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Resilience Film Screening: Recap

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Last week, about 100 people gathered in Theatre N for a screening of the film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” and panel discussion among local experts. If you weren’t one of the lucky 100, here’s a summary of the event, themes from the conversation, and ways to get involved.

Why Resilience?
“Resilience” is a documentary by KPJR (the makers of “Paper Tigers”) that chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators, and communities, to delve into the science behind Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction, and disease that cause toxic stress.

As we described in a previous blog post, Adverse Childhood Experiences are not an “over there” problem—ACEs are shockingly prevalent, in Delaware and around the country, and with children of all backgrounds. Attendees at the screening voluntarily and confidentially submitted their ACEs score. The tallied results affirmed this. 53% of attendees reported an ACE score of two or more.

A major theme of “Resilience” is just how prevalent trauma is—and that greater public awareness of these issues could lead to a shift in how we address them. If a young person experiencing trauma knew that other classmates experienced something similar—would that make it less scary? Would he feel more empowered to seek help? As better trauma-informed community members, might we start asking the question “what happened to you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?” when dealing with at-risk youth?

How do you build resilience?
The film identified that healthy, positive relationships are the number one source of resilience. A report by Casey Family Programs, Balancing Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) With HOPE: New Insights into the Role of Positive Experience on Child and Family Development elaborates on this point and urges a balance of trauma-informed policies and HOPE-informed measures.

The report summarizes research studies showing that the negative impact of adversity on childhood development can be remedied through:

  • Nurturing and supportive relationships
  • Safe, stable, protective, and equitable environments to develop, play, and learn
  • Constructive social engagement and connectedness
  • Social and emotional competencies

The HOPE model (The Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences), pictured below, takes an asset-based approach.

Additionally, attendees were given the Resilience screener which helps identify protective factors and positive experiences that can increase one’s ability to handle adversity.

How can we make this happen in Delaware?
Following the film, three panelists fielded questions and comments from the audience:

  • Aileen Fink, PhD | Director of Trauma-Informed Care, Delaware Children’s Department
  • Meghan M. Lines, PhD | Clinical Director, Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Teri Lawler | School Psychologist, Stanton Middle School, Red Clay School District

And a few themes emerged from the conversation:

  • Resilience is learned: We are not born with the ability to overcome stress. It must be intentionally modeled and developed. In schools, there needs to be a common language for integrating social and emotional learning alongside academic learning.
  • Positive relationships are key. This includes a primary care doctor, educators, parents, grandparents, and others.
  • Parental involvement is essential: Support positive parenting practices with multi-generational, evidence-based approaches (such as home visiting) to build social, emotional, and executive functioning skills.
  • Meet students (and families) where they are: Listening is a crucial first step, rather than assuming. Children and families need to be engaged in their own social and emotional development, and interventions or services need to be tailored to their unique needs.
  • Recognize where data-driven decision-making is needed: Enable innovative interventions, keep track of what’s working for kids, and adjust or abandon strategies accordingly.
  • Coordinate services: Schools can be a hub for services, but educators can’t be expected to do it alone.
  • Siloes exists: One of the challenges will be coordinating and communicating across health, education, government, community, etc. Additionally, political will and availability of funding are challenges but not excuses.
  • ACES are a public health concern, and awareness building is needed. For instance, ongoing professional development for educators starting in pre-service is needed to first build awareness, and then build skills.

What’s next?

  • Encourage your colleagues to learn their ACEs or Resilience
  • Read more about Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Wilmington City & Delaware’s Children.
  • Share your thoughts! Tweet your responses to the following questions using #SELinDE.
    • What are you doing to build resilience?
    • What resilience initiatives are already underway in Delaware?
    • What else is needed to help overcome the effects of adverse childhood experiences?
    • How can we do to build on what’s working?
  • Visit http://bit.ly/RodelSEL to find additional information on national and state level data and initiatives related to Social and Emotional Learning.
  • Be on the lookout for the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s 10th Annual Conference on October 30th where community members will converge in Newark to explore the intersection of education and healthy communities.

Funding is Fundamental to Progress

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With the state’s budget situation casting a cloud of uncertainty in education (and beyond), the time seems right to take a look at education funding through the lens of something that is more than certain—that student needs have changed drastically since our school funding formula was developed in the 1940s.

