By Amanda Dyslin
---- — LE SUEUR — It's hard to break out of a norm.
For a long time there was a mentality in K-12 schools that teachers were islands who led a group of kids on their own for a school year and then sent them onto the next grade. Le Sueur-Henderson Middle/High School Principal Kevin Enerson said most school districts are learning that teaching a student takes a village. And that collaborative mentality is just one change in process at his school as it progresses through a three-year initiative called Whole Child.
“There's been a lot of growth this year with myself and the Whole Child team,” Enerson said.
The school is wrapping up its first year participating in the prestigious Whole Child Network, an initiative of ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). The school is one of 10 from the U.S. and Guam chosen to participate in the initiative, which aims to change the focus of education from only academic achievement to child development, health, safety and engagement.
ASCD, an international education leadership association, selected LSH out of about 400 applications.
Le Sueur-Henderson committed to a three-year comprehensive school improvement process and received a $10,000 grant for the 2012-13 school year.
Enerson said the first year has been mainly about changing the teaching mentality.
“A lot has been more (focused on) the shifting of thinking. I think we are shifting,” Enerson said.
A Whole Child team also has been discussing numerous changes. The second year will be about planning, he said — examining how the teachers use their day and how to meet the individual needs of each student.
Ideas include assigning grades based on what a student has learned, giving an example of a student who might get good grades on worksheets and do extra credit, but then score poorly on tests. That student who might not have learned the skills needed still could get a B+ in the class.
The committee also will look at opening up an hour in the daily schedule for teacher collaboration and planning. Ideas for peer-observation coaching and college- and career-readiness pieces also will be looked at.
Student engagement is also a major tenant of Whole Child that will be addressed.
“What it comes back to is how do we help each child be healthy and safe and be engaged in our school? How do you get every student, each student in your building, to hook in?” he said.
Enerson said the school is looking at having an entirely new system in place by the 2014-15 school year.
“(It's) interesting and scary because we're going to do things a little differently than what we did in the past,” he said.
Through its participation in the network, the school receives support in implementing a whole child approach to education, an ASCD Institutional membership and attendance at ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Chicago.
At Le Sueur-Henderson there are about 25 students per classroom and that will not change under the new model, nor will staffing.
As a public school, Le Sueur-Henderson still will be required to have students take standardized tests. The initiative doesn’t change the information taught to students, but rather the means of teaching it.
For more information about ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, visit www.ascd.org/wholechild.