Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Educational Program For Homeless Children And Youth

Devil's Lake, North Dakota


Key Characteristics


Overview

The Educational Program for Homeless Children and Youth, administered by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, provides tutoring, homework assistance, and recreational activities to homeless children. The program exists at nine sites, three of which are school districts. The remaining six programs are housed in community-based organizations and centers, including a YWCA, an agency that targets troubled adolescents, and a resource center for abused adults. The sites provide tutoring several times a week, after school, or in the evening. The Devil's Lake school district also runs summer programs for elementary students that provide counseling services and academic assistance. That 12-week program, started in 1990 and profiled below, is run by the school district and by an agency that serves troubled families.

School Context

The Devil's Lake summer program, which operates from 10 a.m. to noon, served 22 students in 1993. Six of the students were Native American, and 16 were Anglo. Approximately half of the students qualify for subsidized lunch. The summer program is located at one of the district's three elementary schools, and students are bused to the central site. Because of limited resources, in 1993 the program accepted 22 of the 100 students referred to the program by teachers--those deemed most at-risk of school failure. Because the program serves a fairly small number of students, tutors are able to discuss each child's needs and progress with his or her classroom teachers.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

There is no clear "owner" of the program in Devil's Lake--a circumstance that has had both positive and negative ramifications. The Families First agency and the school district forged a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with each other because students' needs are identified and monitored by teachers and agency staff; as the Families First director commented, "I can't imagine trying to implement a program like this without the full commitment of the school system." Funding for Families First expired, and the district has struggled to find ways to run the program without the agency's input and transportation assistance. Members of the program advisory board acknowledge that the small community's weak economic base does not offer any clear funding solutions.

The community-based advisory board, which one principal identified as crucial to program success, has resulted in strong community support. However, neither the district nor Families First wanted to take responsibility for evaluating program outcomes. Instead, they have relied on formative evaluation through parent surveys.

Evidence of Success

Analysis of the pre- and post-program WRAT scores in 1993 showed an improvement in math and language skills for almost all students. Teachers report academic and behavioral improvement in children who participate in the summer program; the Families First director described one student who had been unable to master a math concept during the school year but did so after intensive summer tutoring and proudly demonstrated his new-found knowledge to his former teacher the following year. Teacher involvement in the program has increased, with more teachers requesting that children receive tutoring in specific subjects. Parent surveys also indicate a high level of satisfaction with the Devil's Lake program.
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