Four years ago on the inauguration of the first African American president of the United States, we titled our Whole Child Newsletter "Someday Happens," reflecting a T-shirt I saw at the ceremonies that day. Today, independent of political views, I'm wondering when someday will happen for the millions of kids promised a "free and appropriate public education." Although that phrase was first introduced in reference to children with disabilities, it applies too often to kids from all walks of life in all parts of the United States.
An education based solely on mastery (however that is defined) of English language arts and mathematics is not appropriate.
An education filled with support and care and mastery of nothing is not appropriate.
An education that must be purchased in lieu of free opportunities nearby fails to serve the common good and fulfill the social compact promised by the American Dream.
When will someday happen for each child, in each school, and in each community? It will happen the day we as a society, the grown-ups, decide to make it so.
We know what it takes. Over the nearly six years of the ASCD Whole Child Initiative, we've defined excellence for each child in increasingly descriptive terms.
- We started with the five tenets of a whole child education, then described each of those tenets with 10 school-level actions that indicate those tenets are being met.
- We introduced a sixth set of indicators to ensure that such an education, one that meets the requirements of our tenets to ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, is sustainable and not dependent on a single leader, program, funding stream, or flavor-of-the-month goal.
- And just this summer, we launched the ASCD School Improvement Tool, which cross references those same tenets and indicators to the typical school improvement components of school climate and culture, curriculum and instruction, leadership, assessment, family and community engagement, and staff capacity and professional development to provide both the most thorough definition of a whole child approach to education and an assessment tool that measures progress against such a standard.
In that same time span, 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted a new definition of what the challenged tenet looks like in student learning: the Common Core State Standards. Let us be clear that that'sone tenet out of five, not the whole; not the answer in and of itself. But let us also be clear that the Common Core State Standards do set a new path of excellence in two traditional subject areas. Full, faithful implementation of these standards within a whole child approach has the potential to eliminate birthplace as the most accurate predictor of success.
Full, faithful implementation of the Common Core State Standards within a comprehensive, sustainable whole child approach to education—this is what "someday" looks like. This is what "free and appropriate" looks like. This is what it takes at the school level to prepare each of our young people for postsecondary education, meaningful careers, and active participation in a global society.
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