ASCD is honored to present Milwaukie High School, located in Milwaukie, Ore., with the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. This special award recognizes schools that move beyond a vision for educating the whole child to actions that result in learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.
Addressing students' needs levels the playing field. Or rather, addressing students' needs is only leveling the playing field. If a child is hungry, then the need can be addressed by providing breakfast, lunch, and assistance as needed. The same applies if the child is unwell. Many schools have made great strides in addressing students' needs, but some schools have gone further. They have taken an issue that was initially a need and used it to enhance and improve what the school offers.
Join us throughout March as we look at schools that have taken a deficit and turned it into an asset. Some schools have used connections formed into and across the community to enhance and build on what they first envisaged. Other schools are forming alliances to improve a specific situation, and have then used those same alliances to improve the entire school. How has your school or community taken a challenge and turned it into a win?
Safety is and will always be a fundamental concern for schools. Students who aren't or don't feel safe at school cannot learn, and schools must ensure that their environments are both secure and supportive. The current debate on school safety brings with it a renewed interest in addressing safety, school climate, and mental health concerns at schools and promises to improve school policy and practice.
Yet while the current debate has engaged the nation in community-wide discussions, it also has the potential to overlook the voices of educators. In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, host Sean Slade and guests discuss what we, as educators, believe is crucial to making our schools safe—not just physically safe, but safe places to teach and learn. You'll hear from
What does it mean to be a teacher, a learner, and a leader in today's schools and classrooms? What do we need to be effective? How will the current standards movement affect us, as professionals, and our students? How do we find out the answers to these questions?
We as educators have a unique opportunity to reset the playing field and make the Common Core State Standards work for us. We can implement the standards, align them to a whole child approach to education, and ensure that they both support and enhance each other to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship success. The Common Core standards and a whole child approach are not opposites, and they do not have to be and should not be in opposition. In fact, they're interdependent. So much so, that they require each other to be successful.
Now is the time for us to take control and become empowered in the process. The outcomes will depend on what we decide to do for the Common Core standards within a whole child approach and how we decide to do it. In this episode, host Molly McCloskey and our guests discuss how our schools are working to better and more comprehensively support student learning so that they meet these enhanced expectations. You'll hear from
Arnold Fege, president of Public Advocacy for Kids and, recently, director of public engagement and advocacy for the Public Education Network where he covered education reform, parental involvement, and community engagement issues on the Hill and agencies, specializing in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Fege has more than 40 years of public education and child advocacy experience as a public school teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and desegregation director. He was the National PTA's director of governmental relations for 17 years and is recognized for his leading work and articles in linking school and community. As a staff person for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he helped draft provisions in the original ESEA legislation and has been involved in every reauthorization of ESEA since that time.
Craig Mertler, professor and dean of the Ross College of Education at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., and guest author this month on the Whole Child Blog. Mertler has been an educator for more than 25 years, beginning his career as a high school science teacher, then pursuing degrees in education assessment, research, and statistics. His interests lie in teacher-led action research, teacher leadership, classroom assessment, data-driven instructional decision making, and school improvement.
David Griffith, director of public policy at ASCD who leads the development and implementation of ASCD's Legislative Agenda as well as ASCD's efforts to influence education decision making at the local, state, and federal levels. He has 20 years of political experience as a congressional aide and on several political campaigns. Prior to joining ASCD, Griffith was the director of governmental and public affairs for the National Association of State Boards of Education, where he oversaw the organization's advocacy and political activities as well as media relations.
How are you and your professional colleagues critically examining your practice as we enter the era of Common Core implementation?
Almost no one has been unaffected by the events in Newtown, Conn., last week—especially if they are a teacher or parent or have kids who go to elementary school, as many of us do. It's hard to discuss and even harder to make any kind of sense out of what happened.
Today we highlight posts from our archives, the ASCD community, and our partner organizations that speak to how we can make our schools and communities safer and more connected. While we cannot immediately change policies that affect our schools and larger communities, we can strengthen our resolve to make sure that we create environments for our kids that are welcoming, supportive, and caring. The immediate reaction is to hunker down; however, as we hear so often, the best next steps are to open doors, re-engage and reconnect.
We hope the following pieces may resonate or help. Standing strong together and reminding ourselves that a connected community is a safer and friendlier community may be the best action we can take right now, and it's something we can have some control over.
