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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
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.
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/
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - City Manager Greg Sundstrom said he respects and appreciates the bold leadership of Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal in putting forth a transformation plan focused on kids being college and career ready.
On Monday, Oct. 29, Neal introduced a proposal to the school board that would close 10 school buildings, consolidates schools and programs, and closes and reopens more innovative, appealing programs on the same sites. The building plan is meant to support her new academic plan, funneling money saved into improving teaching and learning.
RELATED: Grand Rapids superintendent unveils plans to close Creston, other schools as part of consolidation, reinvention plan
"I agree with Superintendent Neal that Grand Rapids Public Schools has a significant impact on the entire community. After all, they are training the workforce of tomorrow," Sundstrom said. "It is important for this community to have a well-trained workforce."
"A transformation plan means rethinking everything you do, not incremental change but bold change that can have significant impact."
Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, said she thinks Neal is on the right track with her focus on putting dollars into improving achievement.
"The focus really needs to be on raising the graduation rate, reducing the dropout rate and preparing kids to be college and career ready," said Sieger. "When you are faced with financial challenges, you have to make some difficult choices."
The foundation is a key district partner, funneling a half-million dollars to Grand Rapids schools already to keep Northwest Side students on track to colleges or training for certification. Plans are to invest as much as $4.5 million this decade. Students at Harrison Park and teachers are receiving academic support through the Challenge Scholars Program, which expands to Westwood Middle next year and includes Union High School support. The group is also offering college scholarships to Harrison students graduating in Union's Class of 2020.
The district has a graduation rate of 47.6 percent, a dropout rate of nearly 20 percent, and less than 1 percent of comprehensive high school students are college ready based on Michigan Merit Exam and ACT. And 17 of its 43 buildings are at or below 60 percent capacity.
Neal says she can't run a district operating at a loss.
"I think the overall plan makes a lot of sense because No. 1, it's strategic, which is critically important," said Brian Cloyd, board chair of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy and a district public-private partnership, and vice president of global corporate relations for Steelcase.
"I know that the lighting rod will be around individual schools closing, reopening, and where is my child going to school, but I think parents should be asking themselves two questions: Do I want a quality education for my child? Do I want my child to have the opportunity to be successful in life?"
He said funds going into operating and maintaining half-empty buildings can be focused on every child being successful.
"I think it’s a very gutsy plan," said Joe Jones, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Urban League. "I think there is a need to be bold. This seems to be well thought and most importantly, puts the district on the path to being competitive during a time when true choice in education is available in our community.".
Fritz Crabb, director of literacy initiatives for the Heart of West Michigan United Way, which partners with GRPS on its Schools of Hope program, said it is important the district concentrates on its academic challenges.
"We are happy to see the bold steps proposed by the superintendent to improve academics," said Crabb, who said they will work for the success of the plan ultimately adopted.
At Monday's school board work session, Neal told the board she thought the transformation plan was "thoughtful and creative" and asked they not pick it apart but vote it up or down.
The board is scheduled to vote Dec. 17. Five meetings are planned with the community beginning Thursday at Creston High School, 1720 Plainfield Ave. NE, one of the schools recommended for closure because its low-enroll and high operating cost. The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
To read the plan, visit the district website.
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @Twitter.com/GRPScotty.
While an increasing number of afterschool providers have made quality improvement a priority, addressing quality in a systemic way is complicated: It requires research, planning, building consensus, developing resources, managing new processes and sometimes redefining old relationships. Building Citywide Systems for Quality is a how-to guide designed to support the development of quality improvement systems (QIS) in afterschool settings.
The guide can help those working to create better, more coordinated afterschool programming start building a QIS, or further develop existing efforts. It describes what constitutes an effective QIS and the tasks involved in building one, and includes examples and resources from communities whose work is blazing a trail for others.
Includes work by United Ways.
