10 Lessons from New York City Schools: What Really Works to Improve Education

For those in the service of youth, hope springs eternal at summer’s end. Back-to-school season triggers memorable sensory registers: the smell of sharpened pencils, the smooth cover of the composition book with its sea of untouched pages, the sounds of gathering youth returning to their primary occupation of student. For educators, the senses seem heightened, eagerly seeking fresh approaches to make the upcoming year the most engaging, effective, and productive year of their professional lives.

Essential Resources and Programs for Achieving Higher Education

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth published “College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers.” This comprehensive guide by Christina Dukes:

Gives advice to professionals working with homeless youth for every step of the process from selecting a school to applying for admissions, financial aid and private scholarships, and succeeding once enrolled. Addresses overcoming common barriers, such as completing financial aid forms for young people who no longer have relationships with their parents. Lists federal programs that can help disadvantaged student enter, pay for and graduate from post-secondary programs, including Upward Bound, GEAR UP and Student Supportive Services Programs, as well as federal protections given to students under the McKinney-Vento Act. Contains a tip sheet for college students experiencing homelessness. NAEHCY also has a helpline for homeless youth who want to attend college — which also advises adults working with these youth — as well as numerous other online resources for financial aid and other issues for homeless youth: naehcy.org/educational-resources/higher-ed

Casey Family Programs published “Supporting Success: Improving Higher Education Outcomes for Students from Foster Care” (bit.ly/Hz2NYG) by John Emerson and Lee Bassett.

Increasing Access to Higher Education

Mynecia Taylor, 18, studies for the ACT at her apartment on January 6, in St. Louis, Miss. Taylor opted out of foster care at the age of 18, losing some benefits she would have received until age 21. She would like to opt back in to get benefits available to college students, and legislation has been proposed to allow that. (Photo by Lauri Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT) 

This summer, 26 foster youth going into 9th and 10th grade will spend four weeks living in dormitories at George Washington University as part of a year-long effort to expose them to — and prepare them for — college life.

Sports Safety: A Second Opinion

Dr. Steve Rowson, of Virginia Tech’s Center for Injury Biomechanics, recently released a report evaluating injuries in youth football. “There are more players at the youth level [so] this is an important subset to study and better understand how you might reduce concussion incidents in the future,” he said. Whereas Dr. Michael Collins’ study (see main story) found that most concussion incidents occurred during games, Rowson’s study found greater rates of high-magnitude head impacts during practices. By changing drills and other procedures, Rowson believes youth football programs can reduce the rates of high impact head collisions among players — which is something any youth sports or rec program can learn from. “It’s a product of the practice structure,” he said, noting that Pop Warner already revised its rules, reducing the practice of certain drills and contact configurations that may lead to severe head impacts.

What All Youth Sports Program Managers Should Know

The Ebinport youth football team runs onto the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., prior to the preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants on Aug. 13, 2011. (Photo by Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT)

Chris Prawdzik, president of Chicago’s North Shore Youth Football Club, knows the ins and outs of youth football programming quite well. Youth Today recently asked the seven-year veteran of youth football management about key practices all directors and operators should to ensure a successful — and safe — experience for the nation’s youngest athletes. Concussion Policies
“Set a policy, make sure everyone is aware of it, and you have everybody on board,” Prawdzik said.

Detector Protector: High School Athlete Dedicates Off-Field Time to Concussion Sensor Device Development

Braeden Benedict poses for a portrait at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2012. Benedict won a national science award for a device (below) that can be fitted into youth football and lacrosse helmets to help identify potential concussions. He has applied for a patent. (Photos by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

In the Southern California coastal community of Palos Verdes, one high school student is developing devices that could help thousands of young people avoid serious sports-related brain injuries.

Insurance Shopping: Questions and Consideration

While a thoughtful policy and procedure manual will help manage an after-school program’s risk, the program should also consider what kinds of insurance it needs, according to a Utah Department of Workforce Services manual entitled “ABC 123, Starting Your Afterschool Program.”

Melanie Lockwood Herman, executive director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center urges programs to think about the activities the program offers and what could go wrong when deciding whether to purchase insurance. They should also contemplate what they can afford, how long the activity will last, and whether they are the best entity to manage the risk and limit the harm, she advised. In those instances where the program is using another organization’s space, for example, the host organization may be better suited to carry insurance on the property. Checking the state’s child care resource and referral agency or child care licensing department will also tell the program whether there are state-specific insurance coverage requirements, according to the manual. When shopping for insurance, the manual recommends asking the following questions created by the National Network for Child Care:

• What are the requirements to be insured?

After School Programs: Managing Risks and Limiting Liabilities

With a life-threatening peanut allergy, Mason Machiewicz’s mom, Alissa, keeps a strict peanut-free home. Having just completed her search for a private kindergarten program for Mason in the fall, Alissa paid close attention to programs’ food safety policies and practices. Organizations that did not have emergency allergy plans posted in classrooms, detailed staff policies for identifying and handling food allergies, staff training on the signs of an allergic reaction and a written food-allergy policy that is shared with parents were not given serious consideration, she said. Educational enrichment was obviously an important deciding factor, she added, but her son’s safety was her first priority. Educational and enrichment programs “are essential to keep kids safe, engage children in enriching activities, and give peace of mind to moms and dads during the out-of-school hours,” according to the After School Alliance, which notes that 15.1 million U.S. school-aged children are unattended after school and could use after-school programming.