Welcoming Practices 
In Military-Connected Schools
Winter 2016                                                                           

In This Issue:
* New Education Law Includes Military Student Identifier
* WelConnect App Now Available for Download 
* Welcoming Practices Year 2 Reports Now Available 
* Welcoming Practices Team Joins Los Angeles Officials to Announce Military and Veteran Student Identifier
* Oceanside Unified's Discipline Strategies Featured in Magazine
* New Guidebook in Development
* Headlines and Resources  
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Welcoming Practices is a Partnership Consortium involving five Southern California school districts and the University of Southern California, funded by the Department of Defense Education Activity's partnership program. 
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New Education Law Includes Military Student Identifier 

     Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states will be able to learn more about the military-connected students in their public schools.
     The legislation, which reauthorizes the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama this week.
     The new data element will allow educators, policymakers and the military to better understand how military children, who face challenges such as frequent school transitions and parental deployments, are performing in school. The law applies to students whose parents are active duty members of the Armed Forces.
     The federal government now follows at least a dozen states that have already added a military-connected identifier in their student information systems. The new student category is also a significant step toward what many organizations and leaders of military-connected school districts have been advocating.
     "For seven years, this has been one of our number one goals both in California and nationally," says Dr. Ron Avi Astor, who leads the Welcoming Practices project at USC. 

More Work to Do

     The Consortium districts in Building Capacity and Welcoming Practices worked in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), the Department of Defense, school liaison officers, and several other organizations to push for military-connected students as a subgroup. The proposal was also a top recommendation for the participants in the California Engagement, a 2012 event at USC that brought together representatives from the education, military, business, nonprofit and faith-based communities to collaborate on a blueprint for serving military-connected students in the state. 
     "We have an all-volunteer force that has endured more than 14 years of war with frequent and repeated military parent deployments," Dr. Mary Keller, president and chief executive officer MCEC, said in a statement. "The identifier will provide data to inform both educators and policymakers, enabling them to adjust programs, direct resources and adopt strategies that support these students and their military families."
     But MCEC and Dr. Astor say the law falls short by not including students whose parents serve in the National Guard or the Reserves. Dr. Astor added that the children of veterans, who are now coping with the reintegration of parents back into family and community life, also need to be recognized in data systems. MCEC estimates that over four million children have parents who have served since 9-11.
     "There is still work to be done," he says.

WelConnect App Now Available for Download

     Families and staff members in the five Welcoming Practices districts can now download WelConnect, the new mobile app that will allow families to find the services and programs they want for their children. 
     The app will currently work only with the schools in these districts--Chula Vista Elementary, Bonsall Union, Fallbrook Union High, Oceanside Unified and Temecula Valley Unified. But the app can serve as a prototype for other schools and districts across the nation. 
     The app development team is hoping that in this early phase, teachers, parents, and community organizations in the five district communities will download the app and provide feedback on resources that need to added or corrected before the full-roll out of the app. Feedback from social workers, counselors and special education personnel is especially encouraged. 
     The app links together schools, families, military resources, and community partners in the San Diego area and is designed to smooth the transition process for families into new schools and neighborhoods.  
     Available on both Android and iOS devices, the app allows parents, teachers, administrators and community-based providers to search for resources in their child's school, district, and the surrounding community, as well as regionally and nationally.
     These include athletic programs, tutoring services, healthcare or child-care providers. Users can also save resources as favorites for easy reference. 
     The release of the app kicks off a more detailed roll-out process that will begin in the five districts and the surrounding communities in January.
     The districts will make the WelConnect app available  through their own websites, existing school district apps and registration forms. 
     In late January and early February, a strong social media effort will be initiated with principals, teachers, parents, military organizations and community organizations to encourage the school and community to download and use the app with new families, student study teams, and for any resource a family or educator may need to support a child in their school.
     Feedback from early users in the districts is already being collected and will help the app development team refine and improve the service. More information on WelConnect, as well as tutorial videos on how to use the various features is available at this website. The tutorials are also available immediately upon registration and download of the app. 
     Those who live in the five districts are encouraged to help the Welcoming Practices team perfect the list of resources in schools and districts by downloading the app before the full roll-out in January. An updated smartphone, good wi-fi, and a strong signal connection for the initial download and set up is needed. The Help Center page on the app sends messages directly to the app development team. A Help Center page is also available on the WelConnect website. 
     For more information on WelConnect, see this story from our fall newsletter. 

