Elizabeth Duffrin

 
​​Elizabeth Duffrin is a freelance education writer based in Chicago and a former education journalist.

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Cross-sector Collaborations for Education Show Promise, Face ChallengesGP0|#b804f37e-c5dd-4433-a644-37b51bb2e211;L0|#0b804f37e-c5dd-4433-a644-37b51bb2e211|Afterschool;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61;GP0|#ff9563e3-b973-45a7-8ac3-c9f4122f9a13;L0|#0ff9563e3-b973-45a7-8ac3-c9f4122f9a13|Summer Learning<p>Complex social issues must be solved with a comprehensive approach. That’s the idea driving a recent surge in cross-sector collaborations anchored in communities and aimed at improving local educational outcomes, especially for low-income students. In one study, researchers from Teachers College at Columbia University <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/collective-impact-and-the-new-generation-of-cross-sector-collaboration-for-education.aspx">found 182 such place-based collaborations nationwide</a> working to improve students’ readiness for and success in early childhood, K-12, and post-secondary education. </p><p>A companion study (also from Teachers College), <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/building-impact-a-closer-look-at-local-cross-sector-collaborations-for-education.aspx"><em>Building Impact: A Closer Look at Local Cross-Sector Collaborations for Education,​</em> </a> now examines eight collaborations, which often include philanthropies, school districts, businesses, higher education and social service agencies. Prior to the study's release, Carolyn Riehl, an associate professor at Teachers College, presented a few of the  findings at a ​​Collective Impact Convening in Chicago. She was joined by Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation, and Danae Davis, executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, one of the collaborations featured in the study. </p><p> <img class="wf-Image-Left" alt="Panel-photo-1.1.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Cross-sector-Collaborations-for-Education-Show-Promise-Face-Challenges/Panel-photo-1.1.jpg" style="margin:170px 5px;width:442px;" />While cross-sector collaborations were often overly optimistic about their initial goals, there’s reason for “cautious optimism” about their future, Riehl told a crowd gathered at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. They will likely take “more time than the usual window of opportunity social programs are given for making an impact,” she said, but they are bringing together partners who have rarely cooperated before, soothing local political tensions and making steady progress. </p><p>Here we highlight some key questions posed by the panel and preview findings from the upcoming report, which Miller called, “one of the most in-depth studies of the cross-sector collaboration approach.”</p><p> <strong>Can local collaborations mount comprehensive change?</strong></p><p>Several of the eight collaborations studied set out to provide supports from early childhood through post-secondary education, but only one—Say Yes Buffalo—has come close to meeting that promise so far, the study found. That group convinced the city to provide “a broad menu of wraparound support services” for students, Riehl said. “The ‘carrot’ that enticed the city to commit was that Say Yes promised college scholarships for all eligible public school graduates in the city. The stick was that if the city reneged on the support services, there would be no more scholarships.”</p><p>Other collaborations studied had expanded services on a more gradual and limited scale and not yet met their goals. Obstacles included getting participants to agree on strategies and a shortage of funding and organizational capacity. Still, the vision to provide comprehensive services “seems to give people a sense of purpose and significance, a horizon to reach for,” she noted. </p><p> <strong>How do collaborations address education?</strong><strong><br></strong><br> “The politics and pragmatics of collaborations working closely with school districts turned out to be much more complicated than we might imagine,” Riehl said to appreciative laughter. The initiatives studied often supported instructional improvement by launching afterschool programs or by backing a district’s strategic plan, but appropriately refrained from trying to drive instructional reforms.  </p><p>But districts also were often hesitant to work closely with cross-sector collaborations, the study found. One reason, Riehl said, seemed to be a desire to avoid expensive, complicated and politically challenging work. Pressure to focus on immediate testing and accountability concerns may have played a role. Districts also commonly want to be viewed as the “source and motivator” of their own improvement, she noted, and working with an external collaboration might imply that the district couldn’t manage improvement on its own.</p><p>Collaborations did make one significant contribution to core education reform, the study found: they calmed entrenched interests and tensions that often surround urban school systems. They reduced “the sense of frustration and urgency,” Riehl said, and created “an environment more conducive to school system stability and productivity. This may not be the kind of ambitious change implied in the rhetoric of collective impact, but it did count for something in local contexts.”</p><p> <strong>How do collaborations address equity in their systems?