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How Principals (and their Bosses) Can Use Technology for Learning and Management37531​<p>​​​The timing was certainly not intentional, but shortly before the Omicron variant surged late last fall and sent schools across the country into another round of reliance on remote and hybrid learning, Wallace published a study titled <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/principal-leadership-in-a-virtual-environment.aspx"><em>Principal Leadership in a Virtual Environment</em></a>. The report offers early considerations from a field of emerging research on how school districts can develop a large corps of principals adept at employing technology to manage their schools and keep students learning. It centers on the idea that high-quality, equitable education in the digital realm—described as “powerful learning”—emerges through the combination of three essentials&#58; meaningful use of technology; inclusive access to it; and, notably, the leadership of principals with the know&#160;how to implement both.<br></p><p>The report, commissioned by Wallace, was produced by <a href="https&#58;//digitalpromise.org/" target="_blank">Digital Promise</a>, a nonprofit that works with districts and schools nationwide on the effective use of technology. Recently, as the nation began what almost everyone hopes will be an emergence from the worst of COVID-19, the Wallace blog caught up with Stefani Pautz Stephenson, the publication’s lead author and director of educator community partnerships at Digital Promise. Through an email exchange, she discussed how the embrace of technology for learning and school operations during the pandemic may have a lasting influence on school leadership.&#160; <strong></strong></p><p><strong>Wallace Foundation&#58; What have school leaders learned over the last two years about leading in a virtual environment?</strong></p><p><strong>Stefani Pautz Stephenson&#58;</strong> In our report, we share the emerging finding that nimbleness and flexibility are essential traits for both principals and principal supervisors who are leading in a virtual environment. This continues to hold true today. School leaders have learned how to make decisions with limited information, or information that’s rapidly changing. They’ve learned how to be responsive with their own learning, by re-learning or upskilling their own leadership abilities. They’ve also learned a lot about how to lead people who aren’t physically in the same space. Just as teachers have learned to teach students who aren’t in the same classroom, school leaders have learned how to, for example, virtually observe a classroom and virtually model risk-taking and growth mindset.</p><p><strong>WF&#58; In a recent EdWeek Research Center</strong><a href="https&#58;//www.edweek.org/leadership/the-teaching-strategies-educators-say-will-outlast-the-pandemic/2022/03" target="_blank"><strong> survey</strong></a><strong>, principals and other educators listed pandemic-spurred changes that they thought would stick, and at or near the top were technologies, including teaching software and platforms to monitor students’ progress. What innovations do you think are here to stay, and what can principals and/or districts do to ensure they are used effectively?</strong></p><p><strong>SPS&#58;</strong> The survey states that educators believe the digital learning platforms most likely to stay are those that facilitate making assignments and monitoring progress. I think that’s an accurate assessment. Many school districts were already using a learning management system, at least in some capacity, prior to the pandemic. But the pandemic turned it from a<em> nice to have</em> to a <em>must have</em>. The learning management systems that integrate student learning, teacher feedback and communication with families are likely to have the greatest longevity because they support the school-to-home transparency that all stakeholders have grown accustomed to in the last two years.</p><p>To ensure technology is used effectively, school leaders must set clear expectations for use. As with any technology adoption, there will be innovators and early adopters who embrace it and want to use it to its fullest potential. There will also be those who are slower to adopt and want to know what the “must-dos” are. School and district leaders will see more successful implementation if they are clear about how the technology is supportive and set baseline expectations for how it is integrated. It has to be clear that it's not an add-on. Then, it’s critical to provide ongoing, growth-oriented feedback and to make professional learning and coaching readily available.</p><p><strong>WF&#58; EdWeek has also reported that educators who had scurried to learn about and then use digital tools were</strong><a href="https&#58;//www.edweek.org/technology/tech-fatigue-is-real-for-teachers-and-students-heres-how-to-ease-the-burden/2022/03"><strong> </strong></a><a href="https&#58;//www.edweek.org/technology/tech-fatigue-is-real-for-teachers-and-students-heres-how-to-ease-the-burden/2022/03" target="_blank"><strong>experiencing some tech fatigue</strong></a><strong>. How can principals keep the momentum for sound use of technology going?