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State wards struggle more in schools, report confirms

Ohanian Comment: They need better childhoods is a powerful, haunting phrase. It is one ignored by nearly every politician in the country.

Reader Comment:
I extracted the following facts from this article.

When compared to other Nebraska children, those children who are wards of the state Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Are six times as likely to attend more than one school during a school year.

  • Miss school twice as often.

  • Are half as likely to graduate high school.

  • Are more than twice as likely to be identified as "special education" students.

  • Perform worse on every state academic test.

  • The report makes good sense when it blames the quality of care provided to state "wards" for the very poor academic performance of those children. In other words, schools can do almost nothing to help children whose lives outside school are as chaotic as the lives of state wards. There are no pedagogical techniques that schools can employ to overcome the developmental damage inflicted upon children who are inadequately cared for by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Why then can we not accept the fact that there are no pedagogical techniques that schools can employ to overcome the developmental damage inflicted upon children who are inadequately cared for in the homes into which they were born?

    It is irrational to blame teachers and schools for results that are utterly beyond their reach. If the school "reformers" are serious about reducing the size of America's "academic achievement gaps", they must do something to improve the out-of-school lives of children who are forced to live on the losing side of that chasm. Those children do not need better schools. They need better childhoods.

    by Jonathon Braden

    Nebraska state wards miss school twice as often as other students and are half as likely to graduate from high school, according to a report released Friday by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

    Wards also change schools at much higher rates, are more than twice as likely to be identified as âspecial educationâ and perform worse on every state test compared with their nonward peers, the Nebraska Department of Education report said.

    The bleak study âconfirms what we already knew,â said Roger Breed, Nebraskaâs commissioner of education.

    Officials in various agencies â health and human services, juvenile courts and schools â should do better at sharing information more frequently to keep kids in their original schools, Breed said.

    âThe school that knows them. The school they have been attending, where teachers and administrators know who they are,â he said.

    All of the agencies might be working on similar things with the same child, Breed said, without each of them aware of it.

    âWeâre not doing a good job of sharing insights and information that might be helpful,â he said.

    For its part, the Omaha Public Schools have a policy that lets a student stick with his or her original school if the family moves during the school year, said David Patton, district spokesman.

    OPS works with the family to try to secure district transportation to the new school but doesnât guarantee it, Patton said.

    Thomas Pristow, director at HHS of the Children and Family Services Division, said his department plans to work with education officials to do better for state wards.

    âItâs critical for our program improvement plan that we have a process to be successful with this, and we will,â he said.

    The study evaluated data of state wards attending accredited Nebraska public schools during the 2010-11 school year.

    About 87 percent of non-wards graduated that school year, whereas almost 44 percent of wards got diplomas, the report said.

    State wards also missed about 16 school days; non-wards missed about 8 days, according to the report. Wards of the state were six times as likely to attend two or more schools during the school year, the report said.

    — Jonathon Braden
    Omaha World-Herald





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