</strong><strong> </strong></p><p>Most collaborations were motivated by the desire to end disparities in academic performance for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color. Yet at their start, they refrained from naming the problem directly or addressing other inequities that affect education, such as housing, employment, community safety and services. But over time, collaborations have become more explicit and intentional about equity, the study found. Researchers attributed that in part to the influence of national networks supporting collaboratives and growing national attention to class and race disparities, especially in the wake of the 2016 presidential campaign.  <br><br> Still, collaborations generally continued to be made up of community leaders, “often without involving the people most impacted by inequity and poor education,” she observed. The original idea was to involve “powerful decision-makers in systemwide change” but that approach, she said, might ultimately fail to galvanize widespread support, including from those they intend to serve. </p><p> <strong>What can influence sustainability in a collaboration? </strong></p><p>“Goodwill and enthusiasm for the idea of collective impact gave these initiatives their start and seem to be boosting them along,” Riehl reported. Other factors aiding sustainability include effective “backbone” organizations to manage the collaboration, leaders with strong interpersonal skills, and national networks providing technical assistance, networking, strategies, funding and other supports.  <br> Davis of Milwaukee Succeeds, which belongs to the national StriveTogether network, said that her collaborative has sustained itself since 2011 despite launching amid local education politics “that had been toxic for 25 years.” The city’s education landscape included a high-poverty school system struggling to raise student achievement, a large number of independent charter schools and private (mostly religious) schools enrolling students with vouchers.  </p><p>Keeping all three education systems working together through the collaborative, she said, “is no small feat.”</p><p>She attributes their commitment to a shared desire to benefit children, a refusal to allow the collaborative’s forum “to be hijacked for political reasons,” such as elections, and insistence among the five major foundations funding the work that the three education systems show evidence of partnership. “That sends the message that you want to stay in the tent,” she said.</p><p>Early on, the collaboration also realized that it would get more traction if it placed school system priorities at the forefront, she added.</p><p>While Milwaukee Succeeds had to scale back on its ambition to tackle the whole “cradle to career spectrum” at once, it has had some wins, Davis said. After a technology manufacturing company promised the county 13,000 jobs, the collaborative helped to convene 18 local two- and four-year colleges and universities to come up with a workforce development plan that included raising college enrollment and completion.  </p><p>“That was a huge deal,” she said. “I don’t know how many of you have worked with higher ed—it’s worse than the Titanic in terms of turning it around. And they are moving with great speed.”</p><p>In another win, they convinced state legislators to fund a statewide expansion of a tutoring program for early readers that the collaborative had brought to Milwaukee. Business partners in the collaborative made the request, backed by data, she said, and philanthropic partners promised funding for a quarter of the cost.</p><p> <strong>What does the immediate future look like for collaborations?</strong></p><p>Davis said she regrets that the collaborative neglected grassroots involvement at the start and so is not well-known in the wider community. Eight years in, they are working to forge those relationships. An important step, she said, will be finding ways to support grassroots agendas. To build community buy-in, she advised “don’t bring them to your table, go to their table.”  </p><p>Miller added that in his own personal experience, he’s found that a cross-sector collaboration needs support both from elites to bring resources to the table and from grassroots participation to give the effort legitimacy. Some collaborations he’s participated in, he said, owed their success in large part to “a lengthy, exhaustive process” for identifying where the interests of each overlapped.  </p><p>Riehl and Davis agreed that sustaining cross-sector collaboration long-term will depend on the skill of “backbone” organizations like Milwaukee Succeeds to forge and manage diverse relationships and become more representative of the communities they serve. </p><p>“This process takes a long time,” Riehl said. “People get bored and stop coming, they argue, there’s conflict, factions develop, so it really takes a steady hand to get everyone rowing in the same direction.”<br><br> But, she said, “we’ve seen lovely instances where partner agencies have changed their strategies because they want to be part of the action.”</p><p><em>To learn more about the Teachers College study of cross-sector collaborations in education,</em> see <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/putting-collective-impact-into-context.aspx">Putting Collective Impact Into Context</a> <em>and</em> <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/collective-impact-and-the-new-generation-of-cross-sector-collaboration-for-education.aspx?_ga=2.17155889.962354234.1561754504-1014093728.1520357385">Collective Impact and the New Generation of Cross-Sector Collaborations for Education</a>. </p>Photo: ​Will Miller, president, The Wallace Foundation; Danae Davis, executive director, Milwaukee Succeeds; Carolyn Riehl, associate professor, Teachers College<br>Cross-sector Collaborations for Education Show Promise, Face Challengeshttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Cross-sector-Collaborations-for-Education-Show-Promise-Face-Challenges.aspx2019-06-18T04:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.
