1.13.2012

Washington Week in Review 2012 - Day 1

And what a whirlwind of a week it was! Several of my amazing Mom Congress delegates and I had another great opportunity to meet with US Department of Education staff to talk about parent/family engagement opportunities and programs that will be taking place in 2012. In order to maximize our time in the Beltway I managed to arrange a few meetings with other groups to discuss how our interests and advocacy efforts might benefit from the work that they do as well.


Our first meeting was with Sean Slade and David Griffith of ASCD to discuss the tenets of their whole child approach to education and their support and informational materials surrounding the Common Core State Standards. The five tenets for ASCD are:
  • Health - each student enters school HEALTHY and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle
  • Safe - each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally SAFE for students and adults
  • Engaged - each student is actively ENGAGED in learning and is connected to the school and broader community
  • Supported - each student has access to personalized learning and is SUPPORTED by qualified, caring adults
  • Challenged - each student is CHALLENGED academically and is prepared for success in college/employment
All have a focus on collaboration, coordination, and integration. And really, as parents and community members don't we want all of these things for our children in our schools as well? And how are we to refocus our education system back to these tenets when we seem so caught up in a system of school/student pass-fail? After talking with Sean and David, I believe that their goal is similar: how do we shift thinking of school administration towards creating a more open door policy so that parents are invited in as partners. Part of the appeal of ASCD is that regardless of whether you are a member or not, their policy and action alerts, as well as other resources such as webinars and white papers, are available to all. As parents we can participate by asking "Are your school and community delivering?" a survey that gives you a chance to assess your child's school which in turn can help facilitate a conversation. Another great tool is their interactive education map which showcases outstanding schools (and there are 74 examples, at least one from each state).

Felisa Hilber, Sean Slade, David Griffith, Myrdin Thompson


ASCD will be "relaunching" their map, providing more sites (and examples of "what works") as well as showcasing global success stories as well. We had a fantastic conversation with Sean and David and look forward to working with them in the months ahead as we all partner together for school, community, and most importantly, student success. 

By this time it was important for Felisa Hilbert, Mom Congress Oklahoma Delegate (2011), and I to stretch our legs and walk around the city. Fortunately our hotel, The Liason, Capitol Hill, is two blocks away from the capitol as well as the Smithsonian, so we didn't have to go very far to find "something" to do. And for a self-admitted edu-geek such as myself, that something meant: the Library of Congress to obtain a library card. 


Please note, a Library card IS NOT a souvenir. Really. 
After this we grabbed a quick lunch in the cafeteria under the Hart building (where several Senators have their offices) and then dashed back to the hotel to meet Mandy Grisham, Mom Congress Delegate Tennessee, 2011, and Rachel Liaserin (who joined us in November as proxy for Rebecca Levey, Mom Congress Delegate New York, 2011) so we could go meet with Hannah Jones of Center for Science in the Public Interest to talk about the recent discussions regarding pizza sauce as a vegetable and how the new regulations are now being reviewed at the White House. These changes will take place in the 2012-13 school year, but the next item of discussion will really be the competitive school meal rule and nutrition standards which will impact fundraisers during the school day and hopefully help to strengthen school wellness policies. One of our discussions focused on the use of Box Tops and Campbell's Labels as funding revenue for school groups. While all of us agreed that schools need the extra cash, the time, effort, and energy put forth to collect such items often far exceeds the monetary reward such collections bring. In addition, some of the foods attached to the bt and labels programs are often times expensive when compared to in-store brands or the items are the less healthy options.  Unless you have every family participating in such an endeavor (and there are some schools that do) the final totals for the year don't often amount to much. Certainly there are other avenues for obtaining funding for a school group project, such as a read/walk-a-thon, which support learning activities and wellness. Some school districts are in fact shifting policies towards "healthier" fundraising options and eliminating these types of collections (and sometimes competitions). The goal, of course, is that school wellness needs to be formed at a local level, through the school district and with parents/parent group members in collaboration with school staff. This would ensure that good policies are put into place which are supported by the entire school community. 

Felisa Hilbert, Mandy Grisham, Hannah Jones,
Myrdin Thompson, Rachel Liaserin in the CSIP offices

After our meeting with CSIP, it was time to sit down and reflect on all we had learned and discuss it over a fabulous meal of sushi and lo mein at the Buddha Bar! Then it was back to the hotel to prepare for Days 2 and 3: a tour of the White House, a meeting with the US Department of Education about family engagement projects in 2012, dinner with friends and Mom Congress supporters, and then a meeting with First Focus. All of that will be covered in part two...tomorrow!

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