Positive learning outcomes for high-school students are essential for their future prosperity and allow them to become full-fledged members of society. However, their achievement can be complicated by the gaps in initiatives intended to develop abilities. In Monroe Comprehensive High School, they are related to soft and social skills, whereas basic knowledge is addressed. To grasp their meaning for young people, it is crucial to examine the community and the organization with their demographics, underpin their needs by research, and create suitable projects. They will be based on community, school, and parent partnership, which will help meet the identified goals. In this way, creating a favorable studying environment will be ensured through careful examination of external factors and promoted by including all participants in the process.
The school is located in Dougherty County, and its demographics reflect the unfavorable position of families with children. According to the statistics, the population amounted to 87,956 inhabitants in 2019, and this indicator is gradually declining (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). The median household income is $30,186, which is slightly lower than the average numbers of other counties in Albany (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). This fact contributes to the conclusion on the less favorable conditions of students from the area compared to their peers from other communities.
Moreover, the percentage of persons in poverty adds to the above circumstances and confirms this stance. As per the survey, a total of 31% of the population in Dougherty County live in poverty, whereas this indicator for children under eighteen years is 40,2% (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). In the community, the numbers of children aged five to seventeen years from low-income families amount to 6,473 persons or 37,6% of all people of this age group (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). Hence, this factor seems no less significant in determining the unprivileged position of students from the district compared to other locations.
As for education, the problems of students in Dougherty County concerning their living standards after graduating from high school are also reflected by the statistics. Thus, even though 82% of the population have a high school degree, only 19% of people continue their studies to get a bachelor’s degree or higher (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). This situation explicitly indicates the presence of issues preventing citizens from improving their position in society.
The critical nature of the case is underpinned by other demographic characteristics, which indirectly demonstrate schools’ problems. First, the current unemployment rate in the county is 8,6% as of 2020, and it is rapidly growing compared to the previous five years (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). Second, the number of young people aged fifteen to seventeen in the area continues to increase since 2012 (“Social and economic data,” n.d.). These indicators also prove that particular attention of policymakers should be paid to students of high schools in the community to ensure their opportunities to find a good job in the future.
Monroe Comprehensive High School is an educational institution for students of ninth to twelfth grades. At present, it provides services for a total of 1,181 children, and the most recent College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) score for this school is 64,8 (“College and Career Ready Performance Index,” n.d.). In addition, the three-year average per-pupil expenditure in this facility amounts to $10,984.42 (“College and Career Ready Performance Index,” n.d.). Meanwhile, 100% of the school students are economically disadvantaged, which means that their future as college students or workers is of great importance for the state (“2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI),” n.d.). They live in poverty with minimal resources, and, therefore, it is vital to examine their needs to meet them thoroughly. In this way, it can be concluded that this population group is especially vulnerable due to the low socioeconomic status of these children’s families.
The general statistics regarding the situation in the school are confirmed by the community’s principal indicators in this regard. According to them, the overall score of students is significantly lower than that of other schools in the area (“2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI),” n.d.). The same applies to content mastery, which is only 47,6%, meaning that half of the children do not benefit from the knowledge and cannot use it in practice (“2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI),” n.d.). In turn, the progress is average in comparison with other educational institutions in the city, and it amounts to 68,1% (“2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI),” n.d.). Thus, the overall situation of Monroe Comprehensive High School implies the balance between its advantages and drawbacks.
However, the most crucial factor regarding the general success of students in the learning process and its corresponding outcome is reflected by readiness. This parameter is defined as a combination of skills and other characteristics, including “literacy, student attendance, and college and career readiness,” among others (“2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI),” n.d.). In the case of the school under consideration, it is clear that the emphasis is on the first two principles, whereas the third notion is not sufficiently addressed (L. Johnson, personal communication, June 16, 2021). In other words, the school representatives claim that they take measures on the development of skills and career opportunities for students, whereas the practical decisions in the interview apply only to the former. The mentioned Standards-Based Classrooms, planning initiatives, regular meetings of leaders, effective lessons, and extracurricular activities are intended for promoting knowledge (L. Johnson, personal communication, June 16, 2021). Meanwhile, the acquisition of soft and social skills seems to be neglected, and this need should be adequately addressed to improve the efficiency of their work.
Description of the Need
The above analysis of demographics of the community and Monroe Comprehensive High School shows that the most critical need is the development of after-school programs to reinforce learning. This task should be aimed at acquiring social and soft skills, which will eventually encourage good citizenship among the participants. It can be addressed through community, school, and parent partnerships and will positively impact student achievement. The identification of this need was possible after combining the information received from Assistant Principal Lawanna Johnson and the statistics. These data show that the perceived school climate is lower than indicators reflecting discipline, attendance, and safety (“College and Career Ready Performance Index,” n.d.). This fact leads to the conclusion that the attitudes of students and their parents do not correlate with those of the school representatives. In other words, it is critical to pay attention to their communication in the classroom and the presence or absence of soft skills.
Currently, the programs developed by Monroe Comprehensive High School are aimed solely at improving academic results. Thus, the educators carefully select content and professional knowledge as per the needs of students, create relevant assignments, and plan and develop lessons accordingly (L. Johnson, personal communication, June 16, 2021). They also have an after-school program, but it does not address any other tasks but tutoring (L. Johnson, personal communication, June 16, 2021). The only available resources in this respect include the Boys and Girls Club and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), which are inefficient since parents cannot afford them (L. Johnson, personal communication, June 16, 2021). Therefore, this gap should be adequately addressed by the proposed interventions and included in the curriculum.