Staff Expertise, Careful Communications to Parents Fuel Successful SEL EffortsGP0|#890cbc1f-f78a-45e7-9bf2-a5986c564667;L0|#0890cbc1f-f78a-45e7-9bf2-a5986c564667|Social and Emotional Learning;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​​​​Growing up in a home with domestic violence, Byron Sanders remembers afterschool programs being a refuge for him. In football, track and theater,  the president and CEO of Big Thought in Dallas said, he could be a “happy, effervescent kid.”</p><p>“Afterschool was also my pathway to opportunity,” he told the audience of 150 educators and youth development leaders at an October forum in Chicago hosted by The Wallace Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance. Still, his afterschool experience fell short of its potential, he said, because the social and emotional skills he needed weren’t intentionally taught. That’s still too often the case in afterschool programs, he observed. “How many kids do you know of today,” he asked, “who can access that power, which is what social and emotional learning truly is?”<br></p><p>Social and emotional skills—which can include working productively with a group, managing feelings and resolving conflicts—are increasingly recognized as a key to success in the modern workforce, along with academic learning. A recent <a href="https://www.nber.org/papers/w21473">study</a> by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that jobs requiring high levels of social interaction made up a growing share of the U.S. labor force, while the percentage of jobs not requiring social skills declined. </p><p>Accordingly, efforts to integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) with academic and out-of-school time have grown exponentially in the past decade. The day-long forum, designed as a pre-conference in advance of the inaugural SEL Exchange hosted by The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which drew approximately 1,500 participants, aimed to build on that momentum. Youth development leaders, researchers and educators attending the pre-conference event discussed the latest SEL research and two of the field’s biggest challenges—developing the ability of adults to teach SEL skills and communicating the importance of those skills to the uninitiated.</p><p>“Sometimes it's hard to communicate successfully to people who are skeptics, non-believers or just not yet dialed into this channel,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance. Here are highlights from a few of the panel discussions. </p><p><strong>The neuroscience of SEL</strong><br> Deborah Moroney, managing director at American Institutes for Research and a leading researcher on social and emotional learning, remarked on how far the field of social and emotional learning in out-of-school time has come. In the 1990s, researchers began to quantify the effect of afterschool programs on young people’s lives, including long-term outcomes such as finding employment and avoiding incarceration, she said. “We didn’t call it ‘social-emotional learning’ at the time, but the studies were there.”<strong></strong></p><p>The catalyst that linked SEL with out-of-school time, Moroney believes, came in 2007 when Roger Weissberg and Joseph Durlak released a pivotal study of existing research, <em><a href="https://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PDF-1-the-impact-of-after-school-programs-that-promote-personal-and-social-skills-executive-summary.pdf">The Impact of After-School Programs that Promote Personal and Social Skills.</a></em> “They found that when young people participate in high quality programs defined as—you can say this with me,” she told the audience, “SAFE: sequenced, active, focused and explicit—that they experienced social-emotional growth linked to academic outcomes.” </p><p>Some of the latest SEL research comes from neuroscience. Karen Pittman, president and CEO of Forum for Youth Investment, shared findings from a series of articles by the Science of Learning and Development Project. “What they said wasn’t new,” she noted, “but how they said it was important.”</p><p>Optimal conditions for learning exist, scientists found, in the context of strong relationships, a sense of safety and belonging, rich instruction, individualized supports, and intentional development of essential mindsets, skills and habits, she said. </p><p>The catch is, “we can’t just pick some of these things,” Pittman said. “At the point where we’re not doing all of these things at a threshold of doing good, we actually could be doing harm.”</p><p>For instance, she explained, “we can’t just say, ‘We have to do social-emotional skill-building, let’s bring in a curriculum,’ if we haven’t paid attention to relationships and belonging.”</p><p>But when learning experiences are optimal, she said, “you can actually undo the damage of adversity."