 

We often talk about an equitable, student-centered funding system as a standalone concept. But it’s not. It’s fundamental to ensuring the success of all types of students with a spectrum needs and interests.

 

A student whose native language is not English.

A student who changes school districts halfway through the year.

A student hoping to graduate high school with college credit.

A student who wants to supplement her traditional classes with online/distance learning and community experiences.

 

These are just four examples, highlighted below, of students that could benefit from the state transitioning to a more flexible, student-centered funding system. Most states use a foundation formula, where a base amount of money—rather than units—is allocated consistently for each student, to which funding can be added based on designated student needs, such as low-income, English learners, and students with disabilities. In other words, a student’s needs are taken into account as money is distributed.

 

Funding is Fundamental to… English learners

Since 1997, Delaware has experienced a 433-percent increase in English learner students. Yet Delaware is one of four states that does not provide additional resources for English learners, meaning districts and charters must cobble together other funding to meet legal requirements for serving English learners. In other words, a school with 100 EL students receives the same amount of state funding as a school with 10 EL students—$0. Dedicated funds for EL students could help districts and charters provide a wide array of services, including hiring additional certified instructors.

Last year, Rodel was one of 22 organizations that signed a letter urging the state to consider a more equitable, student-centered funding formula. These Delaware student narratives were developed to accompany this letter. Learn more at www.educationequityde.org.

 

Funding is Fundamental to…transient students

As a research assistant for the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration providing staff support for the Wilmington Education Advocacy Committee, I had the privilege of hearing testimonies from Wilmington parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders. One challenge that stood out from their stories was the challenge of responding to students moving across districts. These effects may be most acutely felt in Wilmington, where moving just a few blocks can switch your school district – as it happened to me last summer – or for students with special needs who are entitled to certain services.

Funding is Fundamental to…college and career-bound students

There is a lot of momentum in Delaware for ensuring students graduate high school with credits/credentials and real-world experiences that set them up to success in whatever postsecondary path they choose. Today more than ever, there are more options available for students such as earning early college credit through Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, enrolling in a career pathway, or gaining work-based learning and leadership experience. But we have some work to do. We learned from the College Success report that we’re still not preparing enough young people for college coursework, and it’s possible that we’re not providing enough access to challenging courses to kids in high school, especially to students of color or students from low-income families.

 

We know that Delaware is one of about 15 states that does not allocate funding in its state formula for low-income students, which could be used for these purposes and others. While some districts may cover the costs of this offering this rigorous coursework, others may not be able to. As Mike Griffith, senior school finance analyst for Education Commission of the States, points out: “There are some states where high school students can take dual and concurrent enrollment and come out of high school with a free associate degree. And this is not a small group of elite students—but it’s open to every student. With an improved formula, your school will have greater flexibility to offer more after-school and summer school courses, and we can do so much more for our at-risk kids.

Funding is Fundamental to…personalized learning

I’ve also heard from members of the Rodel Teacher Council that the unit count funding system is one of the barriers limiting the state’s ability to scale up personalized learning models like innovative school design, reimagined teacher roles, and flexible course offerings for students. In their Student Centered Learning Structures policy brief, RTC members illustrate the connection between personalized learning and the state funding system through a fictional student named Maya.

According to RTC members in this brief, “In order for Maya and her classmates to have opportunities for online/distance learning, community experiences, and other activities related to their specific needs and interests, Delaware’s funding system will need to shift to be more student-centered.”

Funding is Fundamental to….all of Student Success 2025

Rodel is committed to supporting implementation of the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Student Success 2025 recommendations, which are divided into six core areas including “Fair and Efficient Funding.” But it’s clear from the examples above that funding is not just a standalone core area of Student Success 2025. It affects our ability to implement recommendations across all core areas. Reevaluating how the state allocates its finite dollars could open up possibilities such as:

  • In “Educator Support and Development,” the full possibilities of implementing exciting educator career pathways are not outright hindered, but limited by barriers such as the unit count and teacher of record policies.
  • “System Governance, Alignment, and Performance,” recommends we provide LEAs with flexibility to “develop shared service arrangements” and other efficiency measures. At the moment, the state dictates what purposes units can be spent on, such as energy or behavioral health specialists, rather than provide support and incentives for efficient local resource decision-making.

