Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
Getting Practical!
October 2015
In This Issue

CEI is now offering Preschool STEAM training and technical assistance! Sign up now!

Register now for the National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference- Best Practices for Better Schools. The conference will be held July 6-8 at National Harbor.
Visit this site to learn more about what you can do this month to promote bullying awareness.
 The Mindfulness Summit 2015 is a FREE 31-day online summit this October giving you the tools to transform your inner world, integrating mindfulness into your daily life.
Dear Educators,
Since 2010, CEI has spoken out for 21st Century values and practices. We have promoted ways for schools to take better advantage of the technology that is so powerful today. We have developed and promoted a rubric to increase "rigor" in schools. We have supported organizations such as C8 Sciences that have developed innovative technologies to increase brain functions and learning.

Over the past five years, CEI has promoted philosophy, visions of the future, and self-assessments to increase use of modern up-to-date technology.

This month we peel back our recommendations to a few key practical steps that administrators can take. Since October is Bullying Prevention month, we have taken an extra look at that area.
Bullying Prevention
By Donald Kim, CEI Intern
Bullying has been in and out of the public eye for a while now, but it remains a large problem. According to the National Center for Education Statistics,  one out of every four students (22%) report being bullied during the school year. According to the Center for Disease Control, 19.6% of high school students report being bullied at school in the past year, and 14.8% of high school students report being bullied online. These are horrifying figures. A large chunk of the nation's student body seems to be affected by bullying in one way or another, because it is destructive to both parties: "Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death... Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance abuse, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood." (CDC 2015)

One of the four pillars of CEI's approach to education is Heart Centered Education. You can find out all about it here, but in a nutshell it is a holistic approach to education that considers compassion, courage, confidence, consciousness, and community (our 5 Cs) as an essential part of education- it aims to connect what is learned in the classroom and outside of the classroom. CEI is of course concerned with bullying, so CEI is actively fighting against bullying with other efforts. We are now collaborating with Operation Respect to implement and increase Heart Centered Education in a practical way.

Some of the steps CEI recommends to end bullying include:
  • Help students with the 5 Cs that CEI recommends. Embed these in the curricula, instruction, and your school day, policies, and procedures.
  • Promote "student voice" and assertiveness - part of our approach to developing courage. This will help students stand up for themselves and others.
  • Design learning opportunities so that students will have many experience with collaboration, problem solving, and communicating with peers and adults on a wide array of topics and issues.
These steps are intentionally designed to build positive behaviors and not merely reduce or eliminate undesirable behaviors.

Thankfully CEI is not alone in the struggle against bullying, for many schools across the US are launching programs and initiatives. The vigor of bullying prevention largely varies from school to school - there is no singly correct method, so long as something is being done. Programs can be as simple as observing October as National Bullying Prevention Month, and having students wear certain colors or partake in school-wide projects - taking Union High School as an example. In Michigan, there is actually a statewide program that is being introduced. Attorney General Bill Schuett
e is starting the "OK2SAY" program, which is an outlet for students to confidentially report acts of violence. Programs like this have been implemented in universities across the nation, but it is interesting to see a confidential reporting system used in bullying prevention. Other schools are using pre-made programs. For example many schools such as St. Rose Elementary School in Louisiana has implemented a bullying-prevention program created by Olweus - this program utilizes weekly class meetings to learn and discuss the effects of bullying and how to prevent it.

We can all take steps to prevent bullying. provides excellent resources for various ideas and activities regarding bullying prevention. is another resource filled with information and guides. An effort to stop one instance of bullying makes an unimaginable difference - so even if implementing large programs is improbable, educators can still make a lasting impact on the lives of students. Hopefully with combined efforts, schools across the nation, and even the globe can put an end to bullying.

STEM Education IS an Equity Issue 
By: Kelli Sampson, CEI Intern
What is science? Science knowledge is much more than accumulating a set of memorized facts. Science knowledge is a process and way of thinking, a method of problem solving and approaching the world with curiosity and desire for understanding. In 2015, our lives are propelled each day into the future by the rapidity of scientific and technological innovations. At the same time, youth may or may not be gaining experiences in school or their homes and communities to give them equitable access to these innovations and opportunities in their future. Unfortunately, science instruction as a part of STEM education is not always equal to the task. Students who are living in poverty, including many in urban areas, may not have the same STEM opportunities as their peers.