<br></p><p><strong>‘Who you are changes kids’</strong><br> Successfully incorporating SEL skill-building into academics or youth programs depends on having staff competent in using those skills themselves, noted Ron Berger, chief academic officer at EL Education, which provides professional development to a national network of schools. “Who you are is what changes kids—what your staff models.”</p><p>To model strong SEL skills, staff need more than training, Berger said. “There is no way you can build in a couple of days a week of professional learning and assume that’s going to change them. You have to create cultures in schools that are engines for professional growth.”</p><p>That means creating norms for social interaction, such as for dealing with conflict or addressing racial or gender bias, he said. In one school he worked with, the principal inherited a toxic culture. To lay a foundation for new norms, Berger worked with the school on building relationships among adults. “We spent two days as a staff having conversations,” he said. “The whole staff had never been in a circle before. They had always faced the principal. They had never talked about their personal lives, their professional vision. It was hard.”</p><p>BellXcel, a national nonprofit offering afterschool and summer programs, takes a similarly holistic approach to developing SEL skills in adults and kids, said Brenda McLaughlin, chief strategy officer. In addition to professional development, its approach to culture-building includes agreements between staff and students on how to interact with each other and daily “community time” for students to reflect on social and emotional learning. The BellXcel curriculum has language in each lesson for building students’ “growth mindset,” or the belief that their abilities are not fixed but can grow with effort. Cultural norms are continually reinforced, McLaughlin said.</p><p>“Having structures in place over time will change the culture,” she explained. “If you’re not willing to write up your culture and bring it up in staff meetings, people are going to act how they’ve always acted.”<br> </p><p><strong>When ‘grit’ is a dirty word</strong><br> Parents are essential allies in developing children’s SEL skills. Yet the way that practitioners talk about those skills can be confusing to parents, said Bibb Hubbard, president of Learning Heroes, a national nonprofit that provides resources for PTAs, schools, and other organizations to help educate parents.</p><p>A <a href="https://r50gh2ss1ic2mww8s3uvjvq1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/DLS-Report-2018-for-distribution-single-pages.pdf">large-scale national study</a> by Learning Heroes found that while K-8 parents agreed on the importance of some SEL competencies such as respect, confidence and problem-solving, they didn’t give much weight to others, including growth mindset, executive functioning and grit, because they didn’t understand them, said Hubbard. “Many folks in out-of-school settings use ‘grit.’ For parents, it sounds negative, dirty, like a struggle. And parents are not comfortable with their kids struggling. They think, ‘I’m not doing my job if they’re having to struggle.’”</p><p>When communicating about the importance of SEL, Hubbard explained, it’s important to carefully define unfamiliar terms and illustrate them with real-life examples.</p><p>Higher Achievement, a national nonprofit with a year-round academic enrichment program for middle school students, partnered with Learning Heroes to pilot an approach to discussing SEL with parents. Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Higher Achievement CEO, explained that those conversations need to be carefully framed. “Families feel, ‘It’s my responsibility that my child become a good human being,’ so training on social-emotion learning for families can come across awkwardly.”</p><p>To overcome that obstacle, Higher Achievement talks about SEL in the context of a goal the nonprofit shares with parents: preparing students to enter college preparatory high schools, Jeffries explained. “To get into a good high school takes a whole host of social-emotional skills. It takes self-efficacy, to feel, ‘I can get into the school and I’m going to take steps to do it.’ It takes executive function, getting all the materials in on time . . .”</p><p>While OST practitioners need to take care in how they communicate about SEL with families, Hubbard said, the good news is that “parents are eager and interested to learn more. So there’s great opportunity there.”</p><p><em>The Wallace Foundation will release a full report on the </em>SEL + OST = Perfect Together<em> forum early in 2020.</em></p> ​<br>Staff Expertise, Careful Communications to Parents Fuel Successful SEL Effortshttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Preparing-Adults-Careful-Communication-Key-to-Successful-SEL-Efforts.aspx2019-11-06T05:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.
