Tagged “Dropout Prevention”

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


Mental Health Hotline Now Serving Students: Minnesota's largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin School District, will begin providing a mental health hotline for students and family members this summer. According to Superintendent Dennis Carlson, there is an unmet need for mental health service throughout the state. Callers to the hotline will be able to get referrals to other county services for further assistance. (Minnesota Public Radio)

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Klea Scharberg

What Makes Your Community the Best?

Whole child partner America's Promise Alliance and the ING Foundation recently announced the call for submissions for this year's 100 Best Communities for Young People competition. The 100 Best program recognizes communities that are doing outstanding and innovative work to help reduce high school dropout rates and provide their youth with an outstanding place to live, learn, and grow.

The final application deadline is May 27, 2011, but communities that complete an application by May 4, 2011, will be eligible for two special awards:

  • One $2,500 grant recognizing an outstanding local dropout prevention program; and
  • One $2,500 scholarship to the author of the youth testimonial that best captures the spirit of the 100 Best program.

To learn more, see the news release and e-mail 100best@americaspromise.org to register for the April 13 or April 14 application training webinar.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Boosting Graduation Rates: A Success Story

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Hunter Holcombe

How does the poorest school district in Iowa increase its high school graduation rate every year since 2005—from 68 to 78 percent?

As Martha Bruckner and Ann Mausbach explained in their example-rich ASCD Annual Conference presentation "Badges, Buttons, and Beliefs: Ten Dynamic Ideas to Increase Graduation Rates," the answer is complex.

"Unfortunately, there is no magic answer," Bruckner said. Yet in the hour-and-a-half session, Bruckner and Mausbach presented an impressive compilation of methods that, when used collectively, can result in major graduation rate improvements.

At their district—Council Bluffs Community School District—success was the result of several distinct initiatives. One of the most important was their ambitious long-term strategic plan: 100 percent graduation.

"We have a strong belief here that 'All Means All'," Bruckner said. She admitted that many in their community might scoff at such a seemingly impossible number, but it was that commitment to thinking of every single student as a "must-graduate" that helped them look at the problem, one student at a time.

Another major requirement, particularly in a poor community such as theirs, is that the district must partner with the community. From parents to after-school programs to regular community members, everyone must be on board, communicating and working together, to keep the students from falling through the cracks. At the core of their strategy are 10 ideas:

  1. Strategic Plan
  2. Class of Buttons
  3. Attendance Checks
  4. Promise Activities
  5. SAMs (School Administrative Managers)
  6. Lateral Capacity Building
  7. Summer Exploration
  8. State of the Schools/Data Consults
  9. Data Walls
  10. Grading/Learning Recovery

The second idea, Class of Buttons, is one of the most unique. All students are given "Class of ..." buttons to wear and take home, which ties students mentally to their graduation year. In addition, teachers stop referring to their class as "4th grade," for example, and instead call it the "Class of 2023." The district has witnessed young students arriving at high school graduation ceremonies proudly wearing their own "Class of ..." buttons.

Another novel approach, Attendance Checks, creates incentives for the children to come to school. Students are placed into groups, which are given awards if they collectively reach high attendance levels. This creates inner-group peer pressure on the kids to show up so that their friends in the group don’t suffer the consequences of their own absence.

The SAM is a new role designed to take administrative stress and daily distractions away from the school principals, freeing them up to better manage the teachers and spend more time in the classroom. The SAM is a middle-management position, so it does not take up a large chunk of the budget, and the net effect on the principal's efficiency is considerable. "It has changed everything," Mausbach said.

Laura Varlas

What Does It Take to Lead a Successful Urban School?

The distinguished school leaders who convened for the Urban Panel at the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference answered this and other questions based on their work at leading thriving urban schools.

Invariably, their answers came back to school culture and climate.

