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ASCD honored Butterfield Trail Middle School in Van Buren, Arkansas, with the 2017 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. Executive Director Deborah S. Delisle presented the award to Principal Karen Endel during the Opening General Session of ASCD Empower17 in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, March 25.
"Butterfield Trail Middle School is setting an example for schools across the country of how to meet the needs of every student," said Delisle.
Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award recognizes schools that have moved beyond a vision for educating the whole child to actions that result in learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.
Butterfield Trail exceeded that vision, even down to their award application, a labor of love completed by a leadership committee of nine, with additional support and review by a larger team of 56 teachers, students, administrative staff, counselors and therapists, maintenance staff, parents, and community members.
"We have a great team and great families, and we believe in the whole child," explained Endel.
Butterfield Trail incorporates the whole child approach into school culture for its 663 students in grades 6–8, and distributed leadership ensures all educators, administrators, and other staff are held accountable for every student. That culture begins with the promise of a safe, secure, and caring environment. Teachers and staff work to implement measures that ensure the safety of students on their way to and from school and throughout the school day. As a result, attendance has steadily held at 95 percent for the last two years, and discipline infractions have decreased.
Teacher-led leadership teams share best practices and professional development tools to create student-centered learning experiences. Students also keep tabs on their own learning using weekly grade and behavior monitoring, a method that allows them to reflect on and adjust their weekly goals, demonstrate continuous improvement, and take ownership of their academic progress.
"Although I want to see our data continue to improve, that's not why I come to school every day. It's because of the relationships among our staff, students, and families that strengthen our commitment to make the difference for each of our students," explained Endel.
The school even flipped the traditional parent-teacher conference to a model where students take the lead. Held twice per year, student-led family conferences have more than doubled participation to 89 percent in just a few short years.
Butterfield Trail is dedicated to enhancing the quality of student health. Within just a few years, the addition of a grab-and-go offering to the breakfast program has increased the number of students participating by 27 percent. Growing produce in the school's sustainable garden is an experiential learning method that incorporates science and nutrition into instruction while promoting long-term health education.
Twice per year, the school employs Expeditionary Learning Units, an immersive, interdisciplinary approach that integrates standards, curricula, and a local civic issue into instruction, challenging students to become "leaders of their own learning." Community partnerships allow the greater community to come together for service projects, such as the partnership with the Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House to help families affected by the disease and the Great Kindness Challenge, which encourages tolerance, unity, and respect.
Schools throughout North America applied for the 2017 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award, but it was Butterfield Trail that rose to the top of a pool of qualified applicants.
"As principal of Butterfield Trail Middle School, I take every opportunity I can to speak with my local legislators about our kids and the whole child approach because we don't do enough of that," said Endel. "We've got to remember why we're here, and we're here for the whole child."
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