Enhancing The Educational Attainment Of Our Region's Children

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Enhancing theEducational Attainmentof Our Region’s ChildrenA report to the citizens in the regionbetween Burbank and Dayton andfrom the Snake River to Milton-FreewaterSpring 2009

On November 11, 2008, an ambitious effortwas undertaken by more than 70 concernedcitizens in the region comprised of the areabetween Burbank and Dayton and fromthe Snake River to Milton-Freewater. Morethan 2,500 hours were volunteered by theseindividuals to help prepare our region forthe future by addressing the problems oftoday. Beyond any accomplishment that thisstudy may have, it is a testament to the richness of this region that people are willing togive their valuable time at such a dedicatedlevel. This report is the product of their hardwork, and its conclusions and recommendations were achieved by consensus.Roger Bairstow2008–09 Study Chairman2008–09CommunityCouncilStudyCommitteeThe 2008–09 Study Committee met for 24 weeks at the St. Francis of Assisi Church parish hall to assessthe educational, mental health and housing needs of our region’s children. During the course of study about70 people participated, some of whom are shown here.

Enhancing theEducational Attainmentof Our Region’s ChildrenTable of ContentsExecutive SummaryFindingsEducational attainment sets the stage for lifeStart behind, stay behindRelationships are pivotal to a child’s successIf students stay in school they are usually able to graduateNot having to worry about basic needs frees a child to focus on educationThere is a definite link between mental health and the ability to progressin school and to succeed in a social contextTraining helps parents be their child’s primary teachers and Best Practices and Supplemental Resources232008–09 Study Committee Members26Resource Speakers27Community Council Board of Directors28Glossary29Spring 20091

Enhancing theEducationalAttainment of OurRegion’s ChildrenExecutive SummaryThis summary provides an overview of the study.The reader is encouraged to read the report inits entirety to understand the breadth of the topicand the linkages between each stage of the studyprocess–Findings to Conclusions to RecommendationsChildren are our future. For children to thrive andto be prepared for their adult roles, a variety ofneeds must be met, including those at the core ofthe Community Council’s first study—education,mental health and housing.Approximately 15,000 children live in our region,defined as between Burbank and Dayton and fromthe Snake River to Milton-Freewater. Will theybe ready to meet the challenges that life will offerthem?Educational attainment is one way to measurethat readiness.The Study Committee, open to allcitizens of the region, framed its study with thequestion, “How can the region best coordinate itseducational, mental health and housing stabilityservices to improve the educational attainment of itschildren?” The study could easily have been three(or more) distinct topics; however, each presentation demonstrated that the three are interrelatedand that considering them together is crucial.During 24 weekly meetings, the Committeeheard from 35 resource speakers representingschools, governmental agencies, nonprofit programs and service users who shared their knowledge and experiences. An effort was made to makethe study representative of the whole region. Because of time limitations, the breadth of the topic,and the region’s geographic size and diversity (twostates, three counties, rural areas, and towns ofvarying sizes and resources), not every topic wasaddressed for every community; however, representation was present.The study presentations spanned early learning, in-school counseling, alternative high schoolprograms, mentoring, community mental healthresources (public agencies and private practitioners), housing, shelters and homelessness, the2Enhancing the Educational Attainment of Our Region’s Childreneffect of adverse childhood experiences, truancyand drop-out prevention, the juvenile justicesystem, foster care, teen pregnancy support, andparenting. One of the Committee’s most poignantpresentations featured two parents whose childrenhave mental health problems. They presented thefamily’s perspective about accessing services andprograms.From these presentations and supplementalresources, the Study Committee learned that thereare many effective local resources. The Committeealso learned that students face significant barrierspertaining to the basic needs of safety, health, loveand nurturing. The impact of those challenges onacademic achievement can be mistakenly attributedto lack of effort or academic ability.Study HighlightsThe Study Committee spent 15 weeks gathering accurate information about the topics and nine additional weeks developing (by consensus) conclusionsand recommendations. As the Committee movedfrom summarizing the findings of what they learnedto developing conclusions and then recommendations, care was taken to ensure that there weredirect connections between each.Conclusions Early learning experiences (between birth and5 years of age) are essential for success in schooland in life. When students are not ready to enterkindergarten, a major issue in the region, they startbehind and stay behind in their social, emotionaland academic development. Early learning programs are limited in number and accessibility, andquality child care is inadequate to meet local needs. School performance is tied to attendance. Ifstudents stay in school, they usually graduate.Barriers to attendance include: housing instability, insufficient supervision (no one ensuring thatthey attend), family responsibilities (such as caregiving, translating, working, parenting), mentalhealth issues, and drug or alcohol problems,including self-medication. Learning environments outside of school andpositive relationships between students andadults are essential to building students’ sense ofwell-being and motivating school attendance. Lack of communication and coordination amongsocial service agencies, schools and the region’scitizens is a weakness.

