Kappa Delta Pi’s Response to Charlottesville

The sad and tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12 are a stark reminder of the importance and relevance of our work as educators. As members of Kappa Delta Pi, a storied organization with a 106-year legacy of inclusion and equity, we call on our members to take action.

First, stand united with us in support of our mission and vision for empowering, preparing, sustaining, and supporting teachers as they advocate for the best interests of students. We remain committed to the goal of advancing instruction so that students are globally aware, socially responsible, resilient, and able to solve problems in just and equitable ways.

Second, take an active role in developing empathy in ourselves and our students, and in modeling respect for others and tolerance for those whose ideas and beliefs are different than our own. By incorporating a social justice approach to education, young people of all backgrounds will learn that they are not victims of their circumstances and that they can become part of the desperately needed change to disrupt and eliminate inequities.

Third, directly confront and counter racism and discrimination, and provide a healthy and caring way to address these difficult issues. Silence supports a colorblind perspective that exists in many school settings and communities. As educators, we must work together and support one another to educate children who are committed to creating a better and more just society.

We can reach these goals by explicitly teaching current events like the one in Charlottesville to our students and helping them to understand the consequences of these actions. One person can make a difference; however, by working together as a profession, we can have an even more powerful impact on making our schools, our communities, and our world a better place.

Dr. Peggy Moch, Executive Council President (2016–2018)
Faye Snodgress, Executive Director

Children matter! Read our UN youth rep’s recap from the briefing

Anum Khan is a member of Alpha Alpha Delta Chapter at Saint Peter’s University. She is Kappa Delta Pi’s Youth Representative to the United Nations.

Anum Khan

Anum Khan, far right middle row, attended the November 20 UN briefing.

On November 20, I attended a United Nations briefing titled “Children’s Voices in Creating a World Fit for All: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” You can watch a recording of the briefing on the UN’s Web TV channel.

This briefing was very beneficial because it raised some very important questions, the most important of which was, “Are we listening?” Most adults do not take what children say seriously, which is wrong because children have the ability to make a difference. Their voice matters! As adults we have an obligation to consider the rights of children.

Dr. Roseanne Flores, an associate professor of psychology at Hunter College, gave an informing presentation on how adults can support and encourage children’s participation, including:

  • Make eye contact;
  • Communicate at eye level;
  • Show patience when a child is trying to communicate;
  • Ask open-ended questions to engage children and encourage a response;
  • Provide encouragement so children will speak, participate, and learn to make decisions;
  • Develop activities that will allow children to develop a sense of empowerment and leadership skills;
  • Ask children their opinion on matters that affect them; and
  • Give children age appropriate control and responsibility for their personal care.
Briefing Room

Khan’s view from the briefing room.

These points are extremely useful for educators to apply in their classrooms. It is important for children to know that they are being listened to and what they say matters.

You can read more about KDP’s affiliation with the UN on the KDP website.

* The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty, which establishes the civil, social, political, and economical rights of children.

**Note the Convention on the Rights of the Child has not been ratified in the United States, South Sudan, and Somalia. (Somalia and the United States have signed the document, but have not ratified it)

Got a Minute for KDP? Week of November 3

Got a minute for KDP? See what’s going on at headquarters in a one-minute(ish) video.

This week:

  • Our RCCs are traveling the country–follow along!
  • KDP News is hitting email inboxes Tuesday.
  • Register for Tuesday’s KDP Webinar on second-language learners–free for members.
  • November 4 is Election Day in the US. Make your voice heard!

Facing Childhood Poverty in the Classroom

Laura Stelsel is director of marketing and communications at Kappa Delta Pi.School on Wheels postcard

Last week, KDP staff members attended a panel hosted by School on Wheels Indianapolis.The event, titled Beyond the Headlines: Be the Solution to Education Barriers, featured classroom educators, administrators, policy makers, physicians and social workers who have witnessed the impact of poverty and homelessness on school-aged children.

The panel tackled issues that I, as someone who has limited firsthand experience with childhood poverty, hadn’t considered, like:

  • The issue of identifying hidden homeless, those who camouflage themselves as to appear not homeless (high-school aged kids are especially savvy at this), or working homeless, those who are underemployed;
  • The physical health impact of shelter life on children —“toxic stress,” combined with improper nutrition and lack of personal space. Those factors can cause physical differences, like stunted height and weight, and even language delays; and
  • The emotional impact that the stress of keeping the secret of poverty can have on youth. It can cause anxiety, low self-esteem, and an unwillingness to connect with others, since their life is always in transition.

School on Wheels panelDustin Eckert, a local elementary school teacher on the panel, said that honesty and openness is key in building trust with families, and that support can really impact student success. If a family is comfortable, he makes home visits before and during the school year to develop personal relationships, and if a home visit isn’t an option, he schedules regular phone calls. He said it is important to never use poverty as an excuse to lower standards for the child, or they might, too. He shows parents that he is committed to being the difference maker in their child’s life.

It made me wonder, how else can educators, and I as a member of the community, support these youths and their families?

The panel had some fantastic recommendations

  • Ask, “How can I help?” Listen, understand their challenges, and be prepared with resources;
  • Educate yourself and become a community advocate;
  • Realize that legislators, even local school boards, can’t be experts on everything and they WANT to hear from you. Share the facts with them and let them know that this is an important issue.
  • Volunteer! Help teachers—they need it;
  • Work to prevent homelessness. If you see someone who needs help, help them, whether it be struggles with addiction, mental health resources, or just providing food and financial resources to support them; and, perhaps most importantly;
  • Start the conversation.

