Monday, June 18, 2012

Building Communities and opportunities for education in Rural America

In an increasingly interconnected world, we can no longer allow geography to be a barrier to education and opportunity in rural America.

Today, the White House Rural Council announced the U.S. Department of Education’s new online community of practice group for rural schools. Virtual communities of practice provide a platform for educators to connect to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools.

Rural school leaders and teachers can join this online community for rural schools by logging-on to and creating an account. As membership grows, rural educators will be able to connect with peers in their home states and across the nation to exchange ideas and learn from one another.

This new community of practice is the latest effort to address the needs of rural educators. Last year, the Department of Education (ED) launched its school turnaround community to support Title I school improvement grantees. ED has scheduled a summer Webinar series to begin the dialog and introduce members to research-based best practices.

Turning around chronically low achieving schools is tough work and no one should feel they have to do this work alone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How School Councellors can support Teachers

1. Call on counselors to help you understand the whole student. When teachers notice red flags, such as behavioral issues or grades, school counselors are prepared to help teachers gain a more complete understanding of the issues behind the actions.

2. Consult with counselors for professional advice. When teachers find themselves stuck with strategies that aren’t working with a particular student, a counselor who is trained to problem-solve can help them gain fresh ideas to age old problems.

3. Tackle problems before they become insurmountable. When teachers sense trouble brewing in class, language or behavior that causes them anxiety, they should talk with a school counselor who can help trouble-shoot and prevent a situation from escalating.

4. Offer students an empathetic listener. When students are having problems that seem personal or sensitive or that have the potential to get them into trouble, send them to a school counselor who can provide a sounding board and help them find solutions.

5. Guide students’ decision-making. When students act out repeatedly in class, teachers should inform a counselor who can work with them on decision making. School counselors can also help the child reframe the situation and illustrate how different behaviors might be in their best interest.

6. Collaborate with a counselor to integrate counseling and class lessons.  Work together to teach lessons in class about academics, careers, and personal/social issues. These lessons are preventive by design and developmental in nature to help students with their decision-making in school. For example, a lesson about bullying and harassment in a civics class could be paired with a project on laws about harassment.

7. Work with counselors and teachers to design professional development that meets your needs. In-service days provide great opportunities for counselors and teachers to explain their work and develop solutions to school-wide problems.

8. Allow a counselor to make peace. When students can’t get along in class despite the teacher’s attempts to separate them or diffuse tension, allow a counselor to mediate and work out a plan for how the two parties can peaceably coexist.

9. Explore career options. Educators may want to engage a school counselor in helping students understand how their academic work connects to specific careers.

10. Ask a counselor to clarify the severity of a problem. As students develop physically, rapid changes in their mood or behavior can leave teachers wondering whether certain behavior is a normal or a cause for deeper concern. School counselors have been trained to ask the questions that get at the heart of what’s really going on.

Monday, June 4, 2012

First time, US Department of Education recognized Green Ribbon Schools

Another historic milestone for the green schools movement, as the 78 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools announced during Earth Week were recognized at a national ceremony in Washington, DC.  Secretary Arne Duncan joined EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and U.S Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin in congratulating the honorees for their exemplary practices.

The winning schools, diverse in the student populations, and representing 29 states and the District of Columbia, all took a comprehensive approach to greening their schools, making strides to reduce their schools’ environmental impact, improve health and provide education geared toward the sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

Duncan congratulated the schools on their tremendous work, noting their practices to improve student achievement, increase student engagement and provide effective professional development are practices that all should follow, not just aspiring green schools.

While all the selected schools have outstanding stories, Secretary Duncan highlighted Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, Ga.,, which requires every student take AP Environmental Science, and is exceeding state and county assessment scores.  At Lothrop Technology Magnet School in Omaha, Neb., school gardens, and complementary practices such as composting, are a critical tool to getting even the youngest students learning and experiencing science first-hand.

ED released a document with highlights and success stories from the 2012 honorees. The Secretary also announced the first installment of the Green Strides Webinar Series, to help all schools move toward reduced environmental impact, improved health and effective sustainability literacy, the three ‘Pillars’ of the award.