also edged out by the United States, even though Canadian high-school students score far higher than their American counterparts in other reading studies.
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Nine Canadian provinces took part in the third Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which looks at reading achievement by Grade 4 students every five years. By most measures, Canada’s students came in well ahead of the global average: 13 per cent reached the highest level of reading, compared with an international average of 8 per cent, and the country has few low achievers. Still, girls continue to outperform boys in nearly all aspects.
The study chooses Grade 4 as a transition point in students’ growth, when they’ve learned to read and now use reading to learn. And it distinguishes between types of reading – Canada and the United States do better at “literary reading,” which usually means novels and short stories, while students in Hong Kong and Taiwan excel at putting informational texts to use.
“Of course we’re pleased, but it also shows us that we’re looking forward to improvements in the next five years,” said Ramona Jennex, chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, and also Nova Scotia’s Minister of Education. “Being able to tell parents how important it is that they read with their children before they come to school, and how important preschool is in making sure children are successful, that’s one area of the report that I like. This is information that’s interesting to everybody.”
Some key factors can help and hinder children’s early affinity for reading.
PARENTS ARE INFLUENTIAL
Many Canadian parents appear to be doing their part, registering the sixth highest level of involvement with their children in a range of literacy activities. About 70 per cent often read and talk about books before their kids start school, according to PIRLS, and the children of parents who read before the beginning of school scored substantially higher than those who rarely read with their parents.
But it is less clear that parents are making their kids enthusiastic about reading, says Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education. Students who “somewhat like reading” outnumber those who “like reading” most – in the case of boys, by two to one.
“There is that huge impact at home,” Ms. Kidder said. “It’s not teaching kids to read, that’s not the parents’ job. It really is more important that it’s a joyful experience.”
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, MOSTLY
One of the most encouraging findings is that in Canada socioeconomic status has less of an impact on reading success than almost anywhere else. This may be partly because Canadian students from all economic backgrounds are far more likely to have important resources at home, such as a collection of children’s books, their own room and an Internet connection.
But there are limits to Canadian equity, and other studies show stubborn achievement gaps for groups such as aboriginals and newcomers from some countries. And teachers told PIRLS they feel that some students – particularly in Alberta and British Columbia – lack basic nutrition or sleep.
IS HOMEWORK HELPING?
In most countries, PIRLS shows Grade 4 students achieve more in reading the more time they spend on homework, up to an hour a day. Above 60 minutes, they do worse. The average Canadian student in Grade 4 spent between 16 and 30 minutes a day on homework.
But Canada is one of a few countries bucking the trend: Canadian students doing less than 15 minutes of homework a day – or none at all – scored higher than kids in countries doing more.
“We feel instinctively they must be working harder if they have homework, but when you look at the research, there’s not a lot of evidence that in elementary school there’s a direct correlation between homework and achievement,” Ms. Kidder said.
BULLYING: IT HASN’T GOTTEN BETTER YET
The impact of bullying on a student’s reading cannot be underestimated. In Canada, students who are bullied at least weekly suffer from roughly the same gap in achievement as those whose parents didn’t read with them often enough.
And despite greater awareness and the spread of anti-bullying campaigns, 56 per cent of Canada’s Grade 4 students report being bullied weekly or monthly, which is above the international average of 53 per cent and surprised Stu Auty, president of the Canadian Safe School Network.
“We are becoming a very aware society,” he said. “I would have thought that, if anything, the programs that are out there are having more of an impact.”
Exploration of "key factors that help and hinder children's early affinity for reading."
Also interesting to see how different countries distinguish between types of reading - literacy vs. informational.
The link between low-wage earning parents and youth outcomes
By Nikki Yamashiro
Last week, the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston released a study that examines the effects of parents’ low-wage jobs on their children’s development and well-being. Researchers found that in families where parents work in jobs earning an hourly wage less than two-thirds of the state median hourly wage, children drop out of school at higher rates, are more likely to experience health problems—such as obesity—and are more likely to have extra responsibilities that take time away from their studies, out-of-school activities and overall personal development.
