June 2010

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Let's Hear It for Summer Learning 'Champions'

Post submitted by Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily, Education Week reporter and author of the Beyond Schools blog.

You hear it again and again. When school lets out for the summer, some children thrive and others fall behind. Research has found that far too many poor children lose significant ground in terms of learning over the summer months and that summer time is not on their side.

"Time is so precious," Cincinnati Superintendent of Schools Mary Ronan said in an interview on Monday. "We realized that our youngsters in our lowest-performing schools needed additional time on task."

And so, Ronan and her colleagues in the 34,000-student district launched Fifth Quarter last year, providing an additional month of learning and enrichment for children in struggling elementary schools in the city. For her efforts, Ronan was one of five 2010 Champions of Summer Learning honored by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) this week.

The Fifth Quarter offers free, full-day academic and enrichment programs for students in 16 elementary schools. Mornings are devoted to academics and afternoons to field trips, art programs, and other enrichment activities run by organizations partnering with the Cincinnati schools. The district has opted to use $3.6 million in federal stimulus funding to extend the program for three years.

Earlier this month, the NSLA recognized Cincinnati's efforts as an example of the kind of new and innovative approach to summer learning that the association hopes more schools and districts will adopt. All of the Champions embrace the NSLA view that summer learning should go beyond traditional remedial approaches.

In addition to Ronan, the other Champions are:

  • NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who has spearheaded the three-year, $10 million NASA Summer of Innovation project, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning for middle school students.
  • Former Houston Mayor Bill White (now the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas) for his dedication to Houston's Summer Opportunity Sessions, which offer a four-week summer math and science enrichment program aligned to national standards. The NSLA says White is making summer learning "an important component of his gubernatorial campaign."
  • State Senator Mark DeSaulnier of California, a Democrat who has been a leader on summer learning issues in the state legislature and chairs the California Legislative Task Force on Summer & Intersession Enrichment.
  • Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor John Peyton, a Republican who launched an anticrime initiative called the Jacksonville Journey, which supports summer camps and summer job programs for at-risk youths, among other efforts. The NSLA reports that Jacksonville will serve a total of 5,725 children in full-day, six-week, low-cost summer camps this year.

"The actions of the 2010 Summer Learning Champions speak volumes about their commitment to youth and the ability of summer learning programs to help close the achievement gap in this country," says Ron Fairchild, the CEO of NSLA, in a news release.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

The King and I: A Long Run From 1956 to 2010

Post submitted by Phyllis K. Lerner, Washington D.C. –area staff development consultant and graduate school faculty member.

The King and I was my first Broadway show. I spent the entire performance standing with my chin tucked into the curved V of the seats in front of me. I was enamored with everything, especially the children who were, at the time, just about my age.

I saw the show again last Friday night at the Bronx Preparatory Charter School and it was the children again who captivated me. But these children, gifted performers in grades 5 through 12, did not look like the young Asian faces stored in memory banks. They reflected their African American and Latino/a communities and acted with all the culturally correct bows, accents, harmonies, and smooth Siamese moves that this classic Broadway show requires.

Only days before, I had left Thailand (formerly Siam) after three months as an American Jewish World Service volunteer in teacher education. Since World War II, the citizens of Burma have been governed by military dictatorships with little respect for ethnic groups and civil rights. The Karen people, mostly Christian (blended with an essence of animism and Buddhism), fought with the British against the Japanese and were promised a government that acknowledged diversity. That never happened. Today, the Karen, like many ethnic Burmese, have been violently forced from their homeland. Hundreds of thousands are living in refugee camps on the borders of Thailand and have been for generations. Although schools exist, they yank at the hope and hopelessness of any global educator, including me. It is those youngsters whose faces fill my short-term memory.

From across 12 time zones, I was reminded how truly global the World Wide Web is when I read Kate Quarfordt's The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Cultures Collide as "The King and I" Comes to the Bronx. She grabbed me when she answered a student's question about one of the show's songs with "This is what a Jewish musical theater songwriting team from the 1950s thought a classical Siamese retelling of a novel about African American slaves written by a white woman in the 1860s would sound like." As a Jewish female educator born just before the show hit Broadway who had worked mostly in urban districts and was currently melting in the 100-degree heat of Mae Sot, Thailand, I understood what she meant! It was time to put together my childhood passion for musical theater, decades of educational equity work, and intensely meaningful service in Southeast Asia. I decided to board a bus to the Bronx following my flight home from Bangkok to the D.C. metro area.