How about you? Does your school educate you on approaching or dealing with homeless issues? In your experience, what else can people do to support children in poverty situations?

Some Thoughts on Testing, Disobedience, and Perspective

Carrie Gaffney is the managing editor of The Educational Forum. She spent 12 years as a secondary English teacher and is still active in The National Writing Project and Second Story, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit devoted to bringing creativity to underserved schools. 

There’s a calendar somewhere that denotes July 3 of each year as Disobedience Day. Kind of a cool idea, right? So I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about a specific type of disobedience that’s been of great interest to me lately, and it’s disobedience that’s related to high stakes testing.

It was several years ago when I first heard about the “opt out” movement. All across the country, there are networks of parents joining together to tell schools and districts that too much instructional time is spent on high stakes testing instead of learning. When testing time comes around, they send letters like this one to their school leadership to opt their children out of the test, demanding that their children are instead provided appropriate and relevant instruction on those days.

That level of disobedience might seem pretty radical to some, and in a way it is. But then when you realize that Google can intuit the search term “standardized testing horror stories,” you begin to understand that test prep has been twisted to the point where many parents may feel like there are no other options than to opt out of the test as a way to advocate for the intellectual and mental well-being of their children.

Fortunately for me, where my children attend school (and where I taught as well), the state standardized test is treated as nothing more than what it is: one of many tools to gauge student growth. For my children, the test is a few mildly annoying days where they have to demonstrate learning on a bigger scale. But then everything goes back to normal, and they are once again engaged as inquirers and communicators. That’s the difference, I think, between why I’m still okay with the test versus what parents at other schools feel forced to do when opting out

What makes the test a “horror story” is not the test itself. It’s how much time and attention we give to it leading up to the actual event. It’s how scores from it are used to punish or reward a teacher’s lesson planning, professionalism, and even her teacher preparation program. It’s how districts use it to single out “good” and “bad” teachers, or worse, “good” and “bad” students. Kids have bad days. Sometimes they don’t want to write about a particular topic, or they might not know a word in the title of the story, which could lead to confusion about the story’s theme. These two factors don’t make the child; but they might make or break a child’s test scores.

Which brings me to a different kind of disobedience that’s getting some attention.

In recent months, teachers, principals, and superintendents across the country have begun engaging in disobedience that has people seriously freaked out.

They are publically naming the test for what it is: a test.

Check out this recent article from The Washington Post about a Texas superintendent who wrote a letter to parents telling them that their test results, “should be considered as one of many instruments used to measure your child’s growth, not the end-all of your child’s learning for the year.”

Why, you might wonder, is that so controversial?

Or, on an even deeper level of disturbance to me, why is naming a test for what it is an act that is to be lauded?

How did we get here?

Politicians want and need to hear from you

Faye Snodgress is executive director at Kappa Delta Pi.

2014 Day on the Hill Sen Warren's officeLast week, 10 KDP members joined AACTE for its annual Day on the Hill. From members of the Texas State University chapter acknowledging their appreciation of Pell Grants to introducing Congressional staffers to education for sustainability, the experience was a huge success.

Our AACTE colleagues provided guidelines and suggestions related to pending legislation, information about appropriate etiquette when calling on elected officials, and more, all bundled with words of encouragement and appreciation.

Congressional staffers, including the new Under Secretary of Education, Ted Mitchell, who addressed the entire AACTE/KDP group, were interested in hearing our thoughts and reactions to current bills and proposed regulations.

Our discussions focused on the following legislative issues:  encouraging continued funding for Title II of the Higher Education Act, particularly the Teacher Quality Partnership grants; support for a bill currently in the HELP committee that addresses induction and mentoring and embedded professional development; and the consideration of integrating education for sustainability.

The Department of Education is expected to release new Teacher Preparation Regulations in July, which is a time when many people are traveling or out of the office. Those in attendance asked Under Secretary Mitchell to consider a 60-day comment period to ensure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to provide feedback on the regulations.

As we look to the start of a new academic year, the Public Policy Committee and State Delegates will be working together to help KDP members get more engaged in policy discussions at both the state and federal level.

Politicians want and need to hear from you. A key message from members of Congress that we all need to remember is “if there is a void in input on education policy, it will be filled by someone” – and that ‘someone’ needs to be members of the KDP community. We must make sure that our voices are heard on what’s best for educators and the students we serve.

Look for upcoming messages and resources from the Public Policy Committee about how you can be involved and share your thoughts!

If we aren’t at the table, we’re on the menu

Faye Snodgress is executive director of Kappa Delta Pi.

Teaching is a political activity but we don’t always do a good job of participating in the political aspects of education.

I’m grateful to our colleagues at AACTE for providing KDP members with the opportunity to participate in its Day on the Hill, which takes place June 11-12. I, along with many other KDP members, will learn more about the ways in which we can speak out about our core values and most importantly, who needs to hear our voice.

In the words of Katherine Bassett, Executive Director of the Network of National Teachers of the Year and a valued colleague, “If we aren’t at the table for education policy discussions, we are on the menu.”

In addition to the important efforts of our Public Policy Committee and  other committed KDP members who are involved in advocacy, participating in the Day on the Hill is another way that we are working  to be sure that we are “at the table” and not the entrée.

As a community of educators who use evidence-based strategies and practices, we have much to offer legislators about what works in education and how we want schools to be.

I hope you’ll stay tuned in the weeks to come for updates from our experience!