It has been a long time since I posted on this Blog...sorry about that!
We have all been busy here at the CSCL doing some very fun and important work since our last posts, so there is a lot to share. I hope you enjoy reading this Blog in the future and learning more about the incredible and inspiring work that is happening out there related to school climate, school improvement and reform, social justice and student voice.
I hope by sharing the amazing work that so many people are doing, it will encourage you to join in. There has never been a better time to discover truth, fight for justice, and inspire curiosity and learning. Welcome back to our CSCL.com Blog.
What I Learned from Bob Moses
This summer, I had the good fortune of meeting Bob Moses on an island in Maine. We met on a boat, sipped tea and talked together about my interest in Student Voice and School Climate and that I had heard he had similar interests from my neighbor named Liberty, who owned the island Bob Moses was visiting. And then, when Bob spoke about himself and his work I realized that I was hearing about a life that was inspired, powerful and profound. I thought I recognized that name...
I was amazed to find myself sitting with and listening to the stories of a man like Bob. I learned he is a Civil Rights icon. A member of SNCC, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. A man who lead voter rights and registration efforts in the deep south during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, where it took incredible courage and conviction to stand up for what was right.
I learned that day and since, that Bob is a man of courage, a patriot who believes that the Constitution and Bill of Rights really do apply to all people and every child. And he won't rest until there is equality and justice for all. Some say those words freely; Bob Moses has lived them his whole life and he still does.
I have posted this short video clip that shows Bob discussing his "vision and style" as an educator and activist. Besides being an esteemed Civil Rights leader and Harvard Professor of Mathematics, Bob is also the Founder of The Algebra Project. (Please check out Bob's seminal work on math literacy by going to his website www.AlgebraProject.com)
In this short video clip, Bob shares his vision for how those students who may be illiterate in mathematics, can build their skills, knowledge and self-confidence as math learners. Through Bob's vision he sees mathematical literacy as a civil right; as a prerequisite to 21st Century citizenship, success and ultimately to freedom.
Bob describes what he learned from his early voter registration work with poor, sharecroppers in Mississippi. He describes the kind of teaching "style" that will be required in the classrooms where the lowest performing math students are found, if we are to successfully reach and teach those students who perform in the bottom quartile on standardized tests. Through his courageous early work, Bob learned that you need to treat people with respect, seek and value their points of view, listen to their voices, and allow them to work together to solve problems, not talk at them. He took these life lessons into schools and classrooms to reach out to students who have traditionally been the lowest performers in mathematics.
Through his work with the Algebra Project and the Young People's Project (YPP), Bob and his colleagues provide students with near-peer mentors who can "translate" the math into a language they will understand. They have developed mathematical metaphors to allow students to think deeply about essential mathematical ideas in new ways. They have developed exciting, physically engaging, complex mathematical games to deeply seat mathematical thinking into students’ minds. Finally, Bob and his colleagues acknowledge the humanity and personal, social, and emotional contexts from which each student comes to learn. These are some of the things I learned from Bob Moses and his work with students and their understanding of math.
That sunny August afternoon on our lake, Bob invited me to serve with about 120 others as part of National Science Foundation INCLUDES Grant to help plan the creation of a National Alliance of K-16 educators, mathematicians, assessment specialists, teacher educators, and student voice leaders to form a National Alliance to try to expand Bob Mosses' and the Algebra Project’s reach out into the neediest schools in America. I was honored to attend his National Design Team meeting in St. Louis in March. We drafted a proposal and will meet again in May to determine our next steps. What I learned from Bob Moses (or what I was reminded of in the most powerful terms) is that those students in the bottom quartile in mathematics on standardized tests are people, in fact they are "constitutional beings," as Bob Moses called them. They have every right to be taught in ways that are effective for them and to be ensured that they can reach a "platform" from which they can reach to take on college-level math and succeed in doing it. This is the work of the Alliance and an extension of the life's work of Bob Moses. I also learned without question that life is full of wonderful new and exciting opportunities and surprises. Thanks Bob. Hope I see you on the lake again this summer.
Impressive Work by Our Amazing Student Leaders and Their Schools
Andover, NH, Elementary-Middle School (AEMS)
AEMS is a true community school and they have set the record for being the school with whom the CSCL has worked the longest…nearly 20 years I think! Their first major school climate project was to create a Talking Wall with visiting artists that took up over half of one huge wall in their gym. The AEMS Talking Wall features individually designed, hand painted tiles contributed and assembled by every k-8 student in the school. Jane Slayton tells me that students who contributed tiles to the wall still come back to AEMS (sometimes with their fiancés or new families) to show them their tiles and their Talking Wall. WHAT A SCHOOL!