Lack of quality, affordable housing is a barrierto maintaining family stability, affecting a child’sability to learn. Adverse childhood experiences affect braindevelopment, learning ability and successfulsocial interactions. Local mental health resources are not adequateto meet local needs. Shortages of early intervention services, appropriate treatment and accessto services affect the academic performance ofstudents with mental health problems. More local foster homes that take children andteenagers are needed. Those that currently existare always occupied. Current sex education programs in the publicschools are not adequate to address the realneeds emerging from youth sexual activity. Parents’ effectiveness as life models affectstheir child’s development and success in life.More parenting skills education is needed inthe region.RecommendationsThese recommendations are grouped in general categories for the reader’s convenience. It is essential torealize that these sections are not mutually exclusive,they are intricately interrelated.Education Make quality early learning opportunities availablefor all children by:—— Collaboratively creating, funding and implementinga “school readiness” framework.—— Increasing availability of child care services forinfants and children with special needs, and byincreasing available weekend and evening care.—— Teaching Spanish-speaking students in their nativelanguage to help build verbal competency. Increase school attendance by:—— Providing opportunities for all children to participate in extracurricular activities. Enhance effective parenting through parentingskills classes and increased awareness of parentingresources, including programs for teen mothers andteen fathers. Support public schools’ efforts to help residentsacquire English and Spanish language skills.Expand English as a Second Language programsto reduce parents’ dependence on their children astranslators, to enhance the parents’ ability to accessneeded resources and to enable their participationwith the educational system. Include age-appropriate, comprehensive reproductive health education as part of public schools’ basiccurriculum.Mental health Improve availability of and access to mental healthservices in schools and communities by:—— Recruiting a pediatric psychiatrist.—— Providing youth inpatient mental health services.—— Improving access to publicly funded mental healthservices. Extend the use of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) model for understanding the effectsof childhood trauma. Emphasize prevention as the first step towardmental health treatment. Increase the capacity of the region’s foster caresystem to accept children and teens.Housing Coordinate efforts to increase the availability ofaffordable housing.Increase regional awareness of and accessto Educational, Mental Health and HousingServices.—— Prioritizing programs which result in consistentattendance, and supporting them with a coordinated implementation/enforcement effort.—— Developing and promoting learning environments outside of school and opportunities thatencourage positive relationships betweenstudents and adults in the community.Spring 20093

