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SU social work students and Syracuse City School District team up for new approach for student intervention
SU social work students and Syracuse City School District team up for new approach for student interventionNovember 29, 2005Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
This year, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) has begun a new partnership with the School of Social Work in the College of Human Services and Health Professions (HSHP) at Syracuse University to introduce a new pilot program of social services to students in Syracuse city schools. The program is a collaboration between SCSD, CONTACT Community Services, the Onondaga County Mental Health department (OCMH) and SU. CONTACT is a non-profit agency that offers mental health and educational programs to individuals and organizations in the Syracuse community.
Launched in September, the program is based on the RALLY program model developed by Gil Noam, a clinical and developmental psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. RALLY stands for Responsive Advocacy for Life and Learning in Youth. First used in Boston in 1994-95, RALLY programs have spread to public elementary, middle and high schools across the country. In Syracuse, the RALLY program will operate within the seventh grade classes at Blodgett Middle School. Seventh graders were selected for participation in the program because it is a time of great change developmentally, allowing many opportunities for successful intervention and prevention education. About 100 students are participating in the program.
“The experience is a very realistic preparation for a career in social work,” says Brooke Cross, a second-year graduate student in the social work program. “We’re learning more about the adolescent population and how to help meet their needs.”
Over the course of two semesters, four clinical interns, called “prevention practitioners,” from the School of Social Work will work at Blodgett and spend about 16 hours per week with students in the classroom environment with the teacher, in one-on-one sessions and in after school sessions with students and their families. The practitioners aim to improve academic outcomes, such as raising attendance, grades and test scores, and reducing discipline problems. They also try to eliminate academic barriers the students may have to learning, or emotional barriers in students’ lives.
Cross and the other practitioners work with the students in groups twice a week and with some individual students twice a week. In her sessions with the children, Cross provides academic support, helping them with assignments and encouraging them to work in groups. The after-school portion of the program has not yet begun.
This innovative approach to helping students focuses on building strong relationships among students and social work practitioners, their peers, teachers and families, without removing them from the classroom setting and separating them from their classmates. The RALLY model emphasizes “pulling in services, versus pulling out the child.” Keeping students in the classroom prevents them from being identified as different, thereby eliminating the stigma associated with participation in such support programs.
Students are evaluated for varying levels of intervention based on a tiered continuum. Tier 3 is the inclusive level, and includes all children in the classroom. They receive periodic check-ins, scanning, crisis intervention, teacher consults and referrals for other social services assistance when needed. Tier 2 students, also called the “targeted prevention” group, have a moderate need for assistance and may struggle more than some of their classmates, so they may require more attention and focused services. They benefit from support groups, academic groups, classroom help, regular check-ins, and after-school and summer referrals. Tier 1 students are referred to as the “high intensity” group, and need the greatest degree of attention from the program. They receive one-to-one mentoring, one-to-one weekly meetings, family outreach, individual academic support and the services available to the other tier groups.
Tier 1 students are often those with developmental challenges or behavioral, emotional or mental health disorders.
The RALLY model has several advantages:
- Children receiving extra support are not stigmatized;
- students are able to remain with their peers in a developmentally rich classroom environment;
- low- and moderate-need students who would not otherwise qualify for services are able to benefit from RALLY’s early detection efforts and academic and psychological supports; and
- each child receives services customized to his or her own needs.
By conducting social activities and providing academic support, the practitioners strive to establish and maintain a relationship with the students. Based on the results of this year’s groups, the RALLY program may be expanded to other schools in the district and made available to more grade levels in the future.
“RALLY is a really great program that reflects a wonderful collaboration in our community,” says Diane Ogno, the program’s clinical supervisor and site coordinator. “It’s highly valuable in that it meets mental health needs without stigmatization and builds upon the strengths of the students in their environment.”
The RALLY program at Blodgett Middle School is funded by SCSD, CONTACT and OCMH. For more information on the program, contact Peg Miller, director of field instruction in SUs School of Social Work, at (315) 443-5565 firstname.lastname@example.org.