Posts by Paul Costello1

Changing Mindsets-Re-building Trust

Wayne Dyer - If you change the way you look at things, the...

I have just finished a ZOOM meeting with Ben, one of the great members of Project CHANGE 2019-2020 and I just want to share the overflow of our conversation so that I do not forget what came out of our sharing.

Ben is serving his second year with MCPS and about to sign on for his third and he is someone we cherish in our team because he is so reflective, always curious to not just understand the actions and choices but the belief and assumptions that underlie most of what we do.

Ben has a number of hunches that he has been testing out during his year of service and he says, they have worked to shift his mindset. Let me try and summarize some of them.

1. Right now, there seems to be something missing in how we experience community and trust and our shared sense of purpose. There are solutions but if we are to get at the heart of this, we need to ask ourselves what builds trust?

Brush lettering quote anything is possible at Vector Image

2.Ben says that formal meetings driven by time and agenda often never achieve their full potential because people are afraid to take risks. If they experience a sense of friendship, that goes along with the work ethic, that could make a difference, but how does one build more than a functional togetherness?

3. Trust goes along with a sense of possibility, that as we engage with each other, we leave behind our limits and our pessimism and that we presume that if we can connect, there are ways to share and ways to work that could take us to territory that we have never experienced before. Trust feeds on the sense of possibility that it creates.

4. Ben also questions the role that criticism plays and that while we say that constructive critisism is necessary at times, he says that more often than not, it shuts people down and dilutes the trust. He suspects that one can get to the same place that the criticism aims to take us without a conversation that calls out another for what they are doing wrong.

5. Ben has a superb reputatilon at MCPS and when I asked him how he achieved such recognition and affection, he said simply that he has learned to live and work together without using criticism. He has taught himself a way to ask questions and to rephrase what might have sounded like “Do it better this way” into an offer or an invitation or a contribution. He is careful with his conversations and deliberate about the words he chooses to use.

6. Ben is on a mission to find more people who think like this and want to expore the reflective way into more effective practices in terms of how we team together, how we build trust and how we move together toward a more healthy community.

7. One has conversations in AmeriCorps that are usually devoted to the stories of service and the challenges to be overcome, but this conversation is truly fitting for a program that calls itself Project CHANGE.

Commission Submits Recommendations to Encourage Americans to Serve

Students meet soldiers.

“We found that as the case was 200 years ago during the earliest days of the republic, America’s extraordinary and long-standing spirit of service continues to shape our nation,” said Joe Heck, the commission chairman. “Americans repeatedly step up in support of each other, offering their sweat and ingenuity when needed, without expectation of anything in return.”

Cultivating that spirit of service is behind the recommendations, the commission chairman said, because much work lies ahead. “We have not unlocked the full transformational potential of service to address critical national and local needs and reinforce the civic fabric of American society,” Heck said. “Our vision is of a nation in which service is a common expectation and experience of all Americans — when it is the norm, not the exception, [and] when every American is inspired, and eager to serve.”

The commission looks toward 5 million Americans serving in one capacity or another in the military, in organizations such as the Peace Corps, or in federally supported national service opportunities each year, Heck said, as well as a modernized government personnel system “attracting and enabling Americans with critical skills and new generations to enter public service.”

The commission’s long-term goal is a culture of service in the United States that attracts people of all backgrounds who aspire to participate in opportunities to serve their communities or nation, Heck said. Read More

Middle school is often difficult. Try experiencing it under quarantine.

By Steven Yoder June 19, 2020 at 11:03 a.m. EDTAdd to list

May I have this (virtual) dance?

Leah Hampton, an eighth-grader at Falling Creek Middle School in Virginia, jokes that without her friends she’d sleep through school. Seeing them was “the best part of the day,” she said. “They woke me up before my classes.”

Her mother, Leomia Hampton, says after classes went online in mid-March, that wasn’t far from the truth. “It’s very difficult to keep her motivated, very difficult to even keep her awake,” she said of working with her daughter at home.

Early adolescence is a time of rapid cognitive changes, when kids assert their independence from parents, form their own identities and become hyper-dependent on (and sensitive to) interactions with peers. Their “social brains” are developing quickly, and they are Hoovering up information from the world around them to figure out who they are and how they fit in. Read On

Baltimore students protest for anti-racist curriculum: ‘We don’t know the truth’

By Lauren Lumpkin June 19, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EDTAdd to list

Can the American Black Lives Matter movement trigger an African ...

A’niya Taylor, a 16-year-old student at Baltimore City College, smoothed her green hair and held onto a microphone.

“This is not a moment, but a movement!” she shouted.