"Our mission and vision give us our identity; all of our students and staff must know and champion them," said Baruti Kafele, principal of Newark Tech High in New Jersey. "A good leader must believe in the ability of every child to learn and that it is possible for each one of our students to succeed in college," said Tim King, founder of Chicago's Urban Prep Academies. "We've got to keep the mission and vision out front. It's got to be bigger than anything else," added Linda Nathan, headmaster of Boston Arts Academy.

Implicit in these answers is the importance of personal connection in school communities.

Nathan's school uses advisory programs and compelling honor roll assemblies, among other initiatives, where young men of color, in particular, are asked to share what made them successful and how they will influence their peers to achieve, as well.

"If we're going to get education right in this country, we must know our kids," said King. At Urban Prep, all students have school-issued cell phones that are instrumental in fostering communication between home and school. "We can tell by looking at kids if something is wrong, but if we don't look at the child, we'll never know," said King. Teacher evaluations at Urban Prep also include criteria for how well teachers develop relationships with students.

"There are some gaps we need to look at before we can address the achievement gap," noted Kafele. Attitude, relevance, and opportunity are among them, but the relationship gap is also crucial. "How can I teach you if I don't know you? Close these gaps, and you'll have the mechanisms in place so that students can learn."

The practices that support these healthy and high-achieving urban schools include lengthening the school day and year; clearly defining goals and expectations (and supports when those expectations aren't met); and instructional practices centered on student engagement, participation, and ownership of learning.

Professional learning is also key.

"If you can't meet together as faculty, you will not be able to shape your school's climate, culture, and instruction," said Nathan. "If there's not time in the schedule, then we redo the schedule. Our school is 13 years old, and we've had 15 schedules."

"If our staff doesn't know each other, how can they benefit from each other's expertise?" asked Kafele. "Principals, you don't have to do it all. There are folks in your building who can do it better. Get to know them."

Klea Scharberg

College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness Roundup

The current education climate encourages a tremendous amount of time and energy be spent on preparing students to take exams. But does that strategy actually ensure students are prepared for college, career, and citizenship? We've seen the research and heard the debate among teachers, education media, ASCD's own Educational Leadership magazine, and even the White House.

Connecting learning today with students’ futures engages and prepares them to take on the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. In March, we looked what it means for students to be ready and able for their complex and demanding futures.

Learn about Quest Early College High School, winner of the 2011 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. Located in Humble, Tex., Quest prepares a very diverse student population for the next phases of their lives by creating a learning environment that allows students to practice taking college courses, work at businesses in their community, and experience the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with Kim Klepcyk, principal at Quest Early College High School; Denise McLean, a teacher and former student at Quest; and Micaela Casales, a current student at Quest, as they discuss strategies for preparing students for college, careers, and citizenship.

Hear another viewpoint on what it means to be college- and career-ready and the value of citizenship skills in a conversation between Molly McCloskey, managing director of Whole Child Programs at ASCD and host of the Whole Child Podcast, and Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post and author. Mathews also answers audience questions on a range of topics including the importance of teacher-student relationships, KIPP charter schools, and the responsibility of education journalists.

Consider if U.S. schools are emphasizing the knowledge and skills that students need for a global future with author Yong Zhao. Do you think we need to reform education to maintain leadership in a rapidly changing world?

Empower students to understand their rights, responsibilities, capabilities, and opportunities in their educational and civic experiences today as well as in the future.

Practice skills such as inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration, public presentation, and reflection that students will use as adults through problem-based learning in the classroom.

Take action about the need for college- and career-readiness standards that include proficiency in reading, math, science, social science, the arts, civics, foreign language, health education and physical education, technology, and all other core academic subjects. Use ASCD's legislative agenda and the the Making the Case for Educating the Whole Child tool to guide discussions and decision making in your states and communities.

Find resources to help prepare young people for their futures from whole child partners the America's Promise Alliance, Educators for Social Responsibility, the Forum for Education and Democracy, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

In late March, ASCD held its 2011 Annual Conference in San Francisco, where sessions engaged participants in dynamic, diverse dialogues addressing the challenges of learning, teaching, and leading, including:

What do you think is critical to preparing young people for the complex futures that lie ahead?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Cracking the Whip: Dealing with Bad Behavior

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Hunter Holcombe

Close to 300 attendees filed into a Marriott ballroom Saturday afternoon at ASCD's Annual Conference to soak up a discussion on a frustrating topic for many: dealing with bad behavior.

