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Melissa Mellor

Today's Whole Child Podcast: How urban schools work beyond the boundaries of social and economic conditions

The February Whole Child Podcast on urban education is now available for download.

Guest Pedro Noguera, from New York University, kicks off the episode by describing how society's inequalities have a significant effect on schools but stressing that schools shouldn't be the sole solution for addressing those inequalities. He says that the United States should take a cue from countries like Canada, Holland, and Singapore that have policies in place to broadly support children. Noguera also claims that efforts like universal preK, health care for all children, and extended learning time can bolster school efforts to reduce inequities and help all children learn.

Next, Yvette Jackson, executive director of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, describes the importance of building the confidence of urban schools so that they truly believe in all students' potential to achieve at high levels. She says this requires them to break free from marginalizing, unsupportive policies that focus on weaknesses and deficits instead of strengths and possibilities. Once schools embrace the belief in the ability of students to learn, Jackson says, schools can put in place strategies and practices based on higher expectations and can help students understand how learning connects to their success in the world outside of school.

New Leaders for New Schools—an alternative preparation program for principals—has been in the news a lot lately because CEO Jon Schnur has been mentioned as a possible player for President Obama's education team. This episode of the Whole Child Podcast closes with New Leaders for New Schools graduate Tatiana Epanchin, principal of Monarch Academy in Oakland, Calif., who describes how she helped Monarch become recognized as the most improved school in the state last year. Among other efforts, Epanchin uses data to empower—not punish—teachers and spends a majority of her time in classrooms providing students and teachers with feedback. The school has improved its API score by 150 points, is meeting AYP, and was named a U.S. Department of Education Title 1 Distinguished School. Even better, Monarch students are becoming critical thinkers, excellent writers, and articulate presenters.

Do you know of any urban districts or schools that have efforts in place to support the whole child? Are these districts or schools seeing results?

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Melissa Mellor

Whole Child in the News: One state's work to increase student support

"One of the greatest gifts this career gives to me every single day is to see a kid succeed, to see a kid take ownership of their personal responsibility...Earlier this year I worked with 32 kids who were failing. I did an academic support plan with each kid. Sixty percent of the kids I worked with improved. Fifty percent went from two or three F's to zero F's. I'm really excited about that."

No, that's not a teacher talking.

It's not a principal, assistant principal, or intervention specialist either. Those are the words of high school counselor Andy Winn, who works at George Washington High School in Denver, Colo. Thanks to a new $15 million state grant program described in the Rocky Mountain News earlier this week, 92 middle and high schools across Colorado will see an influx of school counselors to help lower the state's students per counselor ratio of 411-to-1, making it closer to the widely recommended 250-to-1. (See how your state stacks up.) Moreover, the program will reinvent the counseling so that it "addresses students' academic, career, personal and social needs." Participating schools must develop program goals and measure their success in reaching those goals.

Here at the Whole Child Blog, we believe that students must feel supported by caring and qualified adults in order to learn at high levels. Students who don't have adult role models, advisors, mentors, counselors-or teachers who understand their social and emotional development-are less likely to do well academically. Colorado's program seems to be built on this belief, and it makes a direct connection between adult support and learning. In fact, the Rocky Mountain News article says one of the program's goals is to increase the number of students who go to college.

If you share this belief, contact your members of the U.S. House and Senate to show your support of The INCREASED STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH INCREASED STUDENT SUPPORT Act, a bill that aims to increase desperately needed instructional and school-based mental health services for students in low-income communities.

How do the schools in your community emphasize student support and invest in qualified counselors?

Does your school have enough counselors? If not, has this lack of school counselors affected your efforts to support students?

Melissa Mellor

Investing in Whole Child Education to Improve Our Economy

During his inaugural address on Tuesday, President Obama listed some of the serious challenges that face our nation, including the recession.

"Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered… Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land, a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights."

In this month's Is It Good for the Kids? column, ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter suggests that improving education is one way to solve our nation's economic challenges and ensure that all of our children will be given the tools to lead successful lives.

He describes how a whole child approach—in which each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—works during both flush and lean times. Carter writes

"Now, when school systems across the country are taking cost-saving measures such as cutting bus routes and increasing class sizes, the whole child framework makes sense because it encourages the alignment and coordination of services."

The column also includes thoughts from middle school students William C., Jacinto, Dante, and Carly about how President Obama can help them and other students succeed in school.

Do you think investing in whole child education will help the nation solve its economic challenges? Do you agree with the students' comments about how education can be improved?

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