The days of compartmentalizing the education experience for students and their families needs to be a thing of the past. That’s the topic of discussion around the “whole child” approach to education in the latest episode of the video podcast ElevatED4SC, now available with the video and audio versions on YouTube, ITunes and Spotify.
The concept of whole child education aligns resources within the school building with community resources such as mental health professionals, mentors and businesses to ensure students’ needs beyond the academic are met during the school day. Vernon Kennedy Sr., executive director of Fairfield Behavioral Health Services, and Barnett Berry, research professor at the UofSC College of Education, discuss this with host Roshanda Pratt in the sixth episode of ElevatED4SC.
Pratt poses the analogy of a department store to Berry to describe the idea of whole child education from her perspective as a parent of three children in SC public schools.
“This whole idea around whole child education seems to say that education does not need to look like a department store,” Pratt says. “For instance, you have a child and you keep emotional needs in one department. You keep physical needs in another department and academics in another department. We need to make sure that we're taking down all the walls. There are no more departments. We need to bring all of those things to the entire education experience.”
This idea of breaking down barriers to ensure every child has access to resources is a primary element of whole child education. Episode 6 spotlights access to mental health resources.
Kennedy says that, from a mental health perspective, “The whole child approach means that we put every kind of resource, every tool at our disposal, not only for our young people, but for their families. It's just as important for their parents to be able to have access to services. So making sure they get all of those kinds of services that are going to help them be successful and help produce the best outcomes that we can for our young people.”
Berry notes that one of the biggest barriers in South Carolina to incorporating the whole child approach into the state’s education system is too many policies.
“These policies in South Carolina, much like most states here in America, keep us from driving a more effective, efficient and equitable system of education,” says Berry. “We've got to know where we are in terms of the effectiveness of our policies. You don't know how to get where you're going if you don't know where you're starting from.”
Berry and a team of researchers at UofSC joined with the Learning Policy Institute to do an in-depth analysis of where South Carolina stands in its whole child approach to teaching and learning. The Learning Policy Institute, a nationally-recognized think tank, conducts independent research to improve education policy to support equitable learning for every child. The results of this research are now available in a summary format [pdf] and full report [pdf].
In this episode, Berry discusses some of the findings in this research that took nine months, examined over 200 policy documents, and included 45 interviews with teachers and other education professionals in the state.
“We found a lot of good foundations in place in South Carolina, but little in terms of how to implement this in every school,” Berry says. “For example, we have very little policy to support teachers as leaders for a whole child approach in South Carolina. Also, when it comes to financing, we have a finance act dating back to 1977. So here 45 years later, we really have only nibbled around the edges of making any changes to reflect today’s challenges.”
To hear more of the interviews, listen to or watch the 18-minute ElevatED4SC vodcast for more about South Carolina’s efforts around whole child education.
ALL4SC is the producing partner for the ElevatED4SC vodcast series. ALL4SC - Accelerating Learning & Leadership in South Carolina - is a University of South Carolina initiative advocating a whole child approach to education. Other partners in producing the vodcast series include UofSC’s College of Education, UofSC’s College of Information and Communications, and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.
ElevatEd4SC features success stories illustrating how education transformation is already happening in some South Carolina schools. Two 18-minute episodes are released monthly. Previous episodes and show notes are at ElevatED4SC.com. Viewers and listeners can also learn about what other states are doing to meet similar challenges and find out what a whole child, cradle-to-career approach to education would look like. The series host is Roshanda Pratt, a Midlands-area veteran broadcast professional.