Adding Compassion to the Common Core       
  June 2014
In This Issue
Nashville Invitation
Pre-K & Common Core
Power to Choose
Great books for Common Core
Thanks to all
who responded to our request for feedback on our Principal Technology Checklist.

Congratulations to
Matthew Quinn, our grand prize winner who will be receiving a Kindlewhite.

 We received valuable insight and feedback on our Technology Guidelines from school leaders in 15 different states, averaging a score of 3.9 out of 5. We will be taking all the great advice we received into account as we continue developing effective Technology Guidelines.

 Results will appear in a blog on CEI's website later this week!

Do your teachers and administrators need ideas for adapting  Common Core materials?
CEI has a web page devoted to many aids and links.
Click here!


Annual Conference
sponsored by NAESP

July 10-12
Nashville, TN

Featured Speakers include:
Robert Fulghum
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Susan Cain
Milton Chen

Peter Yarrow
Operation Respect
The Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor
& many more!
CLICK HERE for information and registration.

~ ~



An article on NAESP's Principal Mentoring has been published by
 The International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education.
 Written by Christine Mason, Executive Director of the Center for Educational Improvement, and Kathleen Sciarappa, Curriculum And Instruction, Plymouth State University, New Hampshire,
and is titled
"National Principal Mentoring: Does It Achieve Its Purpose?"

Stu Tables

CEI overs a wide array of workshops with distinguished faculty who deliver timely, up-to-date workshops for schools and districts.
Check out the possibilities!

Hot Topics:
STEM, Reteaching, Neuroscience, Compassion
& many more.

 Newsletter editor:

Carolyn Lieberg 

Dear Educators,

In recent weeks we as a nation have once again faced the horrific news that students on a campus have been plowed down by an armed gunman. Once again, with many others, we ask "when will this stop?" and "what leads an individual to commit such an act of violence?"  This time, we have the notes and videoclips from the murderer himself, suggesting that his crime was an act of revenge, an apparent result of alienation and seeming desperation. We mourn with the families in California and we mourn for our nation, a nation that seems unable to push the STOP button.
At CEI, we are redoubling our efforts to help schools more effectively reach out to students who may feel isolated, alone, and alienated. We believe part of the solution must be a society where children grow up with more compassion -- where serious individual needs are not ignored. We cannot continue with "business as usual" with a focus solely on academic gains, dismissing the need for balance, the arts, physical activities, and kindness and caring.
In this edition of Wow! we focus on compassion by beginning with a tribute to the great Dr. Maya Angelou with a personal story by our Associate for Strategic Initiatives, Ingrid Padgett.  Following that are three articles relating compassion and social emotional learning to the Common Core State Standards. Our news -- whether it be at the Pre-K level or beyond -- is that there are many ways to help advance compassion while at the same time meeting Common Core objectives.
So read on -- and if you will be in Nashville at the NAESP conference, we invite you to join us at our session on Saturday.  


Sitting at Doc's Kitchen Table
Lessons from Maya Angelou
by Ingrid Padgett, CEI's Associate for Strategic Initiatives

CEI Tribute to Dr. Angelou 

The Center for Educational Improvement, like millions around the world, has been inspired by the life and leadership of Dr. Maya Angelou.  

The organization mourns her passing, even as it continues to celebrate her life and amazing artistry.  

One of the world's truly great heroes, Dr. Angelou gave us a glimpse into her soul and her heart. In so doing, she not only healed her own wounds, but also provided solace to others facing fear, poverty, anguish, and pain.  

Thank you, Dr. Angelou.  

May your memory continue to spur compassion and courage in us all, particularly as we seek to equip students with the intellectual, personal, emotional, and social skills needed  

for success in school and throughout their lives.


How do you prepare to meet an icon? This thought consumed me as my husband and I drove to Winston-Salem, NC, and as I stood on Dr. Maya Angelou's doorstep, I still had no answer. There was no need to knock or ring a doorbell; my presence was announced  magically, it seemed, as the front door opened.


All anxiety washed away as I was warmly greeted with a hug by one of Dr. Angelou's trusted personal assistants. Professionally, I worked with Dr. Angelou and her staff as a fundraiser for the Maya Angelou Schools in Washington, D.C; however, most of my interactions with these staff members were via phone or email. It was nice to "put a name with a face" and also to have the time to collect myself before greeting Dr. Angelou.