We know afterschool programs are a great way to get children and youth excited about STEM and should be integral partners in STEM education. But far too many of our leaders (and even our neighbors!) think of afterschool programs as child care, unaware of all the incredible learning opportunities programs are creating for our students. They have no idea that innovative and engaging STEM learning is occurring in afterschool programs across our country or how it is inspiring our next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.
This is why educating our leaders and the public through advocacy is so important! It is vital that all of us make the case to a variety of stakeholders about the importance of including afterschool programs in STEM education reform efforts.
October 24, 2012,
To the editor:
United Way of Northern Arizona's Board of Directors recently endorsed the Arizona Sales Tax Renewal Amendment, Proposition 204, and the Flagstaff Unified School District bond request, as part of United Way's ongoing efforts to support the three important "building blocks for a good life": Education, Income and Health.
Investing in education is important to the future of our state and the success of our children. Arizona continuously ranks as one of the worst states for education and that's a clear indication that we need to do something differently. Proposition 204 is our opportunity for change that will strengthen Arizona's economy by providing children with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. The FUSD Bond measure funds books, technology and facilities required for our students to succeed.
In addition to investing more resources to help schoolchildren and their classrooms at a critical time, Prop. 204 will prevent the Legislature from making any further cuts to K-12 education. The approximate $1 billion in Arizona's operating account to be provided by Prop 204 essentially equates to what was defunded from Arizona education since 2008. The sales tax rate will not increase as a result of Prop. 204, the rate is a continuation of the one-cent sales tax overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2010.
Your vote for education is very important this year, and on behalf of UWNA I'd like to urge you to vote "YES" on Proposition 204 and "YES" on the FUSD Bond. We all win when the education of our children is our top priority.
President and CEO
United Way of Northern Arizona
United Way Establishes Education Network: Volunteers Can Search Web Site for Opportunities
For Release: October 31, 2012 Contact: Molly Link, United Way, 260.422.4776 (work), 260.418.7218 (cell)
United Way Establishes Education Network: Volunteers Can Search Web Site for Opportunities October 31, 2012 (Fort Wayne, Ind.) –
United Way of Allen County’s Education Network consists of 16 local early childhood and youth serving agencies who work together to recruit volunteers and share resources. The purpose of the Education Network is to provide individuals who want to volunteer to help children a “one stop shop” of opportunities from which to select. United Way has launched a web site, www.UWEducationNetwork.org, and encourages anyone interested in volunteering to go to the site to sign up. Volunteers can search according to their interests and availability, as well as view a listing of all Education Network partners and submit a volunteer application form directed to the organization(s) of their choice.
“United Way’s Education Network is integral to showcasing the many opportunities for volunteerism in our community,” said Todd Stephenson, president and CEO of United Way of Allen County. “We know that getting involved in the community with kids early on and continuing throughout their school years is one of the key ways to help them grow into productive and economically stable adults.” “It’s wonderful for so many organizations to come together through the Education Network,” said Sharon Callender, coordinator of Fort Wayne Community School’s Community Programs, which runs Study Connection.
“Not only can we connect with interested volunteers, but we connect with other programs in our community and share ideas and resources.” More than 46 percent of children enter kindergarten unprepared and the most economically challenged kids start school one to two years behind in language and other skills. Statistics also show that nearly 1,000 kids in Allen County do not read at grade level by the end of third grade, an important benchmark to continued academic success.
Programs within United Way’s Education Network need volunteers to get involved when and where they can to help change these trends. Individuals wanting to volunteer with United Way or other area programs to help local youth succeed in school and life can visit United Way’s Education Network to find a fitting opportunity at www.UWEducationNetwork.org or contact Ruthie Krueger at 469-4002 or email@example.com.
