SC Appleseed Publication Promotes Blueprint for Reducing South Carolina’s School Dropout Rate

SC Appleseed Publication Promotes Blueprint for Reducing South Carolina’s School Dropout Rate

Solutions, Not Suspensions | Key to Keeping Students in School

The South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center released a briefing book with innovative recommendations for reducing South Carolina’s alarming student and teacher dropout rates, part of a national effort to draw attention to the problem of zero-tolerance discipline policies.

Reducing Dropout Rate Report 10.3.13The report Effective Discipline for Student Success: Reducing Student and Teacher Dropout Rates in South Carolina – promotes a research-based approach to school discipline that also improves academic performance and school safety.  Its principles can be applied to schools everywhere.

The book is part of a larger effort to reform the state’s discipline practices and improve academic performance in South Carolina schools.  Funding for its publication was provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a partner in SC Appleseed education work.

Despite some academic progress, South Carolina’s high school graduation rate is only 61 percent, 49th in the nation. That translates to

136 students every school day – more than four classrooms worth – who give up on school.

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Research has shown that school discipline practices are a major factor in pushing vulnerable children out of school and, often, into the juvenile justice system, a path known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  South Carolina’s school discipline rates consistently rank among the highest in the country.

Student boy desk“We must make a fundamental commitment to keeping all of our students in school – not just those who are easy to teach but especially students who are struggling to succeed,” says Amanda Adler, education staff attorney at SC Appleseed.  “We know suspensions and expulsions have a negative impact on academic achievement, on students’ emotional connections to the school, and on graduation rates – so why do we continue to rely on them?”

Research confirms that harsh school discipline yields poor results.  Once suspended, students are more than four times more likely to drop out of school.  Young people who drop out of high school are more than eight times as likely to be incarcerated as those who graduate.  The report recommends limiting the use of school suspensions and expulsions on students.

Dissatisfaction with school discipline also is cited as the reason many new teachers in the state leave the profession.  One third of teachers exit the profession within their first five years of service in the state.  And currently, some districts in the state lose one-third of their teachers every year.

The SC Appleseed guide recommends implementing a program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in every South Carolina public school. PBIS fundamentally transforms the school into an environment where good behavior is taught and modeled by everyone from the principal to the custodian.  Students are rewarded and praised for good behavior while discipline problems are addressed in a smarter way than under zero-tolerance policies now used in many schools.

Principals and teachers work together to determine the causes of problem behavior and develop school-wide and, when necessary, individualized plans to improve behavior.  Office referrals are tracked and that information is used to determine when, where and why discipline problems are occurring.  The end result is a reduction in suspensions, expulsions, and dropout rates, and South Carolina schools already implementing PBIS have reported major improvements in school climate.

With today’s release, SC Appleseed is joining other organizations participating in the 2013 National Week of Action on School Pushout, an event involving thousands of youth, parents, educators, civil rights leaders, and social justice advocates from around the country to promote alternatives to zero-tolerance discipline policies.  The Week of Action is being coordinated by the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a national coalition.

“Our public schools are under pressures like never before, and their resources are already stretched far too thin to pursue policies that don’t work.  Proven strategies like PBIS make the most of our investment in education, allowing more children to spend more time in school, actively learning and headed on a path to a bright future,” said Adler.

SC Appleseed Contact:
Amanda Adler, amanda.adler@scjustice.org | (803) 779-1113 x 108

Appleseed’s Education Blueprint for Reducing Dropout Rate Press Release 10.3.13

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Cutting food stamps is callous, cruel

Cutting food stamps is callous, cruel

By Sue Berkowitz
Special Guest Op-Ed for Statehouse Report

SEPT. 27, 2013 — S.C. Appleseed issued information last week provided by Food Research Action Center detailing how one in four children and one in five adults in South Carolina are struggling with hunger. 

<> on June 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

Last week’s vote by the U.S. House to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $40 billion is simply callously ignoring the reality of constituents’ lives. The six members of the South Carolina delegation who voted for this bill have voted to increase hunger in their districts and around the country. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office found that this bill would end benefits for approximately 3.8 million low-income people in 2014. The cuts would impact the most vulnerable by denying food assistance to children, seniors, veterans, active-duty military and working parents earning low wages.

