At its second national meeting in 2012, the NLC Dropout Reengagement Network set out a number of ambitious goals for itself. These included extending the outreach of the Network further; creating a sense of urgency around the need for reengagement; continuing peer learning; informing federal policy; providing students a voice; and demonstrating impact through narrative and numbers. One year has passed, and the Network can point to accomplishments on all these fronts! But before I dive into that good news, consider this vignette from Boston – the city that hosted our first Network convening two short years ago.
April Mae Smith dropped out of Madison High School in May, 2012. April briefly enrolled in the Re-Engagement Center (REC) to earn enough credits to become a senior that fall. But her heart wasn’t in it and she quickly dropped out, moved to Rhode Island to live with her boyfriend, started doing drugs, became pregnant and ended up homeless. Fortunately this interlude was relatively brief, and by fall 2012, April was looking for a way to turn things around so she could provide a better life for herself and her child. “I decided I wanted to graduate before my son was born,” says April, now 19. When April returned to school, she again turned to the REC. She delivered her son this June and about the same time, earned her diploma from the Boston Adult Technical Academy. Now she is enrolling in nursing school with assistance from REC staff. She credits the program with helping her get back on track. “The REC staff always told me if I needed help, to just ask,” April says. “I learned a lot more there than what I would have learned in the classroom. When I graduated, I was one of the top students.”
With that shining story of personal progress in mind, the Network’s 2013 convening in Los Angeles now opens — extending participation and purpose beyond reengagement to and through college, thanks to co-sponsoring partnerships with the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC) and Zero Dropouts. Once again, the number of self-financed participants in the convening has doubled, such that what was a Network is now on the verge of becoming a movement.
This is not just a year of accomplishments; this is a year of clarifying nationwide results and impact. Network members reached agreement around a few common measures, and voluntarily submitted data compiled by NLC interns and Matt Mendoza of the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC). We learned that centers in 14 cities made initial outreach to more than half of those on dropout lists. More than 10,000 young people received referrals to education options from a reengagement center or program, and for 6,000 of those youth, centers received confirmation of enrollment. Of those enrolled, 73 percent completed a full additional year of school or graduated.
In addition to recruiting the national meeting co-sponsors, we looked for strategic outreach and leveraging opportunities. This led to reengagement discussions at high policy levels in Education Week chose reengagement as the topic for a special pull-out section, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation provided just-in-time support for publication of the new NLC Municipal Action Guide on reengagement, released this week and already drawing media interest.Department of and with members of the rapidly growing Gateway to College National Network.
The Network continues to grow from the ground up, thanks in large part to ample practice sharing. Chicago launched three reengagement centers. Washington State’s Open Doors initiative grew from 3 to 22 programs. Washington, DC commissioned a feasibility study, and plans to launch its center in April, 2014. The California Assembly formed a Select Committee on Addressing Out of School, Unemployed Youth, and in Congress, Rep. Jared Polis’ office completed drafting of the first ever federal reengagement bill – suitable to serve as an amendment to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
As the Network and new partners gather in Los Angeles, opportunities abound to discuss where to go next. One focus area to carry over from last year and build upon: propelling former dropouts forward into options to gain postsecondary credentials. A perennial issue involves using the demand for reengagement to drive creation of many more high quality school completion options. And the “new GED” and GED alternatives waiting around the corner in 2014 surely pose challenges for the broader “ecosystem” of alternative education.
Yet the past three years show that this is a Network that constantly reaches for new heights. So with those heights in mind, I look forward to pursuing these questions:
• What shall the Network do to advance the federal policy ideas built into the draft Polis legislation?
• What other states could emulate Washington and spread reengagement programs via state policy and local determination? (Massachusetts, Oregon, California – are you in the house?)
• What city or district – or coalition of districts – in partnership with Community-Based Organizations, will reprogram resources to expand alternative schools rapidly?
• Who will follow Los Angeles’ inspiration with the Workforce Incentive Fund, to identify and use a federal funding source to expand reengagement locally?
• How will we sustain the census of reengagement programs, and continue to add precision to our counting of results?
* Are the more experienced members of the Network ready for an external evaluation of their effectiveness and impact?
• How will the 21 cities involved in the high-profile Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund tackle the need for reengagement capacity?
• What other philanthropies will join the CS Mott and Annie E. Casey Foundations to lend their support to advance reengagement nationwide?
About the Author: Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.
Scampering into the cafeteria at 2:30 in the afternoon, children at Chicora Elementary School in North Charleston, South Carolina begin to cluster themselves into groups on the cafeteria floor. Monday through Friday, 1 in 3 students excitedly enters the transformed space gushing with energy. On the surface, this looks like your typical afterschool program — the kids eat string cheese, drink from juice boxes and chatter loudly while gearing up for an afternoon of hands-on projects, games and homework help.
