Video: School teaches kids to ‘be the change’

  1. Closed captioning of: School teaches kids to ‘be the change’

    >>> this morning on "education nation" a different approach to helping students learn. it's been said that it takes a village to raise a child. and cincinnati , ohio, is showing us it takes a community coming together to help that very child succeed. jeremiah davis is about to turn 2 years old. before he was even born, his mother was already learning how to take care of him. it's part of a program called every child succeeds, one of hundreds just like it in cincinnati , focus on guiding children.

    >> i needed a lot. i didn't know the techniques it takes to be a parent.

    >> across town at john parker elementary school , an effort called be the change has volunteer tutors working one-on-one with students.

    >> i know a lot more stuff than i did last year.

    >> we need to encourage them more.

    >> some city schools are called community learning centers using a wraparound approach to improve students' academic success.

    >> that is what makes our program so successful that we mix emotional and academic to get the whole child.

    >> and the support doesn't stop there. here at the school students have access to dental, medical, even vision services here in the building. the thinking? tackle the problems outside the classroom so that the students can concentrate more when they're in them.

    >> i had children who were without a place to live, so every day when they walked in, they were a little concerned as to where they were going to go home that night.

    >> in 2006 educators partnered with more than 300 organizations including corporations and nonprofits to form a pardoner inship focused on a common vision, helping students perform better.

    >> everyone is pulling in the same direction. services are aligned.

    >> the results are encouraging. there's been a 13% rise in kipd garthen readiness and 11% increase in high school graduation. and college enrollment is up 7% thanks to the emphasis on education at an early age.

    >> when they are exiting us at eighth grade and heading to high school , we actually have partnerships developed to make sure our kids understand what is my skill set? what is my interest? what are my talents? the most conversations begin at preschool and they progress all the way up.

    >> these last four years in cincinnati public schools we have seen a large increase in academic achievement.

    >> in addition to it academics, school superintendent mary ronan thinks cincinnati 's business model is sustainable.

    >> i really do 0 think the blended funding model with the public/private partnership is the way you have to go because right now no one has enough resources to do it by themselves and it's only with us all coming together trying to pool the money to get the most bang for the buck , so to speak, in thames of providing services for our youngsters.

    >> planning for the future by getting an early start. bam! nice job, buddy. absolutely adorable. to learn more on how you can get involved in your community especially with this program, go to our website, and one program note we want to mention, this year's education includes a summit here in new york with a teacher town hall hosted by brian williams this afternoon. it airs live on msnbc today at noon eastern, 9:00

Image: Social worker Heidi Sullivan visits home of Maressa Wagner and Calvin Boggs
NBC News
Every Child Succeeds social worker Heidi Sullivan visits the home of Maressa Wagner, Calvin Boggs and their son, 8-month-old Calvin Jr., twice a month. The visits focus on healthy brain development and early literacy skills.
Special to NBC News
updated 9/23/2012 11:25:12 AM ET 2012-09-23T15:25:12

Editor's note: This story is one in a 10-part series on education solutions featured at the 2012 Education Nation summit in New York on Sept. 23-25. To learn more about these schools and how they made these solutions work, please visit for a complete “digital toolkit.”

Eight-month-old Calvin Boggs Jr., grinned when social worker Heidi Sullivan pulled a cardboard book emblazoned with the face of the character Thomas the Tank Engine out of her bag.

"What is that? It's a book! Go get it!" Calvin’s mother, Maressa Wagner, said. Calvin grabbed the book and stuffed its corner into his mouth.

"I know you look at it and you're like, ‘Oh, he's going to ruin this book,’ because he's licking on it and gumming on it,” Sullivan told Wagner and Calvin’s father, Calvin Boggs Sr. “But it's OK! Because it's actually kind of the earliest of early literacy skills: to get him familiar with it, and feel the texture and look at the pictures up close.”

Building a hearty appetite for reading at an early age is just one part of a “cradle to career pipeline” intended to guide and support every child in the city from the moment they are born, though college and, ultimately, into a job. It’s a network that has been a decade in the making, thanks to the strong support of community leaders, educators, businesses, nonprofits, social-services and health-care workers and volunteers.