Today's visit was the first time I would be meeting with the famed author at her home. The assignment was to capture video footage of Dr. Angelou offering words of encouragement and hope to the students and staff of her flagship schools. At last count, there were more than 16 institutions (schools, nonprofits, research centers, etc.) named in recognition of Dr. Angelou, and she supported them all with her time, talent, and treasure. I considered this point as I anticipated her arrival in her well-appointed living room, now teeming with production staff and videographers.


It was a busy day for the octogenarian. After wrapping-up a conference call about plans for the centennial anniversary of the Girls Scouts -- Dr. Angelou was a proud member of the organization -- she was set to begin the videotaping with me at noon. Right at the stroke of twelve, Dr. Angelou called my name..."Mrs. Padgett, please join me at my kitchen table." She insisted on the formality of using one's title (e.g. Miss, Mrs.) and the tenor of her legendary voice was melodious. It was as though she could release the refrain of a spiritual at any moment, and, if we were lucky, she would.


When I walked into the kitchen, I was greeted by a few of Dr. Angelou's personal friends. Some were new faces, others I recognized from prior large-scale gatherings, but all joyously welcomed me at the table. In many ways, inclusion - the notion of being at the table and having your presence accepted and valued - is what we all crave. After a short while, I realized that I wasn't just exchanging pleasantries with the most interesting group of people I'd ever met, but they were also interested in me. This "getting to know you" session at Dr. Angelou's kitchen table was her way of connecting with me, ensuring that our videotaping session would be casual and natural. I was finding, in fact, that in Dr. Angelou's words, "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike."


We eventually conducted the videotaping session, and as I made plans to leave her home as unobtrusively as possible, Dr. Angelou called to me again, "Mrs. Padgett where are you staying in the Winston-Salem area?" I told her the location of my hotel and she quickly shared with me the rich history of that section of the city. In fact, she was so easy to talk to that a few hours later I was calling her "Doc" (at her request), and canceling my hotel plans because she insisted that my husband and I wrap-up our stay as guests in her home. That night, in our honor, Dr. Angelou hosted a four-course dinner that included her Standing Rib Roast and my husband's Red Velvet Cake.


Compassion and inclusion  

are the lessons  

I learned  

sitting at the kitchen table  

with Dr. Maya Angelou.  


As a guest of her home, she extended to me a level of fellowship that made me feel as comfortable as the celebrities, diplomats, politicians, and world leaders who at one time or another sat at her kitchen table as well. Dr. Angelou was a wise, witty, and formidable woman who championed for the broken-hearted and displaced among us. She is famously quoted as saying: "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." To this I say, humbly, well done to a good and faithful servant!                                                         



Update re: CEI's Nashville Session
Mark Weiss, Education Director of Operation Respect, will Share his Model for Collaborative Planning to Reduce Bullying

Room: Delta Island C
Gaylord Opryland
Nashville, TN
10:15 - 11:45 a.m., Saturday, July 12
Please join CEI to provide your input into our current and planned activities.  In addition, several educational leaders will share progress notes and recommendations as we discuss 21st century leadership.

The panel will include:

  • NAESP Mentor Trainers: Drs. Kathleen Sciarappa (NH) and Nancy Phenis-Bourke (IN): Principal Mentoring
  • Mark Wiess, co-founder, with Peter Yarrow, of Operation Respect See CEI blog entry. 
  • Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy (CEI Research Associate) on the Power to Choose  
  • Heather Smith, Principal, Lilja Elementary School in Natick, MA, on Implications of Neuroscience for the Classroom
  • Drs. Melissa Patschke, PA and Kathleen Sciarappa on Virtual Principal Simulations (a program with the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Dr. Christine Mason, CEO and founder of CEI will lead a discussion on "developing deep communities of compassion" and CEI's research plans for 2014-2015. We need your advice re: priorities and alternatives for our research. 

Attendees will receive the following: * The new 12-page CEI Heart Centered Approach Rubric, which includes recommendations for implementing Heart Centered Learning Communities with neuroscience programs (and particularly, C8 Sciences' Activate program).*An early release of CEI's  Heart Beaming activities for schools.


Mark your calendars: Gaylord Opryland, room Delta Island C,  10:15 am- 11:45am. Email [email protected] to RSVP and be assured a seat.


Note: This invitation-only seminar follows the special anti-bullying presentation by Peter Yarrow (of the folk singing trio Peter, Paul, and Mary), which will be held from 8-10 a.m. CEI has been collaborating with Peter and Mark Weiss for the past two years to develop a research initiative around Heart Centered Education, combining Peter's work with CEI's approach.


