FOCUS DC News Wire 9/25/2015

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D.C. School Takes New Approach To Fighting Poverty: Teaching Parents & Kids [Briya PCS mentioned]
WAMU 88.5
By Armando Trull
September 25, 2015

On a recent weekday, about a dozen immigrant women were learning about Microsoft Word at the Briya Public Charter School in D.C. Adult students at the school in Adams Morgan learn practical skills like computing, while they learn English.

“When we started 20 years ago there was a large influx of immigrants into Washington, D.C.," explains Christie McKay, Briya’s executive director.

Those immigrants came from Central America and Vietnam, and they were poor and disconnected. “They were coming with very little knowledge of U.S. culture and how to even function within Washington, D.C.,” she says.

McKay says today’s Microsoft class is a far cry from when Briya first began working with immigrant families, because the needs and aspirations of those families have evolved since 1989.

Annabel Cruz embodies those aspirations. A few years ago she got her high school diploma through Briya. “And then I became a medical assistant too, because immediately I enrolled to that program that the school provides," she says.

And while Cruz was going to school at Briya, her children were attending pre-school in a classroom down the hall. “That’s why this school is different, that’s why this is unique school — because my children were next door learning too," she says.

Cruz says her children, who are now in elementary school, benefited from being introduced to education at a very early age. “Now I don’t have any problem with them to do their homework, or creating routines for them or reading books," she says.

But Cruz’s and her children’s educational journey with Briya actually started next door at Mary’s Center, a community clinic that shares space with Briya. “My social worker referred me here because I was in depression and postpartum depression," says Cruz.

All of the families with children at Briya are also receiving medical services from Mary’s Center, so referrals like Cruz’s are common. It’s a public health approach to care, says Joan Yengo, a vice president at Mary’s Center.

“We have created a model to support social change in the communities. The social change model brings together education, social services and health," she says.

This partnership between the community clinic and school began in 1998. Over the years an integrated curriculum was developed. It includes early childhood education, parenting, adult education, and referral services for health needs. The model has piqued the interest of researchers such as Stuart Butler.

"We've been very interested in looking at examples of where health care and education have kind of come together to solve general problems in a community," says Butler, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. He recently published a paper analyzing the Briya/Mary's Center model.

"It's very important to look at two generations, at both the children and their parents, particularly when the parents face many challenges — command of English literacy, financial literacy — and to bring them together and see them as a unit," he says.

By treating families as a unit, the clinic and school jointly address the families’ interrelated challenges, says Butler.

"And so one of the things that they do very well is bringing all these elements together dealing with the issues that the families face — health issues, parenting issues and so forth — at the same time that they're dealing with the children and that's what really makes that household more likely to succeed over the long haul," he says.

Butler says Briya students performed better than other D.C. early education and K-12 schools. Mary’s Center was in the top 25 percent of all federally funded healthcare clinics nationally. However, assessing the effectiveness of the combined model is challenging, says Butler.

"Because for example you really want data that follows the parents and child for several years thereafter, and that takes money. There's a dilemma too that they need money to collect the data and the metrics needed to fine tune the operations that they do every day," he says.

Butler says those metrics are needed to show the Briya/Mary’s Center model is worth replicating in similar communities.

But while those esoteric points are pondered in glass and ivory towers on K Street, on Georgia Avenue children and parents such as Annabel Cruz are becoming healthier, better educated and more resilient.

"I get something I think is never gonna happen in my life," says Cruz. "I always have a lot of doubts on my future, but the school helped me set up goals and how to reach them."

Briya, by the way, means to shine brightly in Spanish.

Black males struggle in segregated schools
The Washington Post
By Lyndsey Layton
September 24, 2015

A new study using federal data finds that black students who attend schools that have a majority of black students score lower on achievement tests than black students who go to school with fewer other black students.

The findings held true after researchers accounted for family income, level of parent education and other factors they thought might impact how students perform on tests.

And they were particularly strong for black males — test scores for black female students were fairly consistent whether they attended schools with many other black students or schools with relatively few, researchers found.

The study, conducted for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics by the American Institutes for Research, analyzed the test scores of 100,000 eighth-graders on the 2011 math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP.

The overall black-white achievement gap on the NAEP 2013 math test for eighth-graders was 31 points — equivalent to three years of schooling. That gap has not changed from 2007 to 2013.

Researchers looked at how black students performed on the test and the demographic makeup of their schools. A “high density” black school was defined as a school where at least 60 percent of the students are black. Nationally, these schools were concentrated in Southern and Midwestern cities, researchers found.

The researchers adjusted the test scores for all the factors they thought could affect student achievement, including family poverty, concentration of poverty in a school and credentials of teachers, and they still found the achievement gap between average white males and black males attending a “high density” black school was 25 points, compared to a gap of 17 points for black males who attended schools where blacks made up 20 percent or less than the student body.

“We controlled for all the things that we thought might make a difference and we saw that for black males in the highest-density category, their achievement is significantly lower than for those in less density,” said George Bohrnstedt, an institute fellow at AIR and one of the authors.

The findings come amid increasing evidence that many public schools are resegregating, with some research suggesting that U.S. public schools are as segregated by race now as they were in the 1960s.

The AIR study did not look at causes behind the achievement gap between black males in schools with a “high density” of black students and those at “low density” schools.

But Bohrnstedt offered several possible explanations. Schools with large percentages of black students, often high-poverty schools, are more likely to be staffed by less experienced teachers, research has found. And social scientists theorize that some black students adopt an “oppositional culture” in which they reject academic success as “acting white.”

Other researchers have found that teachers in schools with large numbers of black students tend to expect less of them, which may result in less engagement on the part of both teachers and students. Finally, black male students are disciplined at higher rates than their non-black peers, leading to more frequent out-of-school suspensions and higher dropout rates.

“We know from research that the newest teachers with the least experience end up in the most difficult schools and very often, their expectations for black students aren’t as high as for others, and that’s especially true for black males,” Bohrnstedt said.

Concern about the outcomes for young black males is at the heart of the Obama administration’s initiative known as “My Brother’s Keeper” and is a reason why some urban school systems have moved toward boys-only schools. In January, D.C. Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced a $20 million program designed to support black and Latino males, including opening an all-boys college preparatory high school east of the Anacostia River in 2016.

More than 1 in 5 U.S. children are (still) living in poverty
The Washington Post
By Emma Brown
September 24, 2015

The proportion of American children who live in poverty began rising during the recession, and it continued rising after the recession officially ended. In 2013, the child poverty rate finally fell for the first time since 2006 — a dip that advocates hoped was the beginning of an enduring trend.

But the child poverty rate did not fall again. Twenty-two percent of U.S. children — or more than one in five — were still living in poverty in 2014, unchanged from 2013, according to new data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

That’s 15.7 million children living under the poverty line, which in 2014 was $24,008 for a family of four.

Child poverty rate over time

New census data show that the nation's child poverty rate flat didn't change between 2013 and 2014, and is still far higher than before the recession. In 2014, the federal poverty line was $24,008 for a family of four.

Minority children were even more likely to be living in poverty, the Annie E. Casey Foundation pointed out. Nearly four in 10 black children and nearly one-third of Latino children live in poverty, compared with 13 percent of white and Asian children.



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