High-quality community partners are a critical part of the solution for schools, districts, and states that want to maximize impact.

Partners bring critical capacity and expertise that schools, districts, and states may lack, including the ability to ensure delivery of high-quality whole-learner approaches and experiences.

Scale catalytic partnerships for learner success.

Innovative partnerships between states, districts, schools, and nonprofit organizations can provide comprehensive support to advance the breadth of skills development necessary for learners to grow and thrive.

Incentivize the utilization of high-quality external partners.
  • Incentivize partnerships in every ESEA program including Title I, Title II, Title III, Title IC-A, and Title IV-B, in order to help systems support whole-learner experiences for educators, staff, students, and families; and
  • Support the development of strong, effective partnerships by creating a transparent marketplace of external partners; supplying capacity-building grants to organizations with strong evidence of success (allowing them to expand their reach with state, school, and district partners); providing model data-sharing agreements; and offering incentives for coherent school design and aligned services that facilitate effective partnerships.

Identify available resources and supports to lower adult-student ratios.

Schools can support holistic, personalized student development “by creating structures that enable teachers to know their students well and develop strong relationships.”17  In classrooms where a single teacher is responsible for 30-35 students, personalized, relational instruction becomes impossible. Increased capacity is essential for the effective implementation of whole-learner approaches.

Leverage national service corps members and partner with higher education institutions to provide additional capacity and expertise for implementation of whole-learner approaches.
  • Expand capacity through incentivizing innovative partnerships with national service corps programs (like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps), as well as institutions of higher education, teacher preparation programs, and adult volunteer programs with demonstrated knowledge of whole-learner approaches. This added capacity will allow for more differentiated instruction and individual attention for every student in K-12, leading to more responsive instruction and better learning and development outcomes within whole-learner frameworks. In addition, authorizing an Early Childhood Legacy Corps can provide financial incentives for older adults to serve in early childhood programs, expanding the talent pool, supporting early childhood programs, and creating a pathway to the professional and paraprofessional early childhood workforce.

Advancing Whole-Learner Approaches Through National Service

America Forward Coalition member City Year places AmeriCorps members in classrooms across the country to facilitate an intentional focus on social and emotional learning, and the development of foundational skills that enable students to learn, self-regulate, and achieve at high levels.

One City Year AmeriCorps member in Boston described using the Clover Model—an approach developed by Dr. Gil G. Noam, founder of The PEAR Institute, that focuses on active engagement, assertiveness, belonging, and reflection—to build engagement and community among a diverse set of students.

“We’ve been creating a community so that everyone feels safe to share. Kids want to talk and want everyone to listen to them. The idea of our group is that everyone’s voice is heard, and we explore what the students are passionate about. … Clover has given me a more holistic view of my students and their growth, and it’s helped me to reflect on my service as a corps member.”

The additional human capital and holistic approach to development supports the lead teacher’s efforts to ensure that students are confident and focused, and feel supported. And the strong relationships developed between the corps member and the students she works with enable her to also “provide critical academic interventions that help students persevere, stay on track, and tackle challenging material.”

Fund, support, and empower the adoption and expansion of whole-learner curricula.

Schools and nonprofit partners across the country are leading the effort to implement innovative approaches that reflect the whole learner, elevating scaffolded, engaging, playful experiences driven by a definition of success that includes the development of physical, social, cognitive, creative, and emotional skills. Many schools, however, face barriers (in funding, capacity, and curricular requirements) to adopting these proven approaches, and lack external support. More robust, ongoing technical assistance can help address and remove those barriers; accelerate the adoption of best practices; and bring them to scale at the local, regional, and national levels.

Engage intermediaries to support and expand state and district implementation of academic standards, assessments, and accountability systems that reflect a whole-learner, developmentally aligned curriculum.
  • Fund a Whole-Learner Implementation grant to fund intermediaries closest to the work to provide critical technical assistance to educators and support for ongoing implementation of whole-learner approaches inside schools and classrooms.

17 Darling-Hammond, L., Flook, L., Cook-Harvey, C., Barron, B., & Osher, D. (2020). Implications for educational practice of the science of learning and development, Applied Developmental Science, 24:2, 97-140, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2018.1537791.

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