Demands on educators, especially urban educators, have contributed to the difficulty of making STEM instruction a priority. With the focus of instruction on reading, writing, and arithmetic standards and assessments, both instructional minutes and resources in schools have skewed to these areas in hopes of providing the "basics" or core curriculum for culturally and linguistically diverse students (Spillane et al., 2001). However, the lack of STEM education is an equity issue. Urban students, many of whom are African American, Hispanic, and students living in poverty, as a result of a lack of an adequate STEM foundation during their K-12 years are often not given access to STEM careers.

Equity. Occupational segregation accounts for the majority of the gender and race wage gap in the United States, whereas STEM careers have the lowest gender pay gap and highest earnings overall (Hegewisch & Hartmann, 2014).

How can educators work towards providing more opportunities for girls and culturally and linguistically diverse students to have access to STEM careers? Instead of looking for what isn't working, I searched for what can and does work. I found in the journal, Racial and Ethnic Minority Students' Success in STEM Education (Museus et al., 2011), several important and pertinent suggestions for teachers and administrators.

  • STEM opens a window to learning through its focus on inquiry, design, and innovation. Use it as a tool to keep students engaged, problem solving, and following their curiosity.
  • First and foremost, check bias, stereotypes, and expectations at the door. The unconscious, unintentional, subtle, yet pervasive and powerful, messages sent to African American and Hispanic students in regards to STEM can hinder students' performance and have nothing to do with ability or potential.
  • Teachers can employ innovative methods to build on the cultural heritage of students in STEM and strive to make disengaging curricula culturally relevant and engaging.
  • Teachers, do not be afraid of STEM education! Get the relevant training needed to teach STEM well. Use STEM curricula to support the teaching of reading, writing, and mathematics.

Administrators: Be a STEM champion for your school by finding opportunities and supporting staff and parents in advocating for STEM. Here are some suggestions:
  • Seek out STEM opportunities and support informal education programs for your school, be it a STEM after-school program, school garden, or robotics competition.
  • Provide equity by giving students exposure to STEM via field trips, mentors, and partnerships with higher education institutions.
  • Encourage parental involvement and support their expectations of their students succeeding from an early age in STEM.
  • Ensure that your teachers know you value bilingual education and culturally relevant pedagogy in your schools, and specifically in STEM education.
  • Especially in elementary schools, provide professional development for teachers to improve their teaching of STEM.
  • Hire a diverse teaching staff with experience in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Literacy and STEM. As a classroom teacher, I taught inquiry-based science every single day to first graders in East Oakland. I observed first-hand the integral role STEM education can play in improving educational outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Literacy and STEM can have a symbiotic relationship that can support the instructional shifts needed for meeting the high expectations present in the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Students who are African American or Hispanic, are disenfranchised, or our students living in poverty are able to meet the high expectations and standards if given the right opportunity to rise to the challenge.


By providing a high-quality K-12 foundation in STEM education, breakthroughs and innovations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will come. They will be all the more possible if we are able to dismantle the current homogenous state of STEM education and careers.



Hegewisch, A., & Hartmann, H. (2014). Occupational segregation and the gender wage gap: A job half done. Washington, DC: Institute for Women's Policy Research. 1-27.
Museus, S.D., Palmer, R.T., Davis, R.J., & Maramba, D.C. (2011). Racial and ethnic minority students' success in STEM education. ASHE Higher Education Report, 36(6), 27-51.
Spillane, J.P., Diamond, J.B., Walker, L.J., Halverson, R., Jita, L. (2001). Urban school leadership for elementary science instruction: Identifying and activating resources in an undervalued school subject. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38 (8), 918-940.