What ‘Extraordinary Districts’ Do Differently​ <p>​​​​​​What do districts with extraordinary gains in achievement for low-income and minority students have in common?<br></p><p>“They lead with high-quality education rather than programs and interventions that situate the student as the problem,” observed Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, reflecting on the first season of the Education Trust’s podcast series, <em>ExtraOrdinary Districts</em>.</p><p>To kick off the <a href="https://edtrust.org/extraordinary-districts-season-2/">second season</a>, host Karin Chenoweth visited Chicago to talk with Jackson about three areas that effective districts prioritize for improvement—school leadership, early literacy and equity. They were joined by University of Michigan professor and literacy expert Nell Duke and Harvard University lecturer, economist and equity expert Ronald Ferguson. The podcast was taped at the University of Illinois at Chicago at an event hosted by the university’s Ed.D. program and its Center for Urban Education Leadership. Here are a few key points from the discussion:</p><p> <strong>Raise the bar for school leadership</strong><br> Ferguson said he listened to last season’s <em>ExtraOrdinary Districts</em> feature on Chicago, and what stuck with him most was that although local school councils selected principals, they were required to choose them from a pool of candidates the district had vetted and declared eligible. “There has to be evidence that you can lead adults,” he observed.<br></p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/What-Extraordinary-Districts-Do-Differently/DSC_5587.jpg" alt="DSC_5587.jpg" class="wf-Image-Right" style="margin:5px;width:499px;height:332px;" />Jackson explained some of the backstory to Chicago’s procedure. While “the state was churning out a lot of principal licensures,” she said, many holding that credential “were not at the level we thought they needed to be to lead our schools.” The district decided to adopt a set of principal competencies—such as being skilled at managing school change—that aspiring principals are trained in.  Principal candidates are then screened for these competencies, and local school councils are trained to use them to select principals who best meet school needs. </p><p>How future principals are prepared is an important ingredient in their development as effective school leaders. The RAND Corporation released a <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/principal-pipelines-a-feasible,-affordable,-and-effective-way-for-districts-to-improve-schools.aspx?gclid=CjwKCAiA8K7uBRBBEiwACOm4d73ZIUFhnjDY99UCF7-_oSXJ3fwlfpGFcwBrtJXacsYBOIEFA7eo2BoCKAkQAvD_BwE&ef_id=CjwKCAiA8K7uBRBBEiwACOm4d73ZIUFhnjDY99UCF7-_oSXJ3fwlfpGFcwBrtJXacsYBOIEFA7eo2BoCKAkQAvD_BwE%3aG%3as">report</a> last spring found that six large districts in a Wallace-supported initiative were able to outperform similar districts in student math and reading achievement by improving how they shaped their principals, including raising the quality of preservice training.  “Between Chicago and the six districts Wallace funded, can we start to think about principal development as a serious lever for district improvement?” Chenoweth asked.</p><p>Ferguson observed that <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/the-long-and-winding-road-to-better-principal-preparation.aspx" target="_blank">Illinois had come to that realization</a>—it required reauthorization of all the state’s existing principal training programs after instituting more rigorous requirements for principal certification in 2010. “I’ve been so impressed that the state learned from Chicago [about] the qualities of leadership that matter so much,” he said.</p><p>“That was a huge deal,” Chenoweth agreed. “We know principal preparation programs are cash cows for universities—you take in the tuition money, you spend a little bit on adjuncts and you send the rest over to the engineering program.”</p><p>“That the state learned from Chicago,” said Ferguson, “is proof that systems can change to bring about more effective leadership.”</p><p> <strong>Put the strongest teachers in the early grades</strong><br> Chenoweth played a clip from a podcast episode that told the story of a superintendent, a former high school teacher, who believed that early childhood educators were essentially babysitters and that real learning started later. “That superintendent’s ‘aha!’ moment came,” she said, “when he went to a more successful district and realized that district was successful because it took early reading instruction really seriously.” Indeed, schools often put their weakest teachers in the early grades and place their best in grades with standardized testing, according to Duke, the literacy expert. </p><p>Having begun her own education at a Head Start program on Chicago’s South Side, Jackson described why early education is crucial. “Much of how you think about yourself as a learner happens in that early stage,” she said. “If we miss an opportunity to start with that strong foundation, we’re going to spend the next 15 years trying to make up time.” At the same time, she acknowledged that while Chicago principals have been urged to put their strongest teachers in the early grades, “I would be lying if I said that we’ve been successful in making that shift.”