Powerful story of how Bristol Virginia elementary school deals with extremely impoverished students
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.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.
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.”
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 [...]: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.
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.
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.