However, the WINGS for Kids program advances learning in several pivotal ways which diverge from everyday classroom material. Every element of the program has a carefully planned curriculum with objectives that aim to build social and emotional skills in their young participants, such as identifying feelings, regulating emotional responses and predicting the consequences of one’s actions — all taught in the guise of fun.
By including these fundamental skills into its programming, WINGS for Kids joins several other afterschool programs across the country in teaching Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) to advance children’s long-term success in life.
Social and Emotional Skills Help Students Overcome Hardships
SEL is the process through which we learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop positive relationships and avoid negative behaviors. It is the process through which students enhance their ability to integrate thinking, feeling and behaving in order to achieve important life tasks. The International Bureau of Education, from the International Academy of Education, also defines social-emotional skills, or “emotional intelligence”, as “the set of abilities that allow students to work with others, learn effectively and serve essential roles in their families, communities and places of work.”
The inclusion of social and emotional skills as small daily reminders in every aspect of the program’s afternoon serves larger programmatic goals for the WINGS program. The organizers believe students possessing strong social and emotional skills are better able to overcome the hardships in their low-income neighborhood, as well as learn more in school and ultimately become better workers, friends, spouses and parents. The WINGS motto: “Soar more, struggle less” further illustrates these beliefs.
These children, who are socially and emotionally intact, can make better decisions, and learn to be responsible for their own behavior. However, for many of our readers as well as the nation’s parents, social and emotional learning is merely a label given to a curriculum without a clear understanding of the barriers it addresses and the student outcomes it produces.
Social and Emotional Challenges Hinder Student Performance
In order to better cater to students’ holistic development, SEL was implemented to cater specifically to children who faced challenges in their home and community much like many of the youth participants at WINGS for Kids. Many of these children came to school hungry, stressed, abused, distressed and were bullied or served as the school’s bully. Children, who live under these circumstances, have been proven to experience academic difficulties such as the ones WINGS attendees were experiencing prior to the program’s inception.
As a proponent of social and emotional learning systems, Dr. Maurice Elias, a child psychologist and leading expert on SEL from Rutgers University, explains the dangers of omitting social-emotional programs from our children’s classrooms in one of his published reports. He maintains that many of the problems in our schools are the result of social and emotional malfunction from which too many children have suffered and continue to bear the consequences. Children in class who are beset by an array of confused or hurtful feelings cannot and will not learn effectively. These youth are frequently identified as the students who filter into schools from low-income neighborhoods and underprivileged areas.
Yet there are many non-supporters of SEL who protest that this type of learning must be done outside of and separate from traditional schooling. Dr. Elias states that these ideals are misinformed, harmful and may doom us to continued frustration in our academic mission and the need for teachers who must increasingly dedicate valuable classroom time to behavioral damage control and repair, rather than constructive classroom instruction and student engagement.
These insights from experts have alerted educators to the critical value of holistic education, which involves the stimulation and training of both a child’s cognitive and developmental functioning. By strengthening and increasing social-emotional educational opportunities, we will increase our children’s capacity to learn, give them the tools to aspire to personal and professional achievements and enable them to experience personal satisfaction. By organizing the educational environment to focus on holistic development as opposed to just cognitive growth, students’ academics/ school involvement will also increase as they are individualized, personalized and made to feel as if they belong to the fabric of their school.
SEL Advances Positive Student Outcomes
Allowing WINGS to again serve as our prototype, the program’s structure of inclusive conversations addressing emotions and real life experiences, group enrichment activities and the presence of socially/emotionally adept teachers, WINGS is able to facilitate students’ holistic advancement.
Along with being an innovative beacon within the social and emotional learning community, WINGS also strives to be a resource to other programmers by providing free SEL incorporated tools, guidelines, activities for afterschool programs and other related material.
If you have an interest in incorporating these materials into your own program or know of other initiatives which may benefit from WINGS supplemental materials, please visit the Wings resource page on edutopia. As for community partners who wish to make the complete transition into the SEL world and are looking for implementation strategies, the edutopia website also houses materials for starting an afterschool SEL program.
Marleyna currently serves as an intern on the Afterschool team at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. If you wish to contact Marleyna, email her at email@example.com.
The lawyers and pundits will scour every word in the ruling by Judge Steven Rhodes declaring the City of Detroit eligible for bankruptcy. Truth be told, I’d probably find that exercise exhilarating!
