EDUCATION AND LIFE SKILLS
Clarification of Policy Ideas Listed in Survey
Question 1: How might we ensure that all of Winston-Salem’s children arrive in kindergarten ready to learn, and complete high school with adequate preparation for college or career?
1. Mentorship Program
This program would entail reaching out to young individuals in the community at large to get them interested in returning to local high schools to encourage students to stay in school and graduate. This could involve a basic amount of tutoring for students, who need it, as well as opportunities for students to see people who have paved the path for their success in the future. Cost should not be prohibitive in this manner. There could be compensation for mentors, but that does not seem like a necessity. Transportation costs would be another question if this mentorship was not done at their own school.
2. Higher Pay for Pre-K teachers
North Carolina teachers are currently ranked 49th in the nation in teacher pay. By increasing teacher pay, you create a profession that may be slightly more appealing to someone coming out of college. Currently you see many teachers are forced to take on second jobs just so that they can hold their teaching position. Teachers do not get into education to become rich, but we’ve gotten to the point in North Carolina where teachers cannot survive on just a teaching salary. By raising the pay, you would allow teachers to devote more time to the classroom, and in turn their students. When the North Carolina Superintendent of Schools suggested raising teacher pay across the state by 10%, that equated to a $540 million expenditure. Looking at the scope of that, Forsyth County is the fourth largest school system in North Carolina, and you would (potentially) be limiting it to only PreK teachers, but this expenditure is still likely to be well over a couple million dollars per year.
3. Educate Teachers on Grant Writing
Grant writing would provide teachers with the opportunity to enhance their classrooms and professional skills through the utilization of grant writing. While the grant writing process can be tedious, utilizing part of a teacher workday to have someone come into a school and teach the art of grant writing, could be a cheaper way to improve classrooms from PreK to high school. The only (potential) cost associated with this would be bringing in someone who is knowledgeable about grant writing, if there is not someone who is currently educated on that topic in the school. Once people are trained, they can work on writing grants either independently or collaboratively, to bring more financial resources into their classrooms.
4. Universal Pre-K program in City
Pre-K education is one of the strongest correlates for long term success when studying whether a child will succeed or not when they enter school. It would be difficult to figure out the exact cost of this measure, but when you look at national figures, the average per pupil expenditure for a student enrolled in head start was just over 7,500 dollars. Forsyth County schools currently has 53,000 students enrolled and if we assume an even distribution across class cohort (unlikely), leading to 14 years, I would estimate approximately 4,000 preschoolers would need to be covered, leading to a total cost of 30 million dollars/year.
5. HOPE Truck type idea to provide mobile libraries
In Winston-Salem the HOPE Truck provides food to food insecure neighborhoods. This mediates the transportation problem that many individuals face when looking to eat sustainable foods. This model could additionally be used to provide mobile libraries for students, to give them opportunities to expand their literary horizon without needing to go to the library (again, low income students may struggle with transportation). The costs would be the maintenance costs with a truck, as well as the cost of gas. There would be a substantial startup cost investing in getting a library of books together, but perhaps we could look to the community to donate gently used books to the truck.
6. Government Community-Resource Center
Goodwill is a community center (in WS even) that assists locals find jobs, pay for food and housing, etc. In Greensboro, there is a Women’s Resource Center that specifically teaches women about their resources and education options in order to be self-reliant. Such a center in Winston Salem (bilingual?) would benefit the community and create an epicenter with which community members could distribute information to the public
7. Local University Visitation Days
Some schools have optional sign up programs where the school allows students to sign up for busing to visit colleges over weekends. However, this is typically done on a pay per trip basis, where the parents pay if they want their children to go on the trip. However, this program would establish days throughout high school where students would go to visit a given school, funded by the high school or the universities who are being visited. The trips would be optional, but highly encouraged for students to gain a better understanding of the schools in the area
8. Employment-Tutoring Programs
Mentorship programs such as Big Brother, Big Sister, pair students with employees in order to build bonds and educate the students. WXII did a TV spot on one of their employees who volunteered through Big Brother, Big Sister. Such a program would bring good publicity to the companies and could be used as either a bonding program within a company or to create an incentivization program
9. Intergenerational Tutoring Program
Tutoring programs between baby boomers and children in order to mutually benefit each group learn builds bonds in communities. It strengthens the intergenerational gap and, as found by the World Youth Report of the UN, Young People in a Globalizing World (2003), “policies and programs based on an intergenerational approach should promote an essential interdependence among generations and recognize that all members of society have contributions to make and needs to fulfill. While the nature of these contributions and needs may change during the progression from infancy to old age the giving and receiving of resources over time is crucial to promoting intergenerational trust, economic and social stability, and progress.”