Using Social Emotional Learning to Prevent Bullying
By: Anne Quinn
Know your target audience. Who are your most important customers, clients or prospects, and why? Know what is important to them and address their needs in your newsletter each month. Include a photo to make your newsletter even more appealing.Promoting social emotional learning in classrooms can build environments that are incompatible with bullying. CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) states that a focus on social emotional learning builds 5 necessary life skills:
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship building
  • Responsible decision making

These skills that are developed when using a social emotional approach create a positive academic community with self-confident students. So, on a practical level, how can teachers build these skills as a method of bully prevention? 

At CEI we took a look at one school that has started a ripple effect. In 2011 Glendaal Elementary produced a YouTube video that gained nationwide recognition. Students from the 4th and 5th grade worked with one of their teachers to create the "How to Unmake a Bully" film. In the video, students play out common bullying scenarios, discussing from kid to kid, the best solutions. In the end, the students seek the teacher's help in tackling their biggest issue.

These videos and the feedback they received from colleges, organizations and the community have proved several things:

  • Promoting positive and constructive responses to bullying can have a huge impact. After the video, students at Glendaal said they saw little to no bullying at their school!
  • The classroom teacher is critical in teaching students those five life skills, mentioned above.
  • Getting kids involved in discussing their own experiences with bullies gives them confidence in being able to speak up for themselves. It helps the teacher understand the perspective of her students.
  • When it is commonly known that bullying will not be tolerated or encouraged by other students, it decreases dramatically, according to our Glendaal 4th and 5th graders

Glendaal's "How to Unmake a Bully" video showed its community that when they are taught the appropriate social and emotional skills, students are capable of 'unmaking' a bully. So how does the teacher teach these skills?

An article from TeachHub's Magazine, "The Anti-Bullying Classroom: Advice for Educators" listed 10 tips to help teachers when dealing with bullying in their rooms. The most proactive of these however was tip #10: "Incorporate an Anti-Bullying Curriculum." Teachers should be developing these social and emotional skills in context with the content of their lessons. For example, when we read books in English, there are certain themes that a teacher can pull out and dissect which gives students the opportunity to address bullying in an unbiased scenario.

In addition, specific anti-bullying curriculum, like "Let's Get Real" provide a film and numerous activities for students to discuss and create action plans regarding various bullying incidences. The "Bullyproof Classroom" provides several quick activities that can be done anytime to develop social emotional skills. One of these is "Building Self-Acceptance Through Positive Self Talk." This activity can be done as followed:

  • Students write down positive or negative things that they have been told by someone else about themselves
  • In small groups, students can talk about which messages they have accepted and still believe (positive or negative) and which they have disregarded
  • Students individually complete sentence starters such as: "I am a talented person. Two things I am good at are ..."
  • Students rate on a scale of 1-10 how difficult it was for them to complete those sentences. 
Incorporating social and emotional skill building lessons such as these in your curriculum can have a huge impact on students on an individual level, and also build classroom morale. And discussions from books that are read in class and historical figures that are studied provide students the opportunity to express their opinions on these subjects in a third party manner. As the TeachHub article said, "You can also have students study great leaders in whatever subject you teach who were maligned and shunned for being different or ahead of their time. Their life stories will inspire students who are being bullied, and help to ignite spirited discussion." And as our friends at Glendaal Elementary showed us, discussions among students in the classroom can make a huge difference!


A Toolkit for Cultural Competence
By Katie Delis, CEI Intern
Diversity is Here to Stay.Between 1965 and 2015, immigrants and their descendants accounted for 72 million of the United States populations and are expected to account for 103 million more by 206. With a diverse immigrant population comes a rich expression of culture, language and traditions that influence communities and certainly school systems. In 2004, the Annie E. Casey Foundation funded Kathy Hepburn's research on developing holistic cultural competence to prepare young children for school. Her work was published as a toolkit entitled "Building Culturally & Linguistically Competent Service to Support Young Children, Their Families, and School Readiness." 