The report, “How Youth Are Put At Risk by Parents’ Low-Wage Jobs,” delves into the difficulties parents face when working in low-wage jobs, which often come with demanding work hours, less flexible schedules, few employer-based benefits and more job instability. The authors write that these parents often have a hard time balancing the needs of their families with the demands of their employers. Additionally, because of a lack of time, money and resources, parents find themselves unable to afford alternatives, such as meals that are both quick and healthy and services like child care.
The study finds that these challenges directly impact the children of these families—an estimated 3.6 million—in a number of negative ways. Parents’ time constraints and inflexible work schedules when in a low-wage job take time away from family dinners, involvement with their child’s schooling and attention to their child’s everyday life. Very much in the same vein as our issue brief released this past October, “Afterschool: A Key to Successful Parent Engagement,” the authors discuss the deep and influential relationship between children and parents. The authors link the confluence of challenges faced by parents working in low-wage jobs to the increased likelihood of negative outcomes for children, including:
- Becoming disengaged from school and dropping out,
- Leading less healthy lives—such as exercising less and eating more unhealthy foods,
- Becoming pregnant, and
- Having less time to focus on their overall well-being.
Although these findings are both alarming and disheartening, the authors do present a way forward. One solution is the need for afterschool programs that provide youth from low-income households a safe and supervised environment, reinforce their academic development, encourage healthy activities, and give their working parents peace of mind. Other recommendations in the report include greater collaboration between workforce and youth development advocates and more attention to workplace benefits for parents.
These findings strengthen the case that afterschool programs play an important role in the lives of children, especially those who are most vulnerable. What’s more, when paired with the survey results from our report, “Uncertain Times 2012: Afterschool Programs Still Struggling in Today’s Economy,” which found afterschool programs across the country are struggling to meet the needs of children and families in their communities, we see that there is also a need for greater investment in afterschool at all levels—federal, state, local and private.
By Sharon Lerner
Rural, conservative, impoverished Oklahoma has built the nation’s brightest model for early education.
our-year-old John Kaykay is a serious and quiet boy—“my thoughtful one,” his dad calls him. When the official greeters at the front door of the McClure early-childhood center in Tulsa welcome him with their clipboards and electric cheer—“Good morning, John! How are you today?”—he just slowly nods his small chin in their direction. When he gets to Christie Housley’s large, sunny classroom, he focuses intensely on signing in, writing the four letters of his name with a crayon as his dad crouches behind him. When he’s asked the question of the day—“Do you like music?”—he pauses for a minute before putting his magnetic nameplate in the “no” section.
John’s third day of pre-kindergarten will be filled with more questions. Since yesterday was the 20th and tomorrow is the 22nd, what day is today? Can he pick out the card with the number 21 written on it? If the colors go pink, blue, pink, blue, what comes next in the pattern? How many of his friends are in school today? Can he think of a word that rhymes with dog?
Historically, Americans have operated on the assumption that kids will just somehow pick up such essentials along the way to “real” school. But, with concerns mounting over rising dropout rates and grim earning prospects for poorly educated Americans, the matter of when and under what circumstances we begin to teach children is of growing importance. Guided by research that shows that most of the wiring for future academic accomplishment happens in the first five years of life, education experts have been exploring how to get our children off to a better, and earlier, start. Many point to France and some of the Scandinavian countries, where almost all three- and four-year-olds participate in good, public preschool.
But the United States has several stalwarts of early education, too. Even with budgetary challenges, Georgia, Arkansas, and West Virginia have all managed to create high-quality pre-kindergarten programs with strong enrollment over the past few years. But it is John Kaykay’s home state, Oklahoma, that offers the single best example of how preschool can work when it’s done well—of how it can elevate its students’ learning, expand the horizons of the educational system, and enhance the entire community.
Despite growing evidence of the benefits of early education, nationwide only 28 percent of four-year-olds are enrolled in public pre-K. Among three-year-olds, a paltry 4 percent are enrolled in a public educational program. The numbers could decrease even more as pre-K falls victim to recessionary belt-tightening. States have already cut $90 million from education for three- and four-year-olds over the past two years. Eleven states provide no program at all.