10. Alternative Testing Methods
Different companies including Pearson, Dreambox and Scholastic have been testing alternative ways to test students. Using stealth assessment, games that test students in a similar way to standardized tests, have been found to achieve similar results in terms of understanding the level of a students’ knowledge without the stress and tension of actual testing.
Question 2: How might we better offer educational opportunities—including learning about life skills— across generations and groups, beyond K-12 students: for lifelong learners, the unemployed, parents, grandparents, caregivers?
1. Community Kitchens
The goal of the community kitchen would be to educate and feed low income members of the community. The Triad Community Kitchen (TCK) Culinary Training program currently exists led by Chef Jeff Bacon. The training program often leads to employment in food related business due to new skills development in culinary, baking, knife handling, and catering.
2. Support of Bookmobiles
The bookmobiles can go to elementary, middle, and high schools after school gets out to increase access to books. Additionally, it could make stops to the community centers (see number 6 below) to make books more accessible to adults too. Drivers could be volunteers or paid positions in order to create additional job opportunities.
3. Intergenerational Life Skills
This program can use Goodwill classrooms as well as organize trips to senior citizen homes. A great way to bridge a generational gap, this unique two-way street mentorship program will educate both members of the partnership. Areas of focus can run the gamut from technology, art, sports, business, medicine, law, military and beyond. This program could be weekly, monthly, or during the summers.
4. Improve Transit
Run buses more frequently and in better routes (those that include schools, shopping centers, grocery stores, and medical centers). Transportation is one of the most significant barriers for education and work, thus a system that better transports those making efforts to better themselves would make a dramatic difference.
5. Turn Elementary Schools into Afternoon Community Centers
This space can be put to productive use and can be a platform for supplemental education opportunities, lecture series, basic healthcare, AA meetings and other opportunities. Volunteers would be the primary facilitators to keep costs low, but security and sufficient time for evening janitorial staff might be issues.
6. Community Service at Middle and High Schools as Life Skills Program
This program entails changing middle and high school Life Skills classes into opportunities to engage with the community and give back. This would provide hundreds of hours of additional service to the community a year, but might present problems with coordination of consistent community partners, student transportation, and time limits (better suited to the high school block schedule).
7. College Visit Program
In order to expose high schoolers to higher education opportunities, they would be taken on field trips to visit one of Winston’s five major institutions (WSSU, UNCSA, Wake Forest, Salem, Forsyth Tech) and learn more about applying. This could result in higher matriculation rates and increased interest in college, but also presents the difficulty of arranging a tour, and fostering connections between these institutions and local high schools. There would be a cost incurred in the buses, but perhaps a nominal fee from students ($10) could offset this.
8. At-Risk High Schoolers Tutoring Elementary School Kids
A program in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has found huge success in pairing at-risk high schoolers with elementary schoolers. This would support elementary school teachers and parents while also providing service and leadership opportunities to at-risk high schoolers. This would cost the school system nothing to support, and would only serve to involve high schoolers more in their community and provide role models to younger students.
9. High School Seniors Community Service Project and Awards
Many schools throughout North Carolina and the nation require a senior graduation project that involves committed community service. This would be a great opportunity to have young people engage in their community. This could be coordinated through their guidance counselors, and awards could be provided for most impactful program. This costs the school nothing, and only serves to provide self-confidence and community partnerships. Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools have a comparable “Graduation Project,” with guidelines and complete information publicly available.
