Detroit, Mich., June 6, 2013 — Nearly 750 elementary and middle school students joined in a pep rally today to launch a new effort to increase high school graduation rates.
The two-year pilot program at Detroit Central Collegiate Academy, a high school within the Education Achievement Authority, and Durfee Elementary-Middle School, a Detroit Public School, will explore the connection between student health and academic success. Drawing on other efforts across the country, the program uses school-based health centers (clinics in the schools) to help students tackle barriers, such as hunger and nutrition, aggression and violence, and teen pregnancy — factors that can impede not only their health, but also their chances for completing high school.
“We’ve raised the standards of excellence for our schools, but raising them and meeting them are two different things,” said Steven McGhee, principal of Detroit Central Collegiate Academy. “We have to meet the broader needs of our students, helping them overcome whatever is getting in their way. School-based health care is one powerful solution and this project lets us realize its full potential.”
“Middle school is a microcosm of high school,” says Kenneth Jenkins, principal of Durfee Elementary-Middle School, “and students face similar barriers. One advantage of school-based health care as a solution is that it is a pathway to parents becoming more involved. When we can provide health care at school, we remove that stress for parents so they can concentrate on being engaged with their children’s education.”
The pilot is being led by the Center for School, Health and Education at the American Public Health Association, in collaboration with St. John Providence Health System. Durfee and Central Collegiate were selected for the project because they have had historically low graduation rates, and they have a shared school-based health center and supportive school administrators.
According to a study released in February 2013, by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, the graduation rate for Detroit Public Schools rose to 64.74 percent in 2012. This is a 5 percent point jump from the previous year and the highest graduation rate since 2006. The district also closed the gap with statewide rates by greater than three percentage points. However, this still falls behind the statewide average of 74 percent. Graduation rates for the Education Achievement Authority have not yet been calculated.
Data from across the country demonstrate that school-based health centers keep students in school, healthy and ready to learn. They have been shown to reduce tardiness and absenteeism, improve grade point average and strengthen the overall school climate, all of which affect graduation rates.
“School-based health care treats health and education as two sides of the same coin,” said Terri D. Wright, director of the Center for School, Health and Education. “It supports students socially, physically, emotionally and mentally to stay in school and succeed, which boosts lifelong health, career opportunities and financial stability.”
Traditionally, school-based health centers provide clinical services to individual students. However, according to Ken Coleman, director of School-Based Health Centers for St. John Providence Community Health, this pilot project will support centers in focusing more broadly on the needs of all students in the schools, anticipating and addressing barriers before they adversely affect student success.
This summer the schools will conduct an assessment to gauge student needs, then plan comprehensive, school-wide strategies. New programs will launch this fall and continue through July 2014.
At that point, the schools will analyze results within the context of attendance, dropout rates, school climate and other factors. The Center for School, Health and Education will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to document impact and outcomes, and to explore the feasibility of bringing the project to scale nationally. Ultimately, the goal is to expand the role of school-based health centers as a key strategy to prevent dropout across the nation.
APHA’s Center for School, Health and Education advances the well-being and educational success of the school-age population. They do this through partnerships, policy and advocacy that promote school-based health centers, increase access to physical and mental health care to improve children’s health and overcome social barriers to education. For more information about the Center for School, Health and Education, visit www.schoolbasedhealthcare.org.
St. John Providence Health System is the largest provider of inpatient care in Southeast Michigan. It provides comprehensive prevention, primary care and advanced treatment programs with more than 125 medical centers and five hospitals spanning five counties. For more information on St. John Providence Health System, visit www.stjohnprovidence.org.
Editor’s note: for more information on school-based health care and research on the link between student health and academic success, visit www.schoolbasedhealthcare.org.