How Community Schools Can Cultivate Hope, Opportunity and Agency (Discussion)
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How Community Schools Can Cultivate Hope, Opportunity and Agency (Discussion)


– If you’re a leader in the room, and you were recognized for something, clap if there are other people in your district who contributed to it who weren’t recognized. (audience clapping) Yes. You didn’t do it on your own. We’ve got someone up here who are Leaders to Learn From said: We need here up here up to. This is Steve Webb who is the Superintendent
of Vancouver Public Schools. This is Tom Hagley who’s
the Chief of Staff. And this is Tamara Shoup who’s the Director of Family
and Community Engagement and manages their family and
community-resource centers, which are the way that
they bring these resources to children in their schools. I have the opportunity to visit them when we recognized them last year. And it’s a really unique approach to community schools. It’s a zoned approach. So they took the most
high poverty schools, and they connected the resources there. And so I know that a lot
of folks are interested in how to bring resources to kids, so I’m really excited to
talk to you all today. Can you tell me a little
bit about your community and why your district
decided to communicate… cultivate community schools to address the opportunity gap? – So I… Sound check. There we go. So I invite you to think about whether or not this sort of
demographic shift is happening in your own community, in your own school system. Over the past 10 years, we’ve gone from about 75%
Caucasian students to 59%. We’ve seen a doubling of the number of second-language learners
that we serve predominantly. Two groups are Spanish-speaking population and our Russian-speaking population. We have a significant keys population, a Pacific Islander language that has emerged in our community. We now serve over 90 different languages in what used to be a
suburban school system. And I’ve shared some comments
related to the acceleration of the number of children and families that qualify for free
and reduced-price meals from 39% to 57%, a peak two years ago. That’s thousands of students and families impacted by the detrimental effects of poverty. And poverty and mobility
are a toxic combination that affects student achievement. In fact, in our downtown core schools, as I mentioned in my remarks, on average, over 80% of our children are on free and reduced-price meals. In some of those urban schools, we have an excess of 90% of our students on free and reduced and a mobility rate of 40%. Now think of yourself as
a third grade teacher. And I’ve got 25 students. 10 of those desks… 10 of those chairs are going to swap out during the course of the year. We have one student a number of years ago that
moved 13 times in a single year. Now listen, folks. (laughs) As I said, this is simple stuff. If a child is hungry, it impacts her ability to learn. If a child does not know where
they are sleeping tonight, it will impact their ability to learn. I want to be absolutely clear. Our community schools’ work
is not about a hand out. It is about a hand up. It is about building agency and kids and families in schools and in community. And as a result, we’re
seeing a significant closing of opportunity gaps. And here’s what we know. If we can close opportunity gaps, we can close achievement
gaps without question. Poverty is not a learning disability but it presents real barriers, real barriers to student success, frankly, in too many of our classrooms and schools in Vancouver public schools, but I would argue, all across this nation. And you know what? We have a tendency from a public policy perspective to treat symptoms and never
get a root cause, right? This whole standards-based stuff, high-stake, single-event assessments, listen, if we were serious
about closing achievement gaps for children of color
and children of poverty, what we would do is we
would invest significantly in addressing poverty in this nation. Burke, `the five. That’s where those achievement gaps begin. (audience clapping) – So you started this work in 2008, and you have 18 schools that have family and community-resource centers. You have a mobile unit, which I hope we’ll hear
a little bit more about. It’s an interesting idea. What strategies did you use to bring stakeholders
together around this? I got to tell you, guys,
when I was in Vancouver, rhe It’s real. Like there are so
many community groups invested in this who were so eager
to tell me about this. So what strategies did
you use to develop that? – Well, as you said, I think you have to go
back to the formulation of our district’s strategic
plan in 2007, 2008 where we engaged how to process to engage
stakeholders broadly and deeply and envisioning the future of Vancouver public schools, creating a whole full share
of vision of the future. And community schools emerge as one of six strategic priorities that the community
lifted up as a priority. We had done some work in that area. And in previous years, we had one site, our Fruit Valley
Community Learning Center, which you visited. That was sort of a pilot
project for us in a sense and people saw the success of that and wondered why not build
that out across the system. So having that strategic planning process, really engaging people in developing a plan for the future
of the district was key. I think the other really
key aspect of that was having having the
right people on the bus. Being very intentional
about who we invited in to participate in that process and we had a vert as I said, intentionally, invited community partners, existing partners and prospective partners from the faith community, from businesses, from nonprofit sector, from public-to-public sector, from our neighborhood
