Questions
1)  What curriculum do you use to provide instruction in pro-social decision making and relationship building?
2)  How are the schools providing developmentally appropriate instruction focused on understanding the risks and impact of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and abuse?
3)  What is Title IV?
4)  What is the local plan for reducing alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by students in the Somerville Public Schools?
5)  What data do you use to make decisions about how you will use your Title IV money?
6)  How can I influence the development of the District's Social Competency plan?
7)  What resources and services does the District offer to support parents in teaching healthy decision-making at home?
8)  What is the District doing to support community partners and families in the use of complementary social competency and prevention tools outside of school?
 
Answers
1)  Q What curriculum do you use to provide instruction in pro-social decision making and relationship building?
A

The Somerville Public Schools uses three complementary curricula, all approved by the federal Department of Education for their effectiveness in helping students develop healthy relationships with peers and adults, respond appropriately to peer pressure, and rely upon safe and healthy modes of conflict resolution and decision making. These curricula are:

  • Al's Pals, used at the Capuano Early Childhood Center
  • Open Circle, used in Grades K-4 at the Healey School and
  • Second Step, used at all other elementary schools and grades.

Interviews with Somerville students remind us that it is difficult to teach friendship exclusively in the classroom. As a result, the Somerville Public Schools places a priority on creating an environment in which healthy decision making and positive social relationships are encouraged. Every school uses Youth Risk Behavior Survey and discipline data to create a plan for reinforcing the principles and practices of their social competency curriculum through professional development for teachers and other staff, use of school-wide standards for behavior (for example, zero tolerance for bullying), and special events. Every school has an Aspirations Team which is responsible for planning small projects that encourage students and staff to feel a sense of belonging and personal investment in the school community. In addition, District-wide, the Somerville Mediation Program trains and deploys high school youth to peacefully negotiate conflicts between students, and runs Junior Peacemakers Clubs in middle school after-school programs. Contact your child's principal or teacher to learn more about the school's efforts to address social competency in the school environment.

Every year the Somerville Public Schools evaluates the use of these curricula in the classroom using information provided by teachers, administrators, and results from the annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This data and the local plan for continuing to improve social competency of students through classroom and school-based efforts is reported to the Safe and Drug Free Schools program of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and is available in the documents folder below.

The District hosts an annual School Health Advisory Committee meeting and invites parents/guardians, community members and staff to provide feedback on the local plan for promoting healthy decision making before it is submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for approval. Contact us if you would like to be included as a potential member of the School Health Advisory Committee meeting.

2)  Q How are the schools providing developmentally appropriate instruction focused on understanding the risks and impact of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and abuse?
A
The middle grades health curriculum standards call for the provision of developmentally appropriate instruction on the risks and impacts of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, in addition to the sexuality and human reproduction. The 2007 Somerville Youth Risk Behavior Survey data shows that 38% of middle grades student report using an illegal substance at least once in their lifetime, and 18% of these students report being current users of illegal substances. The District recognizes the need to provide appropriate and effective prevention education to students before Grade 6 and is currently reviewing curricula for teaching these topics in the classroom with the goal of having a new, federally approved instructional program in place by September 2011 at the latest. Until a new program is selected and training begins, the District is using a locally developed curriculum to teach these important, required health topics.
3)  Q What is Title IV?
A
Title IV is a federal block grant awarded to the State and then given to local education agencies. Title IV specifically funds the delivery of evidence-based activities to prevent the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs by students.

Title IV is also called the Safe and Drug Free Schools grants.

While Title IV, if authorized by the US Congress, is guaranteed, the Somerville Public Schools must still submit a local plan, and a grant narrative to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to release funds. The funds are only given to the District when the plan and grant proposal meet the ok of the program managers at the State.
4)  Q What is the local plan for reducing alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by students in the Somerville Public Schools?
A

The Somerville Public Schools is required, as a condition of receiving Title IV block grant funding from the Department of Education, to have a local plan for its use of Safe and Drug Free Schools (aka Title IV) money. The following local plan was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for the use of funds in FY2010:


VIOLENCE PREVENTION

Given available discipline and YRBS data, improving the District's elementary violence prevention/social competency instruction and school-wide positive behavior systems has been a priority for the Somerville Public Schools over the last three years. In FY10 the District will continue to roll-out consistent, school-wide violence prevention instruction and school-wide culture change efforts. These efforts will include:

Staff Professional Development



  • Train at least three staff members to become a Second Step trainer for grades K-5

  • Provide two Second Step trainings for teachers and other staff serving students in grades 2-5

  • Provide classroom coaching to teachers implementing Second Step in grades 2-8

  • Support second part of Healey School Open Circle teacher training (Grades K-4)

  • Offer training in Second Step and use of the District's peer mediation program for (a) paraprofessionals, (b) after-school staff, and (c) cafeteria workers

  • Support evidence-based professional development training for parochial school staff on bullying prevention in the school environment

  • Offering staff opportunities to attend professional development offered locally and regionally through membership in Middlesex Partnerships for Youth.



Complementary Positive Behavior Intervention System training will be supported through the District's ARRA IDEA grants, and the District's on-going school culture change work with the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations will be supported by Title IIA.



Instructional Support


The District's Second Step/Open Circle implementation plan called for the launch of a renewed, school-wide instructional program in grades 6-8 in FY09 and grades 2-5 in FY10. In FY10 the District will use IDEA ARRA funds to continue to purchase middle grades curriculum kits to reduce the need for sharing and thus increase the implementation of the materials in the classroom. The District will use Title IV/Safe and Drug Free Schools funds to purchase additional Grades K-5 Second Step kits. Funds will be set aside to purchase instructional materials for teachers in Grades K-4 at the Healey School who are implementing Open Circle.



