Last month, our very own Brenda Gonzalez (Manager of Educational Operations) and Yoko Giron (Manager of Educational Services and Lead Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant) attended the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA) annual convention in Pasadena, CA. They got a chance to talk to many Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and Speech-Language Pathologist Assistants (SLPAs) and provide information on our programs so they can join our team! Thank you Brenda and Yoko for attending and spreading the word about our program!
A special "UE Shout Out" goes to Jenny Ortega and Danielle Morales, both Education For Change School Psychologists and our very own Seneca School Psychologists Pam Nieto, Anna Lisa Johannsdottir, and Laura Lopez for doing amazing work at their schools. We appreciate all the work you do with our students and happy you are a part of our amazing school teams!
Next month, Seneca’s second book Unconditional Education: Supporting Schools to Serve All Students will complete production. We caught up with Executive Director of School Partnerships Robin Detterman, who is also one of the book’s authors, to get a sneak peek at what we can expect from this next edition.
What’s this book about?
This is a book about transformational change in schools. Change at this level requires that we consider not only the actions of individual students, families, teachers or schools, but also the systemic conditions that create inequitable outcomes for so many of our nation’s youth. Even after decades of reform, America’s public schools continue to fail predictable groups of students, with the greatest opportunity gaps faced by those whose achievement is hindered by the complex stressors of disability, trauma, poverty, and institutionalized racism. Dramatic change is required to disrupt these existing patterns of inequity. Unconditional Education draws on what Seneca has learned from years of operating specialized education settings, such as counseling enriched classrooms and non-public schools. What we know is that in order for students to be ready to learn they must first experience safety, connection and a sense of belonging. It is not uncommon for students and families who participate in our intensive programs to report that it is the first time they feel welcomed or wanted at school - and that has to change.
Our current educational and mental health systems work on a “fail first” model where students must reach identified thresholds of failure to access certain services. This means that students who enter specialized programs have already experienced years of trouble in school. Rather than waiting for students to get to this point, we must build a system of education that focuses on wellness from the beginning, promoting prevention and early intervention over remediation, and where schools have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to be safe and inclusive places for all students, regardless of their presenting needs. This book highlights specific practices that make up the school transformation framework we have come to call Unconditional Education and discusses implementation successes and challenges within our partner schools.
How does this book connect to Unconditional Care?
In Seneca’s first book, Unconditional Care, John Sprinson articulated how attachment theory and behavioral leaning theory intersect to form the basis of Seneca’s treatment model bearing the same name. At the time of the book’s publication, our agency’s clinical approach was just expanding to also consider how addressing a client’s individual and community context was also needed to promote lasting and sustainable change. Based in systems theory, we now call this the Ecological Stream of our treatment model. Unconditional Education explores how the theoretical concepts behind each of the three streams of unconditional care (relational, behavioral, and ecological) can be applied to individual students and even whole schools.
Why write this book?
For many years, Seneca has sought to break down siloed systems and build a continuum of care across settings and sectors. In the beginning, the agency focused largely on mental and behavioral health interventions, but what we have come to know is that separating a child’s well-being from their success at school is both impossible and absurd. We hope that this book will serve to articulate a set of ideas that will inspire education and policy leaders to rethink the ways in which they support all students. In addition, we hope that the practices described in the book can provide guidance to the many practitioners it requires to enact this important work. The trials and tribulations captured throughout the book are a testament to the many amazing staff who have blazed the trail and continue to define what it takes to provide an unconditional education.
As we settle into the new school year one of the most pressing issues facing educators is that of school safety. Incidents of gun violence at school are statistically very rare, but these tragic events live within our cultural consciousness and occur with much greater frequency in the United States than any other part of the world. According to a 2016 US Department of Education Report more than 90% of public schools have developed a written plan for responding to school shootings and more than 70% of schools have conducted drills to practice those plans.
In recent months, several of our school partners have experienced verbal threats of violence and have had to put these crisis response protocols to the test. Thankfully, in each instance, no actual incidents of violence occurred, and the threats were deemed to lack credibility. In each instance, schools were able to successfully identify areas of concern and respond promptly to ensure the safety of their communities.
Partnering with schools through these incidents has led me to consider: What is it that Unconditional Education brings to the conversation on school safety?
Building upon the foundation of Unconditional Care, Unconditional Education emphasizes the important role relationship and connection play in the process of growth and learning. It has become commonly accepted that students must experience a relative sense of security in order to attend to the processes required for academic learning. However, what is further emerging is an understanding of how strong relationship in and of themselves contribute to a culture of safety.
While many schools across the country have installed metal detectors, security cameras and in some cases uniformed or even armed guards, there is no conclusive evidence that these measures work to prevent school violence. And in some cases, they may exacerbate troubling patterns of identification of perpetrators fueled by implicit bias.
A 2001 Safe Schools Initiative study conducted jointly by the United States Secret Service and Department of Education shed light on what we do know about incidents of youth violence, particularly mass violence, in the school setting with these 10 key findings:
Have a safe and happy school year!
Blog Post Written by: Robin Detterman, Executive Director of School Partnerships
Hello Amazing UE Team,
Over the past month or so we have been collecting feedback from our school partners as a part of our mid-year survey process. The Leadership and Management Teams have been reviewing school responses and have plans to share this information back with you, your school leadership, and partnership staff. I wanted to take this opportunity to share celebrate some great successes we’re seeing this school year!
To recap, the survey was sent to all staff at partnership sites with coaches who lead COST and focus on culture and climate efforts. At sites where we don’t have coaches, the survey was sent just to staff who had students receiving a Seneca service. We had over 200 respondents from 18 schools and the average time it took to complete the survey was just over 4 minutes! Even within this short time frame we received a slew of valuable feedback. Here is what we learned:
Culture and Climate Goals
Student Progress Monitoring
In addition to these quantitative measures, we received 131 positive comments! It was really great to hear so much positive feedback from partnership staff – even referencing how helpful it is to know their student’s internal working model!!! Here’s a sampling of what was said:
These comments warm my heart and truly make me proud to be a part of this amazing effort. I hope they also bring you a bit of joy! Keep up the great work!
Blog Post Written by:
Robin Detterman, Executive Director of School Partnerships
All-In! Partnership Team