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April 1, 2021
Vol. 78
No. 7

Whole Child Spotlight: "Trickle-Down" Leadership

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    Leadership
      The theory of trickle-down economics may be debatable, but one thing that does come down primarily from the top is school culture and climate. The principal and leadership team are key to developing, transforming, and sustaining a positive whole school culture and shaping the school's mission and ethos.
      Actively involved principals—and not just those who lend support—have been found to be crucial in the adoption and development of the Whole Child approach to education in schools. Without the principal's active championing, new initiatives of this sort tend to remain fragmented and incomplete.
      But it's not just strong leadership that matters. No less important is the development of distributed or collaborative leadership. Being a school leader does not mean doing it all yourself; rather, it means seeing your role as one who guides, leads, and develops your team to help move initiatives and grow a culture of ownership and empowerment.
      In fact, a three-year pilot study of schools in the ASCD Whole Child Network found that two of the four key strategies for ensuring the sustainability and success of Whole Child Initiatives are directly related to distributed leadership: (1) building strong, multilevel school teams and (2) distributing leadership across the school and community. (Read more at www.ascd.org/wcnfinalreport.)
      In other words, empowered—and empowering—school leadership matters to Whole Child education.

      Key Whole Child Indicators on School Leadership

       

      • Our school monitors and assesses extracurricular, cocurricular, and community-based experiences to ensure students' academic and personal growth (Challenged, No. 9).

      • Our school policies and climate reinforce citizenship and civic behaviors by students, family members, and staff and include meaningful participation in decision making (Engaged, No. 3).

      • Our school integrates health and well-being into the school's ongoing activities, professional development, curriculum, and assessment practices (Healthy, No. 7).

      • Our school sets realistic goals for student and staff health that are built on accurate data and sound science (Healthy, No, 8).

      • Our school provides our students, staff, and family members with regular opportunities for learning and support in teaching students how to manage their own behavior and reinforcing expectations, rules, and routines (Safe, No. 6).

      • Our school teaches, models, and provides opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, including effective listening, conflict resolution, problem solving, personal reflection and responsibility, and ethical decision making (Safe, No. 7).

      • Our school personalizes learning, including the flexible use of time and scheduling to meet academic and social goals for each student (Supported, No. 1).

      • Our school staff understands and makes curricular, instructional, and school improvement decisions based on child and adolescent development and student performance information (Supported, No. 5).

      • Our school uses a variety of methods across languages and cultures to communicate with all families and community members about the school's vision, mission, goals, activities, and opportunities for students (Supported, No. 7).

      • Our school helps families understand available services, advocate for their children's needs, and support their children's learning (Supported, No. 8).

      • Every member of our school staff is well qualified and properly credentialed (Supported, No. 9).

       

      Sean Slade is an education leader, speaker, and author, with nearly three decades of experience in education in the U.S. and globally. He serves as Head of BTS Spark, North America, the social impact arm of BTS focusing on educational leadership development. Prior to BTS Spark, Sean was senior director of global outreach at ASCD, where he launched and grew the ASCD Whole Child Network across 56 countries and led the development of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model (WSCC) with the CDC. His latest book is The Power of the Whole: What is Lost by Focusing on Individual Things. 

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