This requirement is confirmed by the research of scholars emphasizing the significance of the mentioned skills for encouraging good citizenship. According to their findings, social-emotional learning (SEL) incorporated into schools allows “closing opportunity gaps” and increases student engagement in the studying process (Carstarphen & Graff, 2018, p. 30; Yang et al., 2019). This solution can be applied to the lessons developed by teachers in Monroe Comprehensive High School to improve other indicators. In addition, cognitive and soft skills acquisition positively correlates with improvements in “performance of minority and disadvantaged students,” and the introduction of extracurricular programs, such as Nurture thru Nature (NtN), is beneficial for this objective (Jagannathan et al., 2019). Thus, the importance of meeting the identified need is underpinned by studies, which indicate the dependence of academic results on social and soft skills in students. In the end, the actions in this regard will contribute to the better achievement of students in the selected school and allows them to become full-fledged members of the community in the future.
Community, School, and Parent Partnership
The requirement to combine the efforts of multiple actors or, more specifically, establish community, school, and parent partnerships is explained by the financial limitations of families with children living in poverty. Since they cannot afford to pay for additional programs intended to develop social and soft skills underpinning academic knowledge, they should be enhanced by educators of Monroe Comprehensive High School during the lessons. The teachers can readjust their plans to this need by following the example of other institutions, which demonstrated the increase in efficiency after implementing similar projects. As a result, the positive impact of the suggested intervention on student achievement will be ensured through the incorporation of elements of other programs, which are typically expensive.
The proposed partnership to meet the described need should be based on various measures elaborated in the course of meetings of leaders in this field and the parents of children attending Monroe Comprehensive High School. As follows from the analysis above, the community’s interest in this project will be conditional upon the fact that the decline in the population is accompanied by the increase in the number of young people. They are the ones who are going to have the predominant influence on all affairs in the area and work for its benefit in the future. It means that their communication skills and the ability to demonstrate “conscientiousness, higher order thinking, empathy, and pro-social behavior” will determine the community’s prosperity (Jagannathan et al., 2019, p. 173). From this perspective, allocating funds to modify the curricula concerning the above considerations should be a priority. In brief, the financial aid on changing the school’s existing approach to lesson planning will be incorporated through discussing the measures in meetings with parents and teachers.
The mentioned partnership will provide extensive opportunities for children in the future concerning their further study and the presence of knowledge required for it. They will be motivated to get a bachelor’s degree or higher, and their skills and abilities will help them receive scholarships from the state. In this case, the financial situation of the affected families will not be complicated by growing expenses. The resources for implementing this idea will be provided by the community’s authorities, and the allocation of funds will be a single occasion rather than prolonged financing. The modification of programs will not require long-term interventions, and the adjustment period for teachers will be relatively short due to the unified nature of new requirements for their classes. In this way, the funds will be used for training initiatives for educators after adopting new rules and the development of the measures for incorporating them into the curricula.
The research on this subject proves the efficiency of similar programs developed for other schools. Thus, for example, the experience of policymakers in introducing the Nurture thru Nature experiment in public schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students shows the increased efficiency of the application of technical and math skills (Jagannathan et al., 2019). According to the scholars, children were reported to have positive shifts in “soft, socio-emotional competencies,” which led to the described outcome (Jagannathan et al., 2019, p. 187). Moreover, these methods improve “teacher–student relationships, student–student relationships, and teaching of social and emotional competencies,” which, in turn, are confirmed by cases of Atlanta Public Schools and educational facilities of Minnesota (Yang et al., 2018, p. 45; Carstarphen & Graff, 2018). Hence, evidence confirms the success of initiatives with similar demographics implying partnerships and suitability of the above components to this proposal.
The absence of community resources on partnerships adds to the need to develop corresponding guidelines. They should be elaborated as a part of this project for their further use in similar initiatives and include the definition of the feasibility of changes and funding options available on the official website. This proposal can be implemented with community resources allocated for modifying school curricula for incorporating tasks developing soft and social skills with the support of parents. The steps will be the request for funding, discussion at the meetings with all participants, introducing measures, and teacher training. The goals will be including “conscientiousness, higher order thinking, empathy, and pro-social behavior” in programs within one month to increase efficiency and conduct surveys among students to demonstrate the results (Jagannathan et al., 2019, p. 173). The contacts will be the community’s representative responsible for making decisions regarding funding, Assistant Principal coordinating teachers who develop new approaches, and the selected leader from parents providing feedback. Thus, the school needs to organize its actions and efficiently distribute tasks to make these partnerships happen.
To summarize, the community and Monroe Comprehensive High School statistics show that the main complications in the provision of educational services are related to financial limitations and poverty. Meanwhile, the efficiency can be improved primarily by modifying the programs to include measures for developing social and soft skills in students who cannot afford participation in other projects. Therefore, the most optimal solution is incorporating these elements in curricula through the involvement of educators, parents, and the community’s authorities. Similar initiatives in other districts happened to be successful, and if the proposal is accepted, the school will organize meetings to discuss changes and develop practical measures for their introduction.
2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). (n.d.). Georgia Department of Education. Web.
Carstarphen, M. J., & Graff, E. (2018). Seeding SEL across schools: Strategies for leaders. Educational Leadership, 76(2), 30-34. Web.
College and Career Ready Performance Index. (n.d.). Georgia Department of Education. Web.
Jagannathan, R., Camasso, M. J., & Delacalle, M. (2019). Promoting cognitive and soft skills acquisition in a disadvantaged public school system: Evidence from the Nurture thru Nature randomized experiment. Economics of Education Review, 70, 173-191. Web.
Social and economic data. (n.d.). Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Web.
Yang, C., Bear, G. G., & May, H. (2018). Multilevel associations between school-wide social-emotional learning approach and student engagement across elementary, middle, and high schools. School Psychology Review, 47(1), 45-61. Web.