Describe your partnership.
Community Partners: Los Angeles Urban League, principals at 2 LA Unified School District elementary schools
Academic Partners: UCLA Department of Medicine, Divisions of Geriatrics and General Internal Medicine
This is a partnership between the UCLA Department of Medicine, Divisions of Geriatrics and General Internal Medicine; the Los Angeles Urban League and principals from several LA Unified School District elementary schools. Our partnership is focused on implementation of our Generation Xchange (Gen X) Program in LAUSD elementary schools with the goal of improving academic and behavioral outcomes for children in grades K-3 and improving health and well-being for the older adults who work with the children through participation in the GenX Program. GenX represents a partnership between the UCLA Department of Medicine, Divisions of Geriatrics and General Internal Medicine; the Los Angeles Urban League and principals from several LA Unified School District elementary schools. Through this partnership, we are focused on implementation of the inter-generational GenX program in LAUSD elementary schools. The GenX program is designed to enhance the academic and behavioral outcomes for elementary school children at risk for poor academic achievement while simultaneously enhancing the health and well-being of older adult volunteers who work with them.
Gen X builds on earlier work by Dr. Teresa Seeman (Professor of Geriatrics at UCLA and co-Director of Generation Xchange along with the Los Angeles Urban League and LAUSD partners) developing and testing a similar program (Experience Corps) in collaboration with Dr. Linda Fried and colleagues at John’s Hopkins. Like Experience Corps, our LA-based Gen X program follows a model wherein older adults who join the program are trained to work in teams in elementary school grades K-3rd. Older adults are assigned to specific classrooms and, under teacher direction, provide individual or small group assistance in reading and math for children who need additional help to improve their reading or math skills. Older adults are asked to commit to at least 10 hours per week. Program features are explicitly designed to maximize benefits to the children by having the volunteers regularly spend sufficient time in an assigned classroom to develop relationships with the children that allow them to most effectively work with the children to improve reading and math skills. Notably, evidence from the longer-running Baltimore program as well as our initial pilot effort in LA have each indicated that an added benefits of the program is reductions in behavior problems among the children – a fact noted by teachers and the principal in our LA demonstration project (see below) within a 6-week period. The program is also designed to benefit the older adult volunteers by ensuring that through the 10+ hours/week that they spend at the school, they engage in regular physical activity, along with cognitive stimulation and social interaction – all known to contribute to better health and well-being at older ages as well as to greater longevity.
Evidence from the longer-running Baltimore Experience Corps program provides initial evidence that the program is succeeding with respect to both primary program goals – improving academic outcomes for the children and health outcomes for the older adult program participants. Findings from the initial Baltimore pilot study and the subsequent randomized-controlled trial both point to better reading and math scores on standardized tests for classrooms with the program; there are also reduced reports of bullying and fewer behavioral problems in schools with the program (e.g., fewer referrals to principal's office, better attendance). Indeed, the program is seen as sufficiently valuable by Baltimore principals that they now routinely commit some of their own budgets to co-fund implementation of the program in their schools. From the perspective of the older adults who participate in the program, we find that they report better mental health and well-being, greater social engagement and exhibit better cognitive function as well as greater physical activity (walking).
Based on these findings, we believe that this program could importantly benefit both elementary school children and older adults in Los Angeles. To that end, over the past year, we have developed a collaboration between UCLA and the Los Angeles Urban League and through their auspices identified an initial demonstration school within the Los Angeles Unified School District - Angeles Mesa Elementary School. With a small initial donor gift, we completed a very successful 6-week pilot effort in 5 classrooms at Angeles Mesa from April through June of 2014. Teachers and the principal all reported that even in the short 6-week period there was evidence that children benefited both academically and behaviorally from the GenX volunteers’ presence in the classrooms. Multiple teachers who did not have a volunteer in their classroom have indicated a strong interest in having one assigned next year.
Based on the positive findings from our initial pilot, for the coming year, we are seeking funding to support expansion of the program to cover all 14 classrooms pre-K through 3rd grade at Angeles Mesa and to initiate program expansion to 54th Street Elementary School (grades K-3). We also hope to implement collection of data on both academic and behavioral milestones for classrooms with and without the program as well as implementing surveys of teachers and principals in order to allow more formal evaluation of program benefits and weaknesses. Based on consultations with our LAUSD partners, planned evaluations will examine program impacts on children’s attendance, behavior and academic scores as well as teacher attendance along with surveys of GenX participants and teachers regarding perceived benefits (and problems/weaknesses) of the program. Our long-term goal is to improve the program. We also plan to develop additional training modules to provide GenX adults for grades 4-6 (something principals and teachers have been asking for already) and, most importantly, to expand into as many of the LAUSD schools with high populations of at risk children (e.g., high percent foster children, high percent Title 1).
These efforts would be pursued in partnership with our collaborators at the Los Angeles Urban League and in the LAUSD. There is considerable enthusiasm at the Los Angeles Urban League regarding the proposed collaboration as it offers exciting opportunities to foster greater inter-generational ties between children and older adults in their community around major important domains (education and health) and, more broadly, to build community social capital. The LAUL will serve as our community partner, spearheading the actual recruitment of older adult volunteers and oversight of the program’s operation in the school. Our UCLA team (Drs. Seeman & Arleen Brown) is also enthusiastic about the proposed collaboration with the Los Angeles Urban League and LAUSD to implement this program. Collaborations such as these offer UCLA an opportunity to engage with local communities around joint interests in improving educational and health outcomes for communities in the Los Angeles area. UCLA’s contribution to this partnership would draw on Dr. Seeman’s experience with the Baltimore Experience Corps Program along with the community relationships that Dr. Arleen Brown (a second UCLA collaborator) brings to this endeavor. Drs. Seeman and Brown also bring years of experience in community-based research and evaluation.
Successful implementation of this inter-generational program in LA would open important new opportunities to enhance critically important early educational outcomes for children in grades K-3 while simultaneously working to enhance health and well-being for older adults.