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Sponsored Initiatives:

Attending to Students and the Schoolhouse

 Energy
 

From teen pregnancy prevention and HIV/AIDS to environmentally sound schools and discipline reform, AASA supports a wide range of initiatives that have a direct bearing on schools and students. These activities are funded by grants obtained from other youth-serving organizations, foundations, corporate bodies and government agencies.

By securing these additional funds, AASA is able to expand its programs beyond what it could do solely through membership dues. Much of the external funding is multiyear, while some has had a limited time frame.

To help members and the wider education field gain meaningful information on best practices, AASA does research, prepares surveys, publishes books and reports and leads workshops and forums. In 2014, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided a one-year $300,000 grant to support AASA’s work with three districts to assess, analyze and redesign teacher professional development systems.

The association also is responsive to member districts’ requests for support of small projects through the urgent need mini-grants program, which since 2001 has distributed awards of $100 to $5,000 to more than a hundred school districts to address temporary shelter, food and clothing needs for poor children and families. The recipient school leaders determine how best to address the individuals’ needs.

AASA also reaches out to the larger community through Ready by 21, which has received more than $1 million from the Forum for Youth Investment since 2007 to help districts build community partnerships to increase college readiness and success. AASA contributed $125,000 to five districts in 2013 to expand out-of-school learning opportunities.

Changing Behavior

AASA has addressed children’s health, well-being and development for 40 years, the last 24 under the guidance of Sharon Adams-Taylor, associate executive director of children’s initiatives and program development.

“We have an air and ground campaign when working with school districts that affords us the opportunity to provide direct technical assistance and support to a smaller number of districts, with a plan to impart those lessons to every school district in the country,” she says. “This easily leads to sustainability and replicability, which is what we want.”

Helping educators in the schools deal with potentially unhealthy teen behavior was approached through several avenues. In 1988, the MetLife Foundation funded teen suicide prevention guides for school-age children and parents. Prevention programs dealing with drug and alcohol use, school discipline and teen pregnancy also were started.

Younger children in 4th through 6th grades were targeted by Options for Pre-Teens, a p

Children
Superintendent Heath Grimes eats breakfast in the classroom on the first day of school in Lawrence County, Ala., which received a grant from AASA to support the daily offering.
revention and youth development program. OPT received $2.7 million in funding from 1989 to 1994 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Corporation for National and Community Service and several foundations, including Joseph Drown, W.K. Kellogg, S.H. Cowell, Pew Charitable Trusts, C.S. Mott, Henry J. Kaiser, Stuart and Robert Wood Johnson.

Sponsors also supported AASA in the reform of student discipline through two grants. AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund received $125,000 from The Atlantic Philanthropies in 2013 to work with 10 school districts for 18 months on revamping discipline policies and practices, with a goal of reducing out-of-school suspensions and racial disparities. In 2011, through a $30,000 grant from the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, AASA surveyed 10 school districts and contributed to the Justice Center’s School Discipline Consensus Project.

Healthier Children

School breakfasts, obesity, health insurance and healthy snacks are only a few of the health-related challenges tackled by AASA over four decades. In the 1980s, AASA secured grants from the U.S. Public Health Service, CDC, MetLife and health insurance organizations for technical assistance, conferences, surveys, curriculum guides and workshops on teen drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS, youth suicide and teen pregnancy.

When HIV/AIDS emerged as a public health issue in the 1980s, AASA was at the forefront of articulating the issues and needs as they related to K-12 education about prevention of this disease. AASA was the first traditional education association to address HIV education and prevention at its national conference in 1988. The CDC provided the assocation more than $1 million to support training of 5,000 teachers and administrators in 40 states to implement HIV/AIDS education programs in the schools. The MetLife Foundation also provided funds to develop an HIV/AIDS curriculum guide and multi-media presentation, “AIDS: Education’s Deadly Imperative.”

Among other health-related projects managed by AASA was the creation of a resource kit on family fitness and health, funded by Allstate Insurance Company in 1992 and piloted in 9,300 elementary schools in six states.

A five-year project begun in 2011, Strengthening School Administrators for Coordinated School Health, was funded by the CDC for $1.2 million. It encourages training a cadre of school administrators to promote policies and activities in support of coordinated school health, school improvement plans that incorporate health policies and higher education programs that include pre-service training on the importance of health to academic achievement.

AASA tackled a leading cause of student absenteeism — asthma — for 10 years starting in 2001, thanks to $1.5 million in cooperative agreements from the CDC. Association staff developed and distributed materials to school districts on reducing the burden of asthma on school-aged children. It also teamed with the National School Boards Association to build a five-state collaborative to address asthma management issues.

With childhood obesity affecting nearly 20 percent of school-aged children, AASA is focusing on how to ensure that schools are providing healthy snacks, foods and beverages. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded this work from 2004 to 2009 and again from 2012 to 2014. AASA also works on childhood hunger through its school breakfast program, which reaches thousands of students each year. The Walmart Foundation signed on to a $4.75 million grant to encourage urban schools to increase participation in school breakfast programs.

And to ensure that many of the 8 million children lacking health insurance in this country have access to adequate insurance, in 2011 AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund partnered on an initiative to enroll children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program through a $1 million grant over two years from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A three-year grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, received in 2013, is geared to schools in California and Texas.

Schoolhouse Planning

AASA’s interest and commitment to first-rate schoolhouse planning dates back to 1949 when its annual yearbook was titled American School Building. Since that time, the association has been involved in facility matters such as energy conservation and indoor air quality to provide a suitable environment for the more than 53 million children in classrooms. Gary Marx, former AASA associate director, recalled a comment from a member superintendent that validates AASA’s work: “We expect our students to spend their days in schools in an environment that we wouldn’t tolerate in our shopping malls.”

In 1992, AASA and the Environmental Protection Agency began a partnership on indoor air quality in schools that lasted 20 years. The EPA provided more than $2 million, and AASA secured technical assistance, training and toolkits for use in 16 urban school districts, in addition to publishing a host of research-based materials for all schools. In addition, the association established a coalition of 25 urban and rural school districts to share information on maintaining healthy school environments.

With nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, private industry and 10 demonstration schools, AASA completed work in 1980 on the Saving Schoolhouse Energy project to remodel and conserve energy in those school sites.

School buildings themselves have been highlighted since 1950 when AASA joined with the American Institute of Architecture to recognize the best new or redesigned school buildings at the association’s national conference, where photographs and models were exhibited. In 1990, an actual Classroom of the Future was constructed at the convention site, funded by the US West Foundation.

In connection with the annual exhibit, AASA created training filmstrips and distributed them to members so the school districts could adopt the latest thinking about facility construction, design and use. Publications such as “To Re-Create a School Building – ‘Surplus’ Space, Energy and Other Challenges” in 1978 and “Quality of Life … Investing in Our Children’s Future,” supported by the Associated General Contractors of America added to school chiefs’ understanding. In 2004, AASA’s widely quoted “Schoolhouse in the Red” concentrated on the state of aging facilities and what it would take to improve them to benefit students and learning.

Marian Kisch is a freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md. E-mail: mariankisch@verizon.net

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