"Everyone doggedly works together to discover the qualities and gifts which make each Wave-Maker unique, the types of support we can provide and/or refer, and what interests, goals and passions lie within them. Then we chart a course yet remain flexible and creative to ensure successful outcomes."
Providing The Educational Opportunities That Change Lives
Policy Strategies to Bolster the Success of Underserved Young People
Most states are introducing rigorous academic standards to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and work. But the federal government and many states, including California, do not provide adequate funding and student supports to enable underserved young people to achieve these standards. Making Waves offers a range of policy strategies that federal and state leaders might consider:
- Direct resources to states, districts, schools, and programs that make bolstering student supports a priority. While policymakers often bristle at addressing equity concerns because of cost, research has shown that investment in student health, development, and academic success pays off many times over in increased tax revenues and reduced expenditures for social welfare. The resources are readily available in state and county budgets but are often misspent on inefficient, disconnected programs that do not meet the needs of students and families.
- Create new roles for educators, parents, professionals, and members of the community to support learning. Education leaders and policymakers need to think more broadly about who works in schools and what these people do. Schools and districts should focus on hiring people with specialized talents likely to maximize effectiveness. The job titles at Making Waves, e.g. Dean of Students, Mental Health Clinician, College Transition Coordinator, Family Tutor Relations Coordinator, Tutor Relations Coordinator, Family Relations Coordinator, reflect some of the unmet needs where community experts and non-educators can make a difference.
- Support training for parents, educators, and community leaders. Federal and state governments should facilitate training for service providers, educators, and public agency leaders to coordinate supports for students and families. More public dollars should be allocated for effective parent education programs in schools and communities.
- Provide incentives for schools and districts to extend the school day and year. Students need at least 180 days of instruction every year and significant after-school, intersession, and summer programs. Because of the extended day and year, students attending Making Waves Academy receive more than twice the number of instructional minutes that their peers receive in traditional public school settings. Part of this involves making more effective use of the $1.1-billion federal 21st Century After-School Program to focus on tutoring, academic enrichment and supports, and other services. This includes partnering with national organizations that manage after-school initiatives and parents to strengthen commitment to education beyond the classroom.
- Ensure greater coherence and coordination in the use of Title I funding. Funding should provide student supports that are coherent and comprehensive and truly "wrap around" individual young people and their families to address their needs, rather than broken into disconnected silos. By ensuring that local communities are given some flexibility with Title I funding, schools can develop individual learning plans that meet student needs and determine how best to support young people.
- Support and expand public funding for programs that provide comprehensive academic, social, mental, physical, and vocational services to meet individual, family, and community needs. Many of these programs, including the federal government’s Full-Service Community Schools and Promise Neighborhoods initiative, are still underfunded and can be expanded to serve more communities, families, and young people.
- Strengthen efforts to increase cooperation across institutions and agencies that serve the same students. This includes developing incentives to establish partnerships that link schools and public and private agencies that provide services for young people. Federal and state policy must give more flexibility in allocating dollars to allow different types of agencies to participate in these networks. Policymakers also should increase incentives to encourage the transfer of effective practices between charter and traditional public schools, community agencies and schools, and schools and colleges.
- Fund college persistence. Public and private supports for increasing success of low-income young people should not stop at high school graduation, but include counseling and financial support through the baccalaureate degree.
- Expand public-private partnerships. Low-income students who are well-prepared for college should receive additional help while they are in college to ensure that they graduate. Making Waves is unique among all programs because it follows the child from fifth grade through graduate school by leveraging private resources with little or no match from public funds. While resources raised by Making Waves from individuals and foundations help offset grossly underfunded schools and inadequate services, that is not sustainable without matching public funds.
- Make Medicaid and S-CHIP funding more flexible. Local communities should decide how and where to provide children’s health services. Equally important, medical funding should follow young people and reimburse the actual provider.
- Support strategies that support teachers and improve the learning environment within schools. This includes providing ongoing teacher support that focuses on the emotional, social, and professional needs of staff members and respects and allows them to work as professionals, as well as establishing regular opportunities for teachers to take leadership on everything from reading interventions for English language learners to social wellness.