Beverley Johns has handled problematic students since the 1970s and says that behavioral problems have only gotten more frequent—and worse—over the decades. In her presentation, "Twenty-Five Positive Behavioral Interventions That Really Work," Johns listed a number of practical ways, primarily through situation-specific positive reinforcement, that teachers can better deal with these particularly problematic students.

Her most essential point was that educators simply aren't acknowledging positive behavior enough, and those that do aren't doing it sincerely. "Even though we know we are supposed to focus on the positive, we don't do it," she said.

Two other major points Johns made were the following:

  1. Low achievement and behavioral problems go hand in hand.
  2. A large percentage of students with emotional or behavioral disorders are known to have language disorders.

The session audience was divided into 10-chair tables, and Johns asked the groups to collectively brainstorm the best way to deal with problematic situations using the methods she proposed. At one table, the three most popular choices were behavior momentum, behavior-specific dialogue, and positive reinforcement.

When it comes to punishment, Johns take a strong stance against suspensions. However, she recognizes that many teachers simply need a break, and suspension is often the easiest way to get one. Yet she points out that suspension results in valuable instructional time lost and the student falling behind. If their personal time is taken up by suspension, they will use up homework time to recoup their lost social time. Additionally, suspension may allow some students to escape from problems.

As a take-home, Johns handed out small green cards to the attendees, a cheat-sheet she calls her "credit card":

10 Quick Verbal Interventions that can Prevent Behavioral Problems

  1. What do you need to do to follow this rule?
  2. How can I help so that you can...?
  3. Is there something else you need to do this task?
  4. Would you like to figure out a different way? How can I help you?
  5. Is what you're doing getting you what you want?
  6. What is your assigned task now?
  7. What do you think about...?
  8. When will you be ready to start this task?
  9. What could you do to make things better for you?
  10. Is there someone that I can get to help you talk through this?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Creating Success in the Urban Classroom

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Julia Liapidova

"How did I get an 'A'? Mr. Raja cared," said Greg Williams, a student from Grant Union High School in urban Sacramento, Calif. "No one in my family has graduated from high school or college. It was expected that I would sell drugs. My first class in Sacramento was like a jungle, (but) Mr. Raja built a relationship and showed me that I’m not ever alone. He made sure I understood the material in class. There were consequences if I didn't."

At his Saturday morning session, algebra teacher and ASCD author Kadhir Rajagopal—accompanied by four former students, including Williams—outlined how his instructional model has helped teenagers who were struggling academically overcome a history of failure in math. Rajagopal explained that his relational, culturally responsive approach—CREATE—evolved out of techniques that he successfully used to help his special education high school algebra class outperform peers on California state algebra exams. He used what are now the six tenets of CREATE to build sincere relationships, establish a common language that made algebra problems easy to understand, and reverse the mentality that "to be smart and black or brown is not cool."

Rajagopal discussed the need for urban educators to take "tenacious accountability" for in-class student learning. He strongly recommended that teachers develop an in-class reward system and keep lecture time to a minimum. When lecture is critical, he finds great value in asking his students personal questions. His goal is to transform each instructional delivery into a "30-way dialogue."

To motivate his students, he rewards success with a scoreboard. Each class is worth a certain amount of points, and to earn them, each student must answer 20 questions on the concepts learned that day in class. He encouraged session attendees to abandon their chairs upon their return to the classroom and recommended individually monitoring each student's progress as he completes these questions—these become the student's exit price for leaving that day.

He regarded homework as unnecessary practice with too many variables that a teacher cannot control. Rajagopal told teachers in attendance that the most significant takeaway from his presentation was the importance of compelling students to master content in class each day.

