We all seek balance in our lives. Indeed, the search for balance is a fundamental part of the human condition. Imagine how much more enjoyable — and effective — our schools would be if we assessed them, in part, through this prism?

To that end, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has proposed a broader, more balanced definition of achievement and accountability that promotes the development of children who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. As part of its Whole Child Initiative, ASCD asks communities to strive for greater balance by making sure:

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each graduate is challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment.

Additionally, the Five Freedoms Project urges schools to consider the extent to which:

  • Administrators have established structures and/or accorded meaningful roles in decision-making to students, parents, staff and community members
  • There is alignment between what the community values and how people interact with each other
  • Effective vehicles are in place to help the school routinely communicate to its parents and the larger community
  • Effective vehicles are in place to help parents and the larger community routinely communicate with the school
  • Teachers from different disciplines communicate with and work together on a regular basis
  • Teachers, on average, spend no more than 20% of their time providing lecture-driven instruction
  • Teachers incorporate both formative (instructional) and summative (evaluative) assessments into their evaluations of student progress
  • Teachers routinely solicit, listen to, reflect upon, and integrate student feedback into their work

As ASCD urges, we must “call on parents, educators, policymakers, and communities to join forces to ensure our children become productive, engaged citizens. Our children deserve an education that emphasizes academic rigor as well as the essential 21st-century skills of critical thinking and creativity.”

5 Things You Can Do: Balance