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What Do We Mean by the Whole Child?

2017-02-10_589e3d852268a_ODW_WholeChild

“We know deeply, as educators and as parents, that our focus on our children’s academic growth can never be, and should never be, separated from our focus on their growth as whole kids.”

Dear DPS Community,

This week, I had the privilege of listening to hundreds of parents who came together for our monthly Superintendent Parent Forum on a topic that’s getting a lot of attention: Whole Child.

But what do we mean by that? And why is support for the whole child one of the top five goals in our strategic plan, the Denver Plan 2020?

When we developed the Denver Plan with our community, we brought together parents, educators and experts to help define this term. And we agreed that there are six components that make up our goal of the Whole Child:

  • Students who are socially and emotionally intelligent.
  • Students who practice a healthy lifestyle.
  • Students who are supported by caring adults.
  • Students who are engaged in learning.
  • Students who feel physically and emotionally safe in school.
  • Students who are challenged to perform at their highest level.

We know deeply, as educators and as parents, that our focus on our children’s academic growth can never be, and should never be, separated from our focus on their growth as whole kids. That is why last year we were one of the first districts in the country to initiate a whole child survey where all of our students responded to how they and we are doing in each of the six areas of whole child focus above. You can see the results for all our schools here.

“If our kids are not socially supported and trust in the strong relationships they have at school, they can’t succeed,” Berla Alvarado, the mother of an eighth-grader at Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, said at the forum. “It means an awful lot that you guys are listening.”

Our teachers and school leaders, those closest to our kids, have identified social and emotional supports as our kids’ greatest need. That’s why the single largest investment in the 2016 mill levy measure approved by Denver voters focuses on the social and emotional, and mental and physical health of our kids.

All schools are receiving additional funding to focus on whole child needs, with special attention to our youngest students and those in poverty.

“We can’t control what happens in a student’s home or community, but the supports we provide children at school can make all the difference,” Amesse Elementary Principal Charmaine Keaton said, adding, “School saved my life.”

I encourage you to learn more about our work in this area by exploring wholechild.dpsk12.org. Additional information about what we’re doing to meet this Denver Plan goal is available in this handout. And there’s more about how the 2016 mill levy is supporting the Whole Child here.

Best,
Tom


Read the full version of Our DPS Weekly: What Do We Mean by the Whole Child?