Sean Slade

The Whole Child Is Growing Up


Beginning this week, the Whole Child Blog will appear on the official ASCD blog Inservice, reaching a broader and larger audience of educators. It will be a standard part of Inservice, focusing attention on a core mission of ASCD.

In short, the whole child is growing up.

The Whole Child Is Growing UpThe whole child approach to education is what we do and what we stand for. Whether in communications, policy, publications, or professional development, there is always a whole child component.

Launched in 2007 out of the Whole Child Commission and the subsequent publication “The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action” (PDF), the Whole Child Initiative redefined what effective and productive education is—that is, education that ensures that each child, in each school, and in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. It began by asking us to return our focus to the child—not the test scores, not the curricula, not the minutes of seat time per day. It asked us to reimagine education.

"If decisions about education policy and practice started by asking what works for the child, how would resources—time, space, and human—be arrayed to ensure each child's success? If the student were truly at the center of the system, what could we achieve?"

—Dr. Gene R. Carter (The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action, p. 4)

Since that day, the whole child has learned to walk and run and has grown year by year.

The Whole Child Initiative has been the catalyst for new publications, professional development, and school improvement processes. It has accrued partners, forged alliances, and pushed policy. It has launched new authors, speakers, and events and has grown ASCD nationally and internationally. It has helped us ask ourselves why we do what we do.

"Fully aware of the risks of proposing yet another change to how this nation approaches educating our young people, we nevertheless challenge those responsible for learning and teaching to reshape education so young people learn not only that 2 + 2 = 4, but also 'who they are' and why each person is 'a marvel.'"

The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action, p. 5–6

Just this year we saw four monumental events:

  • Whole Child Resolution—In July, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced a bipartisan resolution, H. Res. 658 (PDF), which supports the whole child approach to education.
  • Whole Child State Snapshots—In May, ASCD released 50 whole child state snapshots that provide a more comprehensive picture of child performance and well-being.
  • Whole Child Symposium—This spring, ASCD launched its first-ever Whole Child Symposium (WCS), a conversation about what we want for our children's future and what we need for their education today.
  • Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model—In March, ASCD responded to the call for greater alignment, integration, and collaboration between education and health to improve each child's cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development by joining forces with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to launch the next evolution for coordinated school health.

This is just the beginning. The whole child is growing up—be prepared to see more, read more, and do more for the whole child.

More on supporting the whole child.

Sean Slade is director of Whole Child Programs at ASCD. The Whole Child Initiative is part of a broad, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from an academic focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes, enhancing learning by addressing each student's social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers.

During his more than two decades in education, Slade has written extensively on topics related to the whole child and health and well-being and has been at the forefront of promoting and using school climate, connectedness, resilience, and a youth development focus for school improvement. He has been a teacher, head of department, educational researcher, senior education officer, and director. He has taught, trained, and directed education initiatives in Australia, Italy, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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