Author Archive

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.

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.

Melissa Mellor

ASCD Unveils 2010 Legislative Priorities, Responds to White House ESEA Blueprint

The Obama administration's blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was released a little over a week ago to mixed reactions. Many education groups expressed support for the measures outlined in the blueprint, but others, including the big teacher unions, took issue with the plan's approach to ensuring educator effectiveness.

ASCD stands in support of the key components of the blueprint, which align with the association's 2010 Legislative Agenda and our whole child approach to education:

Healthy and Safe. The blueprint proposes providing support to states, school districts, and their partners to implement strategies that improve school safety and promote students' physical and mental health, which is consistent with ASCD's legislative agenda. ASCD's agenda also calls for a comprehensive set of indicators that more fully capture information about a student's overall health and well-being in school. Under the administration's proposal, grantees would be required to track and report such data.

Engaged. ASCD believes students must be exposed to wide-ranging and relevant learning experiences. Similarly, the Obama administration proposes providing resources to strengthen the teaching and learning of arts, foreign languages, history and civics, financial literacy, and other subjects. The blueprint also outlines support for the creation of innovative models, such as full-service community schools, redesigned school days or years, and opportunities for experiential learning.

Supported. Students need teachers and administrators who take a personal interest in their success and who are equipped to address their diverse and evolving needs. The administration recognizes this and wants to require (1) statewide definitions of effective teachers and principals that take into account student growth and other measures and (2) district evaluation systems that provide meaningful feedback to teachers and principals and inform professional development. The administration also shares ASCD's recognition of the need for improved teacher and principal preparation, high-quality professional development, and career ladders that increase retention.

Challenged. ASCD's legislative agenda makes clear that we need an accountability framework that evaluates students and schools using multiple indicators of performance, including student academic growth. The ESEA blueprint proposes a system that tracks individual student growth and school progress over time. Both ASCD's agenda and the ESEA blueprint also call for resources that increase student access to accelerated learning opportunities including advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, dual enrollment, and gifted and talented programs, especially for students in high-need schools.

In this month's Is It Good for the Kids? column, ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter writes, "The education leaders from across the country who developed ASCD's 2010 Legislative Agenda believe that it's time for federal education policy to support a whole child approach, helping to ensure that all children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged."

ASCD educators believe the blueprint represents a good first step from the federal government in supporting this type of whole child approach. Adds Carter, "We are especially encouraged by the administration's emphasis on effective teachers and leaders for every classroom and school; a complete education that prepares students for postsecondary success; and services and supports that lead to successful, safe, and healthy students."

What do you think about ASCD's legislative agenda? Do you agree that the White House's blueprint signals support of a whole child approach to learning and teaching?

Melissa Mellor

Let's Stop Motivating Our Students

ASCD's Annual Conference 2010 is underway in San Antonio, Tex., and here at the Whole Child Blog we'll be providing you with summaries of sessions that tackle whole child themes. First up is ASCD author Bob Sullo's session, "The Motivated Student," which might actually be a bit of a misnomer. Sullo began his session by saying that we need to stop motivating our students because motivating is a form of control. Instead, we need to engage and inspire students.

So how do we do that?

  1. Build positive relationships. Exhibiting enthusiasm exclusively for the subject matter is only going to reach the kids who are intrinsically interested in that subject matter; relationships are essential for engaging all the other students in the material. Unsurprisingly, research shows learning improves in the presence of positive relationships.
  2. Create relevant lessons. When students perceive something as important and relevant to them, they are much more likely to give it their full attention, creating the conditions for maximum achievement. Demonstrating relevance is especially important with adolescents who are in the developmental stage of identity formation.
  3. Set realistic expectations. Students are most compelled to put forth sufficient effort to learn when they believe that success is within their grasp. When students can't succeed even when they try, they typically seek power in less responsible ways, such as disrupting the class or adopting an "I don’t care" attitude. Every student deserves the chance to be successful and one way of ensuring this is to grade kids based on their own growth.
  4. Create a needs-satisfying classroom. Students have five basic needs: belonging/connecting, power/competence, freedom, fun, and survival/safety. If these basic needs are being met, students are less likely to act out and more likely to be engaged in learning. Not every single classroom activity needs to meet every single need. But during a block of time, teachers should implement a plan that provides students with a reasonable chance of having these needs met.
  5. Teach students to self evaluate. Self evaluation fosters decision making, creates an atmosphere of collaboration, and invites kids to take ownership of their learning.

