“Schools should provide comprehensive wraparound services, and make them accessible to all students.”
This is the position of many education thought leaders who understand that the associated issues of poverty can severely limit a student’s potential.
Yes, it is true — schools must work to provide wraparound services for all students, especially the ones who come from social conditions exacerbated by poverty. We’ve known this for a while — at least since 2015 when a Southern Education Foundation study found that the majority of our nation’s public school students come from households in financial distress. It was clear through their research that if schools are to appropriately meet the needs of students, then efforts must be made to support them beyond the classroom.
If an increased focus on educating the “whole child” is to occur, the metrics by which schools are evaluated must be revisited. The reality is that there is a palpable and ironic dissonance between whole child education and most schools’ enduring focus on producing strong academic results. If we were serious about bridging the gap between the two, we would see change; we would demand that schools and school districts have clear goals related to the provision of non-academic supports for children. Unfortunately, when a school’s effectiveness is solely viewed through the prism of academic performance, adjusting to a wider focus that also prioritizes socio-emotional needs becomes more difficult.
For years, it has been argued that academic standards should be more rigorous, and expectations for student performance be heightened. Only recently have those conversations been enriched by queries into the underlying conditions that help produce improved student performance. The most important of these are the human condition — essentials famously articulated by Abraham Maslow through his Hierarchy of Needs. The plain truth is that socio-emotional support for students is vital to their academic success, and schools work better for children when they function within systems that prioritize both.
So What Are We Doing?
At Banneker High School, we have taken up the charge to make our school more useful and relevant. Inspired by the trailblazing work of Leigh Colburn of The Centergy Project, we have recently launched a new Student and Family Engagement (S.A.F.E.) Center which builds on our commitment to remove all barriers to student success. Through the Student and Family Engagement Center, we will make a variety of social services more accessible for our students in need; services like mental health counseling, behavioral support and intervention, and food and clothing provisions. This, we believe, is most crucial to our process of ensuring that students do not succumb to the many stumbling blocks set before them.
Although the academic development of our students remains a priority, it has become abundantly clear that our work as a school community must be more dynamic. Our work now extends to providing supports for the whole child. More importantly, this shift is birthed out of a moral duty that we are deeply committed to.