Atila in El Dorado County, CA (from a series of Bellwether visuals)
Young people served by multiple agencies — like schools, mental health providers, child welfare agencies, and community nonprofits — experience a fragmented network of care. In fact, as Bellwether has pointed out again and again, fragmentation across care agencies results in uncoordinated, poorly communicated, and insufficient supports for some of our nation’s most vulnerable young people. And this means they are not getting the education they need and deserve.
We’ve been working on these issues, both as researchers and consultants on the ground, for more than two years. We’ve developed a unique approach to supporting local leaders as they streamline the educational supports for high-need students and break down the silos that exist between care agencies at the state and local levels.
Our approach places the education system at the center of all services, acting as the through-line for students. We do this because schools are the places where every kid shows up — education can be the one constant in the midst of chaos. Continue reading
“I don’t talk to many people about this,” she started. “But if you’re here to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else, then I want to tell you.” And then this young woman, a student we met through our work on education fragmentation, told us the story of how her stepfather sexually abused her and how her mother pulled her out of school after she reported it to a teacher. Erica (a pseudonym I’m using to protect her privacy) didn’t go back to school until six months later, once she’d moved cities to live with another family member. As far as she knew, her previous school never asked any questions — no one ever called the house or came looking for her.
This student was one of more than a dozen who we spoke to in schools across the country that shared their experiences of major disruptive life events that changed their education trajectories. Erica’s story in particular has stuck with me and makes me wonder: How we can help education systems better meet the needs of students for whom education may be the only consistent through-line in an otherwise chaotic time?
I believe that one of the first steps is to share stories like Erica’s. Many times, the people working to improve systems fragmentation for youth who experience disruptions to their education pathways are themselves removed from the direct impact of this work. Stories help practitioners know why this work matters and better understand the consequences of getting it wrong.
While empathy is a powerful tool for change and is, perhaps, a fundamental precondition for it, how do we account for the cost of sharing a personal story to the storyteller? Continue reading
I have an opinion piece out today in the print and online editions of Hawaii’s paper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (note that the online version is behind a paywall). Hawaii senator Brian Schatz is the author of a bill that would expand Pell Grant access for people in prison. I argue that more access is essential, but that more without better isn’t enough:
The research is clear that education during incarceration reduces recidivism and improves outcomes. These programs save money and make everyone safer. Having more and better programs should be a no-brainer. But since there are so many types of programs, and the people who participate in these programs didn’t get to choose their college, it’s essential that we also think about quality and equity: Is everyone getting access to a high-quality program that meets their needs?
Read the full op-ed here. And check out some of our other work on education opportunity and quality behind bars.
Some of our country’s most vulnerable students get too little from too many people. Read more from me and Kelly Robson over at The Hechinger Report:
Approximately five million students who are served by public care agencies have multiple official adults in their lives — judges, lawyers, therapists, volunteers, teachers, counselors, case managers, social workers and more — people paid to support them when they experience significant life circumstances like homelessness, foster care or incarceration.
That five million does not include those students who experience instability resulting from uncounted experiences like evictions, parental arrests, prolonged family medical crises, migrant work and other major life disruptions. These are generally not students who are “falling through the cracks” and being served by no one. Quite the opposite — they are instead being served by everyone.
Bellwether is currently partnering with California’s El Dorado County to address education fragmentation. Our Hechinger piece is a great story about the folks we’ve been working with and the impact this work can have. For more context, check out our recent report: “Continuity Counts: Coordinated Education Systems for Students in Transition.”
More than 30,000 teachers are still striking in Los Angeles, so clearly the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. ASFCME didn’t kill the unions yet. Will it ever? Maybe someday — and maybe soon.
I wrote about the unions’ legal road ahead for The Hill last month:
Janus has teed up a challenge to how employees become members of a union in the first place — and if that challenge is successful, its effects will be seismic. On its face, the question is straightforward: If non-members now have to opt in to paying agency fees, then why don’t employees have to opt in to joining the union in the first place?
I don’t have a prediction for how this strike will resolve, but it’s unlikely to have any effect on the long-term prognosis for the unions.