The Total Child

From Rural Towns to Robotics: Coming Full Circle with VISTA

(National Awareness, Equity) Permanent link

 The following is a cross guest post of Eileen Conoboy,Acting Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. She is the daughter of AASA staff member Carolyn Conoboy.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #AmeriCorpsWorks.  Learn more about AmeriCorps VISTA, by visiting this website https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista 

When I packed up my car in 1992 and left my familiar bubble in Arlington, VA to serve a year as a VISTA member in rural North Dakota, I was an adventurous 22-year-old, hitting the road with idealism and a duffel bag. With 3 days of training under my belt, I arrived in town, found a room to rent over the shop-keeper’s house, and settled into my new role at a domestic violence and sexual assault program. I spent the next 12 months recruiting and training volunteers for a battered women’s task force, establishing a safe house network, and setting up a court watch program to monitor how the system responded to victims of abuse. Being able to make a difference in people’s lives was an awakening for me, and I bounded out of bed each morning with excitement and vigor as I headed off to the first job I ever loved. My cultural intelligence also grew as I learned to recruit in church basements, came to understand the difference between a combine and a tractor, and developed a deep appreciation for the richness of Midwestern hospitality.

Fast forward 25 years and here I sit at my keyboard, pinching myself that my circuitous path has led me to be Acting Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. Having benefited from so many interventions in my own life, from Head Start to scholarships and Pell grants, this feels akin to winning the purpose lottery. I get to support the 8,000 VISTAs who are walking the talk and fighting poverty every day in America.

The secret sauce of this 52-year-strong anti-poverty program is its multiplying force. Have a dollar? A VISTA member can turn it into two. Running a program with five mentors to help keep kids in school? A VISTA can recruit and train ten more. VISTA members leveraged $178 million in cash and in-kind resources and mobilized 900,000 local volunteers in 2016 alone. From Anchorage to Orlando and 3,000 sites in between, these anti-poverty warriors are finding the good, multiplying it, and mobilizing the non-federal resources needed to ensure the positive ripples reverberate in communities long after the VISTA member leaves.  

The mission of VISTA hasn’t changed in its 52 years, but the scope of projects has adapted with the times. In addition to bolstering services for homeless veterans and helping low-income youth access college, VISTAs today are combating opioid abuse and expanding robotics programs in low-income communities. An example of the latter is the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) AmeriCorps VISTA project, which I’m thrilled to visit today as I serve alongside VISTA member Christina Lee during AmeriCorps Week. Through the FIRST project, VISTAs help inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, and engage underserved communities and school districts to make science and technology accessible to all children. Since 2013, 114 AmeriCorps VISTA members have expanded FIRST programming into 51 cities and 32 states, engaging more than 7,600 children from under-resourced communities in STEM activities. While robotics and Lego competitions may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of anti-poverty work, the FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA project provides children with access to education and technology resources in order to “engineer paths out of poverty.”

 I can’t wait to see how Christina’s work is empowering local kids. To all of the VISTAs and National Service members serving today – keep fighting the good fight, thank you for your service, and happy AmeriCorps Week!

Guest Blog Post: DACA Students And Resources For Superintendents & Schools

(National Awareness, Equity, Student Support Services) Permanent link

This guest blog post comes from Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children.

Today 750,000 of our nation’s most promising young adults are living under the threat of deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, currently protects these law-abiding young people, brought to the country as children. But the future of DACA is now in doubt, and, without it, DREAMers could be subject to immediate deportation. These DREAMers are students, graduates, and unknown numbers—at least hundreds and more likely thousands—are teachers.

AASA and more than 2,000 education leaders from across the country have signed on to a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action to extend legal protections to these young adults. Students need these protections to realize their potential and educators need them to continue teaching in our classrooms.

District leaders are speaking out now because they can’t afford to lose teachers like Alexis Torres, who teaches history in the Spring Branch, Texas school district. Torres is exactly the kind of teacher schools work desperately to recruit—bilingual and culturally aware in a school where nearly half of students lack fluency in English. At 23, he’s lived in the United States since he was 5. But absent a protection from deportation, he could be removed at any time.

 Fellow Texan Mayte Lara Ibarra managed to rise to become her high school’s valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA. She’s now enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but the fear of deportation remains a constant. “My whole life I’ve lived with the conversation of, ‘OK what’s going to happen if like your dad or I get deported,’” she told a local TV station.

