A Far Too Common Picture

on Thursday, May 12, 2016 Posted in Stories, Happenings, School Partnership Network

Over the past several years, SPN has been working with our local school districts to identify ways we can bring the faith community to the table to address the ongoing needs of the students and families they serve. Recently, a case study prepared by the Vancouver Public Schools brought these ongoing issues into stark relief.

"Family poverty and in-out migration present significant challenges throughout the district, especially at schools in the inner-urban areas, where more than 80 percent of students, on average, are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Decades of experience and research show that the factors associated with growing up in poverty, such as unmet basic needs, family mobility, inadequate medical and dental care, mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, violence, and gang involvement impede student learning. Family engagement in schools also suffers and, as a result, these schools often struggle to ensure that teachers can do their jobs effectively, and that all students can fulfill their potential."

In just the past month, 3 different District Superintendents of our local public schools echoed these same concerns.

At SPN we get asked all the time about what the faith community can do to truly serve their local schools. We've found that's a two–tiered question:

1. What are the needs of the teachers, administrators and facilities?

2. What are the needs of the students and their families?

Many of the faith-based school partnership efforts focus on addressing the first part of that question. Yet many times, the more pressing need is not in the classroom, but in the home of the students. What could churches do to address these "student and family" needs, many of which often go unaddressed or even "unseen?"

The Vancouver School District case study identified 9 common areas that impact student attendance and performance:

• Chronic health issues

• Housing mobility

• Childcare

• Food

• Clothing

• Mental health

• Environmental factors

• Parenting Support

• Cultural Issues

Source: Adapted from The Connection Between Missing School and Health: A Review of Chronic Absenteeism and Student Health in Oregon, Upstream Public Health, October 2014.

What could your church do to impact individual students and their families by addressing some of these more personal needs? You may not be able to solve all the issues evident at your adopted school, but you could make a huge difference in the lives of individual students and their families who are struggling in one of these areas. At SPN, we're convinced both approaches are needed now more than ever!