Hampton City Schools, the Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Hampton Healthy Families agency are partnering to start a nonprofit to better address the needs of families and students in the city's public housing.
A Step-Up Foundation, Inc., is the product of research and data gathered about those students who are also in Hampton schools. Its goal is to help students in public housing break the cycle of poverty, something that research says is harder for those in public housing. Education, from pre-K on up, is vital, research shows.
"The process will allow the Step-Up Foundation to provide extended services, along with current services that are already being offered by Healthy Families and also family engagement specialists," said Michelle Barnes, family self-sufficiency coordinator for HRHA, told the HRHA board recently.
"Hampton City Schools has a wonderful family engagement side. They're in the trenches, they do home visits, they talk to the parents, they work with the parents and they do everything they can to provide support services, but not all parents are taking advantage of it.
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"We know that our families need to take advantage of that, so that partnership between the three of us creates that trifecta of, OK, we know all these things, we'll provide everything we can and all the tools for our families to be successful."
The foundation wants to take a comprehensive approach, from "cradle to career" to help children even before they're born. A wide range of goals and plans were listed, including figuring out transportation options to get families to resources they may not have even known about. The foundation's nonprofit status will allow it to receive donations that then would be used for tutors for core subjects.
HRHA board members expressed a desire to help students have more experiences outside of their neighborhoods, like field trips to the Virginia Living Museum or even having a museum come to housing, to broaden their worldviews.
The school division first formally partnered with HRHA in 2016 to ask families in public housing to allow the two to share data about the students living in either public housing projects or receiving a Section 8 voucher.
There are HRHA students attending every Hampton school, as the majority of students' families receive Section 8 vouchers, which means housing options are spread across the city. The highest concentration of students is at Bryan Elementary School, which gained full accreditation status this past fall.
In its data system, the school division uses five risk factors to assess students' needs as they enter a new grade level. Those are age risk, based on how far behind a student is; attendance risk, with missing 10 percent of school or higher posing a risk; behavior risk, based on the number of out-of-school suspension days a student has received; reading risk, based on the appropriate assessment; and math risk, based on the student's latest Standards of Learning test.
HRHA had originally asked families to opt in to allow student's school data to be shared with the authority, resulting in 602 participants that were compared against Hampton students as a whole.
Some red flags were there, with HRHA student data being considerably worse in a few areas. Once the division was able to pull aggregate data about all HRHA students, about 2,400 in total, the discrepancies between HRHA students and non-HRHA students were less severe.
About 13.8 percent of all HRHA students are a year behind grade level, compared to 8.8 percent of non-HRHA Hampton students.
More than 16 percent of students have missed 10 percent to 19 percent of school, while about 5 percent have missed more than 20 percent. Those numbers are 9.6 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, for the rest of the Hampton students.
Two hundred-and-six HRHA students, or 8.5 percent, have been suspended 10 or more days, compared to 1.4 percent of the overall Hampton student population.
Sixty-three percent of HRHA students are at an acceptable reading level, 26 percent are at a high "reading risk," and 10.5 percent are at a moderate risk, higher figures than those of all students.
Each risk is assessed at a two-point value, and students may have up to 10 risk points. The higher the number, the more help a student may need.
About 39 percent of HRHA students have zero risk points, compared to 51 percent for disadvantaged students and 60 percent of all Hampton students.
The focus for now is on early literacy, which mirrors Superintendent Jeffery Smith's efforts to get 95 percent of third-graders reading on grade level by 2020.
"Short-term is early literacy, because we can't do it all," said HRHA executive director Ron Jackson. "There's a lot of resources there ... We're going to start at the early childhood, that's our focus now, and let the other parts come."