10. Integrating Soft Skills Education
Research supports that students who are adept at soft skills (negotiating, problem solving, and admitting mistakes) are more successful than their counterparts without the same social skills. Integrating these lessons into all levels of education would smoothly transition students from how to be flexible to how to behave in a job interview. These mini-lessons are best taught by example, but could find a place during electives or homeroom classes, and might improve long-term employability.
Question 3. How best to engage members of the community without school-going children to recognize that they have a critical stake in addressing issues related to education?
1. Engage the community with the higher education institutions
Engage the community with the higher education institutions in the area (WFU, WSSU, Salem, UNCSA, Forsyth Tech) through activities such as field trips and experiential learning: Enabling members of the community to connect with our local institutions of higher education would inform residents without school-going children of the many opportunities and resources offered by the universities. Additionally, residents might become better aware of the ways in which the success of the universities directly benefits the Winston-Salem community. In fostering a closer relationship between these universities and individual members of the community, those members might become more invested in the universities themselves and will be more likely to support them, encourage others to do the same, and realize the benefits and the possibility of higher education for local high schoolers.
2. Local churches or universities “adopt” elementary schools
Local churches or universities could “adopt” elementary schools and support them with book drives/childcare/tutoring - An “adoption” program would allow members of the community to realize the needs of local elementary schools and young children in Winston Salem and present an easy, convenient, and effective means for directly affecting change, becoming involved, and developing a close and meaningful relationship across the groups. If members of a tight-knit organization, such as a church or a college class, recognize and address the needs of young children in Winston Salem, they might get to know the children themselves and attempt to remain in contact with them and serve as a mentors to them through their adolescence.
3. Program connecting seniors with young people as mentors
Center for Creative Leadership: program that connects seniors with young people as mentors. This program would be a two-way street. Young people, for example, could help seniors with lawn care and technological literacy. A Center for Creative Leadership would form strong bonds between individuals across disparate segments of the population and would maximize the benefits that each group can offer one another. An exchange of skills and guidance between senior and young people in the community would be entirely mutually beneficial. The structure of a Center for Creative Leadership would facilitate such a connection that would not otherwise exist and would ensure that the relationship/exchange is maintained and useful to both parties.
4. Town Hall meetings at unconventional locations
Town Hall meetings to both gauge public sentiment as well as promote opportunities and information. Host these at unconventional locations such as mall, beauty salons, and churches in order to reach a different audience than that which would normally be on the lookout for these types of announcements. Hosting town hall-like forums, at unconventional locations, to spread information about education and life skills and promote constructive conversation would encourage the participation and investment of small business owners (who may not have school-going children themselves), would be easily accessible by the community, and would make use of existing structures instead of starting something from the ground up. Informal or more casual-like conversations between community members and education professionals, policymakers, and other invested community members would foster cooperation and effective dissemination of accurate information. Successful engagement with individuals through these forums would tap into a segment of the population that might not normally be interested in the topic.
5. Use statistics in marketing campaigns to drive change
Use statistics in marketing campaigns to hit home and drive change through facts. If facts are uniquely and strategically disseminated across the Winston-Salem community, they might engage members of the population who might not otherwise be paying attention to these facts or this issue. If local business owners participated in the initiative and incorporated the facts into their work, such as on menus, coasters, and stickers on to-go cups, members of the community without school-going children can be targeted and reached. Spreading the facts and presenting an opportunity to contribute to a solution in this way encourages collaboration and can inspire thought and participation by those who are affected by the facts.
6. Career days at schools for students and adults in the community
Career days at schools for students and adults in the community. Would be a good way to promote the importance of education, as well as connection adults, who may or may not have children, with the schools. Have volunteers come to high schools and be an example of why education is important and what the next steps after college are. Career days at schools would foster intergenerational cooperation, would be easily accessible by the overall community, would empower students, and would make use of existing structures instead of building from the ground up. The career day would be effective if it could inform community members of available opportunities and guide them in effectively taking advantage of those opportunities. A presentation about careers would underscore the vital importance of education for acquiring meaningful and steady work, which could then translate into increased awareness about education issues and more genuine investment in the educational systems in Winston Salem by a greater population of the community.