 Young people like Ms. Ibarra and Mr. Torres have played by the rules, working hard to better themselves, support their families, and make their communities stronger.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s district in Denver was one of the first to hire teachers under DACA. “We hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better,” Boasberg said. “To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."

 The stories and success of DREAMers define what it means to live the American dream and removing them would hurt, not benefit, our schools and our nation.

That’s why a growing number education leaders are joining our call for a lasting solution, including the superintendents of some of the largest school districts; the president of a national teachers union; leaders of top public charter school networks and crucial nonprofits; and principals and teacher leaders.

AASA is leading the way as part of this extraordinary alliance of the nation’s leading educators coming together to protect these DREAMers.  

Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at sign.protectdreamers.org.

By taking action together, we can create conditions in which our students and teachers thrive, rather than relegate them to living in fear.

 For more information about the petition for DREAMer protections and the full list of signatories, please visit protectdreamers.org.

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  1. Clearly communicate that our schools are welcoming to everyone. Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families. Some districts have even declared that they are ICE-free zones/sanctuary schools and have taken the public position that they will not permit entry to law enforcement absent a judicial order.
  2.  Identify a point person who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the district and keep good documentation of any encounters. Encourage the same for each campus.
  3.  Determine a process for approving documents to ensure all materials distributed to teachers, support staff, students, families and the community are up-to-date and authored by reputable sources.
  4.  Inform students and their families of their rights by distributing “know your rights” materials (or other approved materials) in appropriate languages to stakeholders so they are informed about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained.
  5.  Maintain a list of approved resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations, that can be shared with your students and their families.
  6.  Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a “know your rights” workshop on campuses to inform students and families about their rights.
  7.  Identify or create a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support. If there is a local response team, assign a point person for communication on the district staff.
  8.  Create a process for what to do if a parent, sibling or student has been detained. This should include providing a safe place for students to wait if their parent/guardian is unable to take them home. Double-check emergency contact info and ensure that you have multiple phone numbers on hand for relatives/guardians in case a student's emergency contact is detained, be prepared to issue a statement condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students, and consider alternate pickup and drop-off arrangements in case an ICE checkpoint is established near your school.
  9.  Coordinate with other agencies in the community as needed, particularly child protective services if the chance of foster care is increased during this time.
  10.  Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  11.  Train and educate guidance counselors and key staff to help mentor or guide students who are impacted by immigration, including undocumented students applying to college.
 

 The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts:  


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Starting the School Day Ready to Learn with School Breakfast

(Alternative School Breakfast , National Awareness) Permanent link

 CP OTR School Breakfast

  Educators and administrators know how hunger affects children in and out of the classroom. Starting the school day ready to learn — with a healthy school breakfast — is the first step toward academic success. 

 Since 2011, AASA has engaged 22 school districts in the Alternative School Breakfast Initiative, supported by the Walmart Foundation. This program increases the number of children who eat school breakfast, by taking breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom and hallways through Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ Go, and Second Chance options.

AASA is part of the Breakfast for Learning Education Alliance and works with Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), to increase participation in the national School Breakfast Program.

 
According to FRAC, Children who participate in the school breakfast program show improved attendance, behavior, and standardized achievement test scores as well as decreased tardiness and fewer visits to the school nurse .

While there is a clear link between breakfast and learning, FRAC’s new school breakfast reports shine a light on the fact that still too many children are missing out on the benefits of school breakfast. FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard found that only 56 low-income students participated in school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch in the 2015—2016 school year. Participation varies by state; for example, schools in West Virginia reach over 80 low-income students with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch, while Utah schools reach less than 40 low-income students.

FRAC’s companion report, School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts, shows that some school districts across the country are meeting the needs of their low-income students by making breakfast readily accessible.  

The good news is that there are proven strategies to increase school breakfast participation. More schools are adopting breakfast after the bell models where breakfast is served in the classroom, from grab-and-go carts in the hallway on the way to class, or during a morning break after homeroom or first period. Schools that have adopted these models are seeing participation grow as a result.

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Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District presenting at a conference on his district's Alternative School Breakfast Program.

 

 Two of AASA’s current participating districts, Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY) and Newark Public Schools (NJ) were featured in this report as one of the few school districts that met the ambitious goal of 70 low-income students participating in the school breakfast program per 100 participating in the lunch program.

