Cover Story

Mission: To provide students at Thomas Gardner Elementary School and their parents with comprehensive, coordinated services that address nonacademic barriers to student learning, such as poverty, inadequate health care, violence in the community and family stress.

Why it's needed: "Schools can't do it alone," says Mary E. Walsh, PhD, who helped create the program. "If we're addressing the nonacademic barriers to learning, we're giving real opportunities to promote resilience, and the kids will be better able to learn."

What it does: Through partnerships with the community and Boston College graduate programs, the school provides services not traditionally associated with the school environment:

  • Lengthened hours and days of operation. Programs run from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, with additional services on the weekends.

  • Integrated curriculum with out-of-school activities. In-school instruction fits hand-in-hand with before- and after-school programs, a summer enrichment program and recreational services at the neighborhood YMCA.

  • Expanded support services for students and families. Support services include a free law clinic staffed by the BC law school, a school-based health and dental clinic, immigration support, GED classes, parenting workshops, English as a second language classes and computer classes. The school also works with more than 40 community agencies to provide additional assistance, such as job training and mental health services.

Findings: Standardized test scores and school attendance have increased. Boston Public Schools have found the program so successful, the model is being implemented in 10 additional elementary schools.