</strong></p><p><strong>SPS&#58;</strong> One strategy is to help teachers manage all of the incoming information, including the amount of technology they’re learning. Focus on a few&#160;critical pieces of technology and look to technologies that serve multiple functions and can be implemented across the board, like a learning management system. Aim for deep learning with those technologies, and give it the time it needs.</p><p>Attending to educators’ social-emotional needs is also essential. The Council of Chief State School Officers published<a href="https&#58;//docs.google.com/document/d/163ZNDs7sZ0FWOT7-1JFxQ9Lbo6zbQNJhaHSs0LbljCE/edit#heading=h.85w6zatiiauu" target="_blank"> guidance on fostering staff wellbeing and connection</a>, highlighting the importance of creating opportunities for staff to reconnect, heal, and feel safe and supported. School leaders can, for example, give staff an opportunity to engage in a community-connection activity prior to formal professional development on technology implementation. Creating those opportunities for connection, coupled with clear and realistic expectations for technology use, can help prevent burnout.</p><p><strong>WF&#58; One lesson from the pandemic seems to be that Zoom or similar conferencing technologies have allowed for more inclusive communications with families, enabling schools to maintain contact with parents and others who had previously found it hard to attend in-person meetings because of work or other circumstances. How do you think this lesson will influence principal-parent interactions once schools fully reopen?</strong></p><p><strong>SPS&#58;</strong> We continue to see positive responses from school administrators to the increased communication with families. Schools have seen the positive effects of conferencing technologies in breaking down barriers to participation, and they want that level of family engagement to continue. Parents have also gained a new insight into what and how their students are learning, and they value that transparency. We’ve heard these things consistently, across the country. This is here to stay.</p><p><strong>WF&#58; The report highlights considerations for districts that want to ensure that their principals can manage schools equitably and well in a virtual environment. Among them&#58;&#160; revising principal standards and updating principal preparation programming to take account of virtual learning and management. Have you seen movement in these areas? </strong></p><p><strong>SPS&#58;</strong> We haven’t seen movement on these fronts yet, and we still believe these recommendations are mission critical if we want to develop better leadership capacity for the virtual environment. There is increased funding going into broadband, and&#160;technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are rapidly advancing in education. We haven’t prepared leaders for this. We need to take action so that school leaders can think both conceptually and practically about these topics and others like them.</p><p>Education officials can begin with advocacy. On the local level, they can start with human resources directors and offices of organizational effectiveness advocating for changes in standards for evaluation and principal preparation. At universities, they can make the case to deans and other officials who are making decisions about programming that leads to licensure. They can work with state departments of education that set certification requirements. Change starts by making people pay attention to the issues. </p><p>The pandemic drew everyone’s attention to virtual learning; now it’s time to draw attention to the changes needed for the future of education leadership.<br></p><p><br></p>Co-author of study reflects on nimbleness, flexibility and other ways school leaders adapted to the virtual pivotGP0|#4f1da6c6-7e7a-4377-a2ff-ee40af8043fc;L0|#04f1da6c6-7e7a-4377-a2ff-ee40af8043fc|school leadership;GTSet|#e1be52fb-ad26-4379-9818-fd44f616dcf2;GP0|#3fabc3e0-eead-49a5-9e92-99d8217d8607;L0|#03fabc3e0-eead-49a5-9e92-99d8217d8607|principals;GP0|#3c236eec-afa6-4172-9b42-36a57befc9fe;L0|#03c236eec-afa6-4172-9b42-36a57befc9fe|principal pipeline;GP0|#1c167689-5e6e-4161-bab9-e0a90c603d32;L0|#01c167689-5e6e-4161-bab9-e0a90c603d32|school district;GP0|#e2e1ee43-4a1a-4216-b64d-98f91aa3e533;L0|#0e2e1ee43-4a1a-4216-b64d-98f91aa3e533|technology;GP0|#1bff29c4-e346-4da1-8e81-30adc41ea7dc;L0|#01bff29c4-e346-4da1-8e81-30adc41ea7dc|virtual learning;GP0|#37e72e97-63c0-4a59-a307-c9cd87ec9ef2;L0|#037e72e97-63c0-4a59-a307-c9cd87ec9ef2|education researchGP0|#330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708;L0|#0330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708|School Leadership;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61Wallace editorial team79<img alt="" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/blog-digital-promise-lg-feature.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />2022-05-10T04:00:00ZSchool Leadership, principals, principal pipeline, school districts, technology, virtual learning, education research5/10/2022 3:27:02 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / How Principals (and their Bosses) Can Use Technology for Learning and Management Co-author of study reflects on nimbleness 220https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