Welcoming Practices Year 2 Reports 
Now Available 

     The Welcoming Practices Annual Report and the Welcoming Practices Technical Evaluation Report are now available. Both reports provide detailed information on Year 2 of the Consortium. 
     The Annual Report summarizes the major accomplishments during Year 2, including the release of the WelConnect app, the ongoing development of school welcome centers and the work of Student-to-Student groups in the schools. The report also includes major findings from the latest California Healthy Kids Survey as well as surveys of parents and school staff members. 
     The Technical Evaluation report is a more comprehensive document, providing data on the many components of the Welcoming Practices grant. It includes many tables as well as extensive feedback from parents on their experiences with the registration process and their suggestions on how schools can be more welcoming and supportive of new families. 
     Both reports are on our website along with past reports on both Welcoming Practices and Building Capacity

Welcoming Practices Team Joins 
Los Angeles Officials to Announce 
Military and Veteran Student Identifier 

     Members of the Welcoming Practices team participated in a Veterans Day event last month to help formally announce the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) new initiative to identify and better support children in military and veteran families.
     Dr. Ron Avi Astor joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative at Leland Street Elementary School in San Pedro to talk about the new initiative. On emergency information cards, families enrolling in the district are now asked whether a parent is a military member or a veteran, and for which branch. 
     The effort is the result of over a year of work by the Collaborative, the mayor's office, the school district and the Building Capacity and Welcoming Practices projects. The district is also using the four guidebooks, written by the USC team, to help educators better understand how military life affects children.
     "This is all about you," Dr. Astor, told the students gathered in the school auditorium for the event. "This is all about your parents and your older siblings."
Mayor Eric Garcetti
     Mayor Garcetti called the new policy a "groundbreaking initiative" that will help military-connected children receive the support and services they need to be successful in school. 
     LAUSD is the first large metropolitan school district to collect the information on both active duty and veteran families.

Oceanside Unified's Discipline Strategies Featured in Magazine 
     Restorative Discipline Practice--an approach to teaching students accountability for their actions--is getting attention across the state.
     The practice, being used in the Oceanside Unified School District's (OUSD) Alternative Learning Center (ALC), as well as in other schools throughout the district, was featured in the November/December issue of the Association of California School Administrators' (ASCA) Leadership magazine. 
     The article was written by Barbara Higgins Perez, director of student services for OUSD and Barry Tyler, the coordinator of alternative education for the Fontana Unified School District. 
     Perez and Tyler have created the Blue Water Educational Consulting Company to help other schools implement these practices. The ASCA article spells out the specific steps in the process, which they write will "facilitate a fundamental shift in how people--kids and adults--can interact with each other with honest, heartfelt accountability." 
     An article on the ALC also appeared in our May 2015 newsletter.

New Guidebook in Development

     Following the success of our four guidebooks on supporting military children in public schools, the Building Capacity/Welcoming Practices team is now writing a new guide focusing on implementing welcoming practices in schools.
     Featuring innovative and promising programs across the country, the guide will highlight strategies for supporting students through transition--from their first introduction to kindergarten to changing schools during the challenging middle and high school years.
    The authors will also include the voices of parents and students regarding their experiences with school registration procedures and being new in a school community.
     Release of the guide is expected in 2016.

Headlines and Resources

We regularly feature stories, reports and resources related to military children and transition on our website. Check back often for new additions, such as these:
  • This story about the program "With You All the Way" appeared on the WNYF website in New York.  

  • Click here for the latest issue of Academic Anchor, a publication of the Navy Region Southwest's school liaison officers.