Taylor has organized protests before, for students bucking against climate change and, more recently, for young people resisting police brutality. On a recent afternoon she corralled a group of about a thousand teenagers in front of Baltimore School for the Arts, a public high school nestled in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The teens were bubbling; many hadn’t seen each other in person since March, when the novel coronavirus forced school buildings to close.

But the story behind the reunion was more somber. Motivated by the death of George Floyd, and eager to ride the national momentum generated by movements like Black Lives Matter, the teens assembled on a hot afternoon to demand that Maryland schools rewrite their curriculum to be more honest about systemic racism and slavery.

In Baltimore — a city still mourning Freddie Gray, 25, who died five years ago of a spinal-cord injury he suffered in police custody — roughly 3 out of 4 public school students are black. But those students say they feel neglected — by unconsciously biased teachers, by a Eurocentric curriculum, by racist policies. Statewide, black children make up about one-third of the student body.

Nyah Jackson, 17, one of the protest’s lead organizers, just finished her senior year at the arts high school. State and city school officials “have not done enough to be completely anti-racist,” she said.

She and several arts school classmates demanded reforms across Maryland’s 24 school districts. They want more equitable access to resources, improved mental health support for black children, and heartier lessons onblack history and literature. After watching fiery riots explode in other cities and police clash violently with protesters in their own, they say teenagers just want to learn — mostly about how America reached the point of chaos. Read More

As long as Montgomery County fails to teach children to read, it will have gaps

A stock photo of a Montgomery County Public Schools bus. Dec. 23, 2015. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Image without a caption

No one who has paid attention could be surprised by the recent report that Montgomery County has failed to narrow test score gaps.

Karin Chenoweth is a longtime education writer and the parent of two graduates of Montgomery County’s Albert Einstein High School. From 1999 to 2004, she wrote the Homeroom column for The Post. She is author of “Schools That Succeed: How Educators Marshal the Power of Systems for Improvement.”

The county has spent a lot more time posturing as a national education leader than actually doing things that would make it an education leader, and a lot more time soothing public opinion than improving instruction and ensuring equity.

Part of the reason is complacency. Like many wealthy districts, Montgomery County Public Schools can rely on a large base of parents who pay close attention to whether their children learn to read and do math and who get outside help when their children falter. The wealthier areas of the county are crowded with commercial and private tutors. This makes it difficult to gauge the quality of the instruction in Montgomery County schools. Read More

Lockdowns are taking a toll on young people’s mental health. Everyone should be alarmed.

The data are stark on this point. Among those aged 18 to 29, 42 percent reported symptoms of anxiety and 36 percent had symptoms of depression. Those numbers decline with each successive age cohort, reaching their low points among respondents 80 years old or older. Only 11 percent of the most elderly had anxiety symptoms, and only 9 percent presented as depressed.

A recent study from the Census Bureau shows that about half of Americans reported symptoms of depression in early May, double that from a similar study in 2013-2014. In one sense, that’s unsurprising; nearly 100,000 people have died of covid-19, and more than 30 million have lost their jobs. What might be surprising, however, is that symptoms of psychological distress are directly correlated with age. The younger the person, the likelier he or she is to experience mental health issues. Read On

Congratulations to the Class of 2020

We salute your service and your perseverance through tough times. You all stayed in the story of service and worthily celebrated your achievements together yesterday. Project CHANGE is proud of what you have done.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019-2020

Yesterday, we held our graduation event on ZOOM brilliantly organized by member Genean Hines Grobe and catered for by member Claire Ettinger. It was our first ever graduation event held virtually and it was a lot of fun. Three members shared their stories and toasted and celebrated each other for their year of service. The highlight was the special presentations by AmeriCorps members summing up their year.

Maria shared her love for the students of Kemp Mills Elementary School. When her sister died during the year, Maria took time off to be with her family and when she finally returned to service, the students in Grade 5 wlecomed her back with so much love and enthusiasm. One kid told her exactly how many days she had been away- he had been counting the days.

Lex shared highlights of her work with Courageous Queens with Family Learning Solutions and how she came into this work. Lex emphasized how important it is for young people to have the courage to believe in themselves.

And Genean…well, you can hear her speak for herself here. Enjoy and be inspired.

Black Lives Matter – A Statement from The Corps Network

We stand with the Black community, as well as other people of color, who have been living with and fighting against systemic racism for decades. Our country has work to do to stand up to racism, oppression, and injustice wherever it exists.

As the national association of service and conservation Corps, The Corps Network’s mission is to advance programs that transform young people’s lives and communities through career development, civic engagement, and conservation. Collectively, our programs serve nearly 25,000 young adults, or Corpsmembers, each year. Corps offer the opportunity for young people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side to improve their communities and the environment.

