June 2016

Things to Consider in June 2016 from the RTSC:

What Are Massachusetts Public Schools Doing Right?
Although Massachusetts is generally seen as having one of the best school systems in the country, achievement gaps continue to exist for race and socio-economic status. This article in The Atlantic discusses the shift away from a focus primarily on academics to social-emotional learning and general wellness. In particular, schools are leaning towards an understanding of childhood trauma and its complex impact on academic attainment and long-term health outcomes.  Boston Public Schools recently received a $1.6 million federal grant to address the early symptoms of trauma in students.

HIGHER EDUCATION:  Actions Needed to Improve Access to Federal Financial Assistance for Homeless and Foster Youth
This report from the Government Accountability Office makes six recommendations to improve homeless and foster youth access to financial assistance for college, including centralizing college information for these youth on the federal Department of Education’s website, and clarifying guidance from the Department of Education. They strongly suggest legislative proposals to simplify federal requirements for homeless and foster youth. A look at the data for higher education outcomes for this population of students is included.

Beating the Odds: Boosting School Success Rates for Students in Foster Care
Kathy Rando lived in more than 10 foster homes and spent four years in a residential treatment center (RTC), before finally dropping out of high school. School, she stated, was not as important as making sure she was okay every single day. This story highlights the importance of the adult who took Kathy under her wing and gave her the educational support she needed. If a child does not have permanent parents, they need to connect with someone who can help, whether it’s an educational surrogate parent or a friend. Children need an adult voice when it comes to their education.

Helping Children Succeed:  What Works and Why?
Paul Tough’s new book looks at successful interventions for kids-at-risk in order to try and figure out why certain ones work. He states that his goal is to extract and explain the core principles of each program (in and out of the classroom) and to look for common threads running through them. Underwriter grants have allowed the author to offer the entire book online free of charge, along with charts, graphs, videos, images, links, and footnotes. It is a wonderful gift for those who care for and work with children suffering through early life stress – knowing that academic achievement and nurturing adult relationships are the keys to success. The PDF of his book will be available free of charge on June 7th.

Five Things to Know About the Transition from Foster Care to Adulthood
This brief explains each of these five truths while providing numerous links and references:

  1. They are truly on their own
  2. Maintaining connections with friends and family can be a big help
  3. Extending foster care beyond age 18 gives young people more time to grow up surrounded by supports
  4. New ideas on how to support young people after they leave foster care are coming up all the time
  5. We still have a lot to learn

Intervening at the Setting Level to Prevent Behavioral Incidents in Residential Child Care: Efficacy of the CARE Program Model
The authors of this article in Prevention Science define “ambient stress” as the exposure to aggression from staff during restraint and other behavioral incidents. Ambient stress contributes dramatically to the emotional distress of developmentally vulnerable youth. The CARE (Children and Residential Experiences) model focuses on staff at organizational levels and can produce significant decreases in incidents involving youth aggression toward adult staff, property destruction, and running away.

Children of Heroin Crisis Find Refuge in Grandparents’ Arms
This poignant article from The Boston Globe presents interviews with grandmothers around the country, through conversations and emails, and sheds light on the ripple effects that heroin is having on families. Nationwide, 2.6 million grandparents were responsible for their grandchildren in 2014, up 8 percent from 2000.

Useful Tools and Resources

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE IN MASSACHUSETTS – HOW ARE WE DOING? An Analysis of the First Year of the State’s New School Discipline Law, Spring 2016
This report from Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice analyzes data provided by DESE on school discipline rates from the first year of Chapter 222. The authors hope that the analysis and recommendations will support the ongoing implementation of Chapter 222 and any continued efforts to improve school discipline practices and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

ACHIEVING SUCCESS: Guidance for Colleges to Better Support Foster Youth
Less than 3% of former foster youth have a degree by the age of 25. Youth Fostering Change, a program of the Juvenile Law Center, makes recommendations to improve the college experience for foster youth. These include providing housing during school breaks, emergency funding and financial assistance, summer bridge programs, academic advising and making sure foster youth have access to healthcare and insurance.

A Trauma-Sensitive Toolkit for Caregivers of Children
Recent advances in the understanding of how early childhood experiences shape the way the brain works over the lifetime reveal just how critically important the job of caring for children is. Written by public health nurses, this toolkit is intended to support caregivers in becoming more trauma sensitive. It is organized by topic, each offering a brief overview, specific tools that can be used with children, and where to find more information. Also included are handouts that can be used as teaching aids.

Middlesex Children’s Advocacy Center
This website offers free online 51A training, and information on how to recognize and report child abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Massachusetts Autism Endorsement Survey
The purpose of the Massachusetts Autism Endorsement is to enhance the knowledge of educators working with students with autism. When the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to approve the regulations for the creation of the Autism Endorsement for special educators it also asked ESE to investigate the expansion of eligibility for the newly created Autism Endorsement to general educators. This survey is intended to solicit stakeholder feedback on this potential expansion and on various options ESE is considering relating to the expansion. Please use the following link to provide your feedback: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2744987/Autism-Endorsement-Stakeholder-Feedback. You are also encouraged to share this link with any colleagues or list serves who would be interested in providing their input.

This survey will be open until June 30th, 2016. If you have any questions please contact Sarah Geldart at sarah.geldart@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3364.

New Foster Care Transition Toolkit Offers Tips for Helping Foster Youth Succeed as Adults
The U.S. Department of Education today released a new toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The Foster Care Transition Toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood.