May 2010

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Upcoming Whole Child Podcast: Summer Learning and Development

One hundred years of research demonstrates that without enriching experiences during the summer, students typically experience learning loss. Yet tight budgets make it increasingly difficult to ensure that learning continues throughout the summer. How can we ensure that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged throughout the summer?

Join us on Thursday, June 3, on the Whole Child Podcast to learn how schools and communities can partner to create engaging summer programs. You’ll hear from Ron Fairchild, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, about summer learning research, policy, and practice. Margaret Brodkin, initiative director of New Day for Learning in San Francisco, will share the work of the Summer Learning Collaborative, an innovative approach to connect individuals and organizations from all sectors of the city and ensure that each child has access to summer learning opportunities. Cate Reed, project coordinator of Pittsburgh Public Schools Summer Dreamers Academy, will share how Pittsburgh Public Schools has offered a free summer camp to middle grades students for two summers.

How are tight budgets affecting summer programs in your community? Are your school and community partnering to provide summer learning opportunities?

Marc Cohen

How Do You Keep Your Students Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported, and Challenged During Summer Vacation?

I love the summer vacation. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to regroup, reflect, and rejuvenate in anticipation of a new school year. It is a gift that I can get two months annually to recharge my professional batteries through professional development, systemic planning, and—of course—personal vacation time. 

By this time of year, I am usually drained of the energy that I always seem to have on the first day of school.  I am ready for a break and desperately in need of time away. By June, I long for a quiet school, devoid of office referrals and lunch duty, broken-down buses and broken hearts. By August, I long for the heartfelt joy I get when students and staff return. I long for the magic that I bear witness to each day as I visit classrooms and observe instruction.  I long for the hugs and the smiles and the perspective-changing "aha!" moments that come from the "emotional crises" my middle school students experience each day.

I am concerned though. While I am eager to see the school year come to a close and excited for the promises that summers bring, I am not so sure that many of my students are experiencing the same level of excitement. Every year I see suspensions and referrals skyrocket in May and June. Though some of this may be due, in part, to the changing seasons and the associated spring fever, and some might come from the frustrations teachers and administrators feel after a long school year, I suspect there is more to it. For many of the students in my school, this is where they come for a consistent meal, a welcoming smile, and a healthy dose of high expectations. May and June means an end to so many things our students come to rely on us for. 

It is funny. We sometimes joke about the fact that the kids we have the most problems with rarely seem to be absent from school. Why is that? Perhaps because we give them a safe place to do what other students get out of their systems at home with their parents: seek attention, rebel, challenge authority, push limits, and learn to get along.

Although there is no doubt that the summer months can be fun for many, for others summer means hunger, fear, disengagement, and regression. We work in a profession that stresses the importance of relationships, especially with young people who long for someone to care about them, and then we abruptly interrupt these relationships with a nine-week separation. We feed and nurture our students for nine months, and then we send them off to fend for themselves over the summer months. We stress the importance of consistency and guided practice and then, after getting students where we want them by June, we sabotage them with nine weeks away from instruction in July and August.

Schools cannot be everything to everyone, but there has to be a better way. Some districts have year-round schooling, but in this economy that is not a likely change for systems that don't. Others have summer camps and service-related projects to keep students active; but again, a bad economy is a great excuse not to fund these kinds of initiatives. 

I am interested in hearing what schools and districts are doing to keep young people healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged during the long, hot summer months.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Putting Middle School Students Where They Belong: In the Middle

How might middle schools support the full development of young adolescents?

Youth in the Middle (YiM) is a free guide and set of tools based on a three-year partnership between John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University and Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City, Calif., to offer some practical solutions to this question. The YiM guide offers adaptable tools to help your school

  • Engage multiple constituents in developing a shared, youth-centered vision.
  • Build on school strengths while expanding the school’s capacity to support the full development of adolescents.
  • Create a school climate in which students feel safe, supported, and engaged in learning.

Sample tools include

  • Professional development resources and activities.
  • School climate assessment rubrics.
  • Research-based effective practice briefs.

This free resource is available for download.

Klea Scharberg

National Congressional Call-In Day: TODAY!

Educators and their supporters from across the country are calling members of Congress demanding they take immediate action to prevent the loss of some 300,000 educator jobs nationwide today. This effort, being organized by numerous education organizations including ASCD, seeks to rally educators at the state and district levels and encourage them to make their voices heard as Congress begins work on an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to be voted on in the coming weeks. You can do your part to protect our children from increased class sizes, reduced school hours and days, and eliminated programs and services by following these four simple steps.