In the end however, it’s not the ruling from Judge Rhodes with which I am preoccupied. Nor am I particularly concerned with what Mr. Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency manager, will ultimately present in terms of a plan of adjustment for the city. Rather, I am thinking about January 1, 2014, when Mayor-Elect Mike Duggan and five new city council members take the oath of office and assume their responsibilities to the citizens to Detroit.
Mr. Orr of course has all the power to do what he believes is appropriate to address the fiscal crisis in the city. Judge Rhodes has given him considerable latitude so long as the entire fabric of the recovery plan is reasonable and just in the eyes of the court, especially where pensions are concerned.
But what power does Mayor-Elect Duggan have? More precisely, what power will he have after January 1st? If you answered, “no power at all” you would, I think, be wrong. While Mr. Duggan may indeed have little in the way of decision-making power he nonetheless was ELECTED to office as were five new councilmembers. More to the point, Mr. Duggan reasonably believes that he and his colleagues on the council do indeed have an important and significant role in the management of the city’s recovery.
True leadership grows out of commitment, passion, vision, perseverance, and teamwork. There is every indication that Mr. Duggan and Mr. Orr, former law school classmates, will make an effort to work together. Success for Detroit requires that the cold-blooded management decisions that are the purview of Mr. Orr are tempered by attention to the best interests of actual residents in Detroit – residents represented by the elected political leaders – Mr. Duggan and his council colleagues.
About the Author: James Brooks is NLC’s Program Director for Community Development and Infrastructure and is also responsible for leading the International Programs. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.
Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.
It looks like an abortion case…but it really isn’t. It just happens to have come up in the abortion clinic context. It’s actually a speech case; a time, place, and manner case. And local governments use speech buffer zones all the time in many contexts. So a lot could be a stake in this case.
The Supreme Court will decide in McCullen v. Coakley whether a Massachusetts statute prohibiting speech within 35-feet of a reproductive health care facility violates the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case, which NLC signed onto.
Massachusetts law initially allowed protesters to come within six feet of those entering a clinic, within an 18-foot buffer zone around the clinic. Protesters would crowd six feet from a clinic door, making entry into the clinic difficult and intimidating. In 2007, Massachusetts adopted a 35-foot fixed buffer zone around clinics. The First Circuit held that this statute is a constitutional time, place, and manner regulation of speech because numerous communication channels remain available to protesters.
The SLLC’s brief points out that how the Court rules in this case could affect state and local government’s ability to regulate speech to protect public safety in many contexts. For example, lower courts have upheld buffer zones to prevent congestion at special events and places that regularly draw crowds (funerals, for instance). These buffer zones and many others may be in jeopardy if the Court rules against Massachusetts.
The National Association of Counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association also joined this brief.
Oral argument has been scheduled for January 15. The Supreme Court will issue an opinion in this case by June 30, 2014.
Supported by the California Endowment, this post is part of a series, “Galvanizing the Civic Sector to Reduce Gun Violence.” The series focuses on what several sectors – parents, teens, schools, hospitals, law enforcement, the faith community, the philanthropic and business sectors, civic leaders and others – can do, independent of state and federal legislative activity, to reduce violence and the number of gun-related injuries and deaths.
“We can’t just patch up folks and send them back. When they show up in our emergency rooms, we have the opportunity to discover what’s really going on, what led to these wounds in the first place.”
– Yvonne Madlock, Director, Shelby County [Memphis, TN] Health Department
Where there is violent crime, there are hospitals; and where hospitals exist, there stands in the wings an essential partner for violence prevention work.
What hospitals can and do bring to the table ranges from basic medical services to provision of data, from tattoo removal programs to hosting intervention programs to neighborhood involvement – even neighborhood reclamation.
At the most basic level, hospitals can provide data that tell the story of patients who are victimized by violence. And the story they tell is graphic, grim and, sadly, no mystery. Except for several highly publicized school shootings, most of the victims of violence, via stabbings or shootings, are poor. Many victims come to the hospital with little education, scant family support, a great deal of anger, fear and pain, bleak prospects for the future and a desire for revenge. They are more often than not boys or young men of color with obscenely easy access to guns. They have grown up in a culture of violence often at home, usually in the neighborhood and sometimes on the way to school. Fear has inhibited their ability to learn. As Shawn Dove of the Open Society Foundations has said, “These kids can’t get out of Vietnam.” Once shot, many victims will return from the hospital either permanently injured or dead.
If a hospital only provides data, it has already given the crime and violence prevention community a gift, a prism through which prevention and intervention services can become clear. Yet, there is much more that hospitals are doing to stem the violence that sends so many Americans to their emergency rooms.
