The South Asian Times

18 February 2019 17:23 PM

Schools should support the whole child

By NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina

Providing high-quality academics and meeting the social-emotional needs of children go hand in hand. You simply can’t have one without the other. New York City has made critical investments to deliver a comprehensive framework that increases opportunities and access to health and wellness that put students on the path to success.

We’ve put this vision into action by building a network of 227 Community Schools – an innovative strategy that transforms traditional schools into neighborhood hubs that provide services like vision screenings, mental health supports, after-school and summer programing, family activities, counseling, and more. Community Schools also work directly with families to address chronic absenteeism and make sure kids are in the classroom where they can learn. Our Community Schools model is unique in that these critical services are not an “add on” to the school day; Community Based Organizations are integrated into the fabric of each school to deliver for students and families.

A recent study by the Learning Policy Institute shows that Community Schools can be an important part of improving academic achievement at high poverty schools, and we’re seeing results – test scores at Community Schools that have participated in the initiative for several years are up 11 percent for English Language Arts and five percent for Math, and chronic absenteeism is down by six percent.

We have transformed schools into welcoming places that support students and families, where experts and educators are available to unpack challenges they may be facing and come up with tangible solutions. If students are struggling to see the front of the classroom or read a book, we give them free eyeglasses. If a family is facing immigration challenges, we connect them to lawyers. Where there is food insecurity, there are food pantries.

Public-private partnerships have been an important focus during my time as Chancellor, and through a wonderful partnership with Warby Parker, students have received more than 32,000 pairs of free glasses since 2015. Another important partnership is with Sprint to provide high school students with free Wi-Fi hotspots, so kids can complete their assignments and study outside of schools hours, helping to address the “homework gap.” Students keep these hotspots throughout their time in high school.

I am proud of the progress we have made through this program to ensure that each child has an equal chance to succeed and thrive in the classroom and beyond. 

Update: 08 Feb, 2018