Oklahoma has bucked the national trend. Seventy-four percent of four-year-olds—more than in any other state—are in high-quality pre-K. Virtually every parent who wants a spot can get one, whether in a public school or in a partner organization, such as Tulsa’s Community Action Project, which runs John Kaykay’s pre-K classroom. The effort has been so thorough and so widely embraced that, in effect, public school in Oklahoma begins at age four.
Even among the states that do well by their preschoolers, Oklahoma is exceptional. On paper, nine states have universal pre--kindergarten, meaning that all four-year-olds are theoretically eligible. But in most of those states, there isn’t nearly enough funding for everyone to enroll. That’s the case in New York, where fewer than half of four-year-olds participate in the “universal” program. Other states do a superb job with enrollment but a poor job of providing the education. Florida, for instance, has the highest percentage of four-year-olds in pre-K programs—76 percent, slightly more than Oklahoma, according to the most recent “State of Preschool” report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. But because Florida doesn’t require its teachers to have a college degree in early education—and because the state spends so little on each child—just $2,422 per child per year, $5,000 less than in Oklahoma—the quality of the program is low.
Oklahoma’s pre-K teachers don’t make the piddling wages that prevail in much of the rest of the country. They’re paid the same as elementary and high-school teachers. Christie Housley, along with all other pre-K teachers in Oklahoma, has not only a bachelor’s degree but also certification in early-childhood education—so she knows how young kids typically learn to read, she can recognize the disabilities that tend to emerge at this age, and she understands the best ways to handle behavior problems. State law also mandates that pre-K teachers not have more than 20 students in their classroom and that they have an aide.
In fact, only six children were present the August morning I was in Housley’s classroom, which allowed her to focus on them individually. John, who was sitting quietly, drew praise for listening carefully to instructions—important feedback for a child who might get no attention at all in a larger class. A little girl who had pigtails and raised her hand at every opportunity was rewarded with a relatively tough question: “What is the opposite of inside?” When one girl strained to remember what day it was, Housley helped by leading the class in a round of their days-of-the-week song.
A boy named Justice demanded a different kind of attention—and Housley was able to give that, too. While his peers were sitting together and learning about the calendar, Justice remained outside the circle playing with blocks and singing loudly. When Housley invited him to join the others, he stayed where he was and increased the volume of his song. Teaching the basic skills of how to participate in a group is one of the biggest tasks of pre-K—and it’s hard to do in big classes. When the rest of the children moved on to washing their hands before snack time, Housley sat next to his block tower and talked with him. “Can you hear what the rest of us are saying when you’re over here by yourself?” she asked gently. The lesson is part of a bigger one that they’ll all learn and relearn this year: how to be a productive, contributing member of a community. Justice, who eventually joined the circle, seemed to be on his way to getting it.
While Oklahoma has a model statewide pre-K system, the city of Tulsa illustrates the public-private partnerships that can grow within that model. The state’s second-largest city, in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Tulsa has great economic extremes. Some 84 percent of children in Tulsa public schools qualify for free or reduced lunch, meaning they live in households that earn no more than $42,643 for a family of four. But there is also great wealth here, much of it from the local energy industry. Because Oklahoma’s law enables private organizations to provide pre-K, a good deal of that wealth has been leveraged to bolster the public system.
Tulsa’s Community Action Project (CAP), which has created and runs McClure as well as 13 other early-education facilities, is a sort of turbo-charged Head Start provider. With an annual budget of more than $52 million, it has married private money—primarily from local oilman and philanthropist George Kaiser—with state and federal funds to serve young children. Because state funding covers the four-year-olds, CAP can devote much of its budget to children three and under. One-third of Tulsa’s qualifying three-year-olds are now in public preschool; the Union School District, which has gone the furthest in enrolling younger students, is on course to serve all three-year-olds within the next year. Plenty of kids in Tulsa may still be behind the curve on their first day of school, but here that first day often comes at age three rather than four or five.
