Community Core Responds: Turning the Tide Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions

The Community Core team was over the moon to read this groundbreaking report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  One of the most respected academic institutions in the country is calling for a comprehensive shift in the way the college admissions system evaluates students, and it's asking students to authentically demonstrate CARE for their COMMUNITIES.  

"Too often, today’s culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good (Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing, 2011; Putnam, 2005; Putnam, 2014; Weissbourd & Jones, 2014). And too often the college admissions process—a process that involves admissions offices, guidance counselors, parents and many other stakeholders—contributes to this problem. As a rite of passage for many students and a major focus for many parents, the college admissions process is powerfully positioned to send different messages that help young people become more generous and humane in ways that benefit not only society but students themselves. Yet high school students often perceive colleges as simply valuing their achievements, not their responsibility for others and their communities. While some colleges have diligently sought to convey to applicants the importance of concern for others and the common good, many other colleges have not. The messages that colleges do send about concern for others are commonly drowned out by the power and frequency of messages from parents and the larger culture emphasizing individual achievement. Further, even when students and parents receive the message that contributions and service to others do count, they often seek to “game” service. This report advances a new, widely shared vision of college admissions that seeks to respond to this deeply concerning problem. It makes the case that college admissions can send compelling messages that both ethical engagement—especially concern for others and the common good—and intellectual engagement are highly important. Colleges can powerfully collaborate to send different messages to high school students about what colleges value. This report, endorsed by over 80 key stakeholders in college admissions, represents such a collaboration. More specifically, this report takes up three challenges. First, it describes how college admissions can motivate high school students to contribute to others and their communities in more authentic and meaningful ways that promote in them genuine investment in the collective good and deeper understanding of and respect for others, especially those different from them in background and character. Second, it demonstrates how the admissions process can more accurately and meaningfully assess young people’s contributions to others and their communities, especially students who vary widely by race, culture and class."  

These educators saw a broken system, and have offered a solution in the form of the admission process.  Skip!  Jump!  Hooray!  

We know that high schools across the country are going to be looking for the HOW.  How can we help kids care about their communities?  How can we show that they do?  How can we make them want it?  What is authentic leadership? Is there a curriculum for this?  Certainly some schools will come up with perfunctory ways to "game" the system (to steal Harvard's term), but we know there are thousands of administrators and guidance counselors out there who are dancing on their desks, because they understand that this creates an objective students will WANT and a way for them to make the kind of impact they'd hoped to make when they first decided to become educators.  Let's talk.  Community Core has been "doing this thing" for years, and our experiential training for educators and student leaders is groundbreaking, life-changing, and sustainable.

Applause to Harvard and the courage it took to break free of a BROKEN system. 

Let Community Core help your school access the TOOLS of social-emotional literacy. 

Testing for Joy and Grit - Community Core Responds

Although we're always happy to find the education community (finally) recognizing that it is the duty of schools to care for the social and emotional well-being of our nation's children, we are shaking our heads at this early attempt to standardize a Emotional Literacy testing requirement in schools. 

In what seems like another cart-before-the-horse move, education leaders are pushing to test students on their SEL skills/attitudes 1) before they have a set of agreed upon (or even suggested) curriculum that help to bring about improvement for students 2) before they have thoughtfully considered what it means to "test" students on a complex set of internal character attributes  3) before they have provided teachers with the absolutely essential training it requires to model and teach social-emotional literacy.  We are literally asking teachers to teach a "subject" that they have never personally had to study.  While some teachers might come into the classroom grounded in a some of the fundamental tools of SEL, many do not!  Through no fault of their own, they are ill-equipped to handle the important weight of talking with kids about their character, because they themselves have never been taught and had the opportunity for the kind of deep self-reflection it takes to truly become literate in this oft-dismissed social-emotional skill-set.  

Social Emotional LITERACY is not something that one can access and teach by flipping through a curriculum binder at a two-hour PD in the fall, and the implications for what happens to students when this is the approach, could be devastating.  Imagine the frustration of a child who feels s/he is not "making the mark" in some aspect of character/citizenship, but cannot figure out why (because the teacher who gave the test/grade doesn't have the specific tools needed to have the conversations needed to truly engage with the child on this level.) 

Teacher training is the FIRST STEP.  Teacher readiness is ESSENTIAL.  Yes, we must make SEL a part of school, but a well-intentioned plan involving tests and a lack of training/curriculum sounds an awful lot like the Common Core.  When Common Core launched, students' frustrations skyrocketed.  Teachers satisfaction plummeted.  Are our kids any smarter?  This should serve as a lesson into this particular "almost-good idea".  Plan.  Plan.  Plan.  Put the horse before the cart. Give teachers the chance to be successful in what they are being asked to teach.   

Community Core gets to the heart of the matter with a culture-shifting approach to Social Emotional Literacy that STARTS with the Teachers.  

We welcome the thoughts as educators, parents, and caring citizens who believe our kids deserve something better.

Tell us about the teachers you had who CONNECTED TO YOUR CORE and CONNECTED YOU TO YOUR COMMUNITY.  Or...tell us about the ones who didn't.