</p><p>But Chicago is taking early education seriously, she said: The city is investing hundreds of millions in early childhood education, and by fall 2021, plans to offer free, full-day preschool to all four-year-olds in the city.</p><p> <strong>Set ‘non-negotiables’ for literacy instruction</strong><br> Chenoweth said that she has interviewed educators who pay attention to all the elements of reading instruction—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, building vocabulary and background knowledge. “That’s not work that is done in all districts,” she said. “I wonder why?”</p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/What-Extraordinary-Districts-Do-Differently/DSC_5566-2.jpg" alt="DSC_5566-2.jpg" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin:5px;width:450px;height:387px;" />During her years as a teacher and principal in Chicago, Jackson saw many reading initiatives come and go—including one with the components Chenoweth described—because they weren’t well-implemented. <br></p><p>The biggest problems with literacy instruction are basic, she believes. She recalled hearing about a study some years ago that found that students in Chicago Public Schools read, on average, less than a couple of pages a day and wrote less than a page each day of authentic text. “And CPS is not an outlier in that,” she said. “We can create these complicated and sophisticated programs and invest millions in teaching teachers how to do it, but it’s really as simple as how often we require students to read in our classes for a sustained period of time and to create authentic knowledge through writing.”</p><p>Those simple tasks can be challenging to carry out, but there are ways to make it happen, she said. “I don’t think it’s a revolutionary program that we pull out of the sky that’s going to help our students.” </p><p>One high school that Ferguson worked with on literacy required every teacher in the building to give at least one serious writing assignment and grade it with a rubric. “And then teachers had to sit with their supervisor and get feedback on how well they used the rubrics,” he said.</p><p>Duke commented that both Ferguson and Jackson seemed to be saying that leaders needed to make a few things “instructional non-negotiables.” </p><p>And getting people to carry out those non-negotiables? Not an easy task, Chenoweth said, underscoring the need for strong school leadership. </p><p> <strong>Use data to root out inequities</strong><br> A clip from Chenoweth’s Season One podcast highlighted the types of inequities that are pervasive in school systems nationwide. In an interview, a school superintendent in Lexington, Mass., described his shock at finding that 49 percent of the district’s African-American high school students were in special education. The disparity “was a moral affront to him,” said Ferguson, who consulted with the superintendent.</p><p>The superintendent eventually found the root of the problem in early reading instruction, Chenoweth said. “If kids encountered any issue in learning how to read in kindergarten or first grade, there was really no help for them except for special education services.”</p><p>After persevering for years to change school practices, the district saw gains:  African-American 10th graders reached a proficiency rate of 96 percent in math and 100 percent in English on state exams, according to Ferguson. “It was about figuring out how to diagnose their students’ learning needs, organizing relentlessly to address those needs and making life uncomfortable for the adults who didn’t want to come along,” he said. </p><p>Chicago Public Schools found it had a similar problem with over-enrolling English learners in special education, according to Jackson. Digging into the issue, the district realized those students were being pushed out of bilingual programs too quickly. A revised policy lengthened the time students could spend in bilingual programs so that they had more time to learn English and hone skills in their home language, she said. Her takeaway? “Districts can learn a lot by looking at data and looking beyond the surface.”  </p><p>Season 2 of the <em>ExtraOrdinary Districts</em> podcast is available online <a href="https://edtrust.org/extraordinary-districts-season-2/" target="_blank">here</a> and through most podcast hosting services. </p><p> <em>Lead photo (from left to right): Karin Chenoweth (podcast host), Janice Jackson (CEO of Chicago Public Schools), Ronald Ferguson (Harvard University lecturer in public policy), Nell Duke (University of Michigan education professor), Shelby Cosner (director of UIC's Center for Urban Education Leadership)​</em><br><em> Interior photo 1: Ronald Ferguson, Nell Duke​ </em> <br> <em>​​Interior photo 2: Karin Chenoweth, Janice Jackson, Ronald Ferguson​</em></p>What ‘Extraordinary Districts’ Do Differentlyhttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/What-Extraordinary-Districts-Do-Differently.aspx2019-12-17T05:00:00ZEducation Trust podcast points to principal leadership, equity and early literacy as levers for improvement