The result is that Tulsa has become a sort of Sweden of the Ozarks—a magnet for the country’s best early-education providers and researchers and a place where preschool is a routine part of growing up. It’s a haven for both children and their parents. CAP works hard to engage adults who may have been alienated by schools in the past. To encourage parents to interact with the schools, the organization consciously decided not to provide busing. The schools’ daily schedules and yearly calendars are synced with nearby public elementary schools, with which some also share land and playgrounds, a setup that allows parents to drop off their preschoolers and scoot next door to drop off older siblings. In the same CAP buildings—which are carefully designed not to feel institutional—they can also take parenting classes, get career training, and receive financial services.
Though CAP is by mission an anti-poverty organization and serves only students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, its classrooms “don’t look like they’re for poor people,” as one mother remarked upon entering the pine cone–festooned space in which her four-year-old would be learning. Draped with natural-hued fabrics and brightened with “uplighting,” which radiates from standing lamps and is thought to be more calming than old-style fluorescent bulbs overhead, the room looks more like a spread from a Pottery Barn catalog than a traditional classroom. When you look out from its picture windows to the sprawling playground where the students are climbing and digging during outdoor playtime, and then beyond to the garden plots the kids will plant and harvest throughout the year, you can’t help wanting this for all young Americans.
The students who go to pre-K tend to emerge from the year recognizably ahead of their peers. Studies have shown it, and teachers know it. Laura Hamilton, who teaches kindergarten at Northwoods, an elementary school in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, says she easily picked out the 8 kids in her class of 25 this year who hadn’t gone to pre-K. “They’re the ones who don’t know how to line up. They’re not used to sharing, and they’re not used to drawing or writing,” she says, fishing out four of her new kindergarteners’ drawings. Three show recognizable scenes—a family of stick figures, a house with two girls in front, and a house with a sky in the background. The fourth, drawn by a child who didn’t attend pre-K, is of seemingly random scribbles. “It’s usually these kids that have to stay back and repeat kindergarten,” Hamilton says, pointing to the scribbles.
How did Oklahoma—a poor state, and one of the “reddest” in the country—become a preschooling pioneer? It wouldn’t have happened if ardent children’s advocates hadn’t been in the right positions at the right times.
Ramona Paul, who retired last year as the state’s assistant superintendent of public education, was the first to get pre-K rolling in 1980. “I still remember, it was one o’clock on a Thursday,” says Paul, a commanding, white-haired woman who worked in the state Department of Education for more than two decades. “My boss walked into my office and said, ‘Ramona, what would you like to see for four-year-old children? You just write the model, and I’ll get it funded.’”
Paul had taken part in a four-year-old program herself as a young child (“It was called nursery school back in those days,” she says), had gone on to teach preschool and college courses in child development, and was present at the Rose Garden Ceremony when President Lyndon Johnson unveiled Head Start.
The first big government early-education effort, Head Start was launched in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty. The aim was to address the achievement gap. As with public schooling more broadly, public pre-K was initially seen as an alternative for economically disadvantaged children who couldn’t afford private or church schools. In Oklahoma, which ranks 20th in child poverty, there have always been a lot of those children.
The model Paul designed reflected both her experience and the state’s demographics. She knew to include high standards for teacher education and pay. She was clear that she wanted the program to be available to all children—not just poor children, who made up the majority of the small number of public preschoolers in the country at the time. “Why would we want to educate just a certain group of children?” she asks.
Paul’s pilot program was launched that same year. But it was only a half-day, and its small budget limited it to certain parts of the state. It wasn’t until 1998 that a legislator named Joe Eddins quietly pushed through a law that supplied the funding to expand Paul’s vision into a mostly full-day program that would be offered throughout the state. Eddins, too, was well suited to advancing early education. A Democratic legislator who had worked as a rancher and high-school biology teacher, he had spent his first few years in the legislature learning about early education—and becoming convinced that school failure was sending a growing number of Oklahoma’s kids down a life path of poverty and underperformance.