I e-mailed the school's generic address, tossing out a theatrical thread from Thailand, about their upcoming spring show. And it was passed on rather than passed over, followed by a fabulous invitation to speak with the entire cast and crew before show time. Wow!

What's current about The King and I today? Human and sex trafficking (of both adults and children), rote learning, colonialism, polygamy, sexism, slavery, elitism, royalty, ballroom dancing, managing fears (whistling), and so much more. "The Cast and I" made insightful connections between then and now—their show and my service—and we got to know each other.

Broadway the Bronx Prep Charter School–way was evident Friday night as the third and last show of the run, and the last-ever Bronx Prep show for many talented seniors, was sold out. The cast of stars and characters (including orange-robed monks and shadow puppeteers) greeted me with incredible hugs, even with microphones and makeup on their faces. Director Kate, a phenomenally gifted educator, has worked with these youngsters, many of whom have been growing up on stage and in front of an audience, for seven years. They know how to be who they are—confident and competent kids of color, living in a neighborhood a bit tougher than they are. They know how to stretch their skills and immerse themselves in another culture, time, and place, taking project based-learning to a whole new level of performance. They also know how to act (sing and dance) like Siamese children and wives, laborers and staff, a complex and reflective king, and a posh yet warm British teacher.

When the students presented me with their show T-shirt, I quoted their king. "When one does not know what to say, it is the time to be silent." As the king lies dying, I mirrored the teacher Anna's final expression of respect and love for him. I bowed fully, in honor of a cast and community who helped me to merge their show with my education experience.

Read more about Bronx Prep in Onstage and Off: Art Makes Leaders and Celebration in the Bronx.

Photographs taken by or are used with permission from Phyllis K. Lerner.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Carol Ann Tomlinson on Learning Styles

Post submitted by Carol Ann Tomlinson, ASCD author and expert on differentiated instruction.

Tomlinson_c120x148 The term "learning style" is often used as a cover term for lots of things that are probably better called something else. I've used the term "learning profile" to include learning style, intelligence preference, culture-based learning approaches, and gender-based learning approaches. When looked at in this way, there is broader ground for conversation—to some degree because of research, and to some degree because of theory.

Dan Willingham, a fellow professor at the University of Virginia, has attempted to debunk the idea of learning styles and has used the issue to question education research.

I believe Willingham clumps several bodies of somewhat different work into what he refers to as "learning styles." For example, Howard Gardner does not think he's writing about learning styles when he talks about multiple intelligences, nor does Robert Sternberg when explaining his model of the triarchic mind. So, in my read, Willingham's use of the term "learning styles" is not precise.

Further, he assumes a stance about what he calls learning styles that I don't think many educators recommend: a test-and-label approach to the topic. Does it make sense to give kids a "learning style survey" and assume that our preferences for how to learn are fixed? Absolutely not. The same person will learn differently in varied contexts, and that should be a given in classrooms. The goal should not be to pigeonhole students, but rather to provide options for learning and to help students become increasingly aware of what supports their learning at a given time. (Thomas Armstrong addresses Willingham's criticisms of Gardner's model in Multiple Intelligences in the Classrooms, 3rd ed.)

Willingham feels the concept of learning styles is discredited (not solely by research, but also by knowledge of the brain) because he thinks learning styles theory suggests, for example, that people learn math through music. His read is that music engages a different part of the brain than math does, and that it's not possible to learn math when the math part of the brain isn't involved. That's no doubt true, but that conclusion doesn't discount the likelihood that people differ in their approaches to learning.

The consensus among many current scholars and authors is that there are indeed differences in how people learn. For instance, there is a broad consensus that males and females learn differently (as groups—not with the assumption that all males or all females learn alike). The open question is how much of that difference is caused by differences in the brain and how much by enculturation. That question aside, there seems to be agreement that—in general—males and females approach learning differently. In other words, their "styles of learning" are not alike. If that is the case, then it probably makes sense to create learning contexts in which there are varied approaches to learning.

Likewise, scholars like Shirley Brice Heath, whose research in Ways with Words is classic, argue strongly for culture-based differences in learning—meaning, again, that culture results in people having somewhat different styles of learning. Once again, then, it seems prudent to create classrooms that are friendly to varied approaches to learning.

