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First national guidelines established for integrated student support programs in K-12 schools

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The first national guidelines to help K-12 schools create successful, cost-effective approaches to provide integrated student support that address both in-school and extracurricular barriers to learning — from hunger, to mental health, to basic needs — have been released by a national working group convened by Boston College.

With integrated support programs and policies for students in 24 states, experts and educators in the field developed the first step-by-step blueprint for school districts to implement their own initiatives. The guidelines share best practices based on two decades of research, program implementation, and success at the scale needed to improve student performance and well-being, especially in under-resourced schools.

The Integrated Student Support model has emerged as an essential option for schools and communities that are placing a renewed emphasis on student mental health and well-being in the wake of three academic years overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress imposed on students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

“New insights from development science, research and evaluation, and implementation in US schools make this an opportune time to share what has been learned about best practices so that more schools can provide even more effective student support,” said Boston College Kearns Professor Mary E Walsh, a workgroup organizer and the founder of City Connects, an integrated student support program, serving 45,000 students in 139 public, charter and Catholic schools in Massachusetts and four other states, as well as 10 schools in Dublin, Ireland.

“There is some evidence that we need to address students’ needs as well as their strengths and interests,” Walsh added. “If done right, it can change students’ learning outcomes and lifetime opportunities.”

Integrated Student Support, a term first used in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, is defined as “an evidence-based approach for schools to provide student support through the deliberate and systematic use of the resources and relationships available in the school and in the surrounding community to address the comprehensive strengths and needs of each student in a school to help promote healthy development and learning in children.”

Studies by a number of researchers, including those from the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, have shown that students who received integrated student support during elementary school show:

  • Higher academic performance
  • Improved attendance, commitment and engagement at school
  • Lower dropout later in high school
  • Better Social-Emotional Outcomes

In addition to City Connects, there are other groundbreaking programs that have shown that integrated student support initiatives can be implemented at scale: Building Assets Reducing Risks (BARR), launched in 1999, has more than 200,000 students and 33,000 educators in more than 200 schools helped; Communities In Schools, launched in 1977, served 1.6 million students in 2,900 schools this year. This fall, the New York City Department of Education will implement integrated student support as part of its Community Schools program in more than 400 schools.

The guidelines are designed to help schools develop their own approaches to ‘getting the right resources to the right student at the right time’. They focus on the six core components of resource allocation and budgeting, staffing structure, community and consensus building, data collection and management, and integration of student support into day-to-day school activities.

“These guidelines bring together in a systemized and organized way what schools are already doing,” said Abe Fernández, director of the National Center for Community Schools. “They describe how schools can better utilize their resources and the resources of the community to provide children and families with comprehensive support and opportunities.”

Using existing resources to promote student success is an integral part of the guidelines.

“We can help established programs and schools that want to take a more targeted approach to address students’ comprehensive strengths and needs to be more effective,” said A. Brooks Bowden, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “As we spend money on education, social services, health care, mental health and youth development programs, these guidelines show how those resources can be used more efficiently and effectively.”

More and more states are investing in student support programs. The states of Texas and West Virginia are investing to disperse communities in schools. Indiana and Massachusetts support the implementation of City Connects. The state of California recently passed a ballot to spend $2.8 billion on community schools.

“Community partnerships are critical to student success,” said Michael Huang, vice president at Communities In Schools. “Our challenge and opportunity to move forward is to coordinate and integrate community resources to ensure they work as one cohesive system of support serving students and schools.”

The Biden administration is also seeking to expand funding for the federal Full Service Community Schools program, which includes integrated student support.

“There is a growing recognition of the need for community resources to intervene in school systems,” said Angela Jerabek, founder and executive director of the BARR Center. “These national guidelines provide a roadmap for these strong partnerships. We realize that evidence-based guidelines are needed to… foster a personalized culture of support and success for each student, both inside and outside the classroom.”

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More information:
For more information on the National Guidelines for Integrated Student Support, please visit: www.integratedstudentsupport.org

Provided by Boston College

Quote: First National Guidelines for Integrated Student Support Programs in K-12 Schools (2022, June 29) Retrieved June 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-national-guidelines-student-k- school. html

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