Every school has a culture. Some are positive, while others are toxic; many are somewhere in between. A school's culture affects the lives of everyone in the building. Educators working in a positive school culture (PDF) experience collegiality, trust, and tangible support as leaders and peers, creating an environment where there are high expectations, involvement in decision making, and open communication. Students entering a positive school culture feel safe, engaged, and connected and see school as a place where they can learn and contribute to the world around them.
Michael Fullan wrote about the principal's role in leading sustainable cultural change in schools (and school districts) in the May 2002 issue of Educational Leadership saying,
"An organization cannot flourish—at least, not for long—on the actions of the top leader alone. Schools and districts need many leaders at many levels. Learning in context helps produce such leaders. Further, for leaders to be able to deal with complex problems, they need many years of experience and professional development on the job. To a certain extent, a school leader's effectiveness in creating a culture of sustained change will be determined by the leaders he or she leaves behind."
Students are a part of the school community and can play powerful roles as leaders in a positive school culture. In cultivating students as leaders, schools provide opportunities for personal engagement; skill development for future college, careers, and citizenship; and a richer experience for all. In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, Klea Scharberg, project manager for whole child programs at ASCD, talked with members of the Special Olympics National Youth Activation Committee—Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a whole child partner—about why they got involved in Special Olympics, what being a leader means to them, what they as students need from adults in schools and communities to help foster social change, and what progress looks like. You'll hear from
Dallas Lopez, from Texas;
Rachel Alm, from Hawaii;
Danielle Liebl, from Minnesota; and
Margaret Drake, a special education teacher from Wyoming.
How does your school culture cultivate and empower students as leaders as well as learners?
"Leadership is leading by example, but it's also ... helping others realize the leader within themselves."
A positive school culture is the cornerstone of a good school and the foundation for school improvement. School culture encompasses the schoolwide ethos and the culture of individual classrooms, high expectations for learning and achievement, a safe and caring environment, shared values and relational trust, a powerful pedagogy and curriculum, high student motivation and engagement, a professional faculty culture, and partnerships with families and the community. It is constantly being shaped through our interactions, individual identities, beliefs, traditions, experiences, and community diversity. Research shows that successful schools with positive, effective school cultures are places that foster teacher learning and motivate students to learn.
Many schools may be in the process of implementing a program or process to support a whole child approach to education. Other schools may be looking at how to sustain what has already been achieved or developed. Fully embedding a whole child approach into the culture so that it becomes an integral part of what we do and who we are as schools and communities is key to ensuring that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged and prepared for their future college, career, and civic lives.
As Harvard educator Roland Barth once observed, "A school's culture has far more influence on life and learning in the schoolhouse than the state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, or even the principal can ever have."
In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, Klea Scharberg, project manager for whole child programs at ASCD, talked with members of the Special Olympics National Youth Activation Committee—Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a whole child partner—about what a safe and positive school culture means to them, student voice and leadership, and why they are committed to being agents of change for their communities and young people across the United States. You'll hear from
Daniel Fink, originally from Alaska and currently attending Washington State University;
Kelsey Foster, from South Carolina;
Heather Glaser, from Wyoming; and
Bernice Higa-French, from Hawaii.
How does the culture of your school and community affect the success of your students?
"It's not necessarily that something is different about the school. They don't have different curriculum that they teach—no, it's just that it's more integrated and inclusive. You can walk down the hallway and you're not afraid of talking to anyone because of their race or their background, or anything like that. ... You walk in and there's just a smile on your face—and you don't necessarily know why—and you want to know more about why [the school culture] is that way."
"Today educators are interested in the whole life of the child. They are aware that experiences in school affect not only the child of today, but also the man of tomorrow. No longer is 'book learning' the total aim of the days and years of classroom attendance.
There is also the recognition that the health of the child determines his ability to deal with his school tasks. The next step toward understanding man at his various stages of development is being taken by recognizing that only the mentally healthy child can make full use of the tools for living handed him in school."
This quote is tailor-made for our look at what it means and takes for children to be mentally healthy. It was also written 63 years ago, in May 1949, by Dr. Mabel Ross, director of Prince George's County (Md.) Mental Health Clinic in ASCD's Educational Leadership magazine (read the article [PDF] and the full issue).