associations all across the board who we already had some idea that they were going to be
champions for community schools. And so they did become champions. And it became a movement
within the community that really I don’t think
we could have stopped if we had wanted to gain such momentum. And we started small. We didn’t do it all at once. We had initially just a couple of centers, but over time scaled that up as our partners had the capacity to add more and more programs and services within our schools, so. – And Tamara, can you
tell me a little bit about what actually happens in these centers and what that looks like? – Sure. So we a have a full-time family community-resource coordinator that works at each of the centers, which are located within the schools. We have 14 elementary schools, two middle schools and
two high school centers. And what they do is really work with the principals and the
counselors and the teachers to identify what those
nonacademic barriers are to student learning. And then we go and try and
find solutions and partners that’ll help us address those barriers. We work closely with the parents to identify what they believe their children need to
be successful in school, and we create programs. They do everything from
food pantries in the school, so having a food pantry,
fresh food pantries that are pop-up pantries that happen a couple of times a month. We have clothing and hygiene closets. But above all, we really
work with our partners to see how we can bring
them into the school. So we did a community assessment and the top three needs both at our schools on the north end, which are higher SES and our schools on the south
end that are lower SES, three themes emerged, food, housing and behave… mental and behavioral health services. All the same across the district. And so that brings in the mobile where we’re trying to
mobilize the resources to we’ve been able to capture
throughout the community, through the Clark County Food Bank, other programs that offer weekly food bags and take those to all the
schools in the district. So meeting the kids where they’re at but then also meeting the
parents where they’re at, acknowledging that parents who can’t provide for their kids are under a lot of stress with the increase in rent that Dr. Webb mentioned earlier, number one in the nation for the fastest increase in rental cost. They’re spending more and more on the cost of keeping shelter so they have less money for food. The 50% of our students who are enrolled of the 24,000 students, those kids that qualify
for free and reduced lunch, there’s still a margin who don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch, but their families aren’t making enough to continually provide for them. So that’s where we come in with these programs with support from the community where we’re not having to be structured by USDA guidelines about who deserves to have food. We provide that food for kids. We make sure they have
food over the weekend and we make sure we they
have food in the holidays. Transportation is another barrier that many of our principals
came to us and said, “Our kids aren’t coming
to afterschool programs. What are we going to do?” We have these great programs, but they can’t come because there’s no transportation home. We work with Seatran which is our public
transportation department and they’ve now provide us a thousand free 12-month bus passes for students in our
middle and high school. In addition, the city came in and said, “We’ll also give them free access to the two city recreational
centers we have.” So that is the power of
partnership of coming to them with one simple problem of
needing to buy a bus pass and getting a solution bigger
than you could have imagined. So the coordinators in
addition to providing that. (audience clapping) Thank you. In addition to providing that kind of one-on-one
touch point for parents, it’s also about creating the opportunity for partners to come in and serve with us, alongside us. – Right. A lot of folks
talk about how schools are if there’s going to be a point of entry for mental health services for kids, it’s going schools, right? Because you’re very aware of what they’re going through. And so it’s interesting that you point that out as something that the
community identified as a need. – So we were able to mobilize
eight community partners who are now serving students within the school, so eight agencies with mental health and
behavioral health services. – Wow. – And as soon as the bond is under way, we’ll have more spaces to be able to allow them in the schools. – Awesome. – And it’s really a benefit to also to our district leadership, because our principals are now champions of this initiative as well. As you might imagine, this work really… whereas before, someone comes unto in a crisis situation mental health, the principal would have to
help navigate that system. And the principals aren’t necessarily… they’re not immersed in the
social services necessarily. So they have to take a lot of time to research and make calls and really investigate how to help on a case-by-case basis. And it takes the focus away from teaching and learning and being an instructional
leader at the building. So our principals are
particularly appreciative of the family community-resource
centers support as well as our teachers. – Just having a place
to know to ask, right? – Yes, absolutely. – And so how do you pay for all of these is I think what everyone is wondering. (host laughs) I hear some yes.
