Public Boarding Schools as an Intervention for Students Living in Poverty?

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Click on the link above to read an article about how poverty affects a child’s probability of becoming a drop-out.

“That’s why an idea out of Jefferson County, Ky., to make public boarding schools, seems interesting. The county is studying a plan to create two schools, one for each sex, that would pool together at-risk children with academic promise. That plan is still in the earliest stages, but if realized, it could remove a lot of the barriers described in the Attendance Works policy briefing. The cost—currently estimated to add at least $12,000 per student—makes a scaling-up seem difficult, but it would provide a good starting point for similar ventures if successful. It might not be Hogwarts, but it can be a home.”

What do you think about Jefferson County’s idea to create public boarding schools? 

What’s Life Like for an At-Risk Youth?

asleep at desk

-Tracy DeTomasi

I remember being 15 and in high school. I grew up in a small, rural, White Christian town in the Midwest.  My parents had been married for almost 30 years by the time I graduated high school… as had most of my friends’ parents.  My dad made sure I valued education because he dropped out when he was 15 and never finished.  My mom never went to college and wanted to be certain that I received the grades to go to any university I wanted.  I thought the hardest thing in my life during high school was the fact that my farmer parents raised me to be a tomboy so I wasn’t the girly girl who boys wanted to date.

I ended up becoming a social worker. I’ve worked with at-risk youth in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Seattle, and Chicago–mainly in residential settings where I became a pseudo parent and educator. I have been inspired by the stories they have told me about their educational experiences. I believe the most important stories to understand are those that many minimally privileged people don’t typically think of.

This is what they taught me… imagine going to school when you haven’t eaten in 3 days and the last meal you had was pulled from the garbage. Your mother and her current boyfriend have been on a weeklong bender and hit you when you came home so you chose that it’s safer to be on the streets than at home. You aren’t sure where you are going to stay each night or if it will be safe once you find a place. You worry about getting shot in a drive-by or getting jumped by gang members to and from school because that has happened to at least 10 of your closest friends.  Now, imagine having that experience and actually making it to school. Imagine having other kids bully you because you smell since you haven’t had a shower or a place to wash your clothes.  Imagine the teachers yelling at you because you fell asleep in class again, although it’s the first time you’ve felt safe enough to close your eyes. Imagine getting in trouble when you yell at someone although you mainly just snapped because you are hungry and tired and mad at your mom. Imagine not being able to put words to what you have experienced or being too scared that if you tell, you will get hit harder, might get shot, or might not have a couch to sleep on.

This is a common experience for an at-risk youth. While I grew up in a family privileged enough that I thought school was a need, working with at-risk youth made me quickly realize that education is a privilege, not a basic need. A basic need is housing, food, safety, and love.  Understand that most youths that experience situations like these don’t have the words to speak about them or understand that this is an experience they do not deserve.

–Tracy DeTomasi is a social worker with more than 10 years of experience. She is passionate about helping at-risk youths and provides a unique perspective about how to help these youths flourish. We hope to see more of her insight in our blogs (hint, hint).  

Is Your School an Effective School?

Man and Child Having fun in the park.

The basic belief of the Effective Schools Movement is that all students can learn, regardless of socioeconomic status or race. Schools are in control of enough variables to increase and sustain student achievement (Lezotte, 1991). The all students can learn movement depends on seven different correlates working interdependently to improve student achievement, including:

  • frequent and continuous monitoring of data
  • strong instructional leadership
  • a culture of high expectations
  • a safe and orderly environment
  • a clear and focused mission
  • opportunity to learn and time on task
  • positive home-school relationships

In my own school, the mission is very closely aligned with the Correlates of Effective Schools: All students can learn. All means all! In my current position as the attendance dean at an alternative middle and high school, I place heavy importance on creating positive home-school relationships. It always seems as though teachers are hesitant to contact parents. It can be especially intimidating when it’s necessary to use language line to help translate for non-English speaking parents. Parents are our greatest allies! They want to work as a team to get their child the best education possible. Through this blog I will often explore strategies for developing positive  home-school relationships. I hope you will contribute ideas that you have found to be successful.

Is your school doing everything it can to ensure that these correlates are met? Which correlate do you find is especially difficult for schools to improve upon? 

—-Stephanie Scott  http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Lezotte, L. (1991). Revolutionary and evolutionary: The effective schools movement. Okemos, MI: Effective Schools, Ltd. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/edutopia.org-closing-achievement-gap-lezotte-article.pdf

Mission Impossible, No Way!


Before schools can even begin the continuous improvement process, they have to establish direction for all stakeholders. Creating a mission is the first step. The mission statement is a sign of the school’s integrity. Effective schools embrace clearly defined missions shared by all members of the staff.

A shared mission is one in which everyone understands the direction the school is moving (Lezotte, 1991). High-performing schools infuse an achievement based mission statement throughout all aspects of the school (Slade, Jones, Wiesman, Alexander, & Saenz, 2008). Specifically, these statements address concepts such as challenge, academic success, and citizenship. For example, an academically focused mission may state that the school will focus on providing outstanding instruction in a challenging environment.

A strong mission focuses on specific results and includes definitive benchmarks (Slade et al., 2008). In addition, the mission statement should not include exact criteria for measuring success but instead provide a framework in which stakeholders can produce results. A strong mission should address goals, priorities, procedures for assessment, and accountability measures (Lezotte, 1991).

My school’s mission is “All students can learn. All means all. No excuses.” What is your school’s mission?  Do you feel the staff knows and focuses instruction toward that mission?

—-Stephanie Scott  http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Lezotte, L. (1991). Revolutionary and evolutionary: The effective schools movement. Okemos, MI: Effective Schools Products. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/edutopia.org-closing-achievement-gap-lezotte-article.pdf

Slade, J., Jones, C., Wiesman, K., Alexander, J., & Saenz, T. (2008). School mission statements and school performance: A mixed research investigation. New Horizons in Education, 56(2), 17-27. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ832903.pdf

The Importance of Being Physically Active

Think recess and P.E. class aren’t important?

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 10.28.19 PM Hispanic youths typically lack access to opportunities and resources for becoming more physically active and this lack of physical activity negatively impacts their academic achievement (Basch, 2011b). Typically, students with low grades are more likely to drop out (Bowers, 2010). In 2009, the dropout rate for Hispanic students was 14.7% which was more than double the rate for Caucasian students at 6.9%  (United States Census Bureau, 2010b). We must find creative ways to provide students with physical activities, such as:

  • walking clubs
  • donations of fitness equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, etc.)
  • quarterly field days as incentives for positive behavior and attendance
  • Wii or Xbox fitness games during lunch
  • school-wide choreographed dances to well-known music such as “Thriller”
  • staff vs. students games
  •  yoga class (This is also great for teaching patience and focus.)

The ideas are endless, but we must serve as role models for students. If we get involved in the physical activities, we set a positive example and show students we care about their health too. What are some cheap, creative strategies you’ve initiated in your schools to get kids moving?

—-Stephanie Scott http://effectivek12schools.com—-


Basch, C. (2011b). Physical activity and the achievement gap among urban minority youth. The Journal of School Health, 81(10), 626-634. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00637.x

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010b). High school dropouts by age, race, and Hispanic origin: 1980-2009. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0272.pdf