FindingsThe purpose of this study was to determine how theregion can best coordinate its educational, mentalhealth and housing stability services to improve theeducational attainment of our region’s children. Whileevaluating existing systems that fund and delivereducational, mental health and housing services, theStudy Committee identified strengths, inefficiencies,duplications, lack of coordination, and inadequaciesin delivering such services.Since “region” is defined as “between Burbankand Dayton and from the Snake River to MiltonFreewater,” it was necessary to understand howmultiple political, geographic, agency and programboundaries define these issues.These findings represent the informationreceived by the Study Committee. They are derivedfrom published materials, from facts reported byresource people and from a consensus of the Committee’s understanding of the opinions of theresource people.Educational attainmentsets the stage for lifeChildren are our future. For children to thrive andto prepare through optimal educational attainmentfor their adult roles in life, a variety of needs mustbe met, including those at the core of this study—education, mental health and housing stability.Graduating high school can make a significantdifference in students’ lives. Graduating has a significant impact on an adult’slifetime earning potential. A full-time workinghigh school graduate can expect to earn morethan a student who drops out of school beforegraduation. Graduating qualifies students for post-high schooleducation programs—academic and vocational—in which they can build upon the knowledge andskills they have already accumulated. Graduating provides the student with the psychological boost of achievement and the realization that other goals are within reach.110.0Columbia School District(Burbank), 971 students100.090.0Dayton School District,530 students80.070.0Milton-Freewater SchoolDistrict, 467 students60.050.0Pleasant View School (M-F),96 students40.0Touchet School District,310 students30.020.0Waitsburg School District,347 eabsenceratedropoutrateWalla Walla School District,6,143 studentsThis graduation data combines information included on the Washington and Oregon State websitesfor their respective education departments. Note: Burbank, College Place, Dixie, and Prescott do nothave high schools. Private school data are not included.4Enhancing the Educational Attainment of Our Region’s Children

Start behind, stay behindStudies show that students who are behindwhen they start school are likely to remainbehind. The gaps are magnified as studentsget older.“Readiness to learn” is identified by educators andparents in this region as a major obstacle to educational attainment for students. School readiness isnot just language and number skills; it also reflectssocial and emotional development. In a local elementary school study, whether or not a child wasat grade level directly correlated to the student’s“thriving” index, measured by the descriptors:happy, loved, curious, not hungry and read-to.Educational Service District and school districtpersonnel cited studies that indicate positive earlylearning experiences—at home or in a child caresetting—increase the likelihood that children willbecome literate, employed, and college-bound.Children who are successful in their early years willbe better able to achieve higher education and jobtraining as adults.“Early learning” focuses on children from birthto 5 years and acknowledges that parents are thechild’s first and most important teachers. It alsotargets others who care for and teach childrenin the early years. Bonding with the caregiver isimportant to a child’s emotional development.If parents do not talk, read and listen to theirchild at home, the child will arrive at kindergartenunprepared. Toddlers whose parents speak morewords to them develop bigger vocabularies thanchildren who hear less speech. One University ofKansas study concluded that children from upperincome backgrounds hear 30 million more wordsby age 3 than those from lower income families.About one-third of our region’s children (birth to5 years) spend the day with family, friends or neighbors; one-third are cared for in licensed centersor licensed family child care homes; and an equalnumber attend public and private preschools.Programs to train and license care providersare available through Walla Walla CommunityCollege, but there are very few certified child careproviders in Walla Walla for children younger than2 years and no licensed child care programs fornights and weekends. There are certified providers in Milton-Freewater, but they are not affordablefor the minimum wage earner. Currently there isonly one nationally accredited child care center inWalla Walla County, Kids Place, located at WhitmanCollege.Publicly funded programs serving young children include Walla Walla School District’s SpecialEducation Preschool, Early Head Start, Head Start,Migrant Head Start, and Early Childhood Educationand Assistance Program (ECEAP). With the exception of the Special Education Preschool, accessto these programs is income-dependent, and oneprogram component is connecting families withresources for non-education needs. One exampleis Head Start, a federal program started in 1968,for income-eligible families. It serves children ages3 to 5 years. Preference is given to homeless children or those in foster care. The program addressesthe whole family through training, mental health,wellness, dental care and dealing with housingissues. Funding for Head Start is allocated at thefederal level.Many families do not have access to Head Startbecause their income falls above the qualifyinglevel. They may desire high-quality early learningsettings but may not enroll because of cost. Not allfamilies are requesting child care.Some smaller communities have limited earlylearning programs. For example, there is no preschool in Touchet. One main day care center is theonly organized program in town for children not yetschool-aged. The community is considered too smallto qualify for ECEAP or Head Start programs, eventhough, according to the Superintendent of Schools,Touchet has 34 children who will be at the gradeschool within three years. (The 2000 Census showedTouchet’s population as 396, so nearly 9 percent ispreschool aged.)Spring 20095