There probably is room for other interpretations, too. It may be that allowing students more choice in how they learn is effective in supporting engagement and achievement. It may be that engaging students in something that seems comfortable to them allows students to feel more in charge of their learning. It may be that teachers who allow flexibility in the classroom have more motivating classrooms. It may be that teachers who include "kinesthetic" approaches to learning get better results from kids who can't sit still for long periods without going a bit bonkers or do a better job of incorporating varied cultural needs into a learning environment. It may just be that classrooms with variety are more kid-friendly in general.

Bottom line: It's highly likely that we learn differently as a result of gender, culture, perhaps neurological wiring, maybe just from a sort of learning preference or comfort zone, or a combination of those factors. Settings that support learning in a variety of ways are justified. And it's highly likely that classrooms that make room for those differences are more hospitable to learning. We may not yet know all the ways that work or precisely how they work, but it does appear that making room for different approaches to learning is worth the effort.

Tomlinson will be presenting on differentiated instruction (DI) next week at ASCD's Summer Conference. Catch updates about Tomlinson and other DI experts at Conference Daily.

Note: This post was originally published on ASCD Inservice on June 15, 2010.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Grant Opportunity to Establish or Expand Community Schools

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Alseta Gholston

The Department of Education is releasing funds for projects that establish or expand full-service community schools. These funds could support the community schools model in your community, including services like school-based health centers that community partners provide.

The Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) program, which is funded under Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE), encourages coordination of academic, social, and health services through partnerships between public elementary and secondary schools; the schools' local educational agencies; and community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and other public or private entities. The purpose of this collaboration is to provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services for students, students' family members, and community members that will result in improved educational outcomes for children.

  • Applications became available on June 8.
  • The deadline for a notice of intent to apply for the grants is June 23.
  • Applications are due on July 23.

Applicant information is available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/communityschools/applicant.html.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Summer Learning: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand

Post submitted by the Afterschool Alliance.

For many children in America, summer vacation means camp; trips to new or familiar destinations; visits to museums, parks, and libraries; and a variety of enriching activities—either with families or as part of a summer learning program. But for millions of others, when schools close for the summer, safe and enriching learning environments are out of reach, replaced by boredom, lost opportunities, and risk.

Summer learning programs are one important way to keep children engaged and learning throughout the summer months while addressing their social, behavioral, and academic needs, but a recent study released by the Afterschool Alliance finds that the supply of summer learning programs isn’t keeping up with the demand for them.

Sponsored by the Wallace Foundation, America After 3PM Special Report on Summer: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand demonstrates that the nation is missing a key opportunity to help millions of children succeed in school.

The report examines data from the 2009 America After 3PM study, sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund and focuses specifically on summer learning program participation and its emerging role as an important strategy to prevent summer learning loss. Some of the studies key findings include:

  • In the United States today, only 25 percent of school-age children (an estimated 14.3 million children) participate in summer learning programs.
  • Based on parent interest in enrolling their child in a summer learning program, 56 percent of all nonparticipating children (an estimated 24 million children) would likely enroll in summer learning programs
  • Low-income and ethnic minority children are more likely to attend summer learning programs than other children, but the unmet demand among low-income and minority families is also greatest.
  • By an overwhelming margin, parents support public funding for summer learning programs, with the strongest level of support coming from low-income and ethnic minority parents.

Summer programs, including a nutritious snack, can be a critical step in making sure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Download the full report, and find data on summer learning programs throughout the country and in each state at the America After 3PM Special Report on Summer web page.

Do you have access to summer learning programs in your community? If so, we'd love to hear about them. If not, tell us how they would affect your community.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Educating for Interculturality and the Right to Cultural Education

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Alseta Gholston

The issue of immigration reform and the growing populations of Latino and other ethnic minorities across the United States have, for some time, influenced changes in education curricula and delivery. However, it appears that, with recent changes in curricula in states such as Arizona and Texas and even International Baccalaureate curriculum protests in Idaho, the conservative view of multicultural education is taking hold and influencing education policy in those states. This politicized education agenda raises these questions:

  • What is this conservative backlash against multicultural education and ethnic studies a response to?
  • What are the estimated effects of this conservative response?
  • Who determines the constitution of ethnic studies and what its purposes should be?
  • How do these purposes fit into addressing equity and educating for democracy?

Multicultural education began several decades ago as a movement toward educational equity that was grounded in the premise that education must be relevant, student-centered, and empowering to learners for it to be meaningful and engaging. Multicultural education can be delivered in many forms, including ethnic studies programs, foreign language and bilingual education programs, representing different cultural voices in the curriculum and classroom, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Schools and districts have introduced these programs to meet criteria for diversity and inclusion efforts in response to concurrent social outcries from traditionally marginalized communities.

