Marion County Commission on Youth, or MCCOY, partnered with IUPUI on a recent project to assess school needs, including schools in Decatur and Warren townships and IPS. We spoke with Kate Roelecke, director of the Early Intervention and Prevention initiative for MCCOY, to learn more about this partnership.
What was the goal of the project?
This project, organized by the Education Workgroup of the Early Intervention Planning Council in Marion County, aimed to identify the challenges schools experience in addressing the complex needs of their students, including the gaps that exist between schools and community services and resources. This assessment was completed in order to develop strategies that will close those gaps, so students and school personnel have the supports they need to succeed.
How would this work help the community?
Schools were facing challenges before the global pandemic, and those challenges have been exacerbated now. It is now more critical than ever to establish strong networks and partnerships to support students and their families – which means establishing effective pathways to resources for schools to connect families with. The academic success of children is driven by dozens of factors outside the classroom. This project is highlighting the barriers schools have to addressing those factors and how community partnerships can help.
What were the results of the assessment?
This assessment consisted of an online survey (completed by over 300 school personnel), three community conversations, and three key informant interviews. School personnel identified the following issues to be significant challenges impacting student success: social and emotional health; chronic absenteeism; trauma/violence; social media/internet; and mental health. In addition, we identified statistically significant differences in the perceptions of administrative staff from the perceptions of teachers and support staff (such as counselors, social workers, etc.). Through our Community Conversations, it was clear that school personnel view these as complex issues that can’t be teased apart and the integral role trust plays in engaging students and families in the education process and in accessing resources (a finding also echoed in our Key Informant Interviews).
Key findings resulted in the development of five recommendations stretching across the socioecological model:
• Applying the Whole Child Approach
• Engaging Families through a Strengths-Based Lens
• Promoting the Community Schools Model
• Increasing Investment in Public Education
• Shifting the Narrative from Reaction to Prevention
What was IUPUI’s role in this project?
IUPUI researchers participated fully in the assessment process, including statistical analysis for our survey. This analysis identified differences in how school staff viewed various issues impacting student success (as having more impact or less impact) and also looked at the programs and resources implemented by different types of schools, public versus private, for example.
IUPUI researchers also assisted MCCOY with the development and facilitation of the community conversations. They worked with our Manager of Outreach and Partnerships to develop the activities and prompts for the conversations and served as a co-facilitator for each conversation.
What are the next steps?
We are compiling our assessment methods and key findings in a final report that will supplement assessment data with existing research from topical literature reviews. This report will also outline each of the five recommendations listed above and provide resources and specific actions our communities can take to move them forward. The Education Workgroup will be moving forward with not only sharing the report widely through a strategic communication plan, but also identifying ways to support schools in resource mapping, a strategy we believe can build the necessary partnerships between schools and community services that will support families more effectively.