- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) - In an effort to cut the minority achievement gap, the Brooklyn Center school district is offering free health care services to its students and other children.

It’s part of a small nationwide movement spurred by education advocates who say adding health care services to schools can help people in disadvantaged communities, Minnesota Public Radio News reported (https://bit.ly/1parVYe .)

District officials in Brooklyn Center say offering free care is improving students’ health and increasing community engagement. In 2009 the district converted two classrooms at one of its schools into a health care clinic, a $250,000 project funded by the Park Nicollet Foundation.

“This is a fully functioning clinic,” said Dr. Amy Bonifas, a doctor from Park Nicollet Health Services. “We’ve got three exam rooms, we can get through 15 to 18 kids in an afternoon.”

Patrice Howard, community school manager for Brooklyn Center’s school district, said the clinic helps students get the health care they need, which translates into fewer absences. In 2009, there were more than 9,000 absences in the district’s high school, compared with fewer than 6,500 last year.

She also credited the health clinic and services, including tutoring and before- and after-school programs, for raising reading scores for some students in recent years.

But overall in the school district, math and reading scores are 20 points lower than the state average and have dipped in the last two years. About a 15 percentage point gap separates reading and math test scores of white and black students in Brooklyn Center.

“The ways (a community school) helps youngsters are not always going to show up in test scores or graduation rates, sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t,” said Joe Nathan, director of the St. Paul-based Center for School Change. “But if your goal is just to improve standardized test scores or graduation rates this isn’t necessarily going to produce that result.”

However, Nathan said that schools that offer health care services aren’t a bad idea. He said health care services provided by schools result in healthier kids and more stable families.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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