risk kids so they really feel like school is the place for them,
rather than a place to avoid,” she says.
In this era of belt-tightening, the model may also save
schools money by streamlining services and using resources
more effectively, Adelman adds.
Several states are implementing the model in ways tailored to
their circumstances, budget and needs. In Iowa, the learning
supports model is being embedded in a federally funded
initiative called Iowa Safe and Supportive Schools. That program
is providing at-risk schools with $14 million over three years to
overhaul their social and academic climates. (Iowa was awarded
the money along with 11 other states through a competitive
grant process from the Office of Safe and Drug-free Schools).
In Louisiana, the model is the basis of an emerging program
called the Comprehensive Learning Supports System. Districts
that follow the model, like Sabine Parish, draw heavily on the
enabling component concept via a statewide blueprint that
spells out the ingredients of the model and how to implement
it. State education leaders are currently presenting on the model
and disseminating it throughout the state, as well as providing
in-depth training when districts ask for it, says Louisiana
Assistant State Superintendent Donna Nola-Ganey.
In Mobile, Ala., the framework received national recognition
in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thanks to a strong learning
supports system already in place. Because the district’s support
services were so well organized, school personnel were able to
respond quickly and effectively to the needs of disaster-affected
children and their families, providing them with food, clothing
and lodging and setting up provisional schools to help children
keep on track with their studies, says Rhonda Neal-Waltman, EdD,
then the city’s assistant superintendent of student support services.
Examples of how the framework operates include managing
cases family by family rather than child by child and requiring
all school personnel to pitch in, regardless of position. “I didn’t
care what your title was — from A to Z, you were there to help
that family,” Neal-Waltman says.
The effort grabbed the attention of the children’s educational
• Adelman, H.S. & Taylor, L. (2010). Mental
health in schools: engaging learners, preventing
problems, and improving schools. thousand
oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.
• Adelman, H.S., & Taylor, L. (2008).
rebuilding for learning: Addressing barriers to
learning and teaching and re-engaging students.
new York: Scholastic, Inc. (this book is also
available on line at http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/
publishing company Scholastic, which donated time,
money and materials to spread the word about the enabling
component nationwide. In partnership with Adelman and
Taylor and the American Association of School Administrators,
Scholastic’s community affairs division is also helping to
implement the model in four school districts in four states.
In addition, the National Association of School
Psychologists is promoting the work nationally in several ways.
For instance, the group summarized Adelman and Taylor’s
work in an advocacy document for educating local, state and
national government officials (see http://smhp.psych.ucla.
edu/pdfdocs/enhancingtheblueprint.pdf). NASP leaders also
met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to educate
him on the model, and sponsored a congressional briefing on
learning and social-emotional supports for military, foster and
“For us, learning supports is really about trying to help
folks understand that you don’t think about kids’ social and
emotional needs as something you do after you address their
academic achievement,” says NASP Past President Kathleen M.
Minke, PhD. “If you don’t address their social and emotional
needs as part of their whole school experience, you will never
get the degree of academic achievement that our nation is
seeking through school reform.”
School districts that have embraced Adelman and Taylor’s
model are excited by its promise and its early results, though
it’s not an easy fix. If a district decides to “go all the way” and
change its organizational charts to better integrate the enabling
component into academics, for instance, it can mean new job
titles, new job duties and other shake-ups, Neal-Waltman says.
“Did I have people who either had to get used to this change
or get off the train?” she says. “Yes, I did.”
Though this kind of widespread change is never easy,
many hope the model can help stem the tide of high dropout
rates, truancy and problem behaviors. Grant Parish, La.,
Superintendent Sheila Jackson, for example, says she hopes the
restructuring can help address students’ aggressive behaviors.
“We serve many children of poverty who have been raised
to use physical aggression to resolve issues,” she says. “And we’re
always being punitive rather than proactive.”
She envisions the framework will teach educators more
effective ways to help students communicate their needs and
problems. “I’m not naïve enough to believe that we can change
where they live or the culture they return to each day,” she says,
“but we can at least equip them with the skills to manage it better.”
Meanwhile, Jackson, of Sabine Parish, says he’s convinced the
model will continue to improve children’s psychosocial well-
being and academic success.
“Eventually, we’re going to be No. 1 in our state,” he says.
“And when we are, it will be because we’re addressing the needs
of the total child.” n