Partnering for the Whole Child: Tacoma Public Schools
At Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, we’ve seen how much more we can accomplish when we work together. Since 1981, community members have shared their commitment to a thriving Pierce County by partnering with GTCF to bring their vision to life and build a legacy for future generations. In our 2018 yearbook, Pierce County Partners, a few of our partners shared their lessons and insights from working to strengthen Pierce County.
GTCF and Tacoma Public Schools, along with expanded learning providers and other nonprofits, are working together on the Tacoma Whole Child partnership to ensure all students are healthy, safe, engaged, and challenged both in the classroom and during Expanded Learning Opportunities.
” A first grader came up to me and said, ‘So you are the superintendent?’ I said, ‘Yes’. And he said, ‘What are your goals for this week?’ “Those precocious questions from our little ones and our solid data show that lives are positively changing.”
Superintendent Carla Santorno sees the difference the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative has made, “I have certainly had a lot more ids come up to me and ask proactive questions that I never would have had before. A first grader came up to me and said, ‘So you are the superintendent?’ I said, ‘Yes.” And he said, ‘What are your goals for this week?’
“Those precocious questions from our little ones and our solid data show that lives are positively changing. The results are profound higher test scores, decreases in discipline. And I love it when our students hold us to a higher standard.
“Every school district has some partnerships. We have 268. And to all be rowing your boat in the same direction, that’s what is unusual,” Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno knows why the district has drawn so much national attention. Recent successes, like the 86.1 percent graduation rate in 2017, have been achieved through professional collaboration with community partners, “So not just coming together and talking, but talking about specific collaborative goals that we set together.”
The Tacoma Whole Child Initiative was launched in partnership with University of Washington-Tacoma in 2012 to make sure students are understood and have their needs met academically, socially, and emotionally. “If you blend academics with the concepts of the Whole Child Initiative, the self-management, the empathy, the care for others, and problem solving, then you are building a whole child.” But, Carla points out that school instruction still only covers part of a student’s day, “It can’t be just school. It has got to be a real community effort.”
In 2017, as part of the ongoing Tacoma Whole Child partnership, Tacoma Public Schools partnered with GTCF to develop aligned, equitable, high-quality, social, emotional, and academic practices for elementary school students in and out of school. Staff who interact with students—on the school bus, in hallways, in classrooms and expanded learning opportunities—will model and support the same social and emotional practices.
Success for students starts with adults working together. For Carla, managing 268 community partners, “is about a well-crafted dance –you know when to curtsy and when to do-si-do. And our objective is, again, to provide well-rounded support to our students.”