– Yes. (host laughs) – Well, our staffing for the family community-resource
center coordinator positions as well as a centralized team that provides leadership under Tamara’s direction, those positions are funded through our general operating levy, our basic education dollars. Initially, we funded those positions… some of those positions through Title I and state LAP resources but we found that to be difficult as we scaled up to more and more sites. So now we’ve made a commitment through our basic ed budget
to fund those positions. In addition to that, we have a wide range of
partners that actually provide the core programs and services for the community schools’ frameworks. So everything from
early learning providers to the faith-based community to nonprofit organizations
like Boys and Girls Club and SHARE, which is providing food on the weekends for students that take home and over the summer. So it’s just… as well as public agencies
like the City of Vancouver and Seatran that provide the bus passes and our Vancouver Housing Authority, housing vouchers for families that qualify as an incentive to improve attendance. They get a housing voucher if they do certain things to keep their children coming to school and be active in their
children’s education. So the range of partners
providing programs and services really runs the gamut. – So let me ask those of you who are still with us (audience laughs) Thank you for that. Shout out. A round of applause for all
those still in the house. (audience cheering) Yeah, baby. Right on. How many of you would like
your retirement portfolio to compound at a four to one ratio. (host laughs) Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. You want to talk about
return on investment? For every dollar that the district invests in staffing to support our 18 FCRCs and our mobile unit and all of the infrastructures centrally to build capacity not just across the system, but with our partners, right, it’s why we’re going slow
to going fast, right? Because we can’t inundate our partners. They will not be able to provide the kinds of
timely supports and services, unless we think deliberately
about scale, right? 3.2 million in direct support and services to children and families
impacted by poverty, friends, this is about removing barriers to student learning in our classrooms and our schools. That’s what this is about. And I’m proud of the support in which our community
has stepped forward. We’re doing the Lord’s work here, people. We are transforming student trajectories. We are cultivating hope, opportunity and building agency and kids and families, and frankly, transforming neighborhoods. That’s 16-point game and
an on-time graduation rate. This is what I tell
our business community. (audience clapping)
Yes, thank you for that. (host laughs) It’s not my work. – Yes. – It’s the work of a community that cares deeply about their children. Black, brown, poor,
second-language learners, All means all in
America’s Vancouver. Amen? (audience clapping) So this vision really is about equity and excellence for all, and the partnership support that has been brought to bear, really, frankly, is changing students lives. – What are some things that
you’ve seen as a result… Have you noticed trends in your district? – Yes. So we kind of think of our work from a pipeline perspective. This is like if you give
a mouse a cookie, right? Seriously, if you can increase the kindergarten readiness rate, we know with greater certainty, they’re more likely to be
at benchmark at third grade and literacy outcomes. So and if we can get them there, we know that they’re more likely to experience success in our middle schools. If we can reduce D and F rates in our middle schools, they’re more likely as a freshman to earn six credits. And if they get six credits, they’re more likely to
be an on-time graduate. So when we look at student
achievement results, how many of you in this system, and I don’t expect you
to raise your hand here at this moment, but if you could achieve
these kind of results by creating a community schools’ model in your school district, would you do this? Would you do this? Now just listen here. (host laughs) 21 point… Since 2010, a 21-point increase in early kindergarten literacy outcomes a 20-point decrease in third grade English
language learner literacy gap. These are our most struggling learners in our elementary schools. A 30% decrease in middle
school Di and F rates in core courses, that rate decreased at our
high school level as a 40%. 120% increase in middle school
honors course enrollment. A 200% increase in students
of poverty enrolled in advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses, friends, this is about
opportunity for all. Last year, 51% of our recent