Education Network partners: Allen County Public Library, Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana, Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, CANI Head Start, Catholic Charities, Early Childhood Alliance, Fort Wayne Community Schools Study Connection, Fort Wayne Urban League, Lutheran Social Services of Indiana, MLK Montessori School, Renaissance Pointe YMCA, Science Central, Turnstone, United Way of Allen County and Wellspring Interfaith Social Services
It is estimated that seven million students (K-12) miss 18 days or more each year, and the concentration of that absenteeism is in middle and high schools. In some states, as many as 1 in 3 high school students are absent on any given day.
Research shows that student achievement suffers after only five absences. Students who miss more than ten days of school are more than 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers and are 25 percent less likely of ever enrolling in any type of college. Those who drop out are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates. Those who do attend college are less likely to be prepared, more likely to enroll in remedial class, and more likely to leave college before earning a degree.
In a recent report from the Get Schooled Foundation, Skipping to Nowhere, more than 500 teens in 25 cities were given in-depth interviews to get an accurate picture of truancy in America. The report found that skipping school is behavior developed by the end of 9th grade. Of current sophomores, juniors and seniors who skip, nearly three quarters of them started skipping in middle school or during their first year of high school. Class cutting transcends socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds.
The interviews revealed that most students face few or minor immediate consequences for skipping school, and many do not think missing class impacts their grades, their chances of graduating, or whether they’ll attend college. According to the report, more than 80 percent of students who skip school once a week believe it is unlikely they will fall behind in class. Nearly half of skippers are absent at least part of the day about once a week or more and 42 percent of students said their parents “never” or “rarely” know when they skip school. Young people are often unaware that skipping even a few days of school can dramatically affect their grades and even decrease their odds of graduating.
The Get Schooled Foundation’s report supports past research that shows a direct link between family engagement and student achievement. Parents are the most important defense against absenteeism. Following are some tips on how parents can prevent their child from cutting class:
Be involved with your teen’s school. Attend Parent’s Night and other school functions. Volunteer within the school. Get to know your teen’s teachers. Be aware of your child’s grades and attendance record. The more involved you are in your teen’s school the more likely your teen will perceive education as important and the less likely they are to skip class.
Encourage open communication. Allow your teen to vent about a teacher, a certain class, etc. without providing any judgment. Everyone needs to feel heard and understood. If you believe your child is facing a challenge at school, talk to their teacher.
Explain the importance of attendance. Give your child a vision for their future and then explain how skipping school impacts that vision. Tell them some of the statistics from this report and explain that skipping school significantly changes their ability to have a bright future.
Live in the real world. Students surveyed expressed a desire for a connection between their ‘real lives’ and what they learn in school. Too often there is a complete disconnect between their lives outside of school, their dreams and hopes for the future and how they spend each day. Draw the lines for them so they can see the usefulness of what they are learning.
Repeat the message. When the message to avoid skipping only comes from the school principal, it’s not as effective. Having the message about the importance of attending school come from several sources – parents, teachers, neighbors, the local truancy officer, police, celebrities, athletes, etc. – can have a dramatically stronger effect on student decision-making.
Establish consequences for truancy. Tell your teen that skipping school is not acceptable in your family and provide a consequence if you discover they have skipped. Parents should also inform their teens of their local area’s laws for truancy.
According to the US Department of Education, skipping school is one of the first signs of trouble in a young person’s life. When young people start skipping school, they are telling their parents and teachers that they are in trouble or are giving up. Students are truant for different reasons. Yes, some just would rather hang out with their friends than go to school, but others may skip a day of school because they were concerned for their personal safety or did not want to take a test for which they were unprepared. It’s important to find out the reason they are skipping and address it directly. If they are bored, show them the correlation between what they learn and what they want to do in the future. If they are avoiding a test, determine the reason and help them with their studying or provide a tutor. If they are scared for their safety, work with the school to stop bullying. Do not ignore their cry for help… skipping school or cutting class means there is a problem to solve in your teen’s life.
"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."
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.
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
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.
Via Lindsay Torrico.