The SNAP program is the single greatest defense we have to hunger in our state and in the nation. Although it has not kept up with inflation, it does provide a needed service by covering food costs for a portion of a household’s month. Nationally, this bill will reduce an important hand up for so many of our working poor who depend on this benefit to help make their low wages stretch. This decrease in SNAP will follow the decline in wages so many in our state have seen over the past years. This one cruel gesture is telling our working poor families we don’t care if you are doing everything you can to make ends meet; you will still not be able to feed your children.

This is not the only reduction beneficiaries are seeing. SNAP benefits are already facing an across-the-board cut beginning in November due to the end of the temporary boost provided through the Recovery Act. For families of three, the cut will be $29 a month reducing their modest benefits to less than $1.40 per person per meal.

Food Hardship 2008-2012: Geography and Household Structure,” released by the Food Research and Action Center, found that in surveys from 2008 to2012, more than 26 percent of households with children in South Carolina said there were times in the prior year when they did not have enough money to buy food that they needed for themselves or their family. Slightly less than 20 percent of households without children in South Carolina said they faced the same struggle.

With almost 20 percent of our state living at or below poverty, the actions of U.S. House of Representatives can be called nothing less than cruel. The once bipartisan nature of preventing our seniors and children from going hungry has left our nation’s capital.  Celebrating votes that take away food, healthcare, education and housing is not going to help families.

The SNAP program not only helps to feed the hungry, but it helps to infuse more than $1 billion into our state’s economy each year. This money goes to our local communities, allowing merchants to hire clerks into their stores who then use their wages to spend for rent, clothing, utilities and entertainment. Harvard economist Martin Feldstein found that for every dollar spent on that program, $1.73 is generated throughout economy. In fact, his study found that the fastest way to infuse the economy was through expanding the SNAP program. The vote in Congress was not just a cruel gesture towards the hungry, but also one more way to hurt our state that is struggling to recover.

This fight against hunger is not over. The U.S. Senate will now negotiate with the House to help restore funds to this vital program.   We cannot continue to tolerate that one quarter of our children go to bed hungry each year. We must not let Congress destroy the SNAP program.

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This Op-Ed appeared on September 27, 2013 in the latest issue of the Statehouse Report. Sue Berkowitz is Executive Director of South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, a statewide nonprofit that fights for low-income South Carolinians to overcome social, economic and legal injustice.

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation – Feeding South Carolina’s Children This Summer

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation – Feeding South Carolina’s Children This Summer

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Making sure South Carolina’s children have enough to eat all year round is one of the biggest responsibilities we have as a community.

Many people may be surprised to learn 57 percent of South Carolina’s children are eligible for the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program.  However, each summer, these same families struggle to provide their children with nutritious meals when schools close and kids no longer receive school meals.

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Fortunately, nonprofits, school districts, and enrichment programs can help to fill the gap through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  Beginning today, June 9, 2013 and continuing through the summer, this program provides federally funded nutritious breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks to children when school meals are not available.  This program is vital to making sure children from South Carolina’s low-income families don’t go hungry during the summer months.

Although the SFSP program is dedicated to helping kids during the summer, when they are most vulnerable to experiencing hunger, a recent study by the Food and Research Action Center found that the nation’s Summer Nutrition Programs continue to fall far short of their goal to curb summer hunger. In South Carolina, only 21% of the students eligible for Free-Reduced Lunch Program during the school year participate in the summer food program.  While our school lunch programs serve more than 335,000 children in South Carolina during the school year, we are only serving 70,000 children through SFSP. There is still a long way to go in reaching all the children who are eligible for this program, and we need everyone’s help to pitch in. We need to be sure that every child who should be receiving a summer meal gets one because no child should ever be going hungry in our state.

ACCESSING THE PROGRAM:

It’s important that parents know where summer sites in their neighborhoods are located so that they can also get these healthy, free meals to their children. To find out the closest SFSP site near you, parents and guardians can contact their local school district, call the SC Department of Social Services at (803) 898-0971 or the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-Hungry or  1-877-8-HAMBRE

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

You can help in the fight against hunger for South Carolina’s kids by having your organization sponsor or staff an SFSP site in your community.  As a sponsor, you will provide nutritious meals which are fully funded by the USDA to kids in your area in the summer in a variety of settings, including schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, churches, community centers, day camps, residential summer camps, housing projects, and migrant centers, or on Indian reservations.  As a site, you will serve the meals in a safe location along with fun exercise and wellness activities.

To find out more about becoming a SFSP site to help kids in your community, contact the SC Department of Social Services by calling (803) 898-0971, or visit the USDA’s SFSP website.