Relationships are pivotalto a child’s successDeveloping relationships between students,adult staff, and other community adults is pivotalto students’ school attendance and success.Pleasant View School, Milton-Freewater’s alternative education program, emphasizes role modelingby staff and other adults who help at the school.Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Wallabuilds relationships with families by helpingthem meet basic, non-school needs. The trustbuilt through this interaction makes the parentsmore comfortable engaging in their students’education.A study, Imaginative actuality: Learning in thearts during the non-school hours by S. Brice Heathand A. Roach, determined that “young people wholearn the rigors of planning and production in thearts will be valuable employees in the idea-drivenworkplace of the future.” Learning environmentsoutside of schools attract young people to sustained participation, performance and productionof high quality. Touchet’s after-school programto help youngsters plan for the future and solveproblems came to an end when funding by aDepartment of Education 21st Centuries Learning6Enhancing the Educational Attainment of Our Region’s ChildrenGrant ended. After-school and summer programsfor children in Milton-Freewater are also limited.A Junior Internship Program in Dayton prepares young people for life after graduation anddevelops lifelong mentors who advocate for youth.Each high school junior is matched with a business mentor who treats the student as an employeefor one or two semesters. The experience enablesstudents to see possibilities for their future. An exitsurvey is taken at graduation and feedback fromthe students is collected 18 months and five yearsafter graduation. The internship program, modeledafter a program at Hi-Tech High in San Diego,California, was started in Dayton with a GatesFoundation grant. It is now funded by CommunityNetwork.Between 2003 and 2008, Dayton’s graduationrates improved from 76 to 97 percent. The internship program and senior seminar are two thingsthat have contributed to that improvement. Alsoplaying key roles are the district’s standards ofpractice, student-led conferences, the advisoryprogram, etc.

If students stay inschool, they are usuallyable to graduateAttendance is the key to accumulating the knowledge and creditsnecessary to meet graduationrequirements.Pleasant View School and Lincoln HighSchool provide options for students forwhom traditional school has stoppedworking and who have become severelycredit-deficient.Pleasant View serves 100 middle andhigh school students, and Lincoln’s enrollment is250, ranging in age from 14 to 20 years. Lincolnalso serves a high percentage of special educationstudents.Staff at the two schools asserted that if childrencan be kept in school, they usually are able toachieve their high school diploma. The major barriers to consistent attendance are:1.—— Homelessness and trying to deal with relatedissues distracts the students from focusing onschool. One in four students at Lincoln reportshaving been homeless in the past two years, and70 percent of those students report having beenhomeless for more than two weeks. Often theyare “couch surfing”—moving between friends’ homes.Family responsibilities.—— Many times students are the primary caregiversto other children in the family.—— There may be a need for the student to find a joband to help support his or her family.—— Work may cause students to enter school later inthe school year or to leave for several months.—— Students may be the primary language negotiators for the family. When parents need them toconduct business, they miss school.—— Students may be parents themselves.Drug/alcohol use and mental health issues.—— These are sometimes difficult to differentiatebecause students self-medicate. Often prescribed medications are hoarded or abused.Methamphetamine use and alcohol abuse aresignificant. There is an effort to engage the students in programs that will help them avoid theseproblems. Trilogy is one program that has beenimplemented at Lincoln High School to supportstudents who are trying to stay sober.Lack of housing stability.—— Moving from school district to school district and/or from school to school within a district createsgaps in a student’s education and makes it challenging to pass state achievement tests and toearn enough credits to graduate.2.3.4.Insufficient supervision in the home by a personin authority or perceived to be in authority.5.Lack of school-based activities.—— Students’ success in programs such as welding,theater, music or sports may motivate them tocontinue striving academically.Mental health issues and truancy are majorcontributors to dropping out of school.In Walla Walla the schools, Juvenile Justice Center, the Department of Child and Family Services(DCFS) and the Courts are collaborating to addressthese issues.The Department of Human Services (DHS) doesinitial intakes and provides service on-campus forLincoln High School students. The school joinsforces with the Juvenile Justice Center in WallaWalla to treat anger and related behaviors. Aschool-based health clinic to treat mental andphysical health problems is slated to open inAugust 2009. (Funding has not yet been secured.)The Department of Child and Family Servicesoffers Family Reconciliation Services, a programthat provides a Comprehensive Family Assessment,Spring 20097

