“Salem has much to recommend it to new residents, including a revitalized downtown, myriad housing options, a university, nightlife and a major museum. But for some years now, the public schools have been its Achilles heel.”

“That’s why it was so heartening last week to hear about a new approach to education that is starting to take place here, an approach that Paul Reville, a former state education commissioner and current Harvard professor, said is at the forefront of a national effort to update the way schools help children in this century. Reville, Superintendent Margarita Ruiz and Mayor Kim Driscoll spoke to the Salem Rotary about it last week.”

“As part of this By All Means program, the city is approaching learning as a community endeavor, calling on community groups, youth groups, the hospital, the university, sports groups and others to step up and help kids get the resources they need to be successful in school.

“The big issue, Reville says, is no secret: Children don’t enter kindergarten on a level playing field. Some have been read to every night, nurtured in preschool, taken to museums, exposed to dancing lessons or nature camps. Others have had none of those advantages. And the resulting achievement gap grows as the years go on, and some children continue to get everything from sports camps to homework help, and others do not.”

“The schools have addressed some barriers to learning, by, for example, offering free breakfast in the classroom every day. Now they are starting a new program in which every child will be assessed by his or her teacher and get an individual plan. Then the teacher can consult with counselors in the schools, who will handle it from there, connecting children with resources that can help with issues ranging from housing needs to outside enrichment.

“Ruiz gave the example of a kid who might benefit from an after-school basketball program, but he lives in a single-parent household and has no way to get to practices. Using the school system’s new partner, City Connects, counselors can help make it happen, perhaps by using a youth group van or connecting a family with another parent on the team who could provide transportation.”

“Our view: A promising new approach for Salem schools,” Oct 1, 2017, Salem News