Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Powerful story of how Bristol Virginia elementary school deals with extremely impoverished students

Guidance counselor Amy Moore, center, checked with principal Pam Smith about the size of pants for a student, who had a hole on her pants, at the teacher's lounge, which is used for a storage and a laundry room. The school collects donated clothes for needy students. Principal Pam Smith said, "We are the highest poverty school in the city of Bristol." Photo: Daniel Sangjib Min, Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch produced a great story ("Special Report: Poverty's shadow over education") on the lengths that teachers and staff at the Highland View Elementary School go to ensure the success of their students.

Bristol's poverty rate is twice the state average, and virtually all the students at Highland qualify for free breakfast and lunch. The school serves students from the city's poorest neighborhoods. From the article:
Despite the stress, last year Highland View accomplished something that 556 other at-risk schools in the state did not.

For the first time since 2011, it earned full accreditation from the state Department of Education. More than 70 percent of its students passed the Standards of Learning exams in math, science and history, and 75 percent cleared the benchmark in English.

“They moved the needle in a big way in terms of progress for their children,” McAuliffe said. ...

But the model for Highland View’s success suggests that it takes more than textbooks and teaching to meet its educational needs and give its children a chance at a brighter future. “The school is their counselor, their doctor, their cook, their nutritionist, their mother,” Smith said. “We’re their family.”
That includes providing food for the weekend, after school programs, nursing services, even a washer-dryer in the teachers lounge where teachers wash clothes of students in need--the school has a clothing spare closet too, so the kids can stay dressed while their clothes are being washed.

The article mentions that the State of Virginia has a special funding program to extend the school year for schools working with a high percentage of impoverished students (and their families), to add extra school time during the break between Christmas and New Year's and in the summer.

Free food, donated by a local church, is given to some Highland View Elementary School students every other week.  Photo: Daniel Sangjib Min, Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Highland View Elementary School is implementing the extended school year this year. According to the Bristol Herald Courier ("Bristol, Virginia schools get more than $200,000"), they've implemented a six week summer program and this December will open school for the week after Christmas.

FWIW, I've suggested for more than ten years that DC should do the same.  For example in "Summer, Curfews and Year Round Schoo":
Suggestion One: how about a 210 or 220 day school year instead of 180 days? What better way to demonstrate DC’s commitment to K-12 education?
Suggestion Two: consider adopting a year-round school calendar. This could have at least three benefits [...]:

1) better utilization of school facilities that would require fewer school buildings overall;
2) elimination of the 2.5 month long summer break, which is a period where youth crime does increase; and
3) helping improve learning outcomes by reducing the time required for catch up and review in each subsequent year.
It probably would have been a lot cheaper and more effective than many of the various "reform" efforts that have been introduced since 2007, when Michelle Rhee was appointed Chancellor.

Although DC does have a summer feeding program, and access to meals during the school day is one of the justifications for extending school, since the students often have limited access to food when at home.

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At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Christopher said...

People talk about testing when they look at schools in Asia and somehow come away with the idea that this is the key to their success. Without considering the entire package:

-- All students get breakfast and lunch
-- No organized school sports, but rigorous daily exercise
-- Year round schools and longer days
-- Child centered education that puts their needs at the center of the pedagogy
-- Students are "in charge" of their classrooms and the teachers move around, students are responsible for keeping the room clean and organized and electing their leadership by classroom
-- Extensive teacher observation by their educational peers, this is followed by open discussion of their strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve
-- Frequent teacher rotation (schools are federalized) so teachers don't get complacent

Testing is only one small part of much larger system of support for students. Not sure who is pushing the testing agenda (the testing companies?) over the larger systemic differences, but here we are. We of course do this in all kinds of areas, cherry pick our sense of what the system looks like to suit our agendas.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wow, I didn't know about the extent of the differences (other than that children are responsible for cleaning the school, which helps to teach about responsibility and cleanliness).


At 2:00 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I don't remember when I first learned about some of the stuff in Medillin. First, of course there are the aerial gondolas. But then I learned about the escalators. And then the Library Parks.

And the stuff in Bogota.

What has happened in terms of the focus on enhancing civicness and quality of life for all in Medillin and Bogota, and I am sure there are still issues, is quite remarkable.

I didn't know about the Medillin example when I was starting to think about my EotR Marshall Plan, but it's definitely a great model.

And I don't know enough about Antanas Mockus, the mayor in Bogota _before_ Enrique Penalosa.

He calls his approach "citizenship culture."

Unfortunately, the ongoing political competition between Mockus, Penalosa, and others hinders full realization of their ideals even today...

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Toronto Star article on Medillin.

I hate to admit that I got a cue to do more research about Medillin from a brief bit in a Bourdain "No Reservations" episode on Colombia.


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