The Casey Cultural Competence Toolkit is organized into seven major sections, which include:
  • An introduction to the need for cultural competence,
  • Self-assessment and the planning processes,
  • How to learn about family and community culture,
  • Curriculum and family involvement in early child care, and
  • Language and literacy in early learning.
Each of the sections include critical questions for communities, which are steps that can be taken to move toward culturally competent services. Additionally, each section indicates policy issues for community decision makers, promising practices, annotated resources, and tip sheets and checklists for effective change.

All of the guidelines Hepburn provides are to help families, administrators and providers establish a holistic approach to offering culturally accessible early childhood services. Because culture is enormously influential in a child's early life, it is important that families, providers, and administrators together make observable, researched-based changes towards more culturally competent services.

Assessing Our Personal Cultural Journey: Cultural competence begins with a self-assessment. Included in the Annie E. Casey Cultural Competence Toolkit are multiple reflective questions, including questions about family, professional training, and cultural competence in your work setting:
  • From your family. What social interaction did you have with people from ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, religions, age groups or communities different from your own? What values, beliefs, or "cultural messages" did you receive about family? About childrearing or parent and child interactions? About relationships between families and others outside the family? What values, beliefs, or "cultural messages" did you receive about community? Who represented "community" in your own experience? Who were the trusted leaders?
  • From your professional training. What values, beliefs or "cultural messages" did you receive about education and achievement? About the interaction between child, parents, and teachers? Have you ever felt uncomfortable, upset, or surprised by any expectations of your training or orientation to your chosen profession? If so, what made you feel this way and how did you resolve these feelings?
  • From your work setting. What are your organization's attitudes, values, policies, and practices related to young children and their families? In what ways do you seek to understand the impact of cultural and linguistic differences on your relationship and interaction with those to whom you provide services? With your colleagues?
Pausing to reflect on the cultural messages we have been exposed to and those that we send out help us to become aware of our experiences and the culture specific to our community. As educators become more culturally aware themselves, they are better equipped to guide students to be culturally competent community members.
Creating a Culturally Competent Educational Environment. After having reflected on one's personal cultural journey, a valuable component for educators to consider is the educational environment. What does early childhood curriculum say about culture and home life? Does it reflect a wide range of learner experiences, or is it limited? To what extent do a child's caregiver and/or educator validate his or her cultural and linguistic experience? According to the Annie E. Casey Toolkit, the daily routines and family relationships found within the home are influenced by the values, belief, practices, traditions-or in other words, the culture-of the home.

A strong home-school connection is vitally important to establishing culturally competent services within the community. The following considerations and suggestions can help establish home-school connections that validate the cultural experiences of a diverse body of students:
  • Ask parents about the child's schedules and routines. Where possible, adapt community services to home routines to assure continuity of care.
  • Encourage parents to talk about the culture of their home country with their children.
  • As learners move into school settings, engage them in activities and programs that capitalize on the strengths of each culture and promote anti-bias and tolerance for difference. This helps learners to honor the upbringing and home life of each child.
  • Encourage teachers to teach from a multicultural perspective. The Casey Toolkit recommends infusing multiculturalism into learning rather than studying culture in isolation and "identifying resources and accessible and affordable strategies for early care and classroom settings."
  • Finally, set into place support structures such as training, coaching, teamwork, mentoring and counseling to help school staff remain committed to a multicultural perspective and education.
One of the strengths of America is our diversity. With diversity can come a richness as aspects from various cultures are assimilated into habits and traditions. Diversity can also contribute to creativity as our various backgrounds influence our knowledge, skills, and problem solving. Today, as American searches for ways to enhance the educational experiences from youth who come here from around the world, schools are faced with the need to increase our capability to help teachers understand ways to facilitate student growth and learning. Cultural competence is key. The Casey Toolkit is a valuable resource, as valuable today as it was when it was first introduced in 2004.

Ready, Set and Go-


As you traverse through October, think about the practical steps you are taking to improve your school and to advance education.  Look once more at the simple, straightforward ideas presented in Wow! this month. Whether it is communicating effectively with parents, getting rid of the class bully, creating equity with STEAM, or welcoming students from abroad, there are a few simple actions that can give your school a head start.   




Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement