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Organization Helps Schools with High Poverty Overcome Challenges

Turnaround for Children helps public schools in high-poverty areas to work to change the negative school culture that keeps children from succeeding in school.

Turnaround prompts the whole school- principals, teachers, and students- to create a better learning environment for all involved.

The "principal must have a vision of a different teaching and learning environment, and commit time and resources to building it; teachers need to acquire new skills and tools to manage classrooms in ways that build trust while engaging students in rigorous instruction; and students must come to see school as important to their success in life, and connect that idea to their own actions in the classroom," according to The New York Times.

Turnaround uses varying techniques to change school culture, specifically Kagan Cooperative Structures, which are "scientifically research based" methods "backed by classroom evidence from districts, schools, and teachers experience success with Kagan," according to Kagan's site.

Kagan structures promote cooperative learning approaches such as nixing rows of desks and promoting close spaces where students can work in small groups.

"'Before, with whole class discussions, many students would have no chance to answer a question or give their opinion...'" said Karrie Hylton, a teacher in a middle school partnered with Turnaround. "'These structures make it possible for each kid to have equal voice and participation,'" she said, according to The New York Times article.

Turnaround also specializes in helping children with behavioral needs, a rampant issue in schools in areas wrought with poverty. In schools partnered with Turnaround, "more than 90 percent of students with behavioral needs get connected to appropriate services, typically within three weeks," according to the article.

The organization itself come into fruition after a child psychiatrist who specializes in trauma recognized a need for change in high-poverty schools. Pamela Cantor was assigned to lead a team in the weeks after the 9/11 tragedy to study "the impact of the attacks on the city's public school children."

Cantor discovered many symptoms of trauma, "but the problems weren't clearly attributable to 9/11 nor were they clustered near Ground Zero," the article said.

Instead, Cantor found that the symptoms of trauma were mostly found in schools in poverty-stricken areas and were attributed not to terrorism, but to "violence, inadequate housing, sudden family loss, parents with depression or addictions, and so forth."

And so, Turnaround was born to help students overcome the trauma from home life and focus on excelling in school with the support of every person on the school's staff.

Cantor's ultimate "vision is not to spread the program far and wide, but to demonstrate that an intentional focus on the so-called 'nonacademic' skills is a prerequisite for success, rather than a frill," according to the article.

Read the full story here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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