New report aimed to help DHS affiliated students

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Superintendent William Hite said yesterday that the report provided him with a new perspective on the schools budget. With him are (from left) Lori Shorr, chief education officer; David Rubin, of PolicyLab; and DHS chief Anne Marie Ambrose.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Superintendent William Hite said yesterday that the report provided him with a new perspective on the schools budget. With him are (from left) Lori Shorr, chief education officer; David Rubin, of PolicyLab; and DHS chief Anne Marie Ambrose.
Posted: June 12, 2014

THE DEPARTMENT of Human Services should place social workers in Philadelphia public schools that have a high concentration of students involved with the child-welfare or juvenile-justice systems, DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose said yesterday.

Ambrose was speaking at a news conference held to announce the results of a multiagency study that found that those students are more likely to underperform academically and less likely to attend class.

Overall, students in that group make up about 17 percent of the Philadelphia School District. Among high school students, the ratio jumps to 20 percent.

The findings were released in a report - completed by the PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and commissioned by DHS, the school district, the Mayor's Office of Education and the School Reform Commission - that examines the level of DHS involvement in the school system.

A handful of social workers are already in some schools, but Ambrose said this initiative would place about 27 around the district.

"This study is sobering for us in many ways," Ambrose said. "We have made some progress. We have done some really good things, but in education our kids are still struggling."

A broader 2006 study focusing on school dropouts found a correlation with students affiliated with DHS and the justice system, but the new study focused on locating the students and determining their needs to achieve academically.

"You can't redeploy millions of dollars in resources without getting some really carefully done data to understand," said Lori Shorr, Mayor Nutter's chief education officer.

"What we are trying to do is be an on-site support to the teachers and principals who identify kids who need services or families that need services, and then we refer them through our community umbrella agencies so we can provide them with help," Ambrose said.

How the new program will be funded is still unclear.

"We are going to continue to advocate both the city and the state for funding," Superintendent William Hite Jr. said. "I'm in Harrisburg [today] to do that."

Hite said the report puts a new perspective on budgetary needs.

"We have come to think very differently about how the resources are used, however small or large those resources are," he said.

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