Father and sons sitting on the grass, reading a book

Student achievement begins with the family

A superintendent explains how his district focuses on families and community coalitions to support student success

Support your families

We’ve also found that it’s important to address the areas of young learners’ lives that schools are traditionally less involved in. Again, the children who need the most help to reach the starting line often face other obstacles that interfere with their early learning. “Poverty directly affects academic achievement due to the lack of resources available for student success,” according to research published by Educational Research and Reviews. “Low achievement is closely correlated with lack of resources, and numerous studies have documented the correlation between low socioeconomic status and low achievement.” There is a direct correlation between struggling families and their students’ readiness to learn and, later, their on-grade reading.

To help mitigate that, we provide meals. This summer, for example, we fed more than 25,000 meals to children under the age of 18. Most of them were probably under the age of 10. We also help parents get transportation to job interviews and find daycare, and otherwise connect parents to resources and services through our social workers.

If we’re going to give kids the best opportunity to succeed, we have to do whatever we can to help our struggling families.

Related: 7 ways to rethink school/family partnerships

Tap your community

As important as those kinds of wraparound services are, they can be a real challenge because they are not part of a school district’s traditional mission. Making it work is all about partnerships.

We partner with our local food bank to get those kids fed. We have partnered with our Community Health Clinic and are currently building a full-service medical and dental clinic on one of our elementary campuses. In addition to the Parents as Teachers program, we partner with United Way on an early-childhood coalition. We work closely with after-school providers, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Campfire, and the YMCA, as well as out-of-district childcare and preschool providers. Additionally, we have several local foundations that have helped us with the extra resources needed to tackle the toxic stress families experience.

We’ve had three summits so far to bring together our social service and early-learning providers to focus on ACEs, which include things such as poverty, medical or dental neglect, inadequate supervision, and educational neglect. A foundational study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente found a correlation between the number of ACEs a child experiences and all kinds of negative outcomes, including alcohol and drug abuse, risk for intimate partner violence, fetal death, ischemic heart disease, and more.

It’s imperative that we do our best to connect our families to services that are going to help them, even if it simply reduces stress. By building a community of support around our children even before they become our students, we give them a start that they might not have otherwise had.

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