AEMS also just set a record! They collected another round of school climate data this winter and we are excited to announce that the scores reached by AEMS students and teachers on our Safe Measures School Climate Surveys are the highest we have seen in any of the hundreds of middle and elementary schools we have assessed yet! CONGRATULATIONS! AEMS Eagles ROCK!
Pittsfield, NH, Middle-High School (PMHS)
PMHS is a great school with whom we have been working for nearly 8 years. They have made personalized learning, student voice and student engagement as partners in learning a priority in their school. I recently had the privilege of attending a symposium at Dartmouth College, sponsored by the NH Institute for Civic Education, where teams of high school teachers, administrators, and students, who were looking to learn more about authentic student government got to see a well-known student-led, school governance group called the Council, from Hanover High Students and adults from The Council shared their leadership model which has been part of their school culture and structure since the 1970's.
On the same stage, were students from PMHS who spoke eloquently about their school's student-led governance model called the Site Council; where student representatives are in the majority and they work, and vote alongside their teachers and administrators to develop new school policies, procedures, rules and programs. PMHS developed its Site Council a few years ago, as one of several student voice and leadership groups, including IMPACT which is their School Climate Leadership Team, the Advisory Council, made up of students who help lead their Advisory Program, and the Justice Committee, a new restorative justice-based Peer jury that offers alternatives to the school's traditional system. THE IMPACT team has taken its school climate work to faculty meetings of late, and this month these students engaged all PMHS teachers in importance conversations about school pride, school climate, effective teaching, and improving teacher-student respect and relationships.
Dr. Marc Brasof, of Arcadia University and The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, noted that PMHS's Site Council did two things that few other authentic student government teams do: 1.) they engage students in discussions and reform efforts with teachers and school leaders on issues related to the "core” functions of their school (curriculum, instruction, and student assessment), and, 2.) their student leadership teams are not made up exclusively of "elite" (popularly elected) students. PMHS strategically includes diverse students in their leadership teams to ensure that every student’s voice is heard! . Amazing stuff PMHS! CONGRATULATIONS!
Wilton, CT K-12 Schools
We have been working in all 4 K-12 schools in Wilton, CT, for the past three years. We have amazing support from the Central Office and school principals. Superintendent Kevin Smith and Assistant Superintendent Chuck Smith--I think they may be long lost brothers (not really) have make school climate a central element in their district vision for school improvement. They strongly support the Adult Design Teams (ADT) and Student Leadership Teams (SLT) in all four schools and have attended many of our training events to show their support over the past three years. We have created a 2nd grade SLT this year at Miller -Driscoll Elementary, a Pre-K-2 grade school. This is our youngest team ever! These little ones are working on a very serious "bathroom" project right now (such fun!) and have made presentations to their teachers about school climate.
What is so great to see is the impact of younger students leaders who have been in their SLT roles for a few years impacting other schools in Wilton! Ninth grade students from the Wilton High School SLT, who came up to the HS from Middlebrook Middle School's SLT this past year, have brought incredible experience, commitment and energy to the Wilton High School SLT this year. In fact, several of these 9th grade student leaders are taking time to go down to Miller-Driscoll during their free time to work as near-peer mentors to the 2nd grade SLT!
Cider Mill Elementary has been a real standout for the past three years, and with the addition of their School Climate Club who meet after school, they have created over 20 more student leadership positions at their school, beyond those 10-15 student leaders on their SLT! It is truly a district-wide effort in Wilton. I will share more about all the wonderful work that Kim Zemo, Wilton's District School Climate Coordinator, and all the ADT and SLT teams from Wilton are doing next time. GO WILTON!
New Canaan, Ct K-12 Schools
We have had a smooth transition this year in the New Cannan Schools with the addition of the wonderful and amazing Susan Bliss. How can you not bring sunshine and light to a school district when your name is Susan Bliss! Susan has stepped in to fill Nora's shoes as New Canaan's District School Climate Coordinator. Susan has connected with the CT Department of Education and they are bringing additional Restorative Justice professional development and training to the district that is informing our school climate work in all the schools.
Saxe Middle School continues to engage large numbers of student leaders and teachers in their school climate work. The student teams have been involved in fund raising for additional resources to provide more and better student activities, they have been working on their goals related to their school climate data, and the new 5th grade team is helping Steve Clapp with many of the transition activities with the elementary schools. Bryan Partridge is still working with the Connections advisory program at the high school, and West Elementary SLT and teachers are working together to make their school a kinder place for everyone. More on specific projects and activities from New Canaan next time. Thanks, New Canaan! Keep up the great work everybody!