ASCD shines spotlight on EdExplore

ThumbsUpThe annual ASCD conference is a mammoth gathering that convened in Houston this month. Earlier in the year, Wendy Katz submitted a session called EdExplore: Bringing Learning to Life and it was accepted. It was an opportunity to present the EdExplore story to many who have never heard of the concept or who may be interested in the unique model of connecting teachers and students to experiential learning opportunities in a community.

Beyond our session, conference hot topics included:
– Disrupting poverty
– Implementation of the common core
– Latest brain research on learning
– Still Creativity
– Using data-driven, evidence-based decision making

The list isn’t new or surprising but offers connections for The Patterson Foundation, EdExploreSRQ and recent local efforts to work on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in our community, a movement to ensure all children –especially those from low-income homes — succeed in school by focusing on reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

A majority of U.S. school-age children qualify for free and reduced lunch – research on educational needs for these kids is a front-burner curriculum issue. Experiential learning is a natural approach for children who often lack access to enrichment found in middle-class homes. Language is the key deficit for many low-income kids – engaging experiences is a natural for building vocabulary and context.

Data from our June 2014 EdExplore Provider Survey showed that Title I schools in our community have accessed explorations at 10 or more organizations listed on EdExploreSRQ.com. Research shows these quality enrichment opportunities will pay off in student learning.

ASCD speakers who discussed disrupting poverty’s impact on school success admonished schools to carefully look at fees and costs that limit program access or have a chilling affect for parent-school relationships.

Does your school have supply list? Are there fees for art, band and sports that stress parents and kids? The fees seem small but where $5 can feed a family or $10 pay a utility bill – it’s a mountain for many families.

In Sarasota, the EdExplore Endowment fund, which is supported by a 2:1 match from The Patterson Foundation and contributions from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, is designed to open access to low-income schools and children.

Here are some more highlights from the conference:

Common Core implementation – While political skirmishes continue on the ground, implementation of Common Core is well underway. The specific steps of professional development, parental outreach, impact on children already behind, assessments were key topics. There were lots of examples by communities on strategies and early results.

Learn more from the presentation Optimism in a Common Core World, which includes practical steps at the school level. This PDF also includes specific tools for underachieving students.

Data, data, data – There is so much value from collecting, analyzing and acting based on real data. Links to more learning management tools were all over the Exhibitors’ Hall and in presentations.

Emerging strategies – Educators should prioritize getting back in front of legislative reform or at least resolve to keep up with new legislative reform agendas.

Creativity, critical thinking, community connections, career links – This is definitely the EdExplore space. Sarah Lewis, ASCD keynote speaker and author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure and The Search for Mastery interviewed 150 creatives who shared characteristics and experiences. Early exposure often set the course for her subjects.

Every person we talk to about EdExploreSRQ is impressed by the collaboration and school district leadership. They wonder if their communities are ready. We offer the community self-assessment developed by Wendy Katz as a next step.

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