Tagged “School Connectedness”

Sharing Ideas for Higher Achievement

Sanger Academy Charter School, Sanger, Calif.

As one in a trio of Sanger, California schools to be designated a California School to Watch by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, Sanger Academy Charter School proves the efficacy of a commitment to quality education. Collaboration between Sanger Academy and its two sister schools—also designated as California Schools to Watch—can be seen on all levels, from middle school sports tournaments to monthly meetings between the three principals to share ideas and techniques.

Technology Guides Students to a Bright Future

Owl Creek School, Fayetteville, Ark.

Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Owl Creek School joins a select group of Arkansas schools as a 2013 Diamond School to Watch with whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. The Owl School promotes growth and achievement in its students through a strong commitment to technology-based instruction and a positive campus community. This supportive, in-school environment is bolstered by high levels of engagement with families and the local community through workshops; family activity nights; and a strong, involved Parent Teacher Organization.

A Common Message and Sense of Belonging

Renfro Elementary School, Collinsville, Ill.

Renfro Elementary School special education teacher Mary Anne Hempsted observes, "This school is the most welcoming place that I have ever worked. People respond to any need." Renfro's teachers and students connect through class meetings and the cross-grade level "families." Each family creates their own silent family greeting that they use whenever they encounter a "family member" in the halls. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Renfro defines character to include thinking, feeling, and doing and takes a very comprehensive, intentional, proactive approach to character education. Carrie White, parent of a second grader and a kindergartner, praises the common language used at the school, which carries into the home, and observes that the words mean the same at school and at home. Entire classrooms of students are recognized for showing good character, not individuals. Third-grade teacher Carolyn Demaree says, "Every adult cares for the students in this school and holds them accountable."

Family Atmosphere Fosters Sense of Belonging

Imagine Schools South Lake, Clermont, Fla.

Despite being one of the largest of the more than 70 Imagine Schools campuses, Imagine South Lake feels like a "family" school. Each day, students are greeted by the principal (who knows everyone by name), other administrators, teachers, parents, and student safety patrols. Teacher turnover is minimal, and the re-enrollment rate is above 95 percent. When speaking of her schoolmates and teachers, fourth grader India says, "They are my family." Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Imagine South Lake's staff students, and parents live the core values. Staff members incorporate character within the classroom in ways that best meet the needs of their students and reflect the school's mission statement. Middle school language-arts teacher Joyce Crawford notes that "being here at Imagine means you have a voice;" all classrooms have meetings where students' "voice and choice" is heard and appreciated. Teachers care about the students academically, socially, and emotionally. Fourth grader Eliya states that the teachers "don’t want us to fail. They teach us how to learn from our mistakes."

School Organizes to Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Wagga Wagga Christian College, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia

Recognized as a MindMatters School in 2011 by whole child partner Principals Australia Institute, Wagga Wagga Christian College is a coeducational K–12 school which fosters a family environment that develops responsibility and trust between peers and multi-aged young people. In 2007, the faculty determined the need to develop a welfare system to be proactive and responsive, not reactive. As a result the school has refined its transition programs, building stronger links with parents and the community beyond the school; expanded its student leadership program, empowering students at all levels of leadership; and implemented resilience programs, highlighting the safe use of social networks, cyberbullying, and sex education and relationships. Feedback is sought at parent association meetings about the mental health and well-being programs that could be implemented for students and parents.

Student Voice and Project-Based Learning

Malcolm Price Laboratory School, Cedar Falls, Iowa

The 2010 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award winner, Malcolm Price Laboratory School, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, has a long-standing tradition of focusing on the whole child. Price Lab believes that its community is not so much a place as an experience of feeling valued, connected, and responsible.

Among other efforts, the K–12 school actively seeks to engage students through programs that support project-based learning. Students in elementary, middle, and high school devise or choose projects of personal interest—examples include hosting a radio show, investigating string theory, producing a film production, and developing a game. The students then see these projects through from conception to completion.

This student-centered approach has been fundamental in developing important 21st century skills, such as demonstrating initiative and self-direction, and using individual talents for productive outcomes. It has also allowed students to have a greater voice and develop a greater sense of ownership in the school and its activities.

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