April 27, 2017 - In This Issue:

Like many of you, we at Engaging Schools are watching as federal education policy shifts and states and districts react. But meanwhile, educators and students are going to school every day to carry on teaching and learning. We support all of you in your commitment to the education of young people, our future leaders. The need for positive school climates and cultures and supportive, safe school environments has never been greater.

Wishing you well,
Lucy Patton
Engage! Newsletter Editor

Supporting a restorative culture 
NEA grant enables Engaging Schools to help deepen restorative discipline practices
Principal Jose Duarte and student
Kalaiyah Kelly
(Photo courtesy MetroWest Daily News)

This year we started a unique project in Framingham, MA, where we're training administrators, counselors, and teacher-leaders from Fuller Middle School in how to create a restorative culture, and we're doing it under the sponsorship of the teachers' union.

Responding to a desire to shift to discipline policies rooted in restorative practices, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) secured a grant from its parent organization, the National Education Association, to bring Engaging Schools in. The MTA considers this a pilot project that they hope to replicate in other schools.

We're helping an 18-person leadership team learn how to facilitate restorative circles as a process for addressing discipline issues. We will expand the training to all teachers next year. We are also supporting the leadership team's review of the Student-Family Handbook.

As the Metro West Daily News reported, the program emphasizes dialogue and reconciliation rather than punishment, seizing upon disciplinary trouble as opportunities to do what schools do best: teach. "It really is a different way of thinking about how we come together in a community school, where it is not about compliance and punishment, but it's really about how to listen, talk, share and come to understand each other," said Barbara Madeloni, president of the MTA.

Circles bring together students, staff, and sometimes parents to help everybody understand the impact of their actions. "Each member of the circle gets to tell each other how they felt and how it impacted them. We come to a conclusion, an agreement, about how were going to move forward," Principal Jose Duarte said. "And then we're going to hold each other accountable." 
The Daily News reported that "after William LeRouge had a fight with a classmate, the seventh-grader was ready for round two. Instead, the students sat in a circle 
and talked it out." When student Kalaiyah Kelly participated in a circle discussion, she appreciated being able to tell her side of the story. She felt supported. "I felt like we all could state our opinions ... I had some people on my side," Kelly said. "Usually they would just be like, oh, you did this wrong, this wrong, now you gotta go to the office." 
Principal Duarte says that the school will use other forms of discipline as warranted, but that the goal is to greatly reduce suspensions and other punishment.
Bringing about systemic change  
Working with district and school leaders is a priority for us this year. Our executive director, Larry Dieringer, presented a three-hour session on Schoolwide Discipline and Student Support at the New England Secondary School Consortium's annual conference in Hartford, CT, in March to an audience of more than 70 district and school leaders from across the region.

In July, Larry will facilitate a workshop for leaders at the School Administrators Association of New York State. And our Director of Programs, Michele Tissiere, will facilitate a day-long workshop in July with Cahn Fellows of Columbia University's Teachers College. Cahn Fellows are distinguished principals, this year representing 32 schools in New York City and Chicago.  

Students are more likely to graduate if we help them successfully adjust to high school 
We invite you to take a look at our blog post citing the research of our board member, Jenny Nagaoka, of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. Jenny and her co-author published a recent commentary in Education Week recommending ways schools can support students' adjustment to high school and improve their experiences while there, all of which improve young people's chances of graduating. We highlighted a few points: 
  • Focus on success for ninth graders.
  • Foster supportive relationships.
  • Assess and refine disciplinary practices.
All of the above build students' engagement with school - and engaged students have a more positive high school experience and greater academic success, including school completion.  
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Engaging Schools is a nonprofit organization that collaborates with middle and high school educators to create schoolwide communities of learning that integrate academics with social and emotional development. We provide professional learning and publications for instructional practice, classroom management, discipline and student support, postsecondary readiness, and advisory programs - all grounded in the values of equity, community, and democracy. The result: engaging schools where each and every student succeeds and makes positive contributions in school, work, and life.  

We rely on tax-deductible donations from you and others to develop our programs and resources and help us reach more teachers, schools, and young people. Please support our work with a gift today. Thanks!