 

For these reasons, Delaware’s funding system will continue to be a hot topic until we can ensure that state resources are being allocated in a way that most efficiently, equitably, and effectively allows all students to succeed.

Legislative Hall Pass: Compulsory Education Bills Aim to Curb Dropouts

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Legislative Hall Pass
The Legislative Hall Pass is a new series at the Rodel blog. Our team of experts will examine the most pressing education bills and issues emerging from the 149th Delaware General Assembly, and weigh in with commentary, context, and data. Check out the Legislative Monitor for a full list of education-related legislation.

 

Discouraging drop-outs is a hot topic in Delaware this year, and one way that policymakers are seeking to accomplish this is by amending the state’s compulsory education lawthe law that defines the age range in which a student is required to attend school or some other equivalent education program.

Currently in Delaware, children are required to attend school from ages five to age 16, with exemptions available for medical reasons. In January, Governor Carney’s Transition Team Report recommended raising the required school attendance until age 18, and there are a number of bills introduced in the legislature with similar objectives.

 

Pending Legislation aimed at discouraging students from dropping out:

House Bill 17, introduced by Representative Dukes, would increase the compulsory school attendance age requirement from 16 to the age of 17.

House Bill 55, introduced by Representative Heffernan, would go a step further and increase the compulsory school attendance age requirement to 18 years old. This change would be phased-in over two years with a one-year interim period where the compulsory school attendance age would be 17 years old. The bill would also add the following exemptions: the child has received a high school diploma or a certificate of performance the child obtains permission to withdraw from school from their district superintendent or charter school board president

House Bill 23: Unlike the first two bills, this piece of legislation would not raise the compulsory education age requirement. Instead, it requires that any student over the age of 16 who wishes to leave school prior to graduation must obtain the written consent of the parent or guardian, and attend an exit interview where information is supplied regarding the likelihood of diminished earning potential and the increased likelihood of unemployment associated with dropping out. It would also direct the school to explore whether there are support services, interventions or programs that might assist the student in remaining enrolled.

Over the past decade, many states have considered increasing their compulsory education requirements as part of a comprehensive plan to boost graduation rates. About 25 other states have compulsory school attendance to 18.

Do compulsory education requirements work? Research, at best, shows insufficient evidence, yet recent studies conclude that raising the minimum dropout age as a standalone policy has insignificant effects on increasing graduation rates. Various interventions and retention policies, in combination with raising the minimum drop out age, are more effective in lowering dropout rates (See: U.S. Department of Education, Southern Regional Education Board, Brookings Institution).
 

What are other states doing to complement increasing the compulsory age requirement?

Limiting additional exemptions significantly from compulsory attendance, for example, only to students who demonstrate financial hardship and that a job is necessary to support their family.

Ensuring robust alternative options with sufficient quality and capacity to serve students. These could include alternative settings, intensive schools, dual credit, early college, technical, and online options.

Providing and requiring early intervention when students are off track, including mandatory credit recovery options and counseling for at-risk students.

Utilizing data systems to quickly identify when a student is at risk of dropping out, direct appropriate services (aka interventions), frequently monitor and adjust interventions.

We agree that increasing the percentage of kids completing high school and getting ready for careers should be a priority for the state. We believe the best way to address the root problem is not just to raise the compulsory age, but to create an educational experience that students find engaging and worth their time. At the same time, let’s arm our educators with the tools and data systems they need to intervene early when students are off track and provide at-risk students with tools to graduate such as counseling, credit recovery options, and robust alternative learning options.

Delaware’s high school graduation rate grew faster than any state in the nation in 2014, so we have some momentum. Some work underway to making school more engaging for students includes:

  • Personalized learning is growing in Delaware, utilizing technology and innovative teaching strategies to meet students where they are. From the BRINC districts to Design Lab to the Rodel Teacher Council, Delaware educators are pushing hard on student engagement and next-generation learning.
  • Career pathways connects students to potential careers in emerging fields like advanced manufacturing or IT—giving them a glimpse, as early as middle school—of life after graduation and real meaning to the lessons from class.
  • Social and emotional learning is also gaining traction in Delaware as schools focus more on creating compassionate cultures for students to feel safe, cared about, and engaged.

Legislative session resumes tomorrow. We will continue to blog about hot topics and monitor these bills and others. Check our Legislative Monitor for a list of all education bills.

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