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Building a community response to the child in need

We have long known that circumstances outside of the classroom almost always impact academic performance. But what happens when those circumstances are extraordinarily complex and challenging?

The school lunch program was founded on the simple notion that when kids are hungry, they cannot learn.

We have long known that circumstances outside of the classroom almost always impact academic performance. But what happens when those circumstances outside of school are extraordinarily complex and challenging?

While educators and policy makers understand that family and environmental circumstances effect what happens in school, they often don’t know how to effectively support the whole student, in and out of school.

SchoolSmartKC, an education-focus foundation incubated and supported, in part, by the Kauffman Foundation, is working to identify systemic solutions to address student success. SchoolSmartKC has partnered with Communities in Schools (CIS) to assess out-of-school challenges for hundreds of students in 11 public schools in Kansas City, Missouri.

Using an evidence-based model, CIS works with local school leaders to place site coordinators on each school campus to rigorously assess out-of-school challenges faced by students that affect in-school performance. CIS then works with community partners to link children and their families to health care services, trauma support and counseling, nutrition, transportation and other needs. CIS focuses on key indicators to improve students’ attendance, participation and discipline through supports related to clothing, nutrition, healthcare, transportation and other areas. Over one-third of the students in case management under Communities in Schools are suffering from family disruption and stress and mental and emotional health concerns.

“What is clear is that better coordination of resources is needed among all public schools, district and charter together, to adequately address these concerns and help students achieve success in the classroom,” said Awais Sufi, President and CEO, School Smart KC.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, CIS presented their findings from nearly 500 student evaluations on how Kansas City stakeholders can “scale up” support services to ensure that out-of-classroom challenges are addressed and no longer a hindrance to academic performance. Here were their top priorities and recommendations:

  1. Address the student’s physical and social well-being through trauma support and conflict resolution.
  2. Provide consistent rules and sanctions for students through behavior modification and discipline intervention.
  3. Provide enhanced access to resources through alternative learning environments and career development and enrichment.
  4. Improve service coordination among providers through provisions of basic needs and mentoring / role models for youth.


WATCH: “SchoolSmartKC” | 4:22

SchoolSmartKC is an education organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap in the Kansas City public school system in the next 10 years.


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