However, the right kind of multicultural education is crucial to authentically and positively affecting not only closing the achievement gap for minority students but also educating all students for global awareness and social justice.

Read more »

Klea Scharberg

Education Leaders: Works in Progress

ASCD Annual Conference Scholars, led by Tom Hoerr and Jen Morrison, share what they've learned from each other and from sessions at ASCD's 2010 Annual Conference in San Antonio, Tex., where they discussed issues in leadership and education in a variety of venues using social networking tools.

In their postconference discussions, these educators continue to reflect on specific issues today's education leaders face and consider how best to apply their new learning and insights to meet challenges and improve in their own practices, schools, and districts. Learn more in this issue of ASCD Express.

In this video, the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School seeks to bring together the best aspects of public and private education to help students prepare for a future where new jobs will not only value knowledge but also creativity, collaboration, and perseverance.

Klea Scharberg

Common Core Standards Released

The much anticipated Common Core K–12 standards for reading and math, national in scope and aspiration if not in name, were released in Atlanta, Ga., on Wednesday.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort spearheaded by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association to develop a common core of state standards that prepare children for college, the workforce, and success in the global economy. The initiative's goal, which they have been working on for more than a year, is to create K–12 English language arts and mathematics standards that are internationally benchmarked, research-based, and aligned with college- and career-readiness expectations. The first step was a set of college and career-readiness standards that were developed last fall and became the foundation for the K–12 standards just released. ASCD recently became an endorsing partner of the initiative.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been a vocal proponent for the common core standards because of the poor quality of existing state standards. Indeed, Duncan initially required states to adopt the common core standards as a requirement to apply for a Race to the Top grant. After criticism from many education groups, including ASCD, who questioned whether the initiative could be state-led if it was a mandatory requirement of a federal education grant competition, the final Race to the Top scoring rubric gives states extra points for adopting the common core standards but doesn't make adoption mandatory.

Still, the Obama administration's blueprint to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act makes state adoption of college- and career-readiness standards a condition for receiving Title I funding.

Recently, the draft of the K–12 standards created some controversy among early educators who questioned whether the standards were too narrowly focused on the academic subjects of reading and math and did not take into account important learning factors such as curiosity, persistence, and problem solving or the social and emotional development of young children. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is said to be planning to start development of early education standards later this year. Standards development for science and social science are also expected to be in the planning stages.

Hawaii, Kentucky, and Maryland had already agreed to adopt the standards before they were officially released this week. Yesterday Wisconsin formally adopted the Common Core by order of the State Superintendent Tony Evers (Wisconsin does not have a state board of education). All of the states except Texas and Alaska signed on to participate in developing the standards last year, but some states may not be as willing as the aforementioned early adopters to approve their final product. In Virginia, for example, Governor Bob McDonnell said that their current standards are "superior" to the common core standards and does not plan to replace them.

Read more about the common core standards and check out ASCD's position on education standards development and implementation.

Podcast Whole Child Podcast

Summer Learning and Development

Download Podcast Now [Right-Click to Save]

Download the Summer 2010 Whole Child Podcast to learn how schools and communities are working to ensure that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged throughout the summer and why it's so critical. Our guests discuss summer learning research, policies, and practices that expand the traditional conversation about "summer school" to encompass the kind of summer activities and programs that ignite a passion for learning and prevent learning loss. You'll hear from

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

Laura Varlas

Six Chicago Schools Develop "Culture of Calm" Plans

Yesterday NPR featured a story on turnaround efforts at Chicago's Fenger Academy, where last fall a student was beaten to death in a brawl off school grounds. Last year, 49 Chicago students were homicide victims; this year, 27 students in the city have been murdered.

Fenger has new staff, including a new principal, and holds school-community events around messages of peace and self-actualization. Community members are optimistic that the school culture is becoming less violent and that changes will ripple out into the surrounding neighborhood.

In the same school system, six high schools are enacting "culture of calm" antiviolence plans as part of an initiative developed by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Ron Huberman. The initiative identifies vulnerable students based on their similarities to prior CPS shooting victims, establishes nonnegotiable behavior expectations, and brings all suspensions in-house. Huberman notes that preliminary results have been positive at the six "culture of calm" high schools.

"Culture of calm" will eventually roll out to 38 CPS high schools and establish safe passage routes to 12 high schools in high-crime areas. Fenger Academy is on the list of schools set to participate in this $60 million effort.

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