Rajagopal further outlines the CREATE model in his 2011 book Create Success! Unlocking the Potential of Urban Students.


ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Applying What You Know for Student Success

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Tymeesa Rutledge

Thirty faces of 5-year-old kindergarteners of multiple ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender and religious background flashed across the screen. Instantly, one third of the kids vanished from the screen because they failed to graduate high school. Another third vanished from the screen because, despite graduating from high school on time, these kids were unprepared for employment or college.

In the session "Changing the Odds for Student Success: What Matters Most," Bryan Goodwin focused on five key areas that educators know and can use to improve student success in life: setting high expectations and delivering challenging instruction; fostering engaging learning environments and meaningful relationships with students; matching teaching strategies to learning goals; providing all students with high expectations; and personalizing learning opportunities.

"This is not new information. We have been researching this for 40 years at McREL," explained Goodwin. "We just need to apply what we know."

An audience member agreed with Goodwin's statement and felt the lecture was a reminder for her.

"[The information] was an organized, timely reminder of what instruction should be," said Margaret Messina.

Another audience member had recently attended a similar education conference and felt that this session was an affirmation that much of the education research is going in the right direction.

"The research is becoming more complimentary. It's reaffirming practical application [and] is in the right direction," said James Espinosa of Del Vallejo Middle School in San Bernadino, Calif.

During the presentation, Goodwin cited several practical applications for the classroom and beyond. For example, McREL surveyed schools and asked about their school culture and found five key traits of high-performance culture schools: structure, press for achievement, teacher influence in school decisions, shared mission, and goals and orderly climate. Goodwin cited the cofounder and codirector of Big Learning Think, Dennis Littky, as an example of accomplishing this high-performance culture. At Big Learning Think, low-achieving students are given student projects to perform at local businesses that fulfill core curriculum requirements like math or fine arts. The experience that these students gain shows that research can translate into practical application.

Thirty faces of 5-year-old kindergarteners of multiple ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender and religious backgrounds appeared on the screen for the last time. The children's faces morphed into college graduates and became adults. Goodwin emphasized that using the key areas for successful students would make it possible to keep all of the kids from vanishing out of the education system.

But, how can you improve your students' success? According to Goodwin, we apply what we know.


Klea Scharberg

Watch and Learn from Home

ASCD will live stream select sessions from the 2011 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in San Francisco. All times indicated are Pacific Time.

You can view all livestream sessions on ASCD EDge. To participate in live chat during the sessions, you must log in to EDge or sign up for a free EDge account if you don't have one. You can also view the sessions on Android and Blackberry mobile devices. You will not be able to watch the livestream on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Interactive sessions have an online moderator to guide the discussion. Onsite and virtual participants can ask questions, add comments, or reply to comments on the session's chat wall. You can also download presenter resources from the session's livestream page.

Saturday, March 26

8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m., PT

Heidi Hayes Jacobs - Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World (interactive)
We do not need reform—we need new forms for teaching and learning. What year is your school preparing your learners for: 1990 or 2025? In this provocative and highly practical session, based on the presenter's ASCD book of the same name, the presenter will lay out steps for transforming your school into a contemporary learning environment.

3:30–5:00 p.m., PT

Harvey Silver - The Strategic Teacher (interactive)
Bringing together 35 years of research on effective instruction and 30 years of experience in helping schools address student diversity, the session will provide educators with the tools needed to help all students meet today's rigorous standards.

5:15 p.m.–6:15 p.m., PT

Bob Sullo – The Motivated Student: Five Strategies to Inspire
Successful teaching requires you to create an environment that fosters academic success by engaging and inspiring students rather than trying to control them. In this session, learn how to manage your classroom effectively, and identify five strategies that will inspire academic achievement and unlock your students' natural enthusiasm for learning.

Sunday, March 27

8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m., PT

Urban Education Panel
In this session, hear from three distinguished principals who are making a difference in the lives of urban high school students: Linda Nathan, founding headmaster, Boston Arts Academy (Mass.); Baruti Kafele, principal, Newark Tech (N.J.); and Tim King, founder and president, Urban Prep Academies (Ill.).