For more information on engaging and inspiring students, visit Sullo's author page and follow him on Twitter @bobsullo.

Melissa Mellor

ESEA Reauthorization and the Whole Child

Educators must take advantage of the impending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that a comprehensive whole child approach to learning becomes a national priority, writes ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter in his "Is It Good for the Kids?" column this month.

Carter points out that promising examples of a coordinated, whole child approach to education exist at the local and state levels, from superintendents in Pennsylvania and Washington State who have integrated the whole child framework into their district improvement plans to education, youth, and community groups in Massachusetts that have joined together to spearhead Success for Life, a collaborative effort to advance the lifelong prospects of youth.

The federal government is beginning to take a cue from these local efforts, Carter contends, but hasn't made the whole child approach enough of a priority by including it in the Race to the Top Fund's competitive priorities.

With ESEA reauthorization looming, Carter calls for Secretary Duncan and the Obama administration to put action behind their words, bringing together a national summit that draws attention to, coordinates, and expands on promising local efforts to support the whole child.

Do you see examples of a whole child approach at the local level? What do you think the federal government can learn from local and state efforts?

Melissa Mellor

ASCD Submits Healthy People 2020 Comments

In a post earlier this month, I described how Healthy People, an initiative that develops national objectives to improve the health of all Americans, opened its proposed 2020 objectives for public comment through December 31, 2009. The health objectives are updated every 10 years and are intended to address a broad range of health needs, encourage collaboration across sectors, help individuals make informed health decisions, and measure prevention efforts.

ASCD recently submitted comments in support of objectives that align with our goal of providing children with healthy learning environments that enhance their academic, physical, and emotional well-being. Each of our comments highlights the inextricable connection between health and learning. Taken together, they underscore the need for a coordinated, whole child approach to health promotion and school improvement.

We commented on everything from the importance of increasing rates of high school completion to the urgent need for adolescents to have close relationships with caring adults. You can access all of ASCD's comments by searching for "ASCD," or you can review all submitted comments by objective.

There's still time to submit your own comments! Together, let's ensure the Healthy People 2020 objectives are relevant to public health needs and help prepare our young people for healthy and fulfilling lives.

Please let us know what you think of ASCD's comments and what objectives you've commented on.

Melissa Mellor

Food Fight Rages Over Chocolate Milk

Educators are familiar with the ongoing battles over vending machines that offer soda and other unhealthy snacks to students. But chocolate milk is at the center of the latest food fight.

NPR reports that schools across the country have eliminated chocolate milk from their lunchroom offerings because of its high sugar content. The dairy industry is fighting back with its "Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk Campaign," which contends that kids drink less milk—and miss out on its nutritional benefits—when chocolate milk is removed as an option.

The NPR story quotes renegade lunch lady Ann Cooper, director of Nutrition Services for Boulder's public schools, who removed chocolate milk from her district's lunchrooms a few years ago. "Chocolate milk is soda in drag, as far as I'm concerned," she says. "In many chocolate milks, there's 3.1 grams of sugar per ounce. Soda is 3.3. It's so close."

Ann Marie Krautheim, senior vice president of Nutrition Affairs for the National Dairy Council, counters that the amount of sugar in chocolate milk is an acceptable trade-off for the essential nutrients milk provides.

Which side of this food fight are you on?

You can read more about school food offerings and other health education topics in Health & Learning, ASCD's December/January issue of Educational Leadership.

