Monthly Archives: April 2010

Sunset Park School Profiled in the Times

Photo: Michael Nagle - The New York Times

This weekend, the New York Times published a profile of PS 172 in Sunset Park. Serving a low-income, immigrant community, PS 172 regularly outperforms other schools in student achievement.  For example, in 2008-2009, 97.4 percent of students achieved a passing grade in English Language Arts and 99.6 percent passed in Mathematics, far bypassing other neighborhood public schools and placing PS 172 among the top 12 schools in New York City. The secret behind the success? “Teach, assess, teach, assess.”

To ace the state standardized tests, which begin on Monday, Public School 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, finds money for coaches in writing, reading and math. Teachers keep detailed notes on each child, writing down weaknesses and encouraging them to repeat tasks. There is after-school help and Saturday school.

But at the start of this school year, seven or eight students were still falling behind. So the school hired a speech therapist who could analyze why they and other students stumbled in language. A psychologist produced detailed assessments and recommendations. A dental clinic staffed by Lutheran Medical Center opened an office just off the fourth-grade classrooms, diagnosing toothaches, a possible source of distraction, and providing free cleanings.

Perfection may seem a quixotic goal in New York City, where children enter school from every imaginable background and ability level. But on the tests, P.S. 172, also called the Beacon School of Excellence, is coming close — even though 80 percent of its students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, nearly a quarter receive special education services, and many among its predominately Hispanic population do not speak English at home.

Read the rest of the article here.


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Filed under Education

The Social Legacies of Joblessness

The Atlantic recently featured an article about the impact of the recession on American society. In How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America, author Don Peck writes that the sustained high rate of unemployment, particularly among men, will have a lasting effect on politics, culture and the character of our society:

If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well… It may already be plunging many inner cities into a kind of despair and dysfunction not seen for decades.

The worst effects of pervasive joblessness—on family, politics, society—take time to incubate, and they show themselves only slowly. But ultimately, they leave deep marks that endure long after boom times have returned. Some of these marks are just now becoming visible, and even if the economy magically and fully recovers tomorrow, new ones will continue to appear. The longer our economic slump lasts, the deeper they’ll be.

The author interviewed William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist, whose 1996 book When Work Disappears described the connection between the loss of jobs in urban neighborhoods i n the 1970s and social problems such as crime, family instability and low levels of social organization:

Wilson, age 74, is a careful scholar, who chooses his words precisely and does not seem given to overstatement. But he sounded forlorn when describing the “very bleak” future he sees for the neighborhoods that he’s spent a lifetime studying. There is “no way,” he told me, “that the extremely high jobless rates we’re seeing won’t have profound consequences for the social organization of inner-city neighborhoods.” Neighborhood-specific statistics on drug addiction, family dysfunction, gang violence, and the like take time to compile. But Wilson believes that once we start getting detailed data on the conditions of inner-city life since the crash, “we’re going to see some horror stories”—and in many cases a relapse into the depths of decades past. “The point I want to emphasize,” Wilson said, “is that we should brace ourselves.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

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Filed under Community Development

Rally to Stop Preventive Services Funding Cuts

Planned cuts in state and city budgets will decrease funding for the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which coordinates the work of preventive service providers. As a result, the number of families that community agencies will be able to serve next year will be reduced by 2,500-3,000.

Preventive services are community-based programs that strengthen, support and nurture families, helping to prevent child abuse and neglect. They help make homes safer for children and reduce the likelihood that they end up in foster care. Preventive services not only ensure children’s well being, they are also a great investment: each child whose placement into foster care can be prevented saves large amounts of money for city and state.

Julia Jean-Francois, the Center's Co-Director, addressing the rally on Monday

On Monday, community organizations from all boroughs attended a rally at City Hall, organized by Citizens’ Committee for Children, to protest the planned funding cuts. Among the speakers was the Center’s Co-Director, Julia Jean-Francois. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Welfare, Community Collaborations, Family Counseling Program

Help Us Win Ashoka’s Changemakers Competition!

Center for Family Life needs your support! We are excited to be partiocipating in the Changemakers Competition by Ashoka and Green Mountain Coffee called Revelation to Action. The competition supports innovative ideas that strengthen and improve communities.

The Changemakers Competition is a great opportunity to get the word out about our partnership with immigrant workers to organize cooperative businesses that create opportunities for safe work at a fair wage.

You can increase our chances by visiting the Changemakers website, adding our project to your favorites and leaving positive feedback. Here’s how:

  1. Visit our project entry here and read about what we do.
  2. Add our project to your favorites and leave us feedback about our entry.
    1. If you do not have a Changemakers account, register on the site. It takes only a minute.
    2. Login at the Changemakers website.
    3. Visit our entry, and click on “Add to Favorites” on the right side of the screen. By leaving positive feedback, you can also help our chances to win.

Please also spread the word to your colleagues and friends! The competition is an open platform where we can share our work with the world, so the more people we can inspire, the better!

Thank you very much for your help!

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Filed under Community Development, Worker Cooperative Project

Rally at City Hall Against Summer Youth Employment Program Cuts

Rep. Charles Rangel addressing the rally. In the background is 9th grader Abel Peralta, a participant in the Center's WAVE program. Photo: Daily News

Youth from all five boroughs gathered at City Hall last Thursday to express their opposition to the planned Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) funding cuts, including many of the Center’s participants and staff.

Planned changes in state and city funding would cut the number of jobs available for teens this summer would be reduced to 17,200 from a record 52,000 last year.

Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel was among the politicians who spoke at the rally, encouraging youth to continue their efforts to convince state and New York City lawmakers of the importance of the summer jobs program for youth, families and their communities. He promised teens that if they persist, their efforts can succeed: “Don’t give up, don’t give in, this is a fight we must win. We are going to win it for this summer.”

Read more about the rally in the Daily News:

For the past 40 years, the summer job program has given city youth employment and educational opportunities, working entry-level jobs in various fields, from hospitals to summer camps.

“In this climate of record-high youth unemployment, it is bad policy to slash this critical opportunity for young people,” said Anthony Ng, of United Neighborhood Houses.

Gigi Li, of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, noted that teens usually spend their paychecks locally, “helping our economy.”

Politicians who attended also echoed the students’ concern.

“The tough economy is a good reason to keep this program, not gut it,” said state Sen. Dan Squadron (D-Brooklyn). City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), who said he worked in the program as a kid, said he knew “firsthand what these jobs mean to our youth.”

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Filed under Education, Summer Youth Employment Program, Youth Development

Sunset Park Youth Speak Out Against Funding Cuts

Photo: UNH Campaign for Summer Jobs

The threat of severe cuts in city and state funding for youth programs, particularly the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), inspired young people in our community to let lawmakers know how important these programs are for Sunset Park families.

On Youth Action Day in February, teens and staff representing all of the Center’s youth programs took a trip to Albany, where they met with over 30 Assembly members and state legislators. While there, they also attended a rally organized by the Campaign for Summer Jobs, a coalition of New York City community agencies led by United Neighborhood Houses (UNH).

Participants, parents, staff and worksites employing youth in the summer also sent over 1,500 letters to state and city lawmakers and officials, including Governor Patterson, Assembly Member Felix Ortiz and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Young advocates, parents and staff testified at City Council hearings on the planned budget cuts.

“I felt that I played an essential role for all of New York youth because not many young people get the opportunity to fight for summer jobs and voice their opinion,” a youth participant said. “It was a powerful experience.”

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Filed under Education, School-Based Youth Development Programs, Youth Development