The 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey, conducted by Harris/Decima on behalf of Everest College, lists reasons younger Americans dropout of high school. The national survey of 513 adults ages 19 to 35 found that nearly a quarter of Americans cited the absence of parental support or encouragement as a reason for not completing high school, followed by 21 percent who said they became a parent. Other factors that led to students dropping out were missing too many days of school, failing classes, uninteresting classes, and suffering from a mental illness, such as depression.
Other factors that led to students dropping out were missing too many days of school (17 percent), failing classes (15 percent), uninteresting classes (15 percent) and suffering from a mental illness (15 percent) such as depression. The survey also found that women are three times more likely than men, 27 percent versus 9 percent, to leave high school because they became a parent. When it came to the issue of bullying, white respondents, more than any other racial group, cited bullying (14 percent) as a reason for dropping out.
Nationwide, about 7,000 students drop out every school day, amounting to approximately 1.3 million students each year, according to advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education. In 1970, the United States had the world's highest rate of high school graduation. Today, the U.S. has slipped to No. 21 in high school completion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
"The data from this survey is an important step in deepening our understanding of America's high school dropout problem," said survey spokesman John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College. "Americans without a high school diploma or GED test credential face tremendous challenges. This is why we need to continue putting our dropout crisis under the microscope and develop substantive solutions going forward."
More than three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents had not considered a GED credential or had looked into it but had yet to pursue entering the program. Time and money were the top two reasons for not seeking a GED credential. According to the survey, 34 percent cited time as a prohibitive factor, while 26 percent said associated costs was a reason for not looking into or obtaining their GED credential. Women were more likely than men to say it costs too much (30 percent vs. 18 percent).
A third of the high school dropouts surveyed said they were employed either full time, part time or were self-employed. Men were more likely than women to say they are unemployed (38 percent vs. 26 percent). Among those who are employed, nearly half (46 percent) said they have little to no prospects for advancement in their current position.
Industries and occupations related to health care, personal care and social assistance, and construction are projected to have the fastest job growth between 2010 and 2020, according to a February 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industries with the largest projected wage and salary employment growth (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf) between 2010 and 2020 include:Offices of health practitioners Hospitals Home health-care services Nursing and residential care facilities Computer system design and related services
By the Numbers: 2012 High School Dropouts in America Fast FactsThose living in the West were more likely to say they lacked the credits needed to graduate (29 percent), while those in the East and South were more likely to say they were bullied and did not want to return (16 percent) One third (34 percent) of those unemployed were more likely to say that a GED program costs too much money Six in 10 (59 percent) who work full-time said they do not have the time to pursue a GED
Everest College's 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey was conducted online using the Harris Interactive online panel (HPOL) between Oct.3-Oct.18, 2012 among 513 U.S. adults ages 19 to 35 who did not complete high school. Results were weighted for age, sex, and geographic region to align them with their actual proportions in the population.
Everest College is part of Corinthian Colleges, Inc., one of the largest post-secondary education companies in North America. Its mission is to prepare students for careers in demand or for advancement in their chosen field. Harris Interactive is a custom market research firm leveraging research, technology and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goo
Case Study: Nashville, TN - Engaging Youth for Community Change
The key role of young people in creating Nashville’s Youth Master Plan. http://www.nashville.gov/mocy/masterplan.asp
Leaders in Nashville, Tenn., created a Child and Youth Master Plan that isn’t just about young people – it reflects the ideas of young people.
That would legitimize and professionalize jobs that are available to youth and build skills that are critical to job readiness. The recommendation made it into the Child and Youth Master Plan; city leadership then integrated such training and certification options in the annual citywide job fair.
Nashville’s Keys to Success: Principles for Engaging Young People in Community Change
1. Design an Outreach Strategy – Nashville leadership sought diverse input, and found young people who had access to adult support via a community organization or another mechanism.
2. Create a Home Base – Choose convenient and consistent meeting locations so that young people develop a sense of familiarity with their surroundings. Meet in youth-friendly places to help young people feel safe.