Eddins’s allies included not just child--development experts and education policymakers but also a handful of business leaders who had come to see early education as the state’s economic salvation. Getting young Oklahomans into school earlier was not only in the kids’ best interest, they argued; it was important for businesses, which were facing a dwindling pool of potential workers and customers.
Eddins had first waded into the education issue to fix what seemed a discrete problem: Many school districts, especially in rural areas, were enrolling four-year-olds in kindergarten. Because the state’s population was shrinking, these schools were facing declining numbers of students—and thus declining school budgets. Putting four-year-olds in kindergarten sometimes allowed the districts to bring in enough money to keep their schools open because they were receiving funds based on the number of children in school. But the four-year-olds were in classes designed to teach them at a kindergarten level, and they were lost.
Eddins was creative—some say stealthy—in winning support for universal pre-K. He presented the legislation as an amendment to the school law merely designed to fix the four-year-old problem. His bill did do that. But it also created a statewide four-year-old program that surpassed any other in the country. Among the changes it heralded was the ability of school districts to partner with outside entities on pre-K so the programs could be housed in a variety of settings, including tribal programs, churches, and assisted-living facilities. That shift paved the way for a massive partnership between the public schools and Head Start providers, such as CAP, a move that might have raised red flags for some Republicans—had they known about it.
Eddins was able to gloss over this groundbreaking aspect of his bill in large part because he was trusted and well liked; few of his fellow legislators felt the need to actually read the legislation. Instead, he summarized it. When he did, he chose his words carefully. “I didn’t explain that we’d have this huge collaboration with Head Start,” Eddins says. “I emphasized the part that said you could contract with private providers. Republicans have always loved that.”
Eddins’s bill also dodged several potential problems. It kept pre-K voluntary for parents, thus inoculating it from the criticism of social conservatives who believed that mothers should be home with their kids. By building its cost into the larger public-school funding formula, rather than funding early education separately in the state budget, it also protected pre-K from fiscal conservatives who might object to it as part of a “nanny state.”
This seemingly small detail may be the key difference separating Oklahoma from other states, such as Arizona and Illinois, where pre-K funding was slashed during the recent recession. Indeed, in Oklahoma, pre-K is essentially just another grade—as unlikely to be singled out as 5th or 11th. “In so many other states, you have huge fights over whether pre-K funding should be cut,” says Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. “It’s forever seen as an extra line at the bottom of the spreadsheet.”
Although Eddins’s law also made pre-K voluntary, “people started camping out that first night before we started enrolling,” says Cathy Burden, the superintendent of Union Public Schools in Tulsa. That was in 1998, when Union enrolled less than half of its four-year-olds and pre-K was only half-day. Today, about 75 percent of the district’s four-year-olds are enrolled, all are in school for full days, and demand continues to grow. “If anyone tried to get rid of pre-K now,” Burden says, “they’d get run out of town.”
No doubt, part of pre-K’s appeal is that it’s a safe—and free—place for children to be while their parents work. Child care can cost more than $500 per week. But for most parents, the educational value of pre-K is at least as important as the financial benefit.
“I wanted my son to learn,” explains Maria Mauricio, who lives in the low-income Tulsa neighborhood of Kendall-Whittier. Her four-year-old son, Gabriel, attends pre-K through Educare, another local Head Start provider. A stay-at-home mom of five, Mauricio could have kept Gabriel with her during the day. When she was growing up in Mexico, Mauricio went to school only through seventh grade, stopping so she could help her grandmother support the family by picking peanuts. She wanted more for her son, who, by the age of two, wasn’t speaking either English or Spanish understandably, partly because of hearing problems. Mauricio felt confident that starting school early would give Gabriel the best shot at success.
There are mountains of data to confirm Mauricio’s hunch. Economically disadvantaged children who take part in a high-quality pre-K program go on to do better academically. They’re less likely to need special education, less likely to repeat a grade, and more likely to graduate from high school. Perhaps more important are the other ways they fare better: Attending pre-K lowers their chances of becoming pregnant as a teen, abusing or neglecting their own children when they become parents, and winding up incarcerated or dependent on public benefits as an adult.