Keeping a Focus on Equity as Schools Reopen During the PandemicGP0|#330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708;L0|#0330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708|School Leadership;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a harsh spotlight on the inequities that fester in almost every sector of our nation, including K-12 education. Recently, we spoke with Hal Smith, senior vice president of education, youth development & health at the National Urban League, about how districts and state departments of education can address those inequities as they move into a new school year and face the unprecedented challenge of educating students while keeping schools safe during a pandemic. Smith is a member of the steering committee for Wallace’s ESSA Leadership Learning Community, a group of staff members and chiefs from 11 state departments of education, leadership from urban districts and Urban League affiliate CEOs. The group is considering how federal education law and the resultant state and local policies and investments could be used to promote evidence-based school leadership practices focused on achieving educational equity. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.</p><p> <strong>What did we learn about remote learning after school buildings closed last spring, and what lessons should districts be applying in the coming school year?</strong></p><p> <img class="wf-Image-Left" alt="Hal_Smith.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Keeping-a-Focus-on-Equity-as-Schools-Reopen/Hal_Smith.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:245px;height:184px;" />Nobody was prepared to move online. That’s not a criticism—nobody could have anticipated it—but the quality of instruction varied widely. You had very few prepared to do in-person instruction that transferred easily to online settings. And some never attempted to move instruction online, and education became a series of workbooks and cobbled-together approaches done on the fly.  </p><p>This year, as the school year opens, we should have had time to prepare for remote instruction. That would mean professional development for teachers and support for parents to take advantage of remote learning. Even if you provide the broadband internet access and devices that we’ve clamored for, there is still a question as to how families, caregivers and students themselves can use digital and remote learning to greatest effect. It’s one thing to turn on the computer and sit in front of the screen; it’s another to know how to best take advantage of digital learning and platforms. How do you grow and maintain relationships in a virtual environment? </p><p>Also, how do you understand screen time not just as a passive experience where you are pushing buttons, but as time to do serious inquiry into what interests you as a learner? While there is certainly a need for instruction, there is certainly room for student-led inquiry into what is happening in the world around them. Their interests, their hobbies, the things they wanted to know more about—all of those things should be acknowledged as we return to more formal instruction this school year. We are hoping that districts are thinking of students as more than passive recipients of digital learning, [and seeing them] as co-creators of their learning, of their sense of inquiry and development. That was not happening in in-person instruction either. So this was an opportunity to think differently about students and their own learning and development. </p><p> <strong>Are urban schools prepared to reopen?</strong></p><p>Right now everyone’s plans seem to hit the high notes in general terms because they’re not asked for specifics. But the next six weeks will bear watching. Publicly released plans focus on children’s safety and wellness. But we also want to know your strategy for reaching high school students who never logged on in the spring, in the summer, and have no ability or intention for logging on in the fall. Those strategies are not clearly articulated in reopening plans. Those plans assume that everyone will show up every day, and that’s not the case. </p><p><img alt="COVID-19-Costs-to-Reopen-Schools.jpg" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/Keeping-a-Focus-on-Equity-as-Schools-Reopen/COVID-19-Costs-to-Reopen-Schools.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br> </p><p> <strong>How should districts and schools approach social and emotional learning during this school year?