Family Outreach and Engagement


An area of deficit addressed in the District's Corrective Action Plan following its FY09 Coordinated Program Review is family outreach and engagement. In FY10 the District will:



  • Give schools mini-grants (up to $250) to support school-specific family outreach and engagement plans developed by the local implementation teams. Ideas that have been identified in the end-of-year program implementation evaluations include (a) having a Second Step information bulletin board in the school with regular updates on themes and classroom activities to support violence prevention, and (b) working with the PTA to host a family event or educational program intended to extend school-wide social competency, positive behavior intervention and violence prevention activities in the home.

  • Engage Middlesex Partnerships for Youth in delivering at least one community-wide training on a violence prevention/alcohol-tobacco-drug prevention theme.

  • Provide support and information to principals so they can include a "violence prevention" column in their monthly newsletters sent home to every family.

  • Include a social competency block every three months in the District-wide email newsletter.



Assessment


In FY09, the District pilot tested a Program Implementation Checklist. Data provided by principals and their social competency support teams annually is used to inform the development of the local plan and set budget priorities, and set local goals for expanding program implementation beyond the classroom. The District will begin using a Classroom checklist to assess how the selected social competency programs are being implemented. This data will be (a) used to identify how classroom supports might be improved to support full implementation of the classroom instruction, and (b) cross tabulated with discipline and YRBS data as possible to identify if variations in implementation has an impact on incidents of violence in school and the community. The latter data will be reported to the School Committee and other constituencies annually. Classroom support data will be used to target instructional improvements as needed.


ALCOHOL, TOBACCO and OTHER DRUG (ATOD) PREVENTION

This is an identified area of weakness for the Somerville Public Schools. In FY10 the District proposes to engage a representative group of staff and community experts in reviewing available data on youth ATOD use, identify risk and protective factors which pose the greatest points of leverage for the District and its partners to promote change, and to develop a plan for ATOD prevention which includes classroom instruction aligned with health and, as relevant, other curriculum standards. The District will strive to engage youth and families in this process by engaging the community anti-drug coalition, Somerville Cares About Prevention, as partner. This process will inform the development of the FY11 Local Plan.


EVALUATION

In its Corrective Action Plan submitted to the Department on July 29, 2009, the District pledged to make YRBS and other data indicators (e.g. discipline data, mediation program data) available to principals, social competency implementation teams and school improvement councils to inform the development of the annual School Improvement. This data will also be used to set benchmark goals in the District Improvement Plan approved and monitored by the Somerville School Committee. Progress towards these benchmarks are reported at least twice a year to the School Committee and made available to the community through open and televised meetings, on the Web and through press releases sent to the local media. All School Improvement Plans and the District Improvement Plan are made available to the community and staff.


In addition, in FY10 the District will host its first annual comprehensive school health program meeting intended to engage multiple sectors of the community, including parents/guardians (e.g. PTA representatives, ELL Parent Liaisons), community partners (e.g. Somerville Cares About Prevention, CASPAR Youth Services), and government agencies (e.g. Somerville Health Department, Somerville Police Department) in (a) reviewing available evaluation data about the safe and drug free schools program, (b) reviewing District priorities for continued improvements in the upcoming year, and (c) soliciting recommendations for additional improvements based on analysis of data and progress, and community need/interest and activities.


5)  Q What data do you use to make decisions about how you will use your Title IV money?
A

The District primarily relies upon the bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In even years we survey students in grades 9-12, and in odd years we survey students in grades 6-8.

Survey administration and data analysis is currently overseen by Somerville Cares About Prevention (SCAP), a program of the Somerville Health Department.

Data is reported annually to the School Committee and the community. All youth health survey data is also available in the Health Department section of the City website.

6)  Q How can I influence the development of the District's Social Competency plan?
A

We annually hosted a comprehensive school health advisory meeting which is open to the entire community.  At this meeting we will gather in small groups to (a) discuss the risk factors facing our students, (b) review data on our progress towards our goals of ensuring every young person has knowledge, skills, attitudes and support to make healthy decisions, and (c) make recommendations for strengthening our efforts to promote healthy decision-making at home, in the community and at home.

You can also provide feedback on the public comment section of our website, www.somerville.k12.ma.us/public_comment.

7)  Q What resources and services does the District offer to support parents in teaching healthy decision-making at home?
A
Parents/guardians are students' first teachers! We recognize that some families may want additional information and support in their efforts to promote healthy decision making at home. The Somerville Family Learning Collaborative regularly offers free workshops for families on issues related to social and emotioal health. Visit www.somerville.k12.ma.us/families or call 617-625-6600 x6966 to learn more.

8)  Q What is the District doing to support community partners and families in the use of complementary social competency and prevention tools outside of school?
A

Good education requires a partnership between schools, communities and families. As resources allow there are opportunities for community partners and families to learn strategies for reinforcing the District's social competency and other healthy decision-making curricula outside of school. These include:

  • SPF100, a high school club dedicated to training teens to educate each other and the community about healthy decision making. SPF100 is organized by Somerville Cares About Prevention, the community anti-drug coalition managed by the Somerville Health Department. Contact the Health Department by email or telephone at 617-625-6600 x4300 to learn more about getting involved with SPF100 or Somerville Cares About Prevention.
  • Guiding Good Choices, a five-week alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention education program for families is offered in English and Spanish at The Family Center and Concilio Hispano through Somerville Cares About Prevention. Contact Somerville Cares About Prevention by email or telephone at 617-625-6600 x4300 to learn more about the next class series.