10 a.m.–11:30 a.m., PT

Peter Reynolds – Make Your Mark, and See Where It Takes You (General Session)
Creativity champ Peter H. Reynolds is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator and founder of FableVision Learning, creating technology tools to inspire young writers, artists, and thinkers. Join Peter as he shares his uplifting message, and hear more about how you can inspire learners through his philosophy and vision. (This session will not be archived.)

1:15 p.m.–2:45 p.m., PT

Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey - Responding When Students Don't Get It (interactive)
How teachers respond to an incorrect answer significantly influences students' eventual understanding. Resolving errors requires an interaction between students and teachers, with the goal of ensuring that students experience success. Participants will explore questions to check for understanding, prompts for cognitive and metacognitive processes, cues to shift attention, and direct explanations and modeling.

Monday, March 28

8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m., PT

Geoffrey Fletcher - From Islands of Excellence with Technology to Every Classroom: An Optimist's Perspective
A few schools and districts have been able to garner the right mix of hardware, bandwidth, tech support, and professional development to change instruction, truly engage students, and increase student achievement. This session will look what is driving change in the purchase and distribution of content and how this missing link will be a major catalyst to changing our schools.

10:00 a.m.–11:45 a.m., PT

S. Lawrence Lightfoot – The Third Chapter: Adventure-Passion-Risk (General Session)
In this presentation, author and philosopher Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot will envision a much-needed cultural shift in our attitudes toward youth and age—a need based on simple demographics. She will examine the challenges educators face in their search for meaningfulness and purposefulness after their careers have ended. (This session will not be archived.)

12:15 p.m.–2:15 p.m., PT

Betty Garner – Getting to "Got It!": Helping Struggling Students Learn How to Learn
Why do some students get it while some don't? This session will help educators learn how to help students develop cognitive structures needed to process information for meaning, such as finding patterns, formulating predictable rules, and abstracting generalizable principles that transfer and apply learning.

What sessions will you be watching?


Klea Scharberg

Success Breeds Success

"A passionate teacher teaches as though his or her life depends on the student's outcome."
—Grant Union High School teacher

In what ways does a teacher's commitment to his or her students translate to student success? How can teachers adjust their approach to teaching to better motivate their students?

Explore these questions in this talk with Kadhir "Raja" Rajagopal, author of Create Success! Unlocking the Potential of Urban Students. Rajagopal has been an educator for six years and is currently an algebra teacher at Grant Union High School, a low-income comprehensive urban high school in Sacramento, Calif. He was named the 2011 Sacramento County Teacher of the Year, and was also selected as a 2011 California Teacher of the Year.

Inspired by his ability to teach algebra to low-income and mostly black and Latino urban students—and have them outscore the state averages for high-income and white students on standardized tests—Rajagopal developed a model for teaching that unleashes the potential of students who may have failed or struggled throughout their school careers. Rajagopal's CREATE model for closing achievement gaps uses culturally responsive instruction, high expectations, formative assessments, and flexible pacing to improve your instructional approach for all students—especially those who are underserved in urban classrooms.

There are several things that I do to create a culture of excellence, a culture in the classroom where it's cool, it's OK to be successful. It's where success is the norm. And one of the things I do is, I make the materials easy to understand. ... If it seems easier to comprehend, students are more likely to try. So I explain the material in a language they understand, using similes, metaphors, stories, basketball, football—I make it student-centered. I think like the students before I teach so I teach it in a way so that it seems really easy for them. And as a result, they try more. Because success breeds more success. They feel like they can succeed.

Join Rajagopal for an interactive discussion on how his culturally responsive model for motivating and connecting with students can be used to close achievement gaps in any inner-city classroom at the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show (Session 1120). Get ready to witness his model in action and meet high-performing students from his former classes—kids who once associated themselves with a history of failure in mathematics.

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