Pre-K & Common Core: Teaching Children to Translate Feelings into Words 

by Melanie Holland
"By the end of the preschool years, children who have acquired a strong emotional f
foundation have the capacity to anticipate, talk about, and use their awareness of their own and others' feelings to better manage everyday social interactions." (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004


The need for consistent and universal Pre-Kindergarten programs is becoming better known and accepted in the education community, aided in New York City by Mayor Bill de Blasio who made Universal Pre-K his main education platform during his race last fall.


Why Is Pre-K Education Important?

-          All children are capable of learning, achieving, and making developmental progress.

-          Children develop at different rates and each child is unique in his/her own development, growth, and acquisition of skills.

-          Children are active learners. Intentional planning of purposeful play promotes rich learning experiences that invite participation, involve multiple contexts, and engage the sense that help children explore their environment; early learning and development are multi-dimensional.

-          Children learn in the context of interactions and relationships with family members, caregivers, teachers, and other children in their environment and community.

-          Family is a significant contributor to children's lifelong learning and development.


In New York City schools, Common Core State Standards will be fully adopted in the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. Specifically defined as a resource, guide, and framework-but not as a checklist, assessment tool, or curriculum-these standards reach from pre-kindergarten students up through graduating seniors in high school. The primary purpose of pre-kindergarten standards is to ensure that all children, including children with disabilities, students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and English Language Learners (ELLs), have rich and varied early learning experiences that prepare them for success in school and lay the foundation for college and career readiness.


How Can Teachers Support SEL Learning?

The New York State Pre-K Foundation for the Common Core segments its guidelines into five distinct domains of development (see the 15-page PDF for details), with Social and Emotional Development being defined as the "emotional competence and ability to form positive relationships that give meaning to children's experiences in the home, school, and larger community.


            In the context of the classroom, the guidelines extend the attributes of Social and Emotional Development with examples for teachers to use during their observations. Social and Emotional Skills are expected to be incorporated into lesson plans.


1. Self-Concept and Self-Awareness--the student recognizes himself/herself as a unique individual having his/her own abilities, characteristics, feelings, and interests

Example: Luis demonstrates knowledge of his/her uniqueness by choosing activities he likes.


2. Self-Regulation--the student regulates his/her responses to needs, feelings, and events

Example: Jasmine expresses her frustration about not having enough time to finish her painting in a way that is appropriate to the situation.


3. Relationships with Others -- the student demonstrates and continues to develop positive relationships with significant adults; develops positive relationships with their peers; and demonstrates pro-social problem solving skills in social interactions

Example: Xavier offers to help his classmate when she seems distressed.


4. Accountability--the student understands and follows routines and rules

Example: Angie, with the help of her teacher, understands that breaking rules has consequences.


5. Adaptability--the student adapts to change with minimal trouble or concern

Example: Justin transitions smoothly between Reading Circle and Math, even though it's not the way it usually happens.


How Can Parents Support SEL Learning?

The NYC Department of Education also provides a breakdown of ways parents can support successful social and emotional behaviors and actions at home:

  • Encourage your children to make choices for themselves.
  • Establish and follow a predictable, daily routine.
  • Respond with inquisitiveness and specific praise when your child shows pride in an accomplishment.
    • Identify and name feelings with your child so he/she can practice using words to identify emotions. Help your child recognize and name his/her own feelings and identify feelings in other people.
    • Teach your child strategies to calm down when he/she is angry or upset.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Children's Emotional Development Is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains: Working Paper No. 2. Retrieved from


CEI welcomes Melanie Holland, a graduate student in education at NYU who is interning with CEI this summer.


The Common Core & Social Emotional Growth
by Michele M. Rivers Murphy, Ed.D., KIDS FIRST Educational Consultant and CEI Research Associate

Building Positive School Climate and Understanding How the Social Emotional Dimension of Learning Fits into the Common Core Standards Equation

The educational landscape is slowly changing, both academically, and with social and emotional emphasis. The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiatives place a greater focus on academic unification among states, promoting nationwide cohesiveness and concentration in academic standards. But, many schools in states implementing the Common Core Standards also recognize that a well-balanced approach to academic and social and emotional learning is necessary to successfully implement and support these new learning objectives.


Implicitly stated in the common core is the ability to collaborate and problem solve, and "social emotional learning provides the interpersonal skills students need to perform these intellectual tasks," according to Nancy Markowitz, education professor and director of the Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child. More schools in California, for example, are adopting an interest in student connectedness to school, specifically student behavior and students' emotional health, as they begin to implement the new standards (Adams, 2013). This change in approach reflects a growing interest among educators in school climate and the importance of integrating social emotional learning competencies, so that students feel more supported and engaged in their learning environment. Quite simply, a student's ability to learn and succeed academically can be greatly compromised when his/her emotional health is not adequately addressed.