3. Convey an Intentional Philosophy of Change – It is important for leadership to state the importance of meaningful youth involvement openly and frequently. The mayor and his staff made it clear from the beginning that young people needed to play a critical role in the process.
4. Identify Issues – The Mayor’s Youth Council identified issues that were important to young people. This created authenticity and coherence for the plan, and insured that it targeted changes that young people want and need, not just what adults think they need.
5. Create Youth and Adult Teams – Having two members on each of the planning committees was important. Moving out of the planning phase, leaders are creating pathways for the Mayor’s Youth Council to partner with adults who are involved in implementation.
6. Build Youth and Adult Capacity – This is difficult in such a short and intense planning process, but is an important longer term goal in order to build community capacity across generations.
7. Provide Individual Support – On task force committees where adults had experience supporting young people, the young people felt more supported and therefore stayed more involved.
8. Create Opportunities for Sustained Access and Influence – Nashville did not stop at engaging youth in planning; it created mechanisms for youth to participate in implementation as well.
Core principles referenced from Core Principles for Engaging Young People in Community Change, Forum for Youth Investment 2007. www.forumfyi.org/content/core-principles-engagi
Parents' Role in School Lunch By Learning First Alliance on October 25, 2012 10:30 AM
By Betsy Landers, President of the National PTA
It's a question parents know well: "How was school today?" This year, parents need to ask another question: "How was lunch today?" My hope is that students give an enthusiastic thumbs up, telling a story of a delicious plate full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But let's be honest: children probably won't say that. Not yet at least.
As I'm sure we've all heard by now, school lunches are different this year. As part of a law that passed in 2010, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (101,000 schools nationwide) will be serving meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk, and portion sizes appropriate for their age groups. Why? There's a laundry list of reasons, but my favorite is that our kids deserve the best, and it is our responsibility as parents and educators to ensure the food they put in their bodies in school leaves them ready to learn and on a path to a healthy life.
It is critical to create healthy eating habits in children now to help prevent projections that half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030 unless Americans change their ways, according to a new report released this month by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Many other studies have consistently shown that obesity is associated with poor levels of academic achievement. Fighting obesity is not just a health issue; it's integral to the academic success of our nation's children.
The reality nationwide is that one-third of our kids are overweight and obese. You've heard that statistic before and you may be thinking right now, "But what about those kids that play sports and need more food!" These new school nutrition standards were not a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture pulling meal components out of the sky. They are based on the 2010 Nutrition Guidelines for Americans and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, based on the most updated knowledge of the nutrition needs for the average child in their respective age range. What's more, for many high school students, calorie levels are similar to previous years; the meals just look less like fast food and more like a balanced meal. That means students may find steamed squash on their plates where there once were tater tots, and chicken nuggets that are baked with whole grain bread crumbs.
An upgrade through most kids' eyes? Probably not! But that's where parents and adults come in. As parents it is our role to make sure our kids get what they need and not what they think they need. As kids transition to healthier options this year, we must make sure that we are sending a positive message that these updates are what is best for them — physically and even academically. Parents should talk to children about how strong these new meals will make them and how healthy bodies lead to better academic performance. Parents can bring children along to the grocery store and ask them to pick out the fruits or vegetables that they have tried at school to reinforce healthy habits at home.
One of the criticisms of the new meals is that they are not meeting the needs of student-athletes. That's a real concern for some students. What can parents do? Most schools have supplementary sides available in the cafeteria that students can purchase. Some schools may even be able to offer extra fruits and vegetables at no cost to students. To ensure all these options are healthy, parents should talk to the school food service director, administrators and coaches on the options for student-athletes.
Parents can always send additional foods from home for student-athletes to consume during lunch or before practice. Parents must remember that the new school meals are the baseline and designed to meet the average student's needs. For children with special dietary needs, parents have to be proactive — working with their children and the school to meet their child's needs, while still respecting the integrity of the program. That program is meeting the needs of most children.