  So how can superintendents and administrators ensure that students have the chance to start the day with a healthy breakfast?

 If you are attending the National Conference on Education in New Orleans this March, join AASA Children’s Programs Department  and superintendents  at the "Feeding Hungry Minds: Funding Your School Breakfast Program" panel  to discuss strategies and learn how your district can become involved. The panel will take place on Thursday March 2nd at 2:45 pm in Room 211, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. 

When you're back in your district:

  •  Ask your school nutrition director for breakfast participation rates for all the schools in the district and provide this information to principals;
  •  Work with your school nutrition director, principals, and school board to develop a plan to implement breakfast in the classroom;
  •  Provide leadership to guide the process of implementing breakfast in the classroom and ensure all the necessary stakeholders—school nutrition staff, principals, teachers, and custodial staff—are on board and engaged; and
  •  Check FRAC’s database of schools eligible to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision, and discuss how to implement in eligible schools with your school nutrition director.

You also can sign up for FRAC’s monthly newsletter, Meals Matter: School Breakfast, to get further information and resources on school breakfast. Together, we can ensure every student starts their day ready to learn.

See AASA Children’s Programs Department’s School Breakfast webpage and resource library for more information about this initiative. http://www.aasa.org/SchoolBreakfast.aspx  

Join AASA Children's Programs Department at the 2017 AASA National Conference on Education

(Alternative School Breakfast , Children’s Health Insurance , Innovative Professional Development, National Awareness, Equity, Student Support Services, Community Schools , ESSA) Permanent link

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  Join AASA Children's Programs Department  in New Orleans at the 2017 National Conference on Education (NCE), this March!  

  Below is a schedule of concurrent sessions, Thought Leader sessions and  the Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon. 

 Click on the links below to see flyers with details on each of our sessions.

Register today at nce.aasa.org .

During the conference follow us on social media at @AASATotalChild and  using #NCE17 and read recaps of our sessions  in Conference Daily Online.

Schedule of Events

 Thursday March 2, 2017

9:00 am-10:00 am: Thought Leader: Redesigning Professional Development Systems Leadership, Feedback and Impact (Room 207)
9:00 am -10:00 am: Igniting and Insuring a STEAM K-16 Pipeline  (Room 211) 
12:15pm -1:00 pm: Knowledge Exchange Theater: Online Support for In-School Impact: #InsureAllChildren-- a demonstration of the AASA/ Children's Defense Fund school-based, child health insurance outreach and enrollment toolkit.(Exhibit Hall)

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1:00 pm-2:00 pm: Dealing with Loss and Grief in School   (Room 211)
2:45 pm -3:45 pm: Feeding Hungry Minds: Funding Your School Breakfast Program (Room 211)
4:00 pm-5:00 pm: Thought Leader: Community Schools: Cultivating Opportunity, Equity and Agency (Room 207)

 Friday March 3, 2017
10:45 am -11:45 am:  Leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act to Provide Integrated Student Supports (Room 211)
11:45 am -1:45 pm: The Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon with featured speaker, Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (Room 208)
2:45 pm-3:45 pm: Build a Culture of Equity in Your District (Room 211)

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We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!

 

 

 


Highline Public Schools #RethinkDisicpline and Out of School Supensions

(School Discipline , On The Road, National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post by AASA member, Susan Enfield, Superintendent of Highline Public Schools (WA), who attended the AASA/CDF Summit on School Discipline in October 2016.Watch this video, from the Summit, where Superintendent Enfield discusses how suspension should be used as a last resort in school discipline. 

 Enfield
  Watch The Video

During the 2011-12 school year, Highline Public Schools out-of-school suspended or expelled students 2107 times. The most common offense? Defiance. As the district’s new superintendent I knew we had to take action. Fortunately, our staff, school board and community were ready to do just that, so as part of our strategic planning process in 2012-13 we identified six bold goals worthy of our students. One of those was the elimination of out-school-suspensions and expulsions except when critical for staff and student safety which put us on our path to rethinking school discipline in Highline.

 While there is ample research that points to why out-of-school suspension is not a successful intervention or deterrent when it comes to student behavior, what was even more compelling for us were our own students. When asked, they told us that suspension simply didn’t work. Furthermore, we knew from our own data that even one out-of-school suspension increased the likelihood that a student would ultimately drop out, meaning that loss of time in school potentially meant the loss of a high school diploma.

