May 2016 OT2 Update

Achieve Brown County’s Outcome Team Two has been hard at work. Our team was formed with the single goal—to help every child succeed in school. Our work began with defining “success.”  What does it mean for a child to succeed in school? After much deliberation we agreed that success means graduation from high school. We then worked to understand the reality of Brown County’s students. After receiving the message that 13% of all Brown County students (the percentage is much higher for low-income, disabled, and ELL students) do not graduate from high school, we began to brainstorm the obstacles that students face upon the road to “success.”

Topics such as mental health concerns, housing insecurity, family dynamics, and language barriers were all discussed. After grouping these concerns, we worked to identify the numerous groups and programs that are in the Brown County area that are already working hard to combat these obstacles. We were both amazed and proud of this lengthy asset map.

We quickly identified that it is critical to include students in our discussion. Thus, three focus groups were organized. The first group met with current high school students at Rosa-Minoka Hill; the second and third group met with students enrolled in a GED program at NWTC. There were a couple common themes we heard through these focus groups:

  • the feeling of connectedness is incredibly important (large classes and transitioning schools were mentioned as difficulties.)
  • poor personal decisions began to steam roll and made it difficult to correct.
  • difficult relationships, both familial and peer, were reflected upon as being detrimental (i.e., bullying, lack of support from family, and poor transitions from school to school.)

Using the American Community Survey results, Mary Klos was able to give us a better picture of the differences between low income and not low income families in Brown County and the differences between low income families that live in urban and rural communities in Brown County. It was found that 84% of the households that are not low income are white compared to the 50% of low income. Another interesting piece of information was that 21% of low income households had 1 or more non-relative living in the household compared to 5% in not low income.

This past month we began the difficult discussion of which obstacles are most important for us to address and the approaches of addressing the issues. A few high on our lists were: mentoring, parent and community engagement, health (both mental and physical of the student and family), and the sequential impact of root causes of poverty.

We have a long road ahead of us so we wish for your support and well wishes and we work to smooth the path for our community’s future.

– submitted by Chloe Hansen-Miller