Students go to the Hill

2011 Annual Federal Education Policy Institute focuses on supporting vulnerable students in schools: Policy directions for the nation

03/21/2011  |  Dr. Carol Kochhar-Bryant
Issues in Education

The George Washington (GW) University’s Federal Education Policy Institute responds to current issues in education each year. This year’s Institute, held by GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, will focus on recent research and reports from the Obama administration that too many students leave school unprepared for college and work, and too many teachers are unprepared to address the needs of students with complex barriers to learning. 

According to Dr. Carol Kochhar-Bryant, Professor and Chair of the Department of Special Education and Disability Studies, and Robert Ianacone, the school’s Associate Dean for Operations and Professor of Special Education, “Many educational professionals are not prepared for the profound nature of the life experiences some students face that make them highly vulnerable, undermine their ability to learn and progress in school, and make them unable to connect with adults and peers.” 

These are children and youth with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and community unrest, orphans and foster children, children with chronic health conditions, sexually exploited students, refugee families, and children whose families and homes are threatened by crushing economic circumstances beyond their control. Furthermore, emerging research in developmental and cognitive science reveals strong relationships between social and emotional health and learning.

This is a timely topic for schools and communities across the nation that face staggering social and economic costs resulting from the growing numbers of children and youth with highly complex barriers to learning. What can schools do? What can communities do? What can the state and federal governments do? How does policy work to solve such compelling problems?

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development, in collaboration with the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), will hold a week-long three-credit institute July 6-12, that will take participants to Capitol Hill, the halls of the Department of Education and GW’s Foggy Bottom campus in Washington, DC. The 2011 Federal Education Policy Institute will focus on understanding the policy making process, the changing federal role in education, and directions of the Federal administration in linking agencies to address complex educational needs. Participants will learn how federal agencies are forming new connections among education, health and human services, and justice, to address school environments that promote educational progress. In addition, participants will engage with national leaders who seek political and practical solutions to create environments of support for vulnerable students.

A core goal of the Policy Institute is to help participants understand the policy-making process and the historic, dynamic federal role in education. Speakers will discuss research on the relationship of healthy environments, to educational success and the definition and need for comprehensive approaches to assisting children with complex barriers to learning. Participants will also learn how to connect with national leaders and organizations to engage in processes of change and reform that benefit children and youth.

During the institute, students and participants will visit Capitol Hill and the U.S. Department of Education offices to talk with various policy directors. The course will be led by Robert Ianacone, Carol Kochhar-Bryant, and Dr. Stacy Skalski, psychologist and policy director for the National Association of School Psychologists. 

Examples of speakers who have been invited include:

  • Jack Jennings, President and CEO of the Center on Education Policy;
  • Michael Usdan, recognized author on education and former Director of the Institute for Educational Leadership;
  • Jill Cook, Director of Education Programs for the American School Counseling Association;
  • Richard Home, Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy;
  • Policy leaders in Health and Human Services, Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and Justice;
  • Representatives from key House and Senate committees addressing education and mental health concerns.

Stacy Sklaski, director of public policy for NASP, will discuss how current mental health policy and legislation works and how organizations can get involved in forming a legislative agenda. Sklaski, a former school counselor, says that one out five children in schools will have a mental health need.

“Schools are not just about academics,” Sklaski warns. “Children who are significantly distracted in school have a much higher chance of getting in trouble with the juvenile justice system.” She claims that there is a gap within the Department of Education because a position dedicated to eliminating barriers does not exist; “we have to bring the focus on the whole child and keep it there.”

PREPaRE: School Crisis Prevention and Intervention Training Curriculum

Participants can also elect to attend a one-day optional workshop on July  , related to school crisis intervention at the Media and Public Affairs Building, Rm. 310, 805 21st Street NW, Washington, DC. Participants receive 6.5 hours of CEU for the basic workshop (additional 4.0 hours for the Trainer of Trainers follow-up workshop. Both are NBCC and APA approved).

Participants are urged to join Special Saturday Workshop on the PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention Curriculum, a must for all school-based personnel offered in partnership with NASP. The NASP trainers developed the curriculum and have also had direct experience in a number of national school crisis intervention, including Columbine, and have worked with many schools throughout the nation that have administratively restructured to prevent and intervene in a variety of serious crises that affect the school as a whole. This non-credit workshop is available to faculty, students and professional community members on a space available basis. 

The workshop reviews the crisis intervention and recovery element of the PREPaRE curriculum. Specifically, the workshop is designed to provide teachers, administrators and school-based mental health professionals with the knowledge and initial skills needed to meet the immediate needs of students and staff following a school-associated crisis event. The PREPaRE model suggests that, as members of a school crisis team, school-based mental health professionals must be involved in a hierarchical and sequential set of activities, preventing and preparing for psychological traumas, helping to reaffirm the physical health of members of the school community and students’ perceptions that they are safe and secure, evaluating the degree of psychological trauma, responding to the psychological needs of members of the school community, and examining the effectiveness of school crisis intervention and recovery efforts..

Date and Location:  One week: July 6, 7, 8, 11 & 12, 8:30 am-5:00 pm, at The George Washington University, School of Media and Public Affairs Building, Rm. 310, 805 21st Street NW, Washington, DC.

Dr. Carol Kochhar-Bryant is Professor and Chair of the Department of Special Education and Disability Studies at The George Washington University.For more information on GWU visit
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  8/20/2011 7:04:30 AM

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