Dropout Prevention Update
From the National Dropout Prevention Center
April 2021—Vol. 21, No. 3
Just released! AASA The School Superintendents Association just released their report Learning 2025: Student-Centered, Equity-Focused Education. This initial report emphasizes, in part, the need to move beyond student engagement to student personalization, to create a student-centered culture, to further integrate schools and communities, and to focus on future-driven education.
The current report is the product of Learning 2025: Student-Centered, Equity-Focused Education, an initiative that calls for holistic redesign of the public school system by 2025 that is grounded in the foundational work of the AASA Learning 2025 National Commission. Successful Practices Network (SPN), parent company of the National Dropout Prevention Center, is a major partner in the Commission's work and the report itself. The Learning 2025 initiative is ongoing and updates will be posted on the AASA website.
This strategy focuses on the power of an engaged and responsive community where everyone in the community is accountable for the quality of education, resulting in a caring and collaborative environment where youth can thrive and achieve. Critical elements of this type of collaboration rely on effective, ongoing, and multidimensional communication so that dropout prevention is a communitywide and ongoing effort.
As the face of education continues to change over a year after the initial lockdown, community collaboration has remained an integral part of the success of students. In Detroit, partners such as the Detroit Soars Childcare Scholarship Program, Black Family Development Incorporated, the Community Education Commission, Everybody Ready, Hope Starts Here, and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, have joined together to create a coalition for funding to help offset the cost of childcare for working families. Their project extends an exiting program that offers tuition assistance to the city’s preschool parents to include school-aged children. It covers families who are eligible for the state’s childcare subsidy or free or reduced school lunches.
Two teachers at Red Bank Regional High School (RBR) in Little Silver, NJ, are taking engagement a step further to show that even in these ever-changing times, the arts are happening and have the potential to connect local communities. Working with Studio Art Academy and the Creative Writing Academy, the teachers wrote and illustrated nine children’s books that were anthologized into Wonder Stories: Imaginative Fables by Fantastical Youth. Funds raised from the sales are being used to pay for artistic education outlets.
In Lyon County, KY, schools have partnered with Trilogy Performance Sports Center with a virtual yoga class with proceeds to go towards the Imagination Library. Imagination Library sends free books to Lyon County children ages 0-5 and is the program partner responsible for distributing the books. Begun in 1995, Imagination Library marked a 150-million book milestone for the program in 2020.
Many schools provide afterschool, before-school, and/or summer academic/enhancement/enrichment opportunities (e.g., tutoring, credit recovery, acceleration, homework support, etc.) that provide students with opportunities for assistance and recovery as well as high-interest options for discovery and learning. These opportunities often decrease information loss and can inspire interest in arenas otherwise inaccessible. Such experiences are especially important for at-risk students because out-of-school “gap time” is filled with constructive and engaging activities and/or needed academic support.
As virtual school has become more commonplace so have virtual afterschool programs, giving learners extracurricular opportunities despite the pandemic. The Learning Together program, created by the group that created Reading Together, has created free online afterschool courses for students. Since fall 2020, Learning Together has offered 25 classes including chess, art, investing, inventing, sports analytics, cooking, debate, and robotics among other brainy and cultural subjects. So far, 650 kids have been the beneficiaries of these classes, with over 300 hours of instruction and an estimated 5,000 hours of student learning. All this, which would have cost parents over $100,000, was paid for by investments and donations.
An important part of afterschool learning is the extra individualized instruction which Lee County School District in Florida is looking to bolster with after-school tutoring through Zoom. The program called Connect with LEE is free and pairs students with certified teachers to help the students complete their homework and assignments.
Community gardens are a great way to bridge school-community collaboration and afterschool opportunities. The Summit Community Garden Program in Summit Country, Utah, is running sessions to help students cultivate knowledge and mindfulness. The program wants to help local elementary school-aged students expand their knowledge of the benefits of gardening while also featuring art, science, and yoga.
Career counseling and after-school programs go hand in hand according to Charlie Fletcher, a freelance writer recently published in StreetSenceMedia. She says that many experts are deeply concerned that the educational fallout from COVID-19 will be severe, especially for those students coming from low-income households, and that it is leading to an ever-larger achievement gap. She notes that focusing on career counseling with the recommendation of providing it as an after-school initiative can help. School programs and career counseling should be designed to target at-risk students and help them develop themselves and reach career goals that can play a pivotal role in helping reduce the risk in their young lives.
