Two allied events this summer will address the vital issue of school climate reform. Both are designed to help educators seeking answers on how best to engage young people in their education. They will also explore the best ways to address misbehavior, bullying, dropping out and the “racial discipline gap.”
Guidance for educators implementing and assessing school-climate reform
June 25 and 26, the National School Climate Center (NSCC), in partnership with the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), presents its Summer Institute, School Climate Improvement: Policy, Practice and Leadership Development. What to do and how to do it?
Designed for individuals and school teams to learn about and effect school climate improvement processes, the NSCC Institute will help participants develop concrete action plans that will create safer, more supportive, engaging and healthy climates for learning.
The Institute is designed to help educators become change agents by learning practical skills and gaining competence in using school-climate measurement tools. The NSCC is a national leader in providing these tools, including school climate surveys, with its Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI), which provides in-depth profiles of school communities’ strengths and needs.
The Institute will aid school leaders and teams in understanding how to integrate climate reform and restorative practices, as well as other modes of pro-social education outreach. Dr. Jonathan Cohen, director of the NSCC, explains that the Institute’s goal is to help school leaders “promote engagement and support a pro-social, data-driven process of continuous learning and improvement.”
Firsthand knowledge from national school-climate reform leaders
July 20 and 21, the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) presents a symposium, Integrating School Climate Reform Efforts: Join the Conversation with National Leaders.
Participants have a unique opportunity to hear from a panel of national experts in school reform and explore how various reform models — such as restorative practices, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) — can be integrated and implemented with fidelity by major school districts and individual schools.
School district and building leaders, as well as teachers, policy makers and other educators, will learn about the strengths of and differences between the various models and how they might fit with their settings.
“All of the initiatives are focused on creating safe and healthy environments for students to learn, but they take different approaches,” said Dr. Joseph Roy, Superintendent of the Bethlehem, PA, Area School District. “I’m interested in hearing the similarities and differences to improve what we do in our schools.”
Dr. John Bailie, IIRP president, who will be facilitating the symposium, is excited about its possible outcomes and potential for impact.
“It took a long time to make the case against zero tolerance,” says Bailie, “but districts are now saying, ‘Help us; we’re ready for something else.’ ”
“All the panelists have done successful work,” he continues. “The temptation is to say: ‘My program has the solution for everything.’ The reality is that’s not true. Each brings strengths in different areas. The challenge is to clarify what the programs have in common in order to maximize the particular strengths of each and make concrete implementation and integration possible.”
The symposium will offer a chance for participants to have a real effect on the future of school climate reform. Bailie envisions the event creating a flow of ideas that enables everyone involved to learn from one another.
“Typically, the way these events work is that participants hear from experts about what they ought to do,” says Bailie. But in the case of the symposium, “We’re there as much to learn from the people we’re trying to serve as the people who are coming to hear from us.”
Data can be a flashlight to help us learn.
Participants at either the NSCC Summer Institute or the IIRP School-Climate Symposium have the opportunity to enrich their experience by transforming it into an IIRP Graduate School hybrid course. Over a period of five weeks, students will delve deeper into current research in school-climate assessment online and develop and receive feedback on effective action planning.
NSCC director Dr. Jonathan Cohen is the guest lecturer for this highly participatory course. As the NSCC Institute host, an IIRP Symposium panelist and an adjunct professor at Columbia University Teachers College, Cohen brings a uniquely rich perspective to the experience.
In the course, says Cohen, he will help individuals develop more tailored action plans for implementing school climate reform to help them overcome particular roadblocks in their settings. Students will also learn about current school-climate research and assessment processes, to help them with their own evaluation and implementation challenges.
“Data in education today tends to be used as a hammer, not a flashlight,” says Cohen. “Federal and state accountability systems and education policy are top-down efforts experienced as punitive and discouraging, rather than processes that promote learning and improvement. It should be a flashlight: information we can learn from to shape our actions. A process in which students, parents and educators learn and work together overlaps profoundly with the principles of restorative practices: learning and working with others, as opposed to doing to them.”
The National School Climate Center Summer Institute is June 25 & 26, in New York, NY.
The International Institute for Restorative Practices School Climate Symposium is July 20-21, 2015, in Bethlehem, PA.
The related IIRP Graduate School hybrid course is July 30 – September 3, 2015.