The most dramatic illustration of these gains comes out of the Perry preschool in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Started in the early 1960s as an effort to improve the academic performance of low-income students, the Perry program enrolled three- and four-year-olds who performed poorly on tests and had low IQ scores. The early results were impressive. Those who went through the half-day Perry program had higher IQs when the program ended at age 5. The longer-term benefits were even more stunning. At age 14, there were moderate to large differences between the test scores of Perry preschool kids and those who didn’t go through the program. At 27, they drank and smoked less. At 40, they were less likely to have been arrested and far outearned their peers. A cost-benefit analysis of Perry provided incontrovertible evidence of the money that could be saved in the long term by working with such young kids. By the time the Perry preschoolers reached age 27, every public dollar spent on their early education yielded a savings of $7.16.
But compelling as the Perry study was, it was based on only 58 preschool students, and all were poor and African American. Another well-studied preschool, the Carolina Abecedarian Project in North Carolina, had similarly impressive results but was also small and exclusively for poor children. As the idea of universal pre-K began to grow around the country, its opponents homed in on the fact that the most clear-cut benefits had been for poor kids. Since there hadn’t been large-scale studies of the long-term benefits of pre-K on middle-class kids, they argued, it wasn’t worth educating all four-year-olds in tight budgetary times. As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney used this logic when he vetoed a 2006 bill unanimously approved by the legislature that would have set up a statewide pre-K program.
In 2002, Bill Gormley, a Georgetown University professor, saw Oklahoma’s program as an opportunity to study the impact of early education on all kids. Because pre-K in Oklahoma cost around $7,500 per child—more than the national average but still far less than the intensive Abecedarian and Perry programs—he could measure the benefits of a four-year-old program with a more acceptable price tag. Because Oklahoma’s pre-K was not just high-quality but also delivered on a massive scale, he could address the question of whether it could do more than level the playing field for poor kids.
The Tulsa Public School District, the largest in the state, offered an ideal place to get results from the statewide experiment. While there’s plenty of poverty in Tulsa, more than 15 percent of students are middle-class. Unlike most of the kids previously studied, Tulsa’s population is multiracial, with almost equal numbers of white, African American, and Hispanic kids, as well as a slightly smaller group of Native Americans. Oklahoma law also requires that all children be evaluated when they enter kindergarten, so Gormley was able to use those results to compare kids who had attended pre-K with those who hadn’t.
The gains he found in 2002-2003 were among the biggest ever documented for a universal pre-K program. By the time they started kindergarten, pre-K kids were nine months ahead of their peers with the skills necessary for reading, like recognizing letters and being able to tell stories. They were seven months ahead in pre-writing, including the ability to hold a pencil, and five months ahead in counting and other pre-math skills. The four-year-olds who had been through CAP’s Head Start, as opposed to the regular state pre-K program in Tulsa public schools, were equally ahead in math, though not quite as dramatically ahead when it came to early literacy. (This is likely because Head Start, in addition to its academic goals, has a broader mission, including improving children’s health, establishing their sense of responsibility to society, and increasing their self-worth.) The most impressive part was that the gains were throughout this entire population. Though the poorest kids were helped the most, all of Tulsa’s kids got a boost from pre-K.
The case for universal pre-K ought to be closed. In Oklahoma, it is. Even as enthusiasm for the Tea Party has swept the state, the program has gained in popularity. Oklahomans on both sides of the aisle take pride in being recognized as a national leader in early education. Many rural school administrators regard the program as a lifeline because it helped them keep schools open even as the number of children in their districts diminished. Regardless of their political stripe, most working parents here embrace pre-K as a superior alternative to day care.
Ironically, the rest of the country remains more conflicted about pre-K than rural, conservative Oklahoma. Though President Barack Obama has acknowledged universal pre-K as among the worthiest of public expenditures—he pledged funding for it back in the 2008 campaign and continues to sing its praises—he has done little to expand it in his first four years. This September, his administration established the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes and is contributing $1.4 million of federal funds per year to help it provide states with technical assistance on their pre-K programs.
