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ELNC16 Opening Comments from Scott Hartl, EL Education President & CEO

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    Alexis Margolin

Welcome everyone to 24th annual EL National Conference! Are you excited? 

I know that for me, the energy, the learning, the community that happens at this conference is a highlight of my year. I hope it is for you too.

I’m Scott Hartl, and it is my good fortune to serve as the President of EL Education.

Scott Presents

I think of this conference as a gathering of a extended family, a Crew connected by shared beliefs about how education should and can be. 

We are a growing community. Some of you here today are: 

  • Whole School partners with EL. 
  • Others of you are literacy-focused partners – working with EL to bring great curriculum to life for students. 
  • And some of you are researchers, policy makers, board members, or friends and strategic allies of EL. 

It is my honor to welcome you ALL to this conference. This is NC # 24 and I have been to all but one of them. Anybody out there been to all 24 of them…? That’s great!

I don’t know about you, but from my perspective I have never been prouder of our collective work and the positive impact that it is having than I am today.

This room is full of stories that illustrate this point, I am going to get us started by telling you three of them: 

When Amana Academy, in Alpharetta, GA opened in 2005 they faced community rumors, fears, and even threats due to the high proportion of Muslim students and their focus on Arabic language learning. 

Ten years later, Amana is a thriving school recognized within and beyond its community for excellence, and is teaching students to solve global problems by combining science and stewardship. 

  • Principal Cherisse Campbell has been named the 2016 Georgia Science Teachers Association’s Administrator of the Year. 
  • Amana has recently won the Georgia School of Excellence Award, 
  • And it is the first middle school to be STEM certified in its county. 

And they have accomplished all of this while still retaining their focus on Arabic heritage and language. 

We are very proud of you Amana! 

Now in Denver, Colorado…Second graders at the Downtown Denver Expeditionary Learning School learned as part of an expedition that transportation issues can often have a transformative impact on the development a community. 

And when they realized that the current public light rail system in Denver was pricing out and isolating many Denver families, some their own classmates, they took action. 

They went down to Union Station — Denver’s public transportation hub — and publicly shared their learning and advocated for affordable prices on light rail passes. 

These seven-year-olds raised over $3,000, provided light rail passes to those in their community that needed them, and most importantly, brought public awareness to a major problem in their city. 

Now that is an ethic of service in action! 

The Ezra L. Nolan Middle School is in Jersey City, NJ and they are a literacy-focused partner working with EL as part of our Teacher Potential Project. 

85% of the students at Ezra Nolan are low income and 29% have identified special needs, and there is a long history of poor achievement in the single digits of proficiency. 

After only one year of implementing the EL literacy curriculum with support from our coaches, the school reports profound changes in the quality of teaching across its classrooms. 

And, 6th and 7th grade reading scores have up to tripled the rates of literacy proficiency. 

And In the words of Principal Francine Luce: 

“The impact of this work is spreading throughout the school, changing the very culture of what is happening at Ezra Nolan.” 

This room is full or stories like this. 

And I love that the quality education happening in EL schools across the country is now being recognized at a quickly increasing rate. 

In just the last year, since our NC in San Diego: 

Seven EL Teachers have won awards as “teacher of the year” from their state or a major education group...as were five school leaders. 

It is pretty remarkable that over the last two years the state teacher or principal of the year in seven different states has come from an EL school! 

And, this year at least 15 EL network schools won awards for their accomplishments! 

Can everyone who won an award or who is affiliated with one of these schools please stand for our recognition? 

Some of the most important aspects of an EL education for students are also the hardest to measure: 

  • Aspects of Character like Compassion and Perseverance. 
  • An ethic of service and civic contribution. 
  • Teamwork and leadership. 
  • And craftsmanship and care for quality work. 

Some things just do not need to be measured. But they do need to be understood if we are to achieve them with consistency. 

And I am proud that some of the very best researchers are now focusing their work in EL classrooms. 

Why? Because the EL network has an incredibly high concentration of GREAT teachers. 

And, it is a tradition at thisconference to celebrate the work of the MANY great teachers across EL schools through the bestowing of The Klingenstein Teacher award. 

The award is named after Lee Klingenstein, our founding Board Chair. Without Lee, none of us would not be sitting in this room together today. 

And while Lee’s bio is lengthy and impressive, there is really only one thing you need to know to understand Lee’s core beliefs. 

For 24 years, from the inception of EL, Lee has been an unfailing champion of two messages:

  1. That character matters every bit as much as academic preparation. 
  2. That when it comes to the adults in education, it is the teachers who matter the most. 

Please welcome Lee Klingenstein. 

[Lee Klingenstein joins the stage and announces that Chris Dolgos of Genesee Community Charter School is the 2016 Klingenstein Teacher Award honoree. Watch Chris' full speech here.] 

[Scott Hartl returns to the stage.] 

This was a big year for getting the ideas of EL Education and the practices of our best teachers out into the world. 

We published two new books informed by your work: 

Management in the Active Classroom, The first book on classroom management that assumes students are active and engaged learners... 

Learning that Lasts: our book on the high quality instruction and deeper learning that EL has become known for. 

Our work has also been celebrated by others in this past year. 

Paul Tough featured EL as the single most promising educational model in new book Helping Children Succeed

And last month Ed Reports, the widely respected Consumer Reports of educational materials, released their first ever review of national literacy curricula, and they named the EL’s Literacy curriculum as the very best available. 

I am proud that EL Education is a leading voice in pockets of the education world as seemingly different as Literacy and Character Education. 

But I want to focus now on another aspect of EL Education. One where we have work to do. 

EL as we know it today traces its roots back to Kurt Hahn, an educator and school head in Germany after WW1 and then in England after his exile from Germany for standing up to Hitler. 

Hahn’s schools were known for the quality of their academics, but they were renowned for instilling values. 

Hahn’s first school was called the Salem School, the Peace School, and our 10 Design Principles come directly from Hahn’s Seven Laws of Salem. 

For Hahn, education was a response to a divisive and dangerous societal context. And 70 years later this is true for us also. 

There is no quick fix or easy wins in the work of responding to this moment. And I admire that many EL schools have been out front on this, deeply immersed in building your students’ capacity to “be the positive change we want to see.” 

I, for one, come to the challenge of this societal moment with profound humility. But I also come with clear resolve that EL Education has an important voice in this moment and that as a national organization we are committed to redoubling our efforts to promote social justice and equity in all aspects of our work. 

We have been lucky to have found a great partner as we have engaged this work internally at EL over the past 2 years. 

That partner is the Equity Consulting Group, and I am very pleased that their President, Jonathan Poullard is our featured speaker today. 

Jonathan has been active in inclusion and equity work for 30 years. 

And for 8 of those years he served as the Dean of Students at UC Berkeley. 

And through his work with us on light topics like unconscious bias and the dynamics of power and privilege, I have come to know Jonathan as a person of courage, grace, good humor, and a hard-earned optimism. 

It is my pleasure to introduce to you all Jonathan Poullard. 

[Jonathan Poullard takes the stage.] 

Thanks Jonathan, for your meaningful and thought-provoking words. EL Education would not be where we are today without your work with us, helping us become an ever healthier, more diverse and inclusive organization.