Step 1: Call 1-866-608-6355 to contact your members of Congress.

Step 2: Listen to the message containing the talking points you'll need for the call. After hearing the talking points, you will be immediately connected to the U.S. Capitol switchboard. If you know who your representative and senators are, ask to be connected to their offices. If you don't, give the switchboard operator your zip code and ask for the information. Once you get their names, ask to be connected to their offices.

Additional suggested talking points:

  • Identify yourself as a whole child supporter.
  • The ongoing economic challenges continue to negatively affect local budgets.
  • In my community, school jobs are at serious risk.
  • The number of jobs that could be lost will threaten our schools' progress, student achievement gains, and ongoing education reforms.
  • Too many people are already out of work. Please support this investment to help hardworking educators keep their jobs.

Step 3: Tell your representative and senators to support the inclusion of funding to save education jobs in the emergency supplemental appropriations bill.

Step 4: Repeat Step 1 to be connected to the offices of your other two elected officials.

We encourage you to share this information with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Congress can't ignore a strong message from all across the nation. Make your voice heard! Participate in the National Call-In Day, and speak up for education and kids!

David Snyder

Research Continues to Find Early Learning Critical, But Funding Slows

The news earlier this month from the National Institute for Early Education Research's annual survey of state preschool spending was as predictable as it was disappointing: programs across the United States are having trouble serving all the students who qualify for pre-K programs, and budgets are being slashed. Although overall spending and enrollment is still rising, the pace of growth has slowed considerably, and demand is increasing as cash-strapped families rely more on publicly funded schools.

This news takes on more urgency as new research continues to prove the importance of kids' pre-K social and cognitive experiences on their achievement and behavior in school. The Education Week blog Inside School Research details the new results of a federally funded study that has tracked more than 1,300 kids since 1991:

It finds that children who were in poor-quality child-care settings at age 4-and-a-half, regardless of whether that care was being provided in a relative's home, a formal day-care center, or by a live-in nanny, had a slightly higher-than-average incidence of behavior problems that persisted until age 15. On the other hand, the children who had been in a high-quality child-care setting at the same age were more likely to excel in their academic studies well into their teenage years.

As demand goes up, funding slows in the states, and a steady drumbeat of research continues to show the importance of pre-K experiences, will the federal government step in to assist? Education Week reports that even though early learning funds failed to find their way into either the student loan overhaul or the health care bill, there is a chance that incentives for states to expand pre-K will make it into the coming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind.

Melissa Mellor

No More One-Size-Fits-All PD

Almost everyone agrees that we need to personalize and differentiate instruction for students. But all too often we don't do the same for educators.

Listen to Brian Nichols, principal of Hidenwood Elementary School in Newport News, Va., and winner of ASCD's 2010 Outstanding Young Educator Award, discuss how his staff members receive personalized and tailored professional development. Instead of all-staff workshops and trainings that may not be relevant for a particular teacher or could be way above or below a certain teacher’s skill level, Hidenwood educators benefit from individual professional development plans that meet their specific needs.

For another example of personalized professional development, read about how one rural school district in Wyoming has adopted a choice-based and teacher-led professional development model.

Does your school individualize professional development? Share your comments on the benefits and challenges of this model.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Calling All Reflective Leaders

In "Summertime Reflections," Principal Joanne Rooney considers the importance of slowing down and taking it all in:

Although much is written about "reflective leadership," principals' hectic schedules rarely yield time to ponder the underlying issues of our professional lives or to engage in meaningful conversation with teachers.

I know the busyness saps my reflective self. An honest work-friend once told me, "Your frenetic pace causes you to miss what's going on here; you run right past it." She added, "But in those rare moments when you are present to those around you, you do your best work." Her advice hit home.

In summer, doors to reflection unlock. We have time to rummage around in our heads, unearthing deep-rooted beliefs about students and schools. We can ponder fundamental questions: Why am I in this business? How can I focus my time and energy on that which is truly central to the interests of students and teachers?

As summer approaches and you reflect back on the challenges and triumphs of the past year, consider recognizing the work of teachers and administrators in your district. Odds are, you know a young educator committed to

  • Teaching the whole child by helping to ensure each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
  • Demonstrating educational leadership in their classroom, school, district, and community.
  • Showing a positive impact on student achievement.
  • Illustrating significant contributions to the education community.