8Enhancing the Educational Attainment of Our Region’s ChildrenNeighbors unite for strong families Credit history. Work history. Divorce, domestic violence and other issuesaffecting marital statusand income stability. Access totransportation. Access to jobs. Sewage system hookup costs. Policy or accessrestrictions onoccupancy. Distance from extendedfamily supports. Level of service costin urban growth areaprohibitive. Cost of acreage inrural area prohibitive. What’s affordable isnot safe. Devaluation of homeresults in inability toliquidate assetsnecessary for lifecircumstance. Fluctuations in localhousing market. Presence of rentalunits in housing stock.Sample factorsaffecting access toaffordable housing:Which results in: Witnessingdomestic violence. Witnessing community violence. Child abuse.Which results in: Serious illness. Trauma/depression. Absence fromschool. Social isolation.Which results in: Illness. Lead-relateddisability.Which results in disproportionate instances of: Special education. Lost time at school. Lack of bonding toschool and community.Which results indisproportionateinstances of: Malnutrition. Prolonged illness. Lost time at school. Lack of bonding toschool and community.Which are riskspredictive of: Dropping out ofschool. Youth substanceabuse. Youth violence. Youth suicide. Teen pregnancy.Which are riskspredictive of: Dropping out ofschool. Youth violence. Child abuse andneglect.Which are riskspredictive of: Dropping out ofschool. Youth substanceabuse. Youth violence.Which are riskspredictive of: Dropping out ofschool. Youth substanceabuse. Youth violence.http://www.searchinstitute.org.Colorado Affordable Housing Partnership, “Colorado’s Housing Crisis Puts Children at Risk,” http://www.coloradokids.org and http://coloradoaffordablehousing.org.Cisneros, H. G., “Defensible Space: Deterring Crime and Building Community,” http://www.huduser.org:73/2/e/essays/defensib.asc, 1995.Bratt, R. G., “Housing and Family Well-Being,” Housing Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1, 13-26, 2002.REFERENCESFamilies stayin violentsituationsFamilies arehomelessFamilies livein substandardhousingFamiliesoverspendon housingWhich results in: Overcrowding. Higher mobility.And fewerresources for: Food. Health care. Heating.– When affordable housing is not available –Washington State Family Policy Council; Krista Goldstine-Cole, M.Ed., Katherine Porter, 2003Links among affordable housing and major social problems

