The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shift to remote learning models, causing challenges related to childcare and access to education. In response, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Trying Together, and the United Way partnered with out-of-school time providers and community-based organizations to open Community Learning Hubs. Opened in September 2020, the Hubs provided a free place for students to engage in virtual learning. Forty-nine providers operated 75 Hub locations that offered schoolwork support, technology troubleshooting, high-speed internet access, and meal distribution in a safe, supervised environment. This report provides data about student demographics, the school districts involved, and attendance trends.
The presence of police officers in schools has become increasingly common since the practice was introduced in the 1950s. While law enforcement in schools may deter criminal behavior, it can also have the effect of increasing youth juvenile justice system involvement. Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) wanted to learn more about youth arrests in Pittsburgh, particularly differences related to where an allegation happens — in or out of school — and how the outcomes of students involved with the juvenile justice system differ from those who have not been involved. We also wanted to know more about students’ involvement with human services in order to better understand where there might be gaps in services and supports for students involved with juvenile justice.
To explore these questions, we took a descriptive longitudinal look at students who were registered in Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) in school year 2010 and followed them through 2018.
What we found:
- One out of four middle and high school students who attended Pittsburgh Public Schools in the 2010 school year had at least one allegation in juvenile court during the study period. Of those allegations, 37% were made by PPS police.
- Eighty percent of students with allegations were Black, while only 58% of the total student body was Black. The rate of disproportionately was similar for allegations made by school police and those made outside of school.
- Allegations made by PPS police were much more likely to be for lower-level offenses than allegations outside of school, but more than half of students with either type of allegation had involvement with the adult criminal justice system later on.
- Students with an allegation had a higher number of school absences and suspensions throughout their time in school than those with no allegations.
- Students with an allegation were more likely than other students to be involved with the child welfare system, mental health services and live in assisted housing.
In recent years, PPS has put in place programs to divert students from the criminal justice system as well as implement restorative justice practices in schools, which we hope will lead to a reduction in disproportionality and improved outcomes for students.
When a child is placed in a foster home, the resulting move can also mean living in a new school district. Research has shown that unplanned school changes can lead to worse educational outcomes, such as lower test scores and graduation rates. A 2015 federal mandate, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires that children in child welfare placements remain in their home school – unless it is determined not to be in the student’s best interest – so as to maximize a student’s stability and educational outcomes.
In response, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services took advantage of a wealth of data and strong school partnerships to develop a collaborative, child-centered process that helps children in child welfare placements maintain school stability whenever possible. The result was hundreds of students continuing to attend their home school in the 2016-17 school year.
Read the full report to learn about how DHS responded, challenges we faced, and results from the first year of implementation.
Child welfare out-of-home placements are stressful events, compounded by the fact they may result in a youth changing schools. Research shows mid-year school changes to be disruptive both academically and socially. This report examines child welfare imposed mobility, identifying system challenges as well as the positive factors that have led to an overall decrease in these system-imposed school moves.
Content and analysis: Emily Kulick and Samantha Murphy
Writer: Jeffery Fraser
By the spring of 2015, 16 school districts, Propel Schools and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit had signed legal agreements with the Department of Human Services (DHS), allowing data to be shared on a level never before possible.
This publication describes the way in which DHS’s partnerships with local school districts continued to expand and enabled us to focus on specific issues, such as homelessness, greater collaboration between human services and school social workers, and faster and more through identification of students in need.
Schools districts and human service systems define homelessness differently (as mandated by their respective regulatory and funding entities), resulting in many youth who are known to only one system. While being homeless is a disruptive experience that often hurts educational achievement, homeless youth are afforded additional supports to counteract these impacts. This report examines the misalignment in the two homeless populations, examining the underlying reasons as well as the potential solutions that would allow both schools and the human services agency to support the larger homeless population.
Writer: Jeffery Fraser
Research and content: Sanjeev Baidyaroy, Emily Kulick and Erin Dalton
Intensive supervision programs like school-based probation are increasingly viewed as a way to generate savings to society, by preventing or reducing the likelihood of crime, as well as to improve outcomes for the juvenile offenders through an emphasis on education and employment opportunities. Allegheny County examined a number of outcomes for Pittsburgh Public School students under school-based probation before, during and after supervision, including participation in social services, educational outcomes, and future involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Of the students in school-based probation, more than 70 percent improved attendance during supervision and over 40 percent improved their Grade Point Average (GPA). Interestingly, for students charged with misdemeanors, those who recidivate have more than double the absence rate during supervision than those who do not re-offend.
Prepared by: Kathryn Collins, Ph.D., Erin Dalton and Emily Kulick
An increased focus on school attendance has led to the implementation of a number of strategies designed to reduce absenteeism and its related impact on academic outcomes. The implications of chronic absenteeism are particularly relevant for students involved in human services, who account for a disproportionate number of chronically absent students.
This brief addresses the impact of absenteeism on students and describes the various local efforts to improve school attendance.
DHS analyzed data and conducted interviews about the services provided and outcomes achieved by two Allegheny County truancy prevention programs. This report details those activities and provides information about ways in which truancy prevention and intervention efforts could be improved.
The ACHIEVE after-school program evolved from DHS’s data-sharing agreement with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and was designed as an intervention for under-performing middle school students who were also involved in human services. ACHIEVE ran for two years and had inconsistent results. Overall, it did not result in improved school performance for the participating students. This brief describes the program and the results, including the challenges faced and lessons learned.
At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, about three percent of Pittsburgh Public School students were enrolled in a cyber charter school and less than one percent of Pittsburgh Public School students were being home-schooled. An analysis showed that these students had very little human service involvement, as described in this data brief.
In the third year of the agreement that allows the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and Department of Human Services (DHS) to integrate data, collaboration extended beyond DHS and local school districts, and community stakeholders became engaged in improving educational outcomes for children.
This publication details progress since the original Memorandum of Understanding between DHS and local school districts was signed.
In response to federal, state and local priorities, DHS implemented the Pennsylvania General and Special Education/Disability Accommodation Screen (Education Screen) in partnership with provider agencies and local school districts. The Education Screen was designed to increase collaborative efforts between DHS and school districts, with a focus on improved educational outcomes for students. Implementation included appointment of an Education Liaison, revisions to the child welfare records management application to allow for electronic completion of the Screen, and training and technical assistance. This report describes the implementation strategies utilized and lessons learned.
In January 2012, DHS and the Clairton City School District signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to share student data. The partnership built on previous work to share data between Pittsburgh Public Schools and DHS.
Using data shared between Clairton and DHS, 63 percent of Clairton students were found to have prior or current involvement with human services programs. The report describes which DHS programs students were involved with and the educational outcomes of students who received DHS services compared to those who did not.
The second year of the agreement that allows the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and Department of Human Services (DHS) to integrate data brought opportunities to improve school performance of children involved in human services. For example, the Administration for Children and Families Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded DHS a grant to develop new ways to use data to address truancy and improve the educational stability of children in care. DHS was also one of four agencies selected to receive a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to study the relationship between public housing residency and students’ academic performance and outcomes.
This publication details the challenges and achievements of the second year of DHS’s data sharing agreement with local school districts.