The president also used stimulus money to significantly expand Head Start and Early Head Start, the federal programs that serve low-income kids from birth through age four. But these programs are within the Administration for Children and Families, which focuses on social and economic well-being, rather than in the education system. Most pre-K advocates want Obama to fight harder to include early education within the Department of Education and leverage federal funds to encourage more state spending on pre-K programs. It’s not clear, though, that he’d succeed even if he did. Many Republicans oppose such an expansion—and some call for shutting down the Education Department altogether. “They want as little federal involvement in education as possible,” says Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.
The bigger problem, though, may be convincing lawmakers in both parties to take the long view of pre-K. “People always want me to tell them how quickly it’s going to pay off, because if we’re not going to save enough money in the first five years, then they don’t want to pay for it,” Barnett says. “But the big payoff is when kids are older, when they have a job, are making money, are not in jail.”
Even Oklahoma’s big, well-studied program hasn’t been around long enough to document the full extent of the bang for the bucks invested. Gormley’s research team at Georgetown recently published a paper using data from Tulsa to estimate that pre-K participation could boost a child’s future annual earnings enormously—by an average of $30,548 for low-income kids and an average of $24,610 for middle-class children.
But that’s just a projection. Oklahoma’s universal pre-K is only in its 15th year. It’ll be two decades or so before John Kaykay and his classmates reach the point where they can be expected to assume financial responsibility and make their mark on the world. If the rest of the country waits that long to learn from Oklahoma’s early-education model, another generation will be lost.
Worldwide, obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2008. More than 1.4 billion adults—one out of every five—in 2008 were overweight. One out of every ten was obese.
Of the 1.4 billion overweight adults (defined as 20 and older) recorded in 2008, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
65 percent of the world's population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than do factors related to underweight.
More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010. Once considered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.
At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44 percent of the diabetes burden, 23 percent of the ischemic heart disease burden and between 7 and 41 percent of certain cancer burdens are attributable to being overweight and obese.
Many low- and middle-income countries are now facing a "double burden" of disease. While they continue to deal with the problems of infectious disease and undernutrition, they are experiencing a rapid upsurge in noncommunicable disease risk factors such as being overweight and obese, particularly in urban settings.
It is not uncommon to find undernutrition and obesity existing side-by-side in the same country, the same community or the same household.
SAFETY TIPS FOR PARENTS AND STUDENTS
Parents: choose the best route to school and walk it with your children.
Always walk with a parent, a group of students, or a buddy.
Only cross the street at a corner or a marked crosswalk. Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.
At a 4-way intersection, also look over your shoulder for cars that may be turning. Use eye contact and hand signals to communicate with drivers before crossing.
Parents: choose the safest route for biking to and from school and ride it with your children.
Always wear a helmet that fits correctly.
Inexperienced riders under the age of 10 should ride on the sidewalk.
When riding on the sidewalk, ride slow and watch for cars entering or leaving driveways.
Obey all traffic signs and signals.
Ride on the right side of the street (with traffic flow), single file, and in a straight line.
Use proper hand signals before turning and stopping.
Pick-up and Drop-off:
Make sure children enter and exit the vehicle on the passenger side of the car, next to the sidewalk.
Do not block crosswalks at any time.
Obey all traffic signs and driving laws- they exist for the safety of the community.
If your school’s drop-off point is exceptionally crowded, consider parking a few blocks away and walking your child the rest of the way.
Be a safety role model for your children- wear your seatbelt, drive safely, and be aware of and courteous to pedestrians.
The 5 E’s
The five elements of a successful Safe Routes to School Program are called “The 5 E’s”. These four E’s are made up of:
Each E has a wide range of programs and elements that a school or community can utilize to make walking or biking to school safer and easier. The success of a Safe Routes to School program depends upon community support and volunteers. The links above will introduce you to all the tools that can be utilized in a Safe Routes to School program. Get informed, get inspired, and help us make Safe Route to School a success!
More resources available here: http://saferoutesinfo.org/