Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Study shows impact of stress on learning for inner-city kids

The violence on city streets takes its toll on the young. A new survey by Bay Area researchers shows that one out of six of the sixth grade students they looked at suffer from post-traumatic stress.

Some kids are coping with a lot of stress both in and out of their homes.

"When I hear the gunshots, I get to the floor because you never know when a bullet is going to come through the window," said 20-year-old Richmond resident Calvanay Nunley. "I just wonder like who's next? Am I next?"

"I pretty much raised myself since I was five-years-old," said 21-year-old Zenaila Barr. "My mom had a heart attack. They revived her, but she had brain damage."

Imagine experiencing that, then going to school and trying to focus on learning.

"They're like balloons," said San Francisco's Omega Boys Club founder Joe Marshall. "Eventually they're going to pop if you don't let some of that stuff out."

For 25 years, Marshall has helped inner city young people deal with post traumatic stress to deflate those balloons.
"Our results have shown once you can help them do that, resolve those issues, help them deal with that balloon themselves, their academics take off," explained Marshall.

Now, thanks to a federally funded study that just began in San Francisco, more students in public schools may be getting that help.

The study by SRI International Researchers in Menlo Park focuses on incoming middle school students starting the 6th grade. If parents give permission, students first answer questions about the trauma they've experienced. Then indicate if they're having symptoms of post-traumatic stress such as nightmares, flashbacks, fear, guilt, withdrawal, rage.

"What this has been able to do is identify students we wouldn't have known about otherwise," said Erika Rubinstein Stine, a social worker at Aptos Middle School in San Francisco.

16 percent of the students tested scored high in post-traumatic stress.  That's one out of every six students tested. 63 sixth graders with the very highest PTSD symptoms, including 15 at Aptos Middle School, now are in the next part of the study.

Half of them are getting traditional counseling at school and refererrals for private therapy. The other half gets something new: ten weeks of specialized group therapy with social workers already at the seven participating schools.

Rubinstein Stine said she was surprised by how many youngsters are severely traumatized by fear of deportation or the stress of living in poverty.

"[It's] a fear thermometer. It's actually a tool for them to understand their feelings," said Rubinstein-Stine.
The purpose of the four-year study is to determine whether the specialized group therapy actually improves academic achievement.

"It's a good investment because we want to learn what is affecting students. We want to learn how to help them," said SRI Co-Principal Researcher Carl Sumi.

Money well spent to prevent dropouts and underachievers. Young adults who had been exposed to similar stress applauded the program.

"I think it should start in elementary school and keep teaching it,"  said Nunley.
"A person can only take so much. It just like, 'I'm not alone,'" said Barr.

While there may not be a way to stop the violence, the researchers and therapists can teach the youngsters how to cope with it.

Watch a video clip of this story here:

SPECIAL REPORT: Study shows some inner-city students suffering...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

SF teens learn lessons in love, tolerance at fest

Salvador Martinez (left) smiles as Iealis Williams gets the
giggles at their mock wedding at Galileo High School.
Galileo High School celebrated Valentine's Day in a style befitting San Francisco on Tuesday as hundreds of students lined up to "marry" their sweethearts regardless of gender, sexual orientation or relationship status.
They then learned how to correctly put on a condom using goggles that gave them a drunken view of things, and played a variety of games that promoted safer sex.

The school's annual "Love Fest" drew hundred of teens in the school's central courtyard.

While a federal appeals court in San Francisco only last week ruled that a California ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, Galileo students and staff said their fake teen weddings had nothing to do with that. The event, sponsored by the Gay Straight Alliance and the Wellness Center, tried to promote acceptance and tolerance at school and safe decisions in the intimate moments that could happen at that age.

At one table, health teacher Raina Meyers put goggles on students that made their vision slightly blurry, simulating a drunken state. She then told them to put a condom on a wooden penis.

Most of the students left air in the condom tip, which could lead to breakage, and that prompted an instructional rebuke from Meyers.

