Tell Congress to Fund Education Leadership!

This spring, Congress will be making critical decisions about President Trump’s budget request to cut education spending by 13%.

The School Leader Recruitment and Support Program (SLRSP), the only federal program that specifically focuses on strengthening leadership in our high-need schools, is at risk.

With the emphasis on increasing student achievement, turning around failing schools, and producing college and career-ready graduates, successful school leaders are especially important.

Education leadership and leadership development, including teacher leaders and building/district leaders, have been part of Kappa Delta Pi for more than 105 years. While teacher leadership plays a critical role in improving student learning outcomes and enhancing the professional growth of teachers, schools also must have quality principal leadership.

According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, principal leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school. Even more significant is the finding that quality principal leadership is particularly important to high-poverty schools.

The issue of quality school leadership connects with KDP’s mission in other critical ways too.

KDP has a rich legacy of working to support and retain thousands of talented new teachers who enter classrooms every year, especially those teaching in high-poverty urban and rural schools. Any teacher retention effort must include effective school leaders, because leadership is among the most important factors in a teacher’s decision to stay in a school or in the profession.

Studies have shown that improvements in school leadership were strongly related to reductions in teacher turnover. While teacher attrition has always had negative consequences on student academic achievement, school finances, and school culture, it is particularly problematic given the increasing teacher shortages across the country.

As part of an organization committed to equity and quality education for ALL students, we must advocate for adequate education funding, including the School Leadership Recruitment and Support Program for high-needs schools.

To that end, KDP, together with 29 other organizations, signed onto a joint letter.

As professionals, we can use our voices to educate members of Congress about the importance of education funding overall as well as for critical programs such as SLRSP. You, too, can sign the letter by following the link above.

We must remember: Teachers change the future!

Advice for the Next President of the United States

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“While we try to teach our children all about life,
they teach us what life is all about.”
— anonymous

You are likely reading this on the brink of our national election.

There have been months of bickering, insult slinging, and behavior that would not be tolerated in most of our classrooms.

Certainly there are adult issues that must be addressed, yet I sometimes wonder that if we remembered more often the voices and ears of children, we might find the margins of compromise that allow debates to become more about the “us” and less about the “them.”

Children truly have wisdom and perspective that adults sometimes forget or lose in the busyness of life.

I am sharing three links in this blog that are the voices of younger children and adolescents. What if those running for political office, as well as those who already hold a policymaking position, and the media gave more time and attention to the wisdom they have to offer?

The first link is a video made by children at the IPS/Butler Lab School. They offer advice to the next President of the United States, which includes the importance of remembering the Golden Rule and why it is best to choose kindness over meanness.

Our children are watching; so how do they reconcile what they are told is appropriate behavior for them and then see adults not modeling it? 

The second video, also by the IPS/Butler Lab School is of the children reading the famous 100 Languages poem by Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the internationally known schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Listen carefully and ask yourself, “Am I allowing students to learn and demonstrate their understanding through multiple forms of communication?”

Are you asking the child “to think without hands, to do without head, to listen and not to speak, to understand without joy?”

The third link is one of the most powerful messages I have seen, created by three young adolescents. Their message, cited in unison, provokes deep thinking and questioning about their school experience, their life as a student, and their questions about society and culture. How do we answer the question they raise as to why we ban certain books but we will not ban assault weapons, especially in light of school shootings?

While you may not agree with all of their questions and observations, it will definitely provoke thinking about issues and concerns of today’s adolescents. 

What I found in each of the three messages was the power of a child’s mind and heart and their openness for understanding.

It reminded me of the quote by Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

I encourage you to find time to listen to children of any age that surround you and be open to learning from their minds and hearts.

Dr. Ena Shelley has served as dean of the Butler University College of Education (Gamma Nu Chapter) since 2005, championing the College’s mission “to prepare educators for schools, not as they are, but as they should be for all learners.” She has taught courses on early childhood education and kindergarten instruction since joining the college faculty in 1982. In 2012, she presented at the Indianapolis TEDx conference on “The Solutions Within.” Watch her TEDx Talk by clicking here.

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Monday Morning Update – September 28, 2015

Good morning, friends –

#MondayMorningInspiration: “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” – Jacques Barzun. Check it out and share it on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.

Here is a quick update of what you need to know this week:

  • 1031houseAs October approaches, check out “Halloween Resources to Use in Your Class” on KDP Global, shared by staffer Sally Rushmore.
  • Convocation 2015 is just a little overConvo-Tee a month away! Be sure to register before October 9th and pre-order your t-shirt, too.

 

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Chris Beaman is the Manager of Marketing & Communications for Kappa Delta Pi.

Every Day is Earth Day

Jim Poyser left his long career in journalism to become executive director of Earth Charter Indiana in 2013. ECI’s youth program, Youth Power Indiana, engages youth in stewardship and leadership practices; ECI’s other main program is Sustainable Indiana 2016, which encourages sustainability actions across the state.

Photo by Michelle Craig

Photo by Michelle Craig

When people ask me why I never take a day off from my work at Earth Charter Indiana, I always kid them with the following thought experiment: Do you ever wake up, get ready to go work, open the door, and there’s no there there?

Mother Nature never takes a day off, why should I?

Funny thing is, it’s true. I don’t take days off, and I actually wouldn’t know what that meant anyway. I am very fortunate that my job is my passion and engages all of my creativity. How do you take a day off from that?

That’s what I would wish for YOU this Earth Day: that you find a similar arrangement – if you haven’t already – for yourself. I submit it doesn’t even have to be about stewardship, per se, just an alignment of heart, purpose and personal sustainability.

So what do we do at Earth Charter Indiana? Find the interconnections between our too-numerous-to-count global challenges—environmental degradation, economic disparity and political apathy. Right now, because there are so few organizations in Indiana directly fighting climate change, we are focusing on that, connecting the dots around sustainability and stewardship.

To that end we combine art with science to celebrate and showcase our growing consciousness and action. We aim to raise everyone to leadership, especially our youth. But I don’t think you need to read about that right now. You can click on the links in my bio, below, to explore more.

Instead, in this short space I have, I will make the assumption you know something is terribly wrong in the way we live; it’s not sustainable. We’ve become disconnected from nature and democracy. All the creatures are suffering from it. And we have to change quickly to head off the worst effects of our climate crisis and consumer craziness.

What to do? The answers are standard but true. Pick something you love that also demonstrates your love for the earth and do it well and all the time. For me, it is riding my bicycle as much as possible, even in terrible weather. For you, it might be being vegetarian or vegan. Or growing your own food. Or reducing your waste to the point where your trash can gathers cobwebs!

Once you get started on that garden or that waste reduction project at home, etc., then take it to your neighborhood and to your place of employment.

Take your growing awareness and action and go to the next level: demand your institutions (including your own personal portfolio) take their investments out of fossil fuels and put them into clean energy like solar and wind. Divestment is one of the most powerful movements imaginable (money talks!)—and it is happening on a worldwide basis.

Run for office, or support a candidate who shares your urgency and is not afraid to go against the political popularity contest our democratic system has become.

Have courageous conversations with those who are unwilling to grasp scientific reality or to accept the responsibility of being a good steward.

Hug a teacher, for they could use the encouragement.

Mostly, be joyful and happy in the progress you make, because it will inspire others to create their own adventure of living every day as if it were Earth Day.

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?