The Center for Urban Policy & Action Holds Symposium on Student Achievement and the Health-Education Connection

At this year’s symposium are, from left, Professor Mike Giarratano, Professor Ann Clark, keynote speaker Charles Basch and Professor Ed Hendricks.

News Story: June 13, 2013

Sacred Heart University’s Center for Urban Policy and Action (CUPA) recently held a day-long symposium on “Student Achievement and the Health-Wellness-Education Connection.” The event, organized by Edward Hendricks, CUPA’s director and an education professor at the university, featured keynote speaker Charles Basch, the Richard March Hoe Professor of Health Education at Teachers College of Columbia University. The event attracted government officials, non-profit agency directors, educators, parent organizations, SHU faculty and others.

CUPA’s mission is to improve the lives of children in urban areas in the State of Connecticut. Housed in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education at SHU, CUPA provides a means for systematic study and analysis of education, public health and economic policy issues confronting urban communities; and for developing practical, creative solutions to these issues.

Basch has documented the scope of “educationally relevant health disparities” showing that poorer students suffer disproportionally from a group of interrelated health, wellness and safety issues that directly hinder their achievement in school. His research has led him to conclude that “80 to 90 percent of school turn-around efforts have failed, and I believe that a big reason is that we haven’t addressed these health barriers. Until we do, our efforts to close the nation’s achievement gap by academic means – improving teacher and leader effectiveness, improving curriculum, strengthening learning standards and assessment – are going to be greatly compromised,” he told the gathering.

He shared some of the results of his research and challenged symposium participants to respond. A few statistics he shared included: 20 percent of youth have vision problems, asthma affects 14 percent of youth under age 18, teen pregnancy affects one in three teens, 28 percent of adolescents are bullied at school, two in three students don’t get enough physical activity, 20 percent of youth skip breakfast and eight percent of youth ages 6-17 have been diagnosed with hyperactivity.

After Basch’s introduction, the gathering divided up into four concurrent interactive breakout groups, each with a moderator and subject-matter experts. The topics were the use of visual and performing arts in generating wellness and well-being; domestic violence and its impact on student learning and achievement; new ways schools and school nurses can become models for neighborhood health and wellness centers and how students (and parents) can best be motivated for academic success and achievement.

Hendricks hopes the symposium will spur change and ideas. “We should think differently about some of the root causes of the so-called ‘Education Achievement Gap’ (Connecticut has the largest gap in the country), while generating ideas about clinical and field placement opportunities, as well as potential research initiatives for students (e.g. in public housing facilities, with non-profit organizations, etc.),” he concluded.