"You're pregnant!" Meyers told one girl who failed the drunk-goggle test, and to a boy, "You have gonorrhea."
A handful of students milled about at the safer sex exhibits, but the biggest draw was the wedding table, where students fidgeted as they waited for their nuptials.

They signed a photocopied marriage certificate and said a quick "I do" when a student officiant asked about taking the other person as spouse.

The marriage was sealed with optional, one-size-fits-all plastic gold bands.

Friday, February 10, 2012

School Based Mentoring Helps Youth Succeed in School and Beyond

By: Carlos Garcia, via The SF Examiner

Mentors, backed by quality mentoring programs, play a powerful role in preventing substance abuse and youth violence, as well as boosting academic achievement and workforce readiness. In several San Francisco public schools, mentors are working with at-risk youth through a school district program called Mentoring for Success.

Mentoring for Success began matching individual students with adult mentors seven years ago. Since then the program has expanded to 36 schools serving 600 students. Over the past seven years 2,000 students have gained guidance and support from caring adults at school; eighty-six percent of mentored students say their mentors help them do better in school. 

Project Arrive, one of Mentoring for Success’ newest programs, just began working in Thurgood Marshall, John O’Connell, Galileo, and Mission High Schools this fall. It provides group mentoring for ninth graders, with a history of poor attendance flagged by SFUSD’s Early Warning Indicator (EWI) system. Since being in the program students with Project Arrive mentors at Mission High have begun outperforming their cohorts at other schools.

 “It’s giving us a way to help keep struggling students from falling through the cracks. It’s really been the right thing for our school,” says Mission High’s principal Eric Guthertz who is also taking part as a mentor.

Become a Mentor

Mentoring for Success encourages structured, consistent and purposeful relationships between a young person and a caring adult who provides acceptance, support, encouragement, guidance and concrete assistance to promote healthy youth development and student success.

January is National Mentoring Month and SFUSD's Mentoring for Success program is recruiting new mentors. Read more about being a mentor for Mentoring for Success at www.healthiersf.org/mentoringforsuccess

For information about other mentoring opportunities near you go to www.nationalmentoringmonth.org

Today on Your Call: What’s working in schools?

On today's Your Call we’ll talk about education success stories.  With another round of severe budget cuts and a heated debate about education reform led by corporate funded think tanks, we’re taking a step back to talk about what’s actually working in our schools. Smaller class sizes? Textbooks that are more relevant to everyday life? More support for teachers?  Join us at 10 or email feedback@yourcallradio.org. What works in your local schools?  It’s Your Call with Holly Kernan, and you.

Katy Murphy, education reporter for the Oakland Tribune
Eric Guthertz, principal of Mission High School
Kathy Schultz, dean and professor of education in the School of Education at Mills College

SFUSD partners with School of Education


“In education, it is the worst of times and the best of times,” said Claude Steele, dean of the Stanford School of Education, at a lunchtime presentation Tuesday that discussed a partnership between Stanford and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Steele opened the event by stating that this “partnership is a model for how schools of education can relate to real school districts.”

The panelists said that though school districts are facing budget cuts, changes in technology and educational research can make it possible to get rid of old deadwood methodologies that no longer work.

“Finland, with the most equitable education system, improved their schools using American research,” Steele said. He noted the importance of coordination and the need to grapple with practical problems.

Steele emphasized the need for a broader recognition of the importance of education to quality of life and the economy. He said he would like to see a proper “distribution of good education into all communities — the entire population.”

SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia took time to thank Stanford for the partnership and referenced the often political nature of debate about education.

“After 37 years in the business, I learned that we all make a lot of assumptions, many of them wrong and the world changes,” Garcia said. He also noted that he believes facts should be regarded as the most important indicator in debate, saying, “the data does not take political sides.”

Garcia added that because of the economic crisis, it is important that school systems do not “spend resources on places that don’t get us results.”

Nancy Waymack, SFUSD’s executive director of policy and operations, agreed, saying, “If you’re sitting on a dead horse, get off.”

Waymack referenced the idea that if an old curriculum isn’t working, it should be replaced, not constantly retooled.

Read more at The Stanford Daily