Research indicates that students in our schools are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and increasing exposure to traumas. This stress of life and prevalence of traumas can negatively impact a student’s cognitive functions and behaviors in school. Educators are calling for additional support in the form of guidance counselors, school psychologists, and behavioral specialists to deal with these growing challenges. Trauma, however, is particularly challenging for teachers/educators to address because students often do not express the distress they are feeling in an easily recognizable way, and they may mask their pain with behavior that is aggressive or off-putting. The Trauma-Skilled Schools Model (TSS Model) seeks not to identify trauma-impacted students, but to build the capacity to deepen school/district staffs’ understanding of trauma, to create strategies, policies, and procedures that support students, and to establish a culture that eliminates practices that may be detrimental to trauma-impacted students.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has put forth a twenty-four-million-dollar plan to address trauma in their school system. Under this healing-centered framework, they plan to commit themselves to expanding Behavioral Health Teams to all CPS schools to coordinating wellness support and ensure targeted supports reach those students who could most benefit from them; having at least one staff member in every building trained in group interventions to support students on topics like trauma, anger, and depression; and expanding the number of schools with at least one community partner providing support on social-emotional learning or mental health.
The School District of Philadelphia is also planning to commit money towards addressing trauma as they are receiving nearly $1.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief. It will be split between building repairs, upgrades, academic recovery programs, and programs for personnel to help students deal with trauma resulting from the pandemic.
Research is beginning to show that it is going to take a community-wide approach to combat trauma in schools. Many researchers with the Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy are beginning to worry about secondary traumatic stress (STS). STS affects not only critical members of communities but also students. In their survey four months into the pandemic, researchers found that every educator reported experiencing secondary traumatic stress as a result of the added burdens brought about by the pandemic. They conclude that to alleviate such a burden on individuals, it is important to call on all of those within the community encompassing a school, such as health, social services, and community advocates, to collaboratively support children, families, and educators.
Research from Brigham Young University has identified techniques to offset the effects of trauma. Dr. Ali Crandall has found that certain strategies are highly predictive advantageous influences “positive childhood experiences”. These influences benefit children because of their significant impact on actively developing brains. But, after this past year, all can benefit from PCEs regardless of age. Dr. Crandall provides six main PCEs which are stable routines, beliefs that offer comfort, self-esteem, enjoyment of school, engagement in activities, and healthy relationships.
Deadline: June 11, 2021
Awards of up to $10,000 are awarded to foster academic growth among underserved students, including those that are economically disadvantaged and English language learners. Proposed programs should be equity-focused, evidence-based, culturally relevant to students served, and explicitly designed to improve academic opportunities and outcomes. Eligible applicants are US public schools or schools and districts serving prekindergarten through Grade 12. Faith-based schools that accept students of all beliefs and backgrounds may apply. Applications must be submitted using the online system.
Deadline: September 1, annually
Awards ranging from $500 to $3,000 are awarded by the Lois Lenski Covey Foundation for bookmobile programs across the nation that serve children from disadvantaged populations. Grants support organizations that operate a lending bookmobile that travels into neighborhoods populated by underserved youth. Funds must be used to purchase fiction or nonfiction books published for young people preschool through Grade 8.
Deadline: June 1, annually
Awards are granted ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 by the Goggio Family Foundation in education, community development, and environmental preservation. Education encouraging the attainment of knowledge and skill and the practice of responsible citizenship through access to learning opportunities are emphasized. The foundation supports innovative programs to develop leadership skills; provide support to at-risk or disenfranchised youth; support programs that promote academic excellence, artistic expression, and critical thinking; and community development and social change promoting social progress and sustainable economic development through advances in science, health, arts, and technology. The foundation seeks ways to support leadership development, community empowerment, and economic development, with a priority to serve the needs of low-income and disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Deadline: June 1, 2021
Awards of up to $2,500 will be awarded to help restore public lands that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased use. Activities must engage volunteers and represent a specific project. Examples of eligible projects are addressing wear and tear on trails; increased litter; or postponed projects such as removing invasive species and new plantings, with a focus on conservation, maintenance, or preservation. Conservation projects consider environmental concerns and aim to protect biodiversity, wildlife, wild places, or endangered species. Maintenance projects restore or enhance park infrastructure. Cultural and historical preservation projects focus on protecting historically significant land. The grant program has three funding cycles in 2021.
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