By Ralph Smith
Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
The list of concurrent sessions offered at Teaching & Learning 2015 shows several that address an inconvenient truth: There is a large and growing number of children in the United States who will find it difficult to succeed even in what we now consider high-functioning schools with effective classroom teaching.
Especially in the early grades, these are children who start school too far behind, children who fall behind because they are missing too many days and too much instructional time, and children who lose ground during the summer months and return to school in September further behind than when they left in June.
There is no silver bullet, but we can improve the odds for these children by investing early in early learning and ensuring healthy on-track development, improved attendance and more engagement over the summer months. Most important of all, we must help parents succeed in their roles as first teachers and tutors, strongest advocates and primary brain developers.
Several sessions on Friday offer educators ways to act on what we know.
On Friday from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m., Kristin Ehrgood of the Flamboyan Foundation will lead a discussion titled Equipping Parents to Play Powerful Roles in Their Children’s Success. Ehrgood will give an overview of work the foundation has done with the District of Columbia’s public school system to help give parents the tools and information they want and need to help assure their children’s success in school.
Connecting Mind in the Making Executive Function Skills in School Systems with Effective Teaching & Learning, Create System Alignment, Reinventing Family Engagementalso takes place Friday from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. The session will be led by Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. Galinsky will detail how some school systems are working with parents and early care and education providers to promote development of children’s executive function skills — such as focus and self-control, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges and self-directed engaged learning — to help narrow gaps in school readiness and school success between low-income children and their better off peers.
From 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Hedy Chang, the founder and director of Attendance Works, will present Raising Achievement by Improving Attendance: The Critical Role Principals Play in Reducing Chronic Absence. Chang will be joined by Principal Joe Manko from Liberty Elementary School in Baltimore and Deputy Chief of Staff for District of Columbia Public Schools Amanda Alexander to discuss how school leaders can use Attendance Works’ online toolkit to assess attendance policies and combat chronic absence.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is honored to have the opportunity to sponsor the above workshops. My colleagues and I wish everyone safe travels to the 2015 Celebration of Teaching & Learning.