School Improvement Opportunity to Develop Comprehensive Systems of Learning Supports
AASA, UCLA, and Scholastic Inc. LEAD DISTRICT Learning Supports Collaboration
The American Association of School Administrators (AASA), UCLA and Scholastic Inc. have partnered to bring school districts together for the purpose of using the Rebuilding for Learning initiative to help schools and students deal with the social, emotional and learning challenges that face schools today.
How to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and have a strong start in being productive contributors to our society is a core question for school improvement policy makers and planners. Nationally, there is great concern and debate about how to raise student achievement, reduce dropout rates, address disparities among children from different socio-economic backgrounds, close racial and ethnic achievement gaps, serve transient students and immigrant populations, and increase the level of expectations of—and support for—all children.
It is clear that such concerns must be approached in the context of school improvement policies and practices. It is also clear that improved instruction alone is insufficient to address the external and internal barriers to teaching and learning that widely interfere with schools reaching their improvement goals. To meet the challenges for the many students in need, school districts must design comprehensive systems of learning supports that address barriers to learning and teaching and ensure that students are engaged and re-engaged in classroom learning. Schools need strong leadership for systemic change and infrastructure that facilitates schools and communities working together in pursuit of a shared vision and common set of goals.
The American Association of School Administrators (AASA), Scholastic, and the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools have formed a unique collaborative aimed at expanding leaders’ knowledge, capacity, and implementation of comprehensive systems of learning supports. This effort supports AASA’s flagship initiative, Educating the Total Child, which is aimed at advocating for an education approach designed to effect real change by addressing key factors that determine children’s academic achievement.
We are currently engaged in the work in:
Gainesville City Schools, GA.
Grant Parish School System, LA.
Stillwater School System, MN.
The collaborative will meet in June 2012 to further expand on the work currently done on Learning Supports in each district. Additional materials will be available on the site as the work progresses in these 3 districts.
We held a Rebuilding for Learning Institute in Baton Rouge, LA in December 2011 to engage additional school districts in the work.
- These districts will be provided with valuable supports to help them move forward toward developing comprehensive systems of learning supports that are integrated into school improvement planning and implementation.
Building understanding about comprehensive systems of learning supports and how such systems transform public education.
Creating policy and practice framework documents that can be shared among critical stakeholder groups.
Working to design and implement learning support systems.
Districts will be guided in their work by Drs. Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, educators, researchers and national leaders from UCLA who have worked with state departments, regional units, districts, and schools to design and implement comprehensive learning supports systems (see brief document, Toward Next Steps in School Improvement: Addressing Barriers to Learning and Teaching, http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/systemic/towardnextstep.pdf).
As a member of the collaborative, district leadership will become an integral part of AASA’s Leadership Development efforts. This will include acknowledgment of the district’s leadership in school transformation, presentations at national and state association meetings, mentoring of other districts, among other recognitions.
The work will encompass several face to face combined Lead District meetings with superintendent-led teams at AASA conferences, on-site work with the collaborative team, and regular ongoing contacts and supports (including phone and email). Scholastic and UCLA are underwriting the costs of the collaborative’s operation, on-site and supports work. AASA will provide for additional costs related to Lead District meetings at conferences.
The district under the leadership of Dr. Merrianne Dyer has worked to fully restructure to achieve a three component model of school improvement and is in the early stages of implementing a comprehensive system of learning supports. Key progress to date has included the incorporation of CSLS into the district’s strategic plan, district policies and the alignment of the district administrative management structure around that plan.
The district’s mapping process has helped school and district leaders understand both their primary barriers to learning, the current resources (budget, staff, programs) that they have in place to address the issues, and what will be needed to fill the gaps. Schools are working to “strengthen ownership” around creating a system/culture of healthy interventions.
Two priorities for the district going forward are 1) strengthening the community partnership component of the work, and 2) sharing the work in Gainesville with the state department of education and other Georgia districts.
AASA presented a webinar on October 29, 2009, Strengthening School Improvement by Developing a Comprehensive System of Learning Supports. This webinar featured Dr. Howard Adelman and Dr. Linda Taylor from UCLA. The following URL will take you to the UCLA site where you can download the materials from the presentation: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/rebuild/rebuilding.htm.