As parents we know that any time there are changes to anything, there are going to be bumps in the road. For too many years, we let many of our children eat foods in school that were too high in sodium, fat and calories for their age ranges, and too low in the nutrients that their growing bodies need. I'd ask again that parents consider asking their children how lunch was when they come home from school this week. Regardless of their answer, parents should shed positive light on the exciting changes that are going on in the lunchroom. Because their children are worth it!
Parents University opens
By Monica Disare
Monday, November 5, 2012
Over the weekend, New Haven educated an inaugural class of parents with the launch of the city’s latest school reform initiative — Parent University.
Designed to teach parents how to help their children succeed in school, Parent University offers workshops and educational resources for parents of New Haven public school children. On Saturday, Gateway Community College hosted the program’s first event, which included more than 35 classes ranging from college preparation to child development. Event coordinators said they were pleased with the program’s turnout, which drew approximately 300 registered attendees. Organizers added that only standing room was available for some of the most popular classes. Parent University is expected to continue throughout the year, hosting smaller functions in local neighborhoods and another city-wide event in the spring.
“Parents are our first and most important teachers. Parent engagement is vital to the success of our students and for New Haven School Change,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “Today’s Parent University is part of what will be a broad and sustained effort to engage parents and to provide all families the tools and support they need to help their children succeed.”
Organizers said Parent University workshops were designed to help parents improve their own lives and the lives of their children. Classes focusing on students included, “How to Read with Your Child,” “Cyber Bullying and Social Networking” and “Success in Science,” while classes designated for parental improvement included “Parent Success Plan” and “Employment Marketing Profile.”
Susan Weisselberg, chief of Wraparound Services, which provides social and emotional counseling for students enrolled in New Haven’s public school system, said the parental evaluations collected at the end of workshops were “very positive”.
“People are very energized and excited by the event, which makes it very fulfilling,” Weisselberg said. Abbe Smith, director of communications for New Haven public schools, said many of the most popular classes were ones that addressed child development and college planning. During “College Planning 101,” for example, parents learned how to apply for financial aid. Lisa Pressey, the parent of a New Haven eighth-grader, said she attended Parent University to learn about the New Haven Promise scholarship. She called Promise “empowering” and said Parent University exceeded her expectations.
The class titled “Addressing the Needs of Urban Boys” garnered a lively discussion about the challenges of raising boys in the city. Brett Rayford, director of adolescent and juvenile services for the Department of Children and Families, spoke about how to help boys navigate career paths, deal with the loss of a father and build interest in education.
While workshops covered a broad spectrum of topics, parents attending the event often questioned how to apply class strategies to their own lives. One parent raised her hand and said it was hard to get urban boys interested in education because boys who do well in school are ridiculed as “talking white” or “acting white.” Rayford talked about solutions to the problem. He suggested a “rite of passage” for boys or career interest tests to help students think about healthy careers early on in their education.
“It’s been there since I was a boy,” Rayford responded. “We devalue those who are focused on academics. It is not cool to be smart, and we’ve got to change that.”
He added after listening to the first session of “Addressing the Needs of Urban Boys,” a group of parents discussed forming a group to try to mitigate the problem. Pressey said she hopes that group comes together and that such a committee could include parents, teachers, administrators and students.
“The whole community needs to be involved,” Pressey said. “It affects everybody.”
Carla Chappel, the parent of a local eighth-grader, said she thought the class on urban boys’ development was valuable, but she had reservations about the first class she attended, which discussed how parents can communicate with their school. She said that while the administrator presenting at Parent University seemed to have a good system in place for parent communication, she is concerned that not all administrators have equally effective systems.
New Haven public school representatives said they hope to have workshops for parents throughout the year at local venues including libraries and schools. In the spring, they said they plan to have another city-wide Parent University at a setting similar to Gateway Community College.
Parent University provided child care services during the weekend event for children ages 3 to 12 at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.