It's hard to believe that the trees are just about absent of leaves and the school year is well under way. As a parent of a 3-year-old, I spend time talking about the change of seasons as we listen to the sound of the leaves as they crunch beneath our feet. My husband and I take any opportunity that comes our way to explain the world around our son to help prepare him for his future in school and life. In essence, this is a nice comparison to the intent of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Post written by Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance; Sarah Pitcock, interim CEO of the National Summer Learning Association; and Gina Warner, executive director of the National AfterSchool Association
There's no getting around it—to stack the odds in favor of career success and a competitive nation, kids today must embrace and develop proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Nearly 80 percent of future careers will require some STEM skills. Regardless of eventual career choice, skills required to master STEM subjects—analysis, problem solving, and critical thinking—are universally valuable.
But with increasing demands placed on teachers and the limited hours available, how are students supposed to secure relevant knowledge and skills? The truth is, schools simply can't do it alone nor can they fit it all in the already-packed school-year schedule.
ASCD recently sent feedback to the U.S. Department of Education on reinvigorating civic learning and engagement across the country. This feedback is a response to the department's call for suggestions on four provisions in its road map for advancing civic learning (PDF).
Research and test scores show that our students lack knowledge of the U.S. government system and their civic responsibilities, but many schools struggle to prioritize civic learning amid competing academic concerns. ASCD believes that civic learning is an essential component of a whole child approach to education that gives students a voice in a safe and supportive environment and ensures that they understand their opportunities in and obligations to their schools, their communities, and the nation.
There's a massive Viking longhouse under construction in Winthrop, Mass., and its youngest architects are only 14 years old. Each afternoon—after school—students in the town of Winthrop expand their math skills as they draw plans and measure wood, social studies skills in recreating Viking food and clothing, computer skills as they plot the museum's layout, and language and leadership skills as they make Viking culture come alive for visitors.
Across the country, high-quality after-school programs are helping accelerate student achievement. And, because the programs are community-driven and tap into local expertise, resources and talent, no two programs are exactly alike. In Winthrop, for example, Viking scholars are treated to visits by area architects and engineers. At other after-school programs, participants are just as likely to have music executives or computer programmers as their guides and colleagues.
Ontario School Tests Effects of a Later Start Time: Students at a Toronto, Ontario, school are earning better grades, coming to school more often, and getting more sleep since the school pushed its start time to 10:00 a.m. The school began starting school at 10:00 a.m. in 2009—later than the previous 9:00 a.m. start—in response to research showing that teenagers are predisposed to waking up later. Educators say they are encouraged by learning gains and improvements in students' well-being. (ASCD Worldwide SmartBrief, 4/28)
Massachusetts Districts Implement Anti-Bullying Efforts: Many Massachusetts school districts are rolling out anti-bullying plans that were due to the state by the end of 2010. The plans vary widely by district, with many aimed at specific age groups and some incorporating elements of outreach to parents. State reviews of the plans are expected to be finished today, and districts with more work to do will be notified.
With class sizes rising significantly for the first time in decades, now is a good time to continue to lobby for better funding and supports in education and to also look at how some big schools manage to tend to individual student needs despite high enrollment.
Big schools can present big opportunities for bringing the whole child tenets to scale, but they must draw on their larger community as a resource—strengthening parent and community partnerships, activating student voice and interest, and empowering teacher leaders.
We want to thank Representative Dale Kildee (D-MI), a senior member of the House Education Committee, for writing a powerful opinion piece this week about the necessity of educating the whole child. ASCD educators from Michigan recently met with Rep. Kildee's office during ASCD's legislative conference. They advocated for a whole child approach to education during their visit, and Rep. Kildee's opinion piece shows that he listened.
In his blog post, Rep. Kildee asserts that as he and his colleagues work to improve the No Child Left Behind Act, "we must go beyond simply addressing the academic needs of our students; we must focus on the development of the whole child."
He describes the need for a well-rounded curriculum, safe and secure learning environments, quality after-school programming, and opportunities that expose high school students to challenging and engaging coursework that prepares them for postsecondary success. In support of this last point, Kildee shares his plan to reintroduce the Fast Track to College Act, which helps establish early college high schools and other dual-enrollment programs that enable high school students to earn an associate’s degree or up to two years of college credit at no cost to their families.
We will keep you updated on the ongoing efforts of Rep. Kildee and his colleagues to recognize that every child counts. Moreover, we will hold him to his promise to ensure that our education system focuses on the whole child so that our next generation has the necessary skills to succeed in our increasingly globalized and competitive world.
The Generation YES bloggers share their thoughts on a success story from Marriottsville, Md., where the community and students have become engaged in "Technology Thursdays," an after-school program featuring students teaching courses in game design, popular computer programs, and more. Classes are free and open to other students and community residents.
"Students have so much to offer, and schools and communities have so much to gain if we just let students take on authentic tasks and projects," writes Generation YES President Sylvia Martinez. "One teacher with a vision of students as competent, responsible contributors has changed a whole community for the better. Students can't learn to be leaders, teachers, and citizens in a vacuum."