Now is an opportune time to engage your community to create a whole child vision!
Decades ago, I remember colleagues bemoaning the piecemeal way in which schools were funded. Each program, funded separately, required careful adherence to Ed Code regulations and reports to the California Department of Education (CDE). To align with these demands, districts typically assigned an administrator to direct, monitor, and report on progress. This led to a segmented, siloed approach to program implementation.
In the early 2000’s, state leadership responded to complaints by district administrators by grouping similar programs into “block grants” to reduce the number of grants each district had to administer, and to provide increased discretion at the local level. In 2013, the legislature — with leadership from State Board of Education (SBE) President Mike Kirst — passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Its intent was to provide more equitable funding and greater local discretion for spending, paired with accountability measures organized around a set of clearly defined student outcomes.
The new accountability system targeted traditional academic achievement indicators — i.e., graduation rates, standardized test scores, attendance, suspensions. Even prior to the pandemic, local education agencies (LEAs) realized that, while traditional measures of academic success are necessary, they are not sufficient drivers for schools to attend to the whole child needs of their students.
Recently, with leadership from SBE President Linda Darling-Hammond, the Governor, and the legislature, the state has embraced the need for investing in whole child approaches that facilitate equitable student success. That shift has been supported by an unprecedented surge in state funding for education, allowing the state to invest billions of dollars in whole child strategies, such as community schools, expanded learning, early childhood education, mental health, college and career pathways, and more.
The challenge is that, because these funding levels are not expected to be sustained, the Governor, SBE, and legislature have approved huge one-time investments that are being doled out in a way that risks a regression to an old way of administering programs in a siloed fashion.
For that reason it’s essential that local education agencies (LEAs) create a whole child vision for student success.
In recent years, several leading national educational organizations have put forth reports recommending that states and LEAs convene their community partners to develop a “graduate profile” or “portrait of a graduate” to more holistically and equitably define student success. For examples, see reports from the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development and the Aurora Institute.
When school districts have a Graduate Profile as a North Star, it becomes much easier to build coherence around a whole child vision and assure that programs are implemented in a way that reinforces best practice and leads to desired outcomes for young people.
Leaders across the state agree! Below, two leaders in the implementation of the largest state investments share how and why developing a whole child vision (or Graduate Profile) informs and accelerates best practice.
Aleah Rosario, Co-Executive Director, Partnership for Children & Youth –
a leader in the implementation of expanded learning ($4B state investment)
Site and district leaders have the opportunity to align expanded learning programs (before and after school, summer, etc.) with the whole child goals that they embrace and pursue during the regular school day and school year. Expanded learning programs offer time, expertise and resources to build greater coherence for students and staff beyond the boundaries of the classroom, clock (school day) and calendar (school year).
Hayin Kimner, Director, Community Schools Exchange Network (CSLX) –
a leader in the implementation of community schools ($4B state investment)
Successful community schools must extend beyond “random acts of program” and instead be grounded by a clear vision that reflects the priorities and realities of the district and its community. However, a clear vision alone will not result in coherence. Active, intentional, and explicit coordination is critical for success, particularly given the deluge of separate funding streams, each with their own programmatic goals. If districts and schools co-design strategies to foster coherence and long-term commitment to systemic change, they can resist pressures to fragment their improvement efforts to align with specific funding streams or grant requirements rather than an overall district vision.
We must work collaboratively to build collective capacity, shift to a growth culture in schools and districts, and broaden our systems of accountability to capture the whole child outcomes we know are critical for future success.
Roman Stearns is Executive Director of Scaling Student Success, a CA partnership dedicated to educating the whole child.
Aleah Rosario is Co-Executive Director of Partnership for Children & Youth, an advocacy and capacity-building organization championing high-quality, equitable learning opportunities for underserved youth in California, and playing a lead role in informing the rollout of expanded learning grant funds.
Hayin Kimner is Director of the Community Schools Learning Exchange (CSLX), which works directly with districts, municipal agencies, community-based organizations, and the state-wide system of support to build and strengthen community school strategies.
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