As the 2021-22 school year kicks off, a new report — funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation — shares strategies for re-engaging students while also closing the school-to-prison pipeline.
For virtually all children — and especially for adolescents — the coronavirus pandemic interrupted important developmental milestones, as young people were cut off from their peer groups and missed significant life events. Many students were left facing an influx of new challenges and specific demographic groups — Black, Latino, those from low-income households, English language learners, and children with disabilities —struggled more than others.
Not surprisingly, schools across the country reported lower test scores and higher absentee rates than in years prior. Now, with a new academic year underway, these same schools are bracing for a significant uptick in behavioral issues and attendance problems.
The American Rescue Plan allocates $122 billion to public schools — the largest infusion of federal funding for elementary and secondary education in U.S. history. Schools across the nation have an opportunity to leverage these funds to help close the devastating school-to-prison pipeline. For such a shift to occur, school systems and their community partners must work together to minimize arrests, reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, enhance safety and foster student success.
A Way Forward
This report proposes a two-part reform strategy. Part one is an all-out effort to reengage students who have fallen behind or disengaged from school during the pandemic.
Part two is a push to permanently reduce longstanding racial and ethnic disparities and support vulnerable student populations — including youth with disabilities — by prioritizing opportunity over punishment.
America’s education system faces a year of unprecedented challenges — for both students and schools
Findings & Stats
A Harmful Hire
Nearly two million students nationwide attend schools with police officers but no guidance counselors. And, yet, the presence of school resource officers tends to increase the number of youth arrested at school while also exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities.
A Unique Opportunity
The American Rescue Plan allocates $122 billion to public schools. These funds, coupled with $68 billion in COVID-19 stimulus funding allocated in 2020, represents the largest infusion of federal funding for elementary and secondary education in U.S. history.
Strategies that have helped schools improve student attendance include gentle reminders (postcards, text messages, phone calls) to parents; occasional home visits from teachers; and free breakfast. For students already missing class, schools should explore enlisting the help of “success mentors” — community volunteers, older students, or school staff — to regularly meet with students on campus.
Statements & Quotations
Over the next three years, education officials across the nation will have at their disposal a previously unimaginable influx of financial resources which they can allocate toward virtually any approach they can reasonably describe as promising
We have all the tools and resources we need to dismantle the counterproductive discipline regimes of the past and adopt a new model that responds constructively to misbehavior and fosters success for all students.
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