Seize the moment to nominate that person for ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award. Applications close August 1, 2010.

Everything you need to know, including the nomination form, is available online. Winners will receive a check for $10,000 and be honored at the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference in San Francisco, Calif., March 26–28, 2011. Honorees receive monetary awards and will also participate in a yearlong program of professional development and networking.

As the traditional school year winds down, help us celebrate the hardworking individuals that made everything possible.

Klea Scharberg

ASCD Gives a Watchful Nod to Common Core Standards

ASCD has become an endorsing partner of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led effort spearheaded by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) to develop a common core of state standards in K–12 English language arts and mathematics.

The endorsement comes after the recent adoption by ASCD members of a position on the development and implementation of education standards during the ASCD Annual Conference in San Antonio, Tex. These guiding principles on standards address everything from educating the whole child through a broad and rich curriculum to including educator input at every stage of the development, implementation, and evaluation process.

"Creating such high standards is the first step in transforming our education system," said ASCD Executive Director Dr. Gene Carter. "But just as important is helping educators understand the new standards and how to implement them in their schools and classrooms. The common core standards effort ...won't bring about positive, meaningful change for students unless we translate the standards from words on a page to tangible improvements in learning and teaching."

"In collaboration with CCSSO and NGA, ASCD will strive to ensure teachers receive professional development that helps them develop lessons and deliver instruction aligned with the standards, gauge student progress in mastering the standards, and provide additional support to students who need it," said Carter.

Read the Education Week report about ASCD's announcement, and review the draft K–12 standards.

With the final standards expected to be released in the coming weeks, what are your thoughts? What messages would you like us to emphasize to our partners or include in developing capacity-building resources?

Klea Scharberg

Response to Intervention in Practice

Making sure children are prepared for school at an early age determines how they will learn over the years. Unfortunately, many children with learning problems or who were ill-prepared for the classroom fall through the cracks, and their problems are left unnoticed until they are lagging far behind.

The Response to Intervention (RTI) program can help solve these issues by detecting problems early and enabling immediate intervention when students don't meet grade-level expectations. ASCD Express and Enhancing RTI: How to Ensure Success with Effective Classroom Instruction and Intervention, a new book on the topic, can help educators and parents get children prepared for school. Learn more.

Are you interested in learning more about or developing your use of RTI? RTI is an effective means of adjusting and changing programs to meet students where they are. The RTI Action Network has many resources to support you, including free webinars on topics such as integrating academic and behavioral supports and screening for reading problems. Sign up for RTI Action Update to stay up-to-date on key issues and great new resources.

Melissa Mellor

Whole Child Approach Gaining Momentum Among Federal Lawmakers

"Children who are hurting, hungry, scared, and disengaged cannot learn. We must recognize and address these needs if we are to have any hope of educating all students to proficiency in all academic subjects," said Clare Struck, guidance counselor at Price Laboratory School (PLS) in Cedar Falls, Iowa, during her testimony at a Senate hearing last month. In March, PLS was awarded the first-ever Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award.

The event was part of a series of Senate hearings focused on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and it specifically addressed meeting the needs of the whole child. Struck was joined by a number of other expert panelists, including Geoffrey Canada, head of the Harlem Children's Zone, and Karen Pittman of the Forum for Youth Investment. Panelists shared short testimonies and spent the majority of the two-hour hearing answering questions from members of Congress about how to increase parent involvement, how to engage students, ensuring return on investment, and more. But perhaps the most significant question of the hearing focused on capacity to support the whole child.

"If you’re going to add all this stuff on, doesn’t this require more personnel?" asked Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). "As you add all this stuff on, you’re going to have to add more people, mentors, librarians. … How do we do that?"

The panelists responded by emphasizing that learning doesn't happen only in schools. In order to successfully educate the whole child, it's critical to map out existing community resources, including the programs and services provided by faith-based organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and recreation centers. Then, communities and schools need to intentionally fit all these pieces together into a cohesive and coordinated menu of offerings that ensure each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

An Education Week article about the hearing suggests that efforts to address whole child needs could be built into ESEA renewal. Here at the Whole Child Blog, we're encouraged by federal lawmakers' recognition of the benefits of a whole child education and their willingness to ask difficult questions about meeting whole child needs. But we need to continually remind members of Congress that we must make educating the whole child a national priority. Help us keep the momentum going, and send a letter to your members of Congress today.

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