Melissa Mellor

Public Comment Period Now Open for Healthy People 2020

Healthy People, a national initiative that provides health promotion and disease prevention objectives to improve the health of all Americans, has opened its proposed 2020 objectives for public comment. The national health objectives, updated every 10 years to reflect new research and trends, are intended to address a broad range of health needs, encourage collaboration across sectors, help individuals make informed health decisions, and measure prevention efforts.

The Healthy People 2020 objectives are open for public comment through December 31, 2009. ASCD plans to specifically comment on objectives that align with our mission to provide children with healthy learning environments that support their academic, physical, and emotional well being. Our comments will be available to the public by December 18. We strongly encourage other interested individuals and organizations to also comment on the objectives. Together, we can help ensure the Healthy People 2020 objectives are relevant to public health needs and help prepare our young people for healthy and fulfilling lives.

You can be sure we'll comment on items like ECBP HP2020-1—Increase high school completion, and AH HP2020-12—Increase the percentage of schools with a school breakfast program. And we'll also share feedback on objectives that talk about state data systems and policy changes.

The objectives cover everything from food safety to public health infrastructure and are worth a good look because they will motivate and guide our country's health activities during the next ten years. Comments can be shared anonymously or attributed to an individual or group via a simple login process. Folks are invited to make three kinds of comments:

  • Objective text: Provide suggestions for adding objectives, deleting objectives, or clarifying the text of the objectives.
  • Data source: Add, delete, or comment on the listed data sources.
  • Status: Comment on the priority level and need for certain objectives.

Please let us know what you've commented on and stay tuned for more on ASCD's Healthy People 2020 comments.

Melissa Mellor

Making School Meals Better

What better topic to blog about the day before Thanksgiving than food? Specifically, the food served in schools across the country.

The Institute of Medicine recently released a report, School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children, that outlines recommendations for making our school meals more healthful. The recommendations include

  • Increasing the amount and variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Setting minimum and maximum levels of calories.
  • Focusing more on reducing saturated fat and sodium.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that progress was made during the last several years in increasing the percentage of secondary schools in which students cannot purchase unhealthy foods and beverages from vending machines or school stores. This progress, however, varies greatly among the states. For example, although students couldn't purchase candy and salty snacks in more than 80 percent of schools in Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maine last school year, that was true in only 18 percent of Utah's schools.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently said that schools that serve more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to students should experience higher rates of federal support than schools serving less healthy options. He also said more attention needs to be paid to the nutritional value of food served in school stores and a la carte lines.

Check out ASCD's recent testimony on child nutrition programs and let us know what you think about the quality of the meals served at your school.  

Melissa Mellor

The Education and Public Health Intersection

Yesterday, Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a blog post that questions why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would become involved in health care reform. Here at the Whole Child Blog, we ask: "Why wouldn't he?"

Research and common sense have shown time and again that education and health are inextricably linked. Sick kids stay home, and they can't learn if they're not in school. Meanwhile, healthy kids are less likely to drop out of school, which means they are more likely to become adults with steady employment and longer, healthier lives. Health care reform would give all kids an equal chance at these benefits by providing coverage and preventative care to the millions of children who do not qualify for Medicaid but whose families cannot afford the high cost of private health insurance.

The current H1N1 flu pandemic underscores the important connection between education and health. Secretary Duncan has worked closely with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; and representatives from other federal agencies to coordinate flu response that minimizes disruptions to learning. This type of collaboration needs to become the norm, and it needs to happen at local, state, and federal levels.

ASCD's Healthy School Communities Program provides local-level examples of schools that are working with their communities to supply children with healthy learning environments that support academic goals. Students at Barclay School in Baltimore, Md., are growing their own healthy food and learning about nutrition. Hills Elementary in rural Des Moines, N. Mex., has created a school-based health center that provides the community with health, mental health, and dental services. Successful school and community health initiatives like these mean kids are healthier, more likely to graduate, and less likely to deplete local health resources when they are adults.

Let's hope Secretary Duncan and his colleagues continue to recognize the intersection of education and public health and work together to support the whole child.

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