Policy makers, educators, and researchers concur: Schools and mandates must provide an equal balance of both cognitive and social emotional learning in order for students to succeed. There is a significant amount of data that indicates large numbers of students are dealing "with significant social, emotional and mental health barriers that prevent them from succeeding in both school and life" (Dymnicki, Sambolt & Kidron, 2013).


Strengthening this social emotional charge aredata from a state-wide California survey entitled California Healthy Kids Survey (2013), which suggests a strong connection between the emotional health of a child and the ability to reach his/her full academic potential. The survey provides a two-fold purpose: 1) a sounding venue for students to express how they feel about their school experience--classroom and school environment and, 2) critical data to help administrators and teachers improve, strengthen, and create positive school environments.


This new information has prompted many California educators to wonder: So where is the social emotional dimension of learning in the new Common Core Standards and what are its short comings?


A Pilot Test in Sacramento California: Three Simple Ways to Incorporate Pro-Social Skills into Common Core Lessons


When gearing up for the implementation of the Common Core Standards, teachers in Sacramento, California, strategized and decided that explicit social and emotional instruction that included concepts like self-awareness, self-regulation of emotions (self-management), problem solving, decision making, positive relationship building, and respectful disagreement were key ingredients to success. Educators, such as teacher Michelle Flores at Aspire Capitol Heights Academy, made a decision to intentionally integrate social and emotional learning competencies into Common Core Standards.


Here are three practical approaches to incorporate pro social skills into common core lessons from teacher, Michelle Flores' classroom:


Alignment to Language Arts Standards

Building Social Emotional Competencies through the Use and Practice of Professional Discourse and Academic Discourse

Goal: For students to ask questions of each other and have rigorous conversation as a result.


Idea #1: A 3rd grade class uses statements that are geared to help students respond in a polite manner and articulate ideas thoughtfully. Professional and Academic Discourse would precede something like this:


"Johnny, why do you agree with my thinking?" Student reply: "I agree with your thinking because.... , Teacher: "Can you please speak with a strong voice so everyone can hear your voice?" Student: "Absolutely. It would be my pleasure to do so" (Adams, 2013).


Idea #2: Working through intensely social school experiences, Michelle Flores asks her class: "When someone makes a mistake, what do we say?" "That's cool," the third graders respond in unison. "We are experts at making mistakes," said Flores. (Adams, 2013). Using a responsive classroom approach, the students learn that making a mistake is not cause for embarrassment, but rather it is a part of life.  


Idea#3: A Morning Meeting that combines both academic and pragmatic skills
practice such as greeting classmates by name, making eye contact, sharing with one another, and being responsible for a variety of classroom jobs, which builds confidence, community, and ownership.


The key to unlocking the greatest potential of a child clearly relies on the pro-activeness of educators to provide students with opportunities to dream, create, and succeed. Taking into account the importance of incorporating pro-social skills when developing a new Common Core curriculum may be the first step towards building a more positive learning environment where all children can thrive.


Note: Aspire Capitol Heights Academy was the recipient of a Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010. At that time 72 percent of the students were African-American, 21 percent were Latino, and 85 percent were low-income.




Adams, J.M. (2013). Promoting a positive school climate: Social and emotional learning gaining new focus under Common Core. EdSource Today.

Dymnicki, A., Sambolt, M., & Kidron, Y. (2013). Improving college and career readiness by incorporating social and emotional learning. College & Career Readiness & Success Center at American Institutes for Research 




Heart Centered Common Core Book List

by Melanie Holland 


From Kathleen Odean, a past chair of the prestigious Newbery Award Committee, comes recommendations for how to link award-winning non-fiction literature to the Common Core State Standards. Her website  provides middle and high school educators with over 70 Young Adult books with an always engaging and impressive topic range.


Not surprisingly, many of these books can be tied back to CEI's Heart Centered Education philosophy and the 5 Cs: Compassion, Courage, Confidence, Consciousness, and Community. Here are three examples of books tied to the Common Core offered by Odean, and our own Heart Centered take.



His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II by Louise Borden


Summary: As a Swedish diplomat in Hungary during World War II, Raoul Wallenberg saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews with documents that he and his staff printed. The book speaks about his student days at University of Michigan and then his career as an international businessman. Many aspects of his life, such as his facility with languages and his business experience with Germans, worked to make him remarkably effective in his dangerous mission. His determination to do something meaningful was key as well, making it all the more heartbreaking that he disappeared when the Russians entered Hungary and his life ended in a Russian prison.


