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Let’s Mandate This School Uniform to Improve School Climate

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on April 05, 2013

Technology and innovation in education has moved at warp speed for so long now, that we might be on the verge of entering upon a period where “everything old is new again”.  About the only constant in the whirlwind of educational reform is change (and many times, it seems, change simply for change’s sake).  As long as Race To The Top and NCLB markers (aka standardized test scores) are the primary drivers for determining a successful school from an unsuccessful one, we will continue to settle for a myopic and very narrow view of what’s important and what’s peripheral in our schools.  And that is a short-sighted shame! It would hopefully be apparent from studies conducted in the last 30 or 40 years just how vital school climate improvement efforts are for all markers of school “success” (grades, graduation rates, student voice, student engagement, teacher satisfaction, and equity/parity indicators).  Indeed, recent exciting and groundbreaking neuroscience investigations have also shown a fundamental relationship between good school climate and academic success. The National School Climate Center (NSCC) provides thorough, valid & reliable, data-driven resources that promote the much broader and much more expansive answer to the question: “what do we want our children’s education to provide?”

In its direct work with schools, NSCC consistently advocates for ways to promote the vital importance of educating our youth to be “Upstanders”.  Though bully prevention efforts serve as an entry point to engage youth as upstanders, almost everyone agrees that school-based bullying tends to be a “canary in a coal mine”; that is, student bullying behavior can usually point to more profound issues and challenges connected to school climate.  That is why, to date, we have engaged over 2400 schools nationwide in our Upstander Alliance Program.  In the desire to highlight the central importance of educating the “whole child”, in the quest to elevate the social/emotional/civic aspects of a students’ development, NSCC is committed to supporting and celebrating Upstanders. Recently, many schools provided video resources in our “For Good” video contest to inspire others in our journey to be Upstanders.

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We Need Stronger Connective Tissue for “Dem Dry Bones” of Present Education Reform

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on March 26, 2013

When I was in elementary school, I remember enjoying immensely our daily music appreciation class (Imagine that! Even in the 1960’s at the height of the “Space Race”, it was understood that there was an integral place for the arts in education!).  In 3rd Grade, our music teacher, Mrs. Courtney, introduced us to the amazing legacy of Negro Spirituals.  What a tremendous experience for us to embrace this wonderful musical tradition, apply it to our history studies, get to actively speak about the current events of civil rights happening in our midst, and best of all ­singing while we learned.  Hindsight lets me realize how the seed of blended learning, cooperative learning, infusion approaches to lesson planning, team teaching, backwards design, and curricular cohesiveness all had their roots in the work of these dedicated teachers!  So it’s no wonder how clearly I remember our Science teacher showing up at Ms. Courtney’s music class the day she was prepared to teach us how to sing “Dem Dry Bones”.  What great fun we had learning that “the foot bone’s connected to the heel bone.  The heel bone’s connected to the ankle bone…”.   Then, the Science teacher explained how we would just crumple to the ground if all we had were “dem dry bones”.  That was her lead-in to teach us about muscles, cartilage, ligaments and all things dealing with connective tissue. We touched each bone as we sang about it and jumped around excitedly.  A true blend of visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and musical learning that I still remember to this day when so much other “stuff” I learned has disappeared from my brain.

I’ve just read the most recent Carnegie “challenge” paper:  “Opportunity by Design: New High School Models for Student Success”.  It’s a very thorough and insightful study that promotes a “push to redesign how schools actually work for students and teachers”.  The paper synthesizes a great deal of background studies and then outlines the plans of The Opportunity by Design Initiative.  According to the authors, this bold, new initiative (cue up the classroom teachers who in their role similar to that of the Chorus in a Greek tragedy cry out in unison:  “Oh no, not another initiative!) will lead to:

  1.   the creation of new schools.
  2.   the development of district capacity to engage in school creation independently.
  3.   the articulation of principles to guide other districts and states in reorienting their assets to develop, support, and sustain innovative new designs that meets the needs of all their students.

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Making Change at the District-Level

By Lauren on February 08, 2010

How do you focus on improving school climate from the district level? Our next newsletter shares guidelines, best practices, stories from the field, funding opportunities, and additional resources to help administrators begin planning for school climate improvement.

In the meantime, here are resources from CSEE to start the conversation:

School Climate District Guide: The district guide is designed to support district policymakers and education leaders plan and implement improvement initiatives. It contains an overview of research and information about quality practices, policy options and resources.

National School Climate Standards: The National School Climate Standards were developed by CSEE, the National School Climate Council and many other educational, school board and community leaders. The Standards present a vision and framework for a positive and sustainable school climate. They complement national standards for Content, Leadership, and Professional Development and the Parent Teacher Association's National Standards for Family School Partnerships Standards, and are endorsed by the National School Boards Association.

School Climate Implementation Road Map:  Use this resource to learn how you can measure and improve school climate in ways that support student and adult learning and development. This road map guides you through the process of school climate assessment, evaluation and analysis, understanding and action planning, implementing programs and initiatives, and re-evaluating school climate.

Breaking the Bully-Victim-Bystander Toolkit: This toolkit is a resource designed to support school leadership teams and school community members prevent bully-victim behavior and promote upstander behavior in K-12 schools.

What initiatives and programs have you implemented to create district-wide or school-wide change? What resources have been helpful to get buy-in and understanding from principals and school staff? Share in the comments below or email us at [email protected] so we can share your work with other districts dedicated to improving their climates for learning.

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School Climate Podcast: Developing the Quality and Character of School Life

By Lauren on February 02, 2010

This month's Whole Child podcast is one you will not want to miss:

School Climate: Developing the Quality and Character of School Life
Thursday, February 4th:
Stream or Download the Podcast Here

Dr. Jonathan Cohen, president of the Center for Social and Emotional Education and cochair of the National School Climate Council, and Marvin Kreps, director of Curriculum and Instruction at Rhinebeck Central (N.Y.) School District, will discuss how school climate standards can help educators and communities improve the quality and character of school life.

Learn more about the podcast here at Whole Child, and stay tuned to their blog to learn more about providing rich, safe and supportive learning environments for your children.

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