Program developer explains benefits

Sharyn Maust
Gazette Managing Editor

Two Washington state researchers, the state secretary of education and the state agency funding a model program
in Bedford County had
the opportunity to see their work in action and to talk about it.

As part of Education Secretary Jerry Zahorchak’s visit to the county, he met with the
Unified Family Services System board at the Bedford County Technical Center, telling them that the classrooms he had earlier visited at Everett Elementary were “one of the best experiences I’ve
had as secretary... I’d like to visit such classrooms every day.”

The UFSS organization in
Bedford County is a collaboration of agencies school officials and community members who are the primary
sponsors for Raising Healthy Children, a program to reduce
the dropout rate and “prevent negative behavior.”

The five school districts in the county are cooperating in the program, which is unique
in Pennsylvania. In addition to providing training for teachers and providing an achievement model for students, Raising Healthy Children has providea a number of workshops for parents.

Dr. Richard Catalano, director of the Social Development Research Group at the University
of Washington, told the
board Wednesday that in more than 25 years of research, program development and tracking the students who took part in his
program, “It is a career high for me to visit these schools and see the beginning stages of Raising Healthy Children
implemented here.”

Catalano said that finding
the root causes of problems was not that difficult for researchers, but finding a way
to change the problems was. “We found that early in a child’s development, there should be way to prevent their wanting to explore negative behaviors” — drug use and violence, for example.

He said that risk factors and common predictors for destructive behavior lie in both the schools and the home, so the Raising Healthy Children program strategy
addresses both of those centers of a child’s world to present a consistent message in both. The first part of the Bedford
County program began with school staff training last year. One modification in the county made with Catalano’s approval was for more than one coach, so the program will
be continued by school staff when funding runs ends. The county’s
program is funded under a competitive grant by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Catalano said that 250 parents have also attended at least one
of the workshops held in the past year. The participants were parents of children from kindergarten to age 14.
“Who do students listen to? Those who they respect and love and who make a commitment
to helping them, so there
are opportunities for both parents and schools,” Catalano said.

For students, the program also provides what Catalano called “the skills for them to get along in classrooms.” He
showed some example, such as having the students check in,
instead of having the traditional roll taking.
Zahorchak called the county program “a way to get parents and students ready for the
risks at the upper levels.”

Another speaker, county
commissioner Steve Howsare, noted what those are. For example, he said that in a survey students completed in 2005, one in four students in the 10th grade said they had engaged in binge drinking. The survey also found a higher rate of smoking than the state
average, one-third of students saying they had felt depressed over the past 30 days, one in
10 students saying they had been attacked and a significant number rating their own abilities below average. “I’m just pleased to be part
of a successful program such as this,” Howsare said.

Catalano said the next step in the program is to “get into academic motivational strategies”
this winter.

Several teachers at the
meeting said the most successful part of the program has been to improve the child/parent relationship, which they
then see played out in the classroom.

State Education secretary visits RHC classrooms

Reprinted from the Bedford Gazette

Karen Smithmyer
Gazette Staff Writer

December 13, 2007, EVERETT, Pa — Officials from the state’s education department joined area school administrators Wednesday to check on the progress of Raising Healthy Children, a four-year program created to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors in children. Program developers Richard Catalano and Kevin Haggerty also were on hand, and the group toured Everett Elementary to see their program in action. Catalano and Haggerty are researchers at the University of Washington and created the program through more than 25-years of research.

Education Secertary Gerald Zahorchak
Students in Kelly Waugerman’s class complain to Gerald Zahorchak about the pop quiz the state secretary of education gave them Wednesday at Everett Elementary school. The question? Spell Zahorchak.

All Bedford County school districts received
grant money totaling $975,000 through the Unified Family
Services Systems and Bedford County’s Collaborative Board last spring to help combine the teacher, parent and student
components of learning.

According to Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, the program’s implementation has increased classroom atmosphere and students’ will to learn. “Going through the different classrooms today and seeing how the program has affected the instructor’s teaching skills is just amazing,” Zahorchak said. “They have been able to actually teach in healthy environments, therefore allowing the students to instill that healthy environment in their lives.”

Besides touring the classrooms, Zahorchak gave a pop
quiz to Kelly Waugerman’s fourth-grade class. The two part quiz began relatively easy— spell his last name correctly, but then it branched off into a challenge for the students to try to understand why there is a Constitution
for democracy and how that makes good citizens.

Raising healthy citizens is at the core of every lesson the program teaches, according to the school officials. The Raising Healthy Children program is implemented in school and after school with the parents as well. Evening workshops are offered for parents that cover observing and pointing out desirable and undesirable behavior and providing consistent reinforcement of desired behavior These workshops, according to Everett Elementary Principal Shawn Kovak, are beneficial to the whole of the program working. “We’ve had parents and grandparents come to the workshops and tell me how much they love this because it
puts them on the same page as the district,” Kovak said.

Zahorchak also said he believes the program has given the county a common voice and put everyone on the same page of teaching. “Since all the county schools use this program, it’s easy for students who transfer in and out of schools; they don’t have to learn a new system.”

Bedford County is the only county in the state to have
every district using the program, making the county a
leader in the state, according to Geoff Kolchin, program
analyst for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency, the program's funder. “Bedford is a model county for research-based programs and they should be proud to be using such a great program.”

Richard Catalano
Raising Healthy Children co-creator Richard Catalano talks with Everett Elementary students about their rainforest project Wednesday at the school. Each district across the county uses the program, which is funded through a grant to the Unified Family Services Systems.

The in-school component of the program involves staff
training over the next four years that will help teachers improve classroom management, support students' social emotional development, cooperative learning and motiviation. Each district has five to 10 coaches who help the other teachers with the professional development.

Wednesday’s tour was the first time the education
department and program creators came together to see the program’s progress, and they were able to see the commonality from classroom to classroom the program offers. In each classroom, whether it was learning support, fourth grade or second grade, each room had the same basic learning tools the program offers. Some commonalities included a class schedule, rules and program fundamentals displayed in the rooms. “The Raising Healthy Children program helps create a team for the students and teachers,” Waugerman said. “The students understand the program’s fundamental quotes of responsibility, respect and rights, and how they can use them outside the classroom.”

Although this is the first year of implementation, Zahorchak said the program is succeeding and that he could see the program working in districts across the state.

Note: Minor editing for clarity


(Learn more about the Raising Healthy Children Program in Bedford County)