Odean's Recommendation: Use Reading Standard #5: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and/or larger portions of the text relate to each other and the whole. Biographies in verse are unusual.  Have students analyze why the author used verse, what it added, and its overall effect on the story.


Our Addition: This book shows how compassion-empathy for the pain and struggle of others-can lead to compassionate action. Discuss with students how the structure of the biography increases their ability to understand and relate to Raoul Wallenberg's compassion. Allow students to create a Pro/Con List for his actions to better illustrate all the challenges he faced.



Marching For Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary

by Elizabeth Partridge 


Summary: "The first time Joanne Blackmon was arrested, she was just ten years old," opens this powerful tribute to young people who participated in the Civil Rights movement. Blackmon was arrested when she accompanied her grandmother who, as an African-American, was trying to register to vote in Selma, Alabama, in 1963.  From this gripping incident, Partridge takes readers to 1965, when Martin Luther King, Jr., came to Selma to further the cause. The book documents the role of children and teenagers in protest marches, where they were attacked by dogs, tear gas, clubs, and even cattle prods. 


Odean's Recommendation: Use Reading Standard #2: Determine central ideas or themes and analyze their development; summarize key supporting details and ideas.  One key theme throughout this moving book is the role of music, including spirituals and protest songs, to keep up the spirits of the young people involved.  Have students find specific evidence of this theme to see how Partridge develops it.


Our Addition: The courage of youth in the Civil Rights Movement is not frequently highlighted. This book offers a chance for young people to see how people their own age have exhibited courage. Students can brainstorm ways, including using appropriate songs, that encourage them to be courageous or act courageously in their own lives.



Bully For You, Teddy Roosevelt!

by Jean Fritz

Summary: "What did Theodore Roosevelt want to do? Everything. And all at once if possible.  Plunging headlong into life, he refused to waste a single minute. Among other things, he studied birds, shot lions, roped steer, fought a war, wrote books, and discovered the source of a mystery river in South America."  So opens this lively biography of a man who became President of the United States. Quotes, anecdotes, and vivid prose make this an exceptionally readable biography of one of our more unusual Presidents. 


Odean's recommendation: Use Reading Standard #6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.  Clearly Fritz finds Roosevelt an interesting subject. Have students consider whether she is biased in his favor or against him, or is even-handed in her treatment. Ask them to point to specifics in the text.


Our Addition: We usually think of bullying as an undesirable trait. In fact, many of CEI's Heart Centered programs focus on the reduction and elimination of bullying. However, this novel uses the term "bully" to refer to Teddy Roosevelt's inherent confidence in himself, which allowed him to "bully" away his fears and insecurities to be successful in a wide variety of roles and occupations during his lifetime. We recommend incorporating confidence into the lesson by asking students to write one-page biographies where they can expand into the future on all the things they were confident enough to do.


Coming soon to CEI's Blog two more books, one for Consciousness and one for Community.


Kathleen Odean was a public and school librarian for 17 years and has previously served as chairperson for the Newbery Award Committee. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island, an instructor in Mansfield University's online School Libraries and Information Technologies program, and has been a Seminar Presenter across the U.S. since 2000.


Compassion: Are You Doing Your Share?


These past five years I have focused my energy on the 5 Cs: Compassion, Courage, Consciousness, Confidence, and Community. The CEI staff and I write about them; I discuss them with new interns and research associates, who often contribute much time and energy to CEI because they, like me, passionately believe that the 5Cs will open doors to better lives for many. We believe we must start with schools and children. We must work on behalf of the next generation by starting while children are young to help them develop courage, compassion, and the other 5Cs.


I have found for myself that this focus has brought a new consciousness or awareness. It is almost as if I am seeing through a new lens. I am certain that I am kinder and more considerate because of my focus.  I also have experienced a greater feeling of courage -- a feeling that I need to speak for those who may not be heard; to consider those who may be marginalized; to work to right the wrongs, whether it be locally or globally.


The word "share" is an interesting word -- am I doing my share?  I feel as if I can't put a lid on my share -- that there is no ceiling to what I can and should do. Compassion should be part of the "all" of my life.


At CEI we are interested in your experiences, your views, your transformations. We believe leaders can build communities that make a difference in the lives of many. Claim your power -- it cannot be business as usual. The stakes are too high.


Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
CEI is collaboraating with the NAESP Foundation to bring innovations to school leaders.
Save 25% through June 1 on selected CEI workshops. Check out our offerings hereI
Offer Expires: June 1, 2014