recommendations and services from a socialworker. Services can include 12 hours of crisisfamily intervention counseling (24/7 access tomental health provider) to any parent or youth,ages 12 to 18, who requests assistance and, insome cases, temporary placement. The programassists with assessments and filing of “Child InNeed of Services Petitions” and “At Risk YouthPetitions” which give the parents court supportin enforcing curfews and compliance with individual and family counseling, etc. These are civilactions and can be requested without having aChild Protective Services (CPS) investigationopen. Family Reconciliation Services has formeda successful partnership with the Superior Courtsand the Juvenile Justice Center.Any community member can call DCFS intakeand request voluntary services for families. If thefamily does not want services, a voluntary servicecase will not be opened. Family ReconciliationServices works with all involved parties includingschool representatives, mental health providers andsignificant adults to develop effective service plans.The greatest number of calls comes from Juvenile Court Services, Garrison Middle School, andLincoln and Walla Walla high schools.Lincoln High School absences have beenreduced by nearly half in the last year as a resultof a revamped truancy process and court procedures which are holding the students accountablefor their actions. Court orders to attend school,signed by their parents, are helping to keepstudents in school. Because they are staying inschool, they are earning the credits necessaryto graduate.The goals of Washington’s juvenile justice systemare to rehabilitate, treat, educate and provide vocational training. Additional mandates are to protectthe community from dangerous offenders and tohold the offenders accountable for their actions.Rehabilitation, such as cognitive behavioral therapy,is emphasized locally. Walla Walla County detentionfocuses on education as its most effective treatment.Offenders who have struggled in school often experience their first academic success in the detentionschool. Another program, Pathways Back, academically assists 10 students who are under court jurisdiction but who are not in custody. Both programsare operated by Educational Service District 123 toprepare the students to return to the public schoolsystem.Not having to worry about basicneeds frees a child to focus oneducationBeing hungry or worried about a place to sleepat night and whether it will be safe, takes precedence over everything else in a child’s life. Untilbasic needs are met, it is difficult to focus onschool.Housing is one of life’s basic needs. Housing stability is defined as the ability to secure and retainaffordable and safe living accommodations. Locally,as well as nationally, homelessness is attributed to alack of affordable housing.Affordability means different things to differentpeople. The United States Department of Housingand Urban Development (HUD) sets “fair marketvalue” to determine what is considered “affordable” for regions across the U.S. HUD levels arealso used by many banking and other institutions.To be “affordable” by HUD standards, housingcosts should require no more than 30 percent ofa family’s gross annual income. Families who paymore than 30 percent for housing are consideredcost burdened and may have difficulty affordingnecessities such as food, clothing, transportationand medical care because their available funds arebeing expended on housing.2008 fair market rent (FMR) for Walla Wallawas 890 per month. According to the Walla WallaHousing Authority (December 2008), to afforda three-bedroom rental at FMR a family of twoparents and two children needed an annual incomeof 35,600. Census data indicate that one of everyfive children in Walla Walla County are living inpoverty (U.S. Census, Estimate for WashingtonCounties, 2007), meaning that 20 percent of childrenare living in families whose parents earn less thanis needed to rent at “affordable” levels. The 2009Federal Poverty Threshold in the U.S. is 22,050.Overcrowding is a problem. If single families cannot afford housing, multiple families maycombine incomes and seek accommodations fortheir households to share. One speaker commented that the space may be too small for all whoare sharing it—sometimes the children sleep inthe house, while parents sleep in the car. Anotheroption is for a family to move into substandardhousing with poor physical conditions, such as noheating and cooling or pest infestations, which cancause significant health issues. Several of the speakers said some children find themselves living inunstable environments and/or in environments withchild, spousal or drug abuse. Or they may becomehomeless.Families with children are the fastest-growingsegment of the homeless population. Each year, aSpring 20099

Walla Walla County point-in-time survey of homelessness is conducted. In 2006, 392 households werehomeless, including 176 children under 18 years ofage. 2007 found 382 households and 216 childrenhomeless, while 321 households, including 277 children, reported being homeless in 2008.Walla Walla’s two temporary shelters, the YWCAand Christian Aid Center, provided 23,493 bednights for people in crisis during 2008. Bothincreased services in past years, and the YWCAelevated services to the nonEnglish-speakingclients by adding Spanish-speaking staff. Currently43 percent of the YWCA’s clients are Hispanic.Shelters are serving generational homeless (havingsheltered parents and later their adult children) andthose who are homeless for the first time. Both shelters prioritize services for families with children.Between August and October 2007, shelters turnedaway 113 households (94 because of lack of space).During that same period in 2008, 154 householdswere turned away (97 for lack of space).Walla Walla Housing Authority’s (WWHA)12 programs serve 1,200 families with a turnoverrate of about 20 per month. Forty-one percent of thefamilies have children; 38 percent of those childrenare school-age. As of December 2008, WWHA wasworking with approximately 800 single-parent households. WWHA provides Columbia County with rentalassistance, but many who receive this assistance moveto Walla Walla to be near other services.WWHA has a burgeoning wait list of about1,800 familie

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