This post, based on interviews with top public health officials in communities across the nation, explores some of the factors motivating hospitals and their personnel to engage in violence prevention work, highlights promising strategies that hospitals throughout the country are using to reduce violence in their surrounding neighborhoods, and describes notable examples of intervention programs that are hospital-based or involve hospitals as key partners.
To read the post in its entirety, click here.
About the Author: Jack Calhoun is a senior consultant to NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families in the areas of family policy and youth violence prevention. Follow Jack on Twitter at @HopeMattersOrg.
Recruiting new small businesses is one approach for developing a resilient local economy, but cities also need to retain existing local businesses by celebrating their history, acknowledging their contributions to the community’s character, and recognizing the unique goods and services they provide to neighborhoods.
Small Business Saturday, happening November 30th, is an opportune time to use our collective buying power to champion our cities’ small businesses.
Of course, there are also ways that cities can celebrate and support their local businesses throughout the rest of the year. For example, the Greenville, South Carolina City Council recently passed an ordinance to provide anniversary discounts to businesses that have been serving the community for more than ten years. These discounts, delivered in the form of a business license tax remittance, were designed to make Greenville a place where small businesses want to keep their doors open.
The economic development department in Boulder, Colorado recognizes successful second-stage companies with official city proclamations and celebratory events through the Colorado Companies to Watch program.
Other economic development strategies, such as streamlining permitting processes, connecting small businesses to capital and other resources, and providing good customer service to shop owners are other small steps that local officials can take to encourage a thriving local business scene.
After you peruse the local shops in your neighborhood this weekend, make sure you check out NLC’s Small Business Toolkit and our recap of the major themes from our Big Ideas for Small Business Summit to learn about long-term strategies for ensuring the objectives of Small Business Saturday are met all year long.
The NLC finance and economic development team is here to support your efforts to bolster the small business community in your city. If there’s anything we can help you with, please be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington, DC is a transient city. At least it feels that way to me, a transplant. I moved to DC a little over two years ago, after spending a couple years in Chicago, and before that, Louisville. When I meet people here, their first question typically is, “what do you do?” But what quickly follows is, “where do you come from?”
For a lot of people, the answer to the latter question is a city. Whether it’s Saint Paul, Omaha, Hartford or Phoenix, people often define themselves in terms of their community. They take pride in the cold winters they survived in Chicago, the hot, humid summer days of Houston, or the mountains that frame their memories of Denver.
In identifying with a city, people show that they see their values reflected in that place – whether it’s their community’s unique emphasis on equitable transit and affordable housing; its renowned music scene or cultural amenities that leave residents proudly proclaiming: keep my city weird; or a national reputation for entrepreneurship and thought leadership that instills a persistent pursuit for the next big thing.
Responding with “New York” might invoke thoughts of cheap food from anywhere in the world, at any time, while “Cleveland” might bring back memories of the small-scale urban farms popping up across the city. For me, “Owensboro, KY,” my hometown, speaks to my appreciation for mutton, college basketball and lazy summer days on the banks of the Ohio River.
These attachments to place reveal that city design, culture and reputation are fundamentally intertwined with how we perceive ourselves and what we care about. However, if we peel away those layers, what unites all cities is what actually makes them home. Cities host our aspirations and our struggles. They are the setting of our unique personal stories. They are where we have families, make friends and form community. They are where we rally for justice, and where we celebrate our most tightly held beliefs.
Last week, at NLC’s annual Congress of Cities Conference in Seattle, we heard Bruce Katz, Vice President at the Brookings Institution and founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, talk about what he has dubbed the “metropolitan revolution.”
He described how the pragmatic and resourceful leaders that govern our cities are taking on the big issues, ones that Washington refuses to solve, and helping to reshape our economy and fix our broken political system. This national movement that Katz so aptly described resonated with our members.
Cities and towns, large and small, are continuing to tackle the tough issues that they always have—poverty, unemployment, fiscal challenges and aging infrastructure to name a few—with a renewed sense of urgency needed to address current national and global crises.
“In the absence of federal leadership, cities are stepping up,” said Katz. “In this century, cities will lead and the states and federal government will follow.”
I like that idea – the leadership that will define our future will be the leadership closest to our communities. The mission of cities is very much about getting things done, not bickering about ideology and being bogged down by politics. Our members work hard every day to make their communities better places. After all, their city is their home. Their constituents are their neighbors. And that’s why cities lead.
In future posts on this blog, we’ll highlight the ways in which cities are tackling our country’s most urgent problems. I hope you will join the conversation. Let us know how your city leads on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #CitiesLead.