Knowing we had to find ways to get to the root cause of a student’s behavior rather than simply punishing them for it, we invested in Re-engagement Specialists at each of our middle and high schools to lead the development of alternatives to suspension that would keep students in school, while also providing appropriate consequences for their actions and needed interventions and support. As with any new strategy, we have experienced both successes and failures; this is paradigm-shifting work that is not without its criticism or controversy. It is, however, the right thing to do for our students. We have learned that communicating, constantly, with our families and community is essential so we continue to get better at telling our story, an example of which you can see in this video.

Our promise in Highline Public Schools is to ensure that every student is known by name, strength and need and graduates prepared for college, career and citizenship. To deliver on this promise we are committed to keeping our students in school and creating a culture where staff and students alike feel safe, supported and challenged.

New School Wellness Resources for the New Year

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post from Cheryl Jackson Lewis, Director, Nutrition, Education, Training, and Technical Assistance Division, Child Nutrition Programs, Food and Nutrition Service. 

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Have you set any goals for health and wellness in 2017? There are many ways superintendents can help schools create and cultivate a culture of academic success and wellness. District leaders across the country are championing Local School Wellness Policies, with an understanding that kids with healthier eating patterns and enough physical activity tend to have better grades; remember what was taught in class; behave better in class; and miss less school time. A Local School Wellness Policy is a written document that guides school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn. Superintendents play a critical role in helping children have healthy places to learn; and it’s easier than ever to bring everyone together on this important issue.

The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 added new provisions for the implementation, evaluation, and public involvement and reporting on the progress of Local School Wellness Policies. The Local School Wellness Policy final rule, published July 21, 2016, requires schools to engage parents, students, and community members in the annual development and assessment of local school wellness policies. It’s important for everyone to be a part of this process so the wellness policy is representative of the community and student’s needs. Local educational agencies must fully comply with the requirements of the final rule by June 30, 2017.

 School Wellness Champion
 Parents, school staff and administrators, and community members work together to develop the Local School Wellness Policy and put it into action.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Team Nutrition initiative provides a free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit that superintendents, school wellness leaders, and schools can customize to communicate information about their Local School Wellness Policy to parents, principals, and other school staff. The kit includes:

  •  A letter to the wellness coordinator;
  • Sample letter to school principals;
  • Informational flyers, in English and Spanish;
  • Presentations for parents and school staff;
  • Sample newsletter article; and
  • Social media posts and graphics.

 The free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit is available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy-outreach-toolkit.

Parents and school staff are not always aware of the Local School Wellness Policy and how it is being put into action. These tools can help and may be customized to reflect information specific to the school/school district’s policy. Additional Local Schools Wellness Policy resources on creating, implementing, and evaluating school wellness policies are available at Team Nutrition’s Web site: https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy.

January is a great time to reflect on how to further your efforts to engage parents, school staff and the community in school wellness efforts that support academic performance and health. Start with these ready resources and put a plan into action that works for your schools.  

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 Nutrition education and promotion are part of a Local School Wellness Policy.

Plan Ahead to Cope With Death and School Crisis

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness) Permanent link

A guest post by Dr. Tom Demaria from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who develops a number of topical articles on bereavement for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. This blog is a follow-up to the post from November 28, 2016 " Death In a School Community: Four Goals for Supporting Students"

 A death in a school community has a deep impact. The loss will usually touch many individuals—students and staff alike, often the entire school.

It is vital that schools plan ahead to be prepared to deal with a range of possibilities involving the death of a student, teacher or other staff member. Plans should include:

  •  Procedures for informing staff, students and their parents/guardians.
  •  Guidelines about what information is appropriate to share, both generally and in specific situations (for instance, what should be said in cases of suicide, violent death, death after a long illness).
  •  Procedures for providing appropriate supportive services for students and staff. This often includes establishing partnerships with community professionals before an event occurs.
  •  Guidelines for both students and staff about interacting with media.
  •  Policies about funeral attendance, memorialization and commemoration.

 All schools should have a school crisis team in place that develops the response plan and reviews it regularly. While these events are inevitably challenging, having an effective plan in place allows schools to respond quickly in a thoughtful and productive manner. While it will not take away the pain people feel about the death, it will offer the greatest likelihood of offering the support students and staff most need.

 Find out more about the specific steps schools can take at the website for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students (www.grievingstudents.org). AASA  is a member of the Coalition.