The Corps Network’s member organizations operate across the country, including in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, DC, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and many other places experiencing mass protests against the inexcusable death of yet another Black man at the hands of police. The death of George Floyd is not an isolated incident but rather the latest in a long and shameful list of examples of systemic racism against Black Americans and people of color.

We see our Black young people impacted by systemic racism every day, not just by the police and the justice system, but by lack of access to high quality education, good jobs, adequate health care, nutritious food, and safe places to enjoy the outdoors. The oppression of people of color – by the very systems charged with the health, wellbeing, and safety of all Americans – must stop.

As people around the world witness and engage in protests, some have recalled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Our country – specifically white Americans – need to hear the anger in recent events, educate themselves, and take action to address racism. The organization “Girl Trek” recently started their “Black History “Boot Camp” with the words of Audre Lorde from her posthumously published book Your Silence Will Not Protect You. One of the essays in this book is entitled, “Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” We realize that now is not the time for Silence. Now is the Time for Action. 
Through the work of The Moving Forward Initiative, The Corps Network has looked to transform silence into language and action via educational blogs, our Town Hall discussions, our annual conference and other resources. Know that The Corps Network is committed to advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are here for the hard work, but we realize that we will need to reach out to our friends and partners as we chart our path forward. None of us can create change alone.
This week marks the start of Great Outdoors Month. We are reminded of the healing power of nature, but we also must acknowledge that good health and access to the outdoors are more of a privilege than a right in our country. In addition to recent protests, COVID-19 (and the health and racial disparities this pandemic laid bare) is at the forefront of our minds. We want you to know that, in more ways than one, we aim to promote a healthy future for our Corps, Corpsmembers and their communities. In this moment, we stand in solidarity with the Black community and challenge our white colleagues and friends to examine their privilege and step up. We all must hold each other accountable; systematic injustice and inequality calls for systematic change. As Audre Lorde pointed out, “Your Silence Will Not Protect You.”

Mary Ellen Sprenkel
President & CEO
The Corps Network

June 2, 2020

But what do the students feel about themselves in all of this?

MCPS, County Hold Grand Opening of Regional Pre-K Facility in ...

The AmeriCorps members of Project CHANGE Montgomery meet each week and compare notes on how they think their students are coping. While most kids are taking it in their stride, a lot are battling difficult conditions at home, finding study hard and getting depressed. It’s not that they are missing school but what school offers them outside of the classroom- friends, interactons, sport, fun, games, just hanging out.

In response to having one week’s notice to take school on line, most school districts have realized what a heavy lift that is. Teachers were not trained for this. But what they are also discovering even more is that ZOOM classes do not recreate the welcoming community that students need to be open to learning. As one of the MCPS leadership team said this week, “What we have at MCPS is a mental health crisis.” She went on to say that “the SEL needs for students are off the charts.”

That is where Project CHANGE Montgomery comes in. Right now, the program is preparing to play are more significant and impactful role in supporting MCPS students in their isolation. We must do more to ensure that social bonds are not broken, and that students do not lose faith in themselves. To that end, our SEL instument is being developed into the MYSCORE app. Every student that AmeriCorps servese will be able to connect to members and share their score so we know how our students feel they are coping in real time. Then we will be able to repond.

Our 5C’s of learning come out of the culture of both the school and it’s community, the nation and the economy, and the state of the world. It is not about just grasping a text book. How can students remain confident, curious and engaged with learning, collaborative and emotionally expressive, courageous and resilient and hopeful.

The Pursuit of Equity

The last time that MCPS had a full scale survey of student attitudes was conducted by GALLUP polling 7 years ago. They were after data on three items that echo the 5Cs of learning of MYSCORE. They asked students questions that would measure a students level of engagement, their overall wellness and their sense of Hope. The results are to be found here and here.

The results?

“Gallup research shows that the more connected students feel to school, the better chance they have of taking advantage of all that schools have to offer.

In a way, that is what we would expect but when education is seen as so totally school-centric, the larger family and economic, national and cultural factors are not given sufficient weight into what attitudes a student comes to form about him or herself as a successful life learner. The school cannot do that alone.

In the discussion at the time, some experts explained why the survey was so important. “Gallup’s student survey is based on 40 years of social science research that suggests that “hope, engagement and well-being” are measurable, manipulable variables. Studies indicate that these factors can better predict how well students do in school and the likelihood of future success than standard academic measures such as grade-point averages and test scores, said Timothy Hodges, director of research for the polling firm’s education arm.” ( Washington Post July 17th 2013)

That is precisely where MYSCORE and Project CHANGE come in. We have to pick up where the GALLUP poll left off. Our students need a way to score how they see themselves as coping, and be able to share that.