</strong></p><p>Every district named social and emotional learning as an important part of their CARES Act plan [<em>the federal relief package that has provided funding for, among other things, public education</em>]. Is it real or is it political speak that doesn’t change the way we invest in public schools? It’s very common now for social-emotional learning to be dropped as a marker of educational care. You have to have it there. The language doesn’t mean you changed a single way that you operate. We’ll see that play out in the investments, the partnerships, the staffing decisions, the scheduling. Do you have room in your schedule for one-on-one and small group contact with young people, or have you simply replicated your block schedule online? </p><p>There was certainly trauma, financial uncertainty, but we want to acknowledge that young people are thoughtful and resilient and did some things outside the building we call school that will contribute to their education and growth. Having adults that can help them process what happened is important. </p><p>We had young people in Urban League programs who were essential workers. They worked in retail, they worked in fast food, and they were asked to take that on at 16, 17. That’s ripe for learning and reflection—the inequities in experience, the maturity that was accelerated by that. What have we learned in this moment about ourselves, our society? </p><p> <strong>What inequities has the pandemic laid bare and how should districts address them? </strong></p><p>There is no hiding the impact of inequity on education now. Inequity of food security, of housing, social economic status, racism, access to laptops and high-speed internet access—those have been made clear. These are not things that all cities, all communities were paying attention to in a connected manner. We are in a different place in that people have acknowledged these inequalities exist. I don’t know as we are in a different place as far as doing things differently.</p><p>We think it’s necessary for people to envision a longer-term set of solutions [that address] remote and distance learning, that upend inequity and establish a more high-quality education for all students. There will be a tendency [in the coming year] to focus on remediation and not acceleration. Some students need to catch up. But this doesn’t mean we have to stay there for the whole year. Because they missed four months of instruction doesn’t mean they are incapable of higher-level work. I do not believe that the highest-achieving students in the highest-achieving schools are going to receive a basic education. So the same kinds of imagination and energy that are going into educating high-achieving students, why not give that to all students? </p><p>I also think there’s a real of parents, caregivers and community stakeholders. I say funded very specifically because sustained engagement costs money. The funded nature means there are some resources dedicated to make sure it’s robust. You structure meetings, you structure people’s professional time, so someone is responsible for getting parent feedback and include them meaningfully in your strategy and planning. Anything that’s sustained has to have resources dedicated to it.</p><p>Often engagement is understood as a communications effort: We are going to make sure that everyone hears the message, that the tweet, the flyer goes out there—but that’s not engagement. You really want to engage parents and stakeholders around what you want to happen and anticipate pushback and questions as you shape what your priorities and your strategies are [for remote or hybrid instruction]. Having parents, caregivers, stakeholders and even students themselves, where possible, be a part of the planning, the implementation, and most importantly a part of the reflection, is essential. </p><p> <strong>You've talked about regarding this school year as one that lasts 18 months, through summer 2021. What would that look like?</strong></p><p>We should think of summer 2020 through summer 2021 as one school year, one educational time period, rather than parse out our plans in three distinct time periods, so that we have time to think about recovery and acceleration and some new innovation. The investments we made this summer and what we learned are going to be applied to this school year. And the things we learn this school year will certainly shape what is necessary next summer. So rather than create artificial barriers, there’s an opportunity to think about an 18-month period where we are going to work with parents, children and educators in a more connected way compared to the typical school year. </p><p>I do look forward to what this fall will bring. We have very talented educators in this country and there will be no shortage of new approaches. I think much of what we will learn will dramatically shape what school looks like after the pandemic. Maybe we’ll no longer accept 40 kids in a classroom. Maybe more teachers will take on a hybrid approach where student projects live online. I don’t imagine education going back to the way it was before. </p><p><em>"What Will It Cost to Reopen Schools?" image is reprinted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International® (<a href="https://www.asbointl.org/">www.asbointl.org</a>) and is non-transferable. Use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates.</em> <br> </p>Keeping a Focus on Equity as Schools Reopen During the Pandemichttps://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Keeping-a-Focus-on-Equity-as-Schools-Reopen.aspx2020-08-25T04:00:00ZThe Urban League’s Hal Smith sees pitfalls and, yes, educational opportunities—including more student-led inquiry