'Digital toolkit': Community as the center of learning

Calvin is one of its youngest beneficiaries. Sullivan, who works for the nonprofit social services agency Every Child Succeeds, has regularly visited Wagner at her home since before Calvin was born, and continues to see the family twice a month. Her goal is to help Wagner, Boggs and other first-time, at-risk parents raise their babies in a stimulating, nurturing environment.

There are indications that the early intervention and sustained support are working: The percentage of children deemed ready for kindergarten, while still just over 50 percent, has increased 9 percent since 2005. Eighth-grade math scores for Cincinnati public school students have increased 24 percent over the same period. Officials with Strive Partnership, which provides an organizational backbone to the collaboration, estimate that around 100,000 children and students participate in the partnership in some fashion.

Attracting national interest
The Cincinnati model has attracted national interest. The Obama administration has dedicated $40 million to a “Promise Neighborhoods” initiative that encourages community groups to form similar partnerships.

Many cities have loose networks of educational, social service and philanthropic agencies. But it’s rare for a network to be focused on the singular goal of raising student achievement. Also key is getting agreement on a common method of tracking their work, said Greg Landsman, the executive director of Strive.

“Can you get them to agree on a common set of goals and shared outcomes?” Landsman said. “We did many, many years ago, and now we've been working toward those shared goals.”

If the pipeline works the way Cincinnati community leaders hope it will, Calvin and his family will continue to work with Sullivan for the next two years. When Calvin is 3, Sullivan will help his parents place him in a preschool program, which will continue to work with him to develop the basic vocabulary and literacy skills he’ll need to become a strong reader.

And when Calvin finishes preschool and enters kindergarten, he may come under the watchful eye of someone like Kimberly Mack.

Mack is the principal of John P. Parker School, one of Cincinnati Public School’s “community learning centers.” The schools offer not just regular classes, but also tutoring and after-school programs, health-care services and outreach for parents and other community members, all under the same roof.

Mack has a spreadsheet of incoming kindergartners that shows how each student has fared by various measures of school readiness, including how many days of preschool they missed the previous year. One student, she said, had missed 53 days and was late an additional 28 days.

Education Nation: Read more and make your voice heard

“So we know by having that type of attendance in preschool, in kindergarten they’re going to need a lot of extra help,” Mack said. “So this is a child that we know, number one, our social worker needs to go talk to that parent. ...Then, from there, we know this child probably needs tutoring.”

As the students progress through the school, Mack and her tutoring coordinator, Patsy Holmes, can use a database developed by the school system and Strive to see exactly where students are struggling academically and assign and track tutors accordingly.

Image: Victoria Faris with Ashley and Jeremiah Davis
NBC News
Victoria Faris, left, visits with Ashley and Jeremiah Davis as part of Every Child Succeeds.

Computers and sticky notes
Holmes also uses color-coded sticky notes on a large whiteboard to track which students are working with tutors supplied by a half-dozen community organizations. If a student moves away — which happens frequently at this high-poverty, high-mobility school — Holmes can quickly reassign the sticky note representing a tutor to another student.

The ability to link social service, tutoring and mentoring to activities in the classroom is proving key to pushing students to success, said Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan.

When the district launched the Community Learning Center Initiative in 2001, Ronan said, the resource coordinators were immediately able to bring social services into the schools. But academic outcomes in the schools remained low.

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'Digital toolkit': Community as the center of learning

“So it wasn't until we figured out that we needed to align all of those partners in the building, so they're all moving in the same direction,” Ronan said. “That's what I believe really contributed to the huge jump in academic achievement in the district.”

Linda Stover, who has volunteered as a tutor at Parker through the organization Whiz Kids since 2004 — working with the same student the whole time — said that the shared commitment to the students’ success is the glue that holds the partnership together.

“There is that community, like we’re sort of all in this together, working for the good of this child, educating this child,” Stover said. “And it’s a very impactful time, not just for the student, but also for the tutor. One of the sayings that we have at Whiz Kids is that one hour a week produces two changed lives, and that’s exactly what occurs.”


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