Much has been made about the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — in Carroll, most of the discussion has centered around the inability to develop revised funding formulas for public school systems — but also part of the group’s recommendations is a restructuring of social “wrap-around” services provided to students through the schools.
The so-called wrap-around services can range from mental health and general health services to counseling and food support. They can be particularly helpful for students who grow up impoverished. Research has shown that low-income students may be at a significant disadvantage before they start school, and achievement gaps only grow over time.
Wrap-around services can help close that achievement gap. According to Real Clear Education, a Boston College study of 7,900 students who attended schools that worked to connect families with support services showed that achievement outcomes were on par if not higher for those students than students who attended other schools. It also improved attendance and drop-out rates significantly.
Earlier this week at Taneytown Elementary School, the United Way of Central Maryland and the Maryland Food Bank partnered to provide new backpacks filled with supplies for the upcoming school year to students, as well as 30 pounds of food and fresh produce for their families.
The event was an extension of efforts to bring more of those wrap-around services to Taneytown Elementary, one of three Title I schools in Carroll.
Title I schools are those where at least 40 percent of students are considered low income, and which are eligible for federal funding to provide students with extra instructional support to help bridge the gap between low-achieving students and their peers. Nearly 60 percent of students at Taneytown Elementary were eligible for Free and Reduced Meals, according to the 2017 Maryland Report Card.
Taneytown will also have a full-time Family Stability Program this year, thanks to a partnership with United Way and Human Services Programs of Carroll County, which provides help with housing and workforce development, among other services, in the community. That program will work to identify students who are struggling, then through funding from United Way, pair them with someone from HSP who can counsel the student and also work with the student’s family to point them in the right direction of services that are available.
With a part-time Family Stability Program the past two years, the partnership has helped keep numerous families stay in their homes, Taneytown Elementary School Counselor Cindy Hess told us.
Many people are unaware these types of assistance programs are available, which is why it’s important that schools have programs like these that can identify students and families that need those services.
There is concern among those even who were part of the Kirwan Commission that making sure these services are in place at all Maryland schools could be quite expensive and will be met with resistance. The results, though, are undeniable. We’re glad to see Carroll County Public Schools working with agencies like HSP and United Way to provide much-needed services to our students and families who are most in need.