National Initiative for Transforming Student and Learning Supports
Equity of opportunity is fundamental to enabling civil rights;
transforming student and learning supports is fundamental to
promoting whole child development, advancing social justice,
and enhancing learning and a positive school climate.
While COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems related to providing student and learning supports, the underlying ways the system needs to be transformed remain the same. Student/learning supports have long been marginalized in school improvement policy and practice. As a result, such supports are developed in an ad hoc and piecemeal manner. Implementation is fragmented and at times redundant. Those involved often are counterproductively competitive, especially when funding is sparse (and when isn’t it?).
All this needs to change. Yet, most of the widely circulated reports about improving schools pay scant attention to these concerns.
And while the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers opportunities for change, it also continues the piecemeal approach to addressing barriers to learning and teaching and reengaging disconnected students and families.
Direct actions for fundamental systemic changes are needed, To these ends, the National Initiative for Transforming Student and Learning Supports was inaugurated in 2015. (Groundwork was laid by the earlier initiative for New Directions for Student and Learning Supports.) The aims of this ongoing initiative are to mobilize direct actions for
• Elevating school improvement policy discussion about ending the marginalization of student and learning supports
• Moving toward transformation of such supports.
At the end of 2020, we were invited by the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) to prepare the following policy brief:
Restructuring California Schools to Address Barriers to Learning and Teaching in the COVID 19 Context and Beyond
The content, of course, is applicable to other states
What the Initiative Has Done Previously
Wide ranging outreach has been made to stakeholders concerned about school improvement, especially those focusing on enhancing equity of opportunity for students to succeed at school and beyond. Over 2019 and into 2020, special, but not exclusive, attention is on contacting key legislators in every state about reframing school improvement policy to move from a two to a three component framework.
Work on Clarifying the Need and Delineating New Directions
The initiative has provided analyses underscoring the need for transformation and has developed prototypes for new directions. See, for example, the following:
• Analyses of ESSA’s Focus on Addressing Barriers to Learning and TeachingIn addition, the work has been presented at professional conferences and workshops, integrated into the curriculum of pre-service and inservice courses, featured in textbooks and reports for school improvement. Exhibit 1 highlights a few examples.
• Evolving School Improvement Planning for Addressing Barriers to Learning and Teaching http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/evolving.pdf
• ESSA and Addressing Barriers to Learning and Teaching: Is there Movement toward Transforming Student/Learning Supports?
• How Well Do State Legislatures Focus on Improving School Efforts to Address Barriers to Learning and Teaching & Re engage Disconnected Students?
• Addressing Barriers to Learning: In the Classroom and Schoolwide
• Improving School Improvement
Stimulating Pioneering and Trailblazing Activity
Across the country state departments, districts, and schools have explored new directions for providing student/learning supports. The pioneering and trailblazing efforts have helped clarify the type of systemic changes that are required to succeed. They reflect "out-of-the-box thinking."
The various efforts have highlighted four key and interacting considerations that must be the focus of new directions thinking. First and foremost, they point to the need to
• Revisit school improvement policies in order to expand them in ways that will end the marginalization of student/learning supports
• Adopt intervention frameworks that unify and guide development of a comprehensive, equitable, and systemic learning supports component at every school
• Rework the infrastructure at school, complex, and district levels to ensure effective leadership, redefine roles and functions, and establish resource oriented mechanisms
• Develop strategic approaches to enable effective and sustainable systemic change and replication to scale
Early in the initiative, Scholastic, Inc. reached out to enter into a collaboration with our Center at UCLA to move the work forward. Exhibit 2 notes what Scholastic reports about the trailblazers.
Taken as a whole, the initiative offers a detailed blueprint for how student/learning supports can be transformed, resources to make it happen, and invaluable examples and lessons learned to aid moving forward. See http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/summit2002/trailblazing.htmA Call to Action – You Can Play a Role
Growing awareness and blueprints for new directions, makes this year an advantageous time for action by everyone concerned about ending the marginalization of student/learning supports. Here’s some ways:
(1) Be a potent voice advocating for
>Policy changes that can end the marginalization of efforts to address barriers to learning and teaching
>Development of a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system of student/learning supports
Consider doing the following:
• Participate at decision making and planning tables focused on school improvement so you can clarify the need to
>Expand from a two to a three-component policy framework
>Unify student/learning supports
>Develop the unified component into a comprehensive and equitable system
• Contact local media about covering
>The inadequacy of how schools address barriers to learning and teaching and reengage disconnected students
>Potential new directions that transform student/learning supports
(2) Advocate for transformative system changes with school improvement policy makers (e.g., legislators, principals, superintendents, mayors, governors, associations/organizations, unions, guilds, business and philanthropic leaders). Focus their attention on
• Ending the marginalization of student/learning supports by expanding school improvement policy from a two to a three component framework for planning and implementationExhibit 3 provides a links to resources that you can choose from in order to provide basic information and examples to others.
• Ceasing to generate student/learning support activity that further fragments, marginalizes, and results in counterproductive competition for sparse resources
• The need to help schools unify and develop a comprehensive and equitable system of student/learning supports
If you want us to send information to anyone, just let us know.
At a minimum, let us know your thoughts about direct action to elevate student and learning supports in policy as a nonmarginalized and unified system. That will help us in mobilizing others. (See examples in Exhibit 4).
Send your ideas and any information about what you see happening to Ltaylor@ucla.edu or to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Free resources, coaching, and technical assistance
To clarify why and how we provide free resources, coaching, and technical assistance, see
About Distance Coaching and Technical Assistance for Developing a Unified and Comprehensive System of Learning Support
CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH IN SCHOOLS
UCLA Department of Psychology
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563