Positive Student Performance Outcomes Linked to Ethnic Studies Curriculum

The inclusion of ethnic studies (ES) in high school curricula is a topic of much debate, with one state banning some ES classes and another state’s Governor vetoing a bill that would have mandated them in public schools. Although both critics and supporters of culturally relevant teaching have strong views regarding its impact on students, there was little quantitative research in this area. Until now.

A study out of Stanford University found statistically significant increases in key academic outcomes among at-risk students in ES classes.  Data from several student cohorts from 3 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District indicate that those students enrolled in the classes increased school attendance by 21 percent, GPA by 1.4 points and academic credits earned by 23.  Male students and Hispanic students showed the largest increase in positive outcomes.

The authors of the study note that while their work offers empirical evidence of the impact of culturally relevant pedagogy on student performance, questions remain on the scalability of the approach and the size of the effect (if any) on students with higher levels of academic achievement. The paper is available for download on the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis webpage.



Citation: Dee, T., & Penner, E. (2016). The Casual Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum (CEPA Working Paper No.16-01). Retrieved from Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: http://cepa.stanford.edu/wp16-01

More Evidence that Social Connectivity is Linked to Better Health Outcomes

As a kind of addendum to my previous post, I wanted to note that another study has identified links between social interaction and health, not just with the elderly but at two distinct stages of life. Researchers associated with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill used data from four national samples to determine if an association existed between elements of personal relationships and physical health markers. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study concluded that level of social involvement and size of social network are associated with the risk of poor health.  Among senior citizens, social connection was associated with lower risk of disease development, particularly around obesity and hypertension. An even more interesting finding – the level of social engagement among adolescents predicted their risk of health complications later in life.




Citation: Yang Claire YangCourtney BoenKaren GerkenTing LiKristen Schorppand Kathleen Mullan Harris. Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print January 4, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1511085112


Child Maltreatment and Abuse – A Predictor Agencies are Using Prediction to Prevent

According to 2011 data,  12.5 percent of children under the age of 18 are abused or neglected in the United States each year.  A Facts on Youth brief from the Center for Health and Justice at TASC cites a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found confirmed maltreatment for 1 in 8 youth, with nearly 6 percent of cases  (just less than half of confirmed reports) involving children ages 5 and under.  The brief also notes that studies of child abuse and maltreatment that rely on self-reports rather than substantiated reports indicate a rate of up to 40 percent.

The Child Trends brief Preventing Violence: Understanding and addressing determinants of youth violence in the United States reviewed relevant research on interventions and policy approaches to reducing youth violence, with an emphasis on individual, family and school/community factors.  This review identified several predictors of violence, including domestic violence, dysfunctional parenting, gun availability, low self-control, and lack of connectedness to school.  Child maltreatment, however, was a strong predictor of nearly every type of violence.  The prevention of child abuse and provision of interventions to address the impact of such trauma appear to be critical actions in reducing the potential of future violence.  That said, although child maltreatment is a risk factor for criminal behavior, the longer term negative effects of that experience may be offset or amplified by other life events. Completing high school/getting a GED and getting married were two factors identified by a research team at the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington as having a positive impact on a person’s life, thus reducing the power of the relationship between the maltreatment and future high risk behaviors.  A history of maltreatment combined with additional risk factors, such as poverty, increases the likelihood of criminal behavior.

As safety and health are essential factors in optimal child development, and may affect a multitude of life outcomes, new strategies have emerged to better identify and “triage” high-risk situations.  States are turning to the big data playbook to assist in investigations of abuse and maltreatment, using predictive analysis to help prioritize reports and better provide preventive services. Information such as family history, school reports and other administrative data, plus case officer knowledge, gives child welfare decision-makers more (if not necessarily better) data to guide the use of resources for the protection of children. Along with Connecticut, Florida, and Los Angeles County, Allegheny County here in western Pennsylvania is utilizing predictive analytics in an effort to reduce child maltreatment, abuse, and fatalities.  For more information on how predictive analysis is being used in child welfare, see Who will Seize the Child Abuse Prediction Market by Darian Woods and Checklists, Big Data and the Virtues of Human Judgement by Holden Slattery, both in The Chronicle of Social Change.


Interview Series: Darelle Porter, Program Director at Ozanam, Inc

Darelle Porter
Darelle Porter

Darelle Porter is a Program Director at Ozanam, Inc., a Pittsburgh nonprofit that provides educational programming, athletic competition, social and cultural activities, and support services to enhance the lives of local youth.  Darelle has been involved with Ozanam for 35 years. He is also a volunteer with Cash For Kids – Swin Cash’s foundation that works with youth from the McKeesport area.

Years in the Pittsburgh area:

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

What was your first job?

My first job after high school was working at Ozanam. I started working at Ozanam in the 11th grade.

How were you drawn to nonprofit work?

I was drawn to nonprofit work to give my children and other kids the experience I had with Ozanam as a youth.

What is the first thing you do each day?

The first thing I do each morning is check my phone for any new messages. My son Darelle Jr. is a freshman in college and my daughter Michaela is a sophomore in high school. My cell phone is my computer, alarm clock, phone book and clock with all the modern technology.

What keeps you motivated?

The thing that keeps me motivated is thinking any kid who walks through the door could have been me 35 years ago. I want to give each and every one of them a positive experience and a place for that to happen.

"The thing that keeps me motivated is thinking any kid who walks through the door could have been me 35 years ago."
“The thing that keeps me motivated is thinking any kid who walks through the door could have been me 35 years ago.”

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?

The best advice I have been given is something my grandfather told me when I was in the 1st grade. He told me in life there are not that many things that are free, but an education is one of them…take advantage of your education so you can live a better life than I have now.

What are you reading?

I am currently reading up on some of the best practices for nonprofit organizations.

What current trend(s) or issue(s) do you see currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector?

The current issues I see affecting our program are the difficulty getting funding and getting more parents involved in the program. I think parental involvement is one of the problems that having more funding can address. With proper funding, Ozanam would be able to get a social worker/counselor to establish a safe haven for children and their parents to deal with some of the issues they face on a daily basis. Ozanam would also be able to make dinner available for adults with additional funding that keeps the parents involved. This would allow Ozanam to bridge the gap that is present with family bonding time.

What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?  

 The one goal I hope to accomplish in 2015 is to promote the Ozanam brand to more people. I feel if more people know about what we are doing, the more children Ozanam can serve in a positive way.

What is the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?

The best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh is the amount of foundations that support nonprofit organizations. However, there are so many people doing similar things that go after the same funding.

What does Ozanam have coming up? 

We have a Youth Leadership Conference on May 27, 2015 at the Ammon Recreation Center at 2217 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219.

June 6, 2015, 18U Girls Summer League starts

June 15, 2015, 12U Boys Summer League  starts

June 17, 2015,  16U Boys Summer League starts

June 22, 2015, Summer Camp  starts