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Monday, July 30, 2012

Smart ways for smart communities to help produce smart kids

Smart communities are involved in collaborative, supportive and needed efforts with their local school districts to improve student achievement. That only makes sense.

What are some ways communities can help their schools provide a great education for their students? According to former Arkansas Teacher of the Year Kathy Powers, whose research we featured last week, Arkansas's data suggests the following:
  • Offer summer programs for children who are from disadvantaged homes. The gap in learning that occurs during the summer months when school is out is tremendous, she said. Children from families with more income tend to be enriched during the summer through camps, vacations and other experiences that keep their minds active. This disparity in summer learning leads to an increasingly larger achievement gap for students that grows with each grade. By providing quality summer enrichment experiences for youth, communities can help all children stay on grade level.
  • Provide books for kids to read. The number of books in the home is repeatedly shown to be a predictor of student success. Community groups could easily donate books or money for books (from teacher-approved reading lists) to children to enjoy at home during the summer or long breaks. Another idea is a mobile library that frequently visits those neighborhoods where students may have less access to the main library, especially during summer months.
  • Lengthen the school year. This is what some of the more successful charter schools in the state do. State Senator David Johnson has worked on legislation to get this concept kick-started for everyone else. A major hurdle is that it's such an expensive proposition. Powers said that even if school days are not added, altering the school year to include shorter breaks throughout would minimize the problem. There's be opposition from some segments, no doubt, but it shouldn't cost that much more.
  • Provide support for single-parent families. Powers' research shows this as a major risk factor for student acheivement. Childcare, transportation, having enough food -- all these are issues that single parents may face as they raise their children.
Obviously, there are so many ways communities can work with their school districts to improve the outcome for students. First Class Communication strongly believes that these efforts must be made in partnership with the school districts, and that they are most effective when they are planned and implemented in support of school district improvement goals.

If you have examples of smart community-school partnerships, we'd love for you to share them with us. Either respond to this blog or email me at julie@firstclasscommunication.com.

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