graduates were enrolled in dual credit courses. And for those of us who have been writing checks
to universities, just saying, yes, Amen? (host laughs) – We know the return
on investment relative to those dual credit options
for children and for families. It’s a great value for kids, families and taxpayers of our state, and I would argue, taxpayers of any state in the Union. A 70% increase in SAT test takers, and inversely, given the trend nationally, a composite score increase of 40 points. We’ve got more black and
brown kids taking the SAT and headed to college. And their scores demonstrate that they are college-,
career- and life-ready. That’s a source of pride. – It’s awesome, great. So you’ve got these centers, which I suppose we should mention there’s a big family of
literacy component to this too, which you touched on a little bit. You have that in common with Springdale. You’ve got these centers in 17 schools. You have– – 18. – 18 schools. You have 17 schools that don’t have them, right? – Right. – So while the schools that have them have concentrated poverty, I’m not sure that’s not the
only poverty in your history. – Yes. – So how do you reach the kids who have these needs who are in schools without centers? – Well, we threw a visioning opportunity at our community symposium
around our strategic plan. This idea emerged about
creating a mobile FCRC because our buildings were
very limited on space, how could we mobilize resources that our community was calling us to give to those 22% in the school on the north end, but it has 2,200 kids? So even though it may be only
22% free and reduced lunch, that’s a lot of kids in one school that we need to be touching and serving. And so we played around
with different ideas, what will be the best delivery remodel, we came up with a Sprinter van and we just outfitted
the Sprinter van with, you can kind of see it in the
upper left-hand corner there, with shelving where we would
put some of these resources in and we would go out to the school and connect with families at the school even if
they didn’t have a center. We centrally located the individual, the full-time coordinator, who actually is our
first 12-month employee, in the middle of town so she could reach both the north end and the south end of schools that didn’t have a family
community-resource center. And she’s connecting
with families directly through principals,
counselors, paraeducators. She is able to give them referrals to the housing preference. So Section 8 rewrote
their preference criteria to include all students who are McKinney-Vento
eligible as homeless. So she was able to meet with parents at those schools and help them get that referral as well as providing fresh
food pantries, pop-up shops and as far as the parent
engagement component, we really work with the
dual-capacity framework for family school partnerships that Karen Mapp helped develop. And we look at our opportunities
for parent engagement, those great level literacy,
math, science events as ways to integrate
those parents’ strengths. Are we teaching parents how to motivate, how to advocate and how to be a support
for their child’s learning? And so we’ve just shifted
the lens in early learning. We do at 14 of the schools in Vancouver, we do a 1-2-3 Grow and Learn, which is a parent-child preschool program. That’s every week and anyone in the district can come to any one of those 14 sessions. So that’s connecting parents early. – Your coordinator for the
mobile unit is 12 months. – Yes. – So she goes out in the summer and meets needs in the community in the summertime as well. Wow! That’s really- – Yes. – That’s really something. – Sort of like a nice
ice cream truck, right? (audience laughing) – But not as creepy. (audience laughing) – What? – But it is. It’s really colorful and it’s got like kids painted on it, and you can… There’s a Twitter handle on it, correct? – U-huh. – So you can know where the mobile resource center is in the community, which is kind of a neat perk, right? – Also has Wi-Fi access (mumbles) – Yes. Everything you need.
– If you’re near it. (host laughs) – So we partnered with individuals on our community partners that are continuing to serve families like Boys and Girls Club or the SHARE summer lunch program to help build upon those
assets during the summer and kind of share back our resources, our personal resources
with those agencies. – Great. Well, I don’t know if I have time to get
to all of the questions that we have prepared but does anyone in the
audience have a question for these folks before we close out? Don’t be shy. I think you’re all just planning your community schools already, so you don’t have one, right? Well, thank you very much for being here. We really appreciate you all. (audience clapping)

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