How Can Arts and Culture Organizations Be More Welcoming?2875<p>W​​​hat kinds of arts experiences foster feelings of connection and well-being? A new report reveals some insights from Black and African American participants, a viewpoint historically sidelined from research and planning efforts in the arts. In-depth interviews with 50 Black and African American participants revealed common threads that demonstrate the importance of four key practices for arts and culture organizations in creating a positive environment&#58; celebrating personal and community creativity, supporting self-care, working to be more trustworthy and creating a sense of welcome and belonging.<br></p><p>The qualitative study, <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/a-place-to-be-heard-a-space-to-feel-held-black-perspectives.aspx?utm_source=The+Wallace+Foundation&amp;utm_campaign=bfe7509f3a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_01_07_04_25&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_59ab24ca7b-bfe7509f3a-211159397&amp;_ga=2.77163926.2027710580.1650894280-1368872614.1650558612"> <em>A Place to Be Heard, A Space to Feel Held&#58; Black Perspectives on Creativity, Trustworthiness, Welcome and Well Being</em></a>, was funded in part by Wallace, with research conducted in 2021. The project is part of a pandemic-era, equity-focused research collaboration with Slover Linett, LaPlaca Cohen and Yancey Consulting called <a href="https&#58;//culturetrack.com/research/transformation/" target="_blank"> <em>Culture + Community in a Time of Transformation&#58; A Special Edition of Culture Track</em></a>. The initial survey research found that people <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/what-we-need-from-arts-and-culture-right-now.aspx?_ga=2.77163926.2027710580.1650894280-1368872614.1650558612">crave more racial inclusion and connection</a> from the arts, and a follow-up survey determined that <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/as-the-pandemic-shifts-so-does-peoples-thinking-about-arts-and-culture.aspx?_ga=2.77163926.2027710580.1650894280-1368872614.1650558612">people’s attitudes were shifting</a> throughout the pandemic, with the desire for arts organizations to be more community-oriented only growing stronger. The new report homes in on perspectives from Black and African American participants, exploring how organizations can better support Black communities, work to earn their trust and make them feel welcome. </p><p>To examine some of the report’s key takeaways, the Wallace blog connected with the team from Slover Linett who co-authored the study (along with Ciara C. Knight)&#58; researcher Melody Buyukozer Dawkins, research coordinator Camila Guerrero and vice president and director of research Tanya Treptow.&#160;</p><p> </p><strong style="color&#58;#555555;font-size&#58;14px;"><img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/how-can-arts-and-culture-organizations-be-more-welcoming/Melody_Buyukozer_Dawkins_Slover_Linett_Audience_Research.jpg" alt="Melody_Buyukozer_Dawkins_Slover_Linett_Audience_Research.jpg" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;160px;height&#58;200px;" /><span></span></strong><div><strong>​Wallace Foundation&#58; How did the four themes of creativity, self-care, trustworthiness, and welcome and belonging come into focus during the interviews?</strong></div><div><strong><br></strong></div><div><strong></strong><strong>Melody Buyukozer Dawkins&#58;</strong> Our initial focus on the main themes of creativity, trustworthiness and welcome and belonging came from the first wave of quantitative findings from the <a href="https&#58;//sloverlinett.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Centering-the-Picture-full-report-CCTC-Wave-1-findings.pdf" target="_blank"> <em>Culture + Community&#58; The Role of Race and Ethnicity in cultural engagement in the U.S.</em></a> report. Those findings provided guidance at several levels&#58;</div><p></p><div class="wf-Element-BlueBullet">The findings indicated that Black and African American​ respondents were less likely to participate in the range of cultural activities included in the survey, even though those that did participate did so at the same frequency as the other racial and ethnic groups. One discussion our team had was whether the list of activities that we included in the survey was comprehensive enough to cover all potential activities Black respondents participated in. To this end, we took an open-ended approach in our interviews and asked participants about the general creative activities they partake in to expand this list.</div><p></p><div class="wf-Element-BlueBullet">Over three quarters of Black and African American respondents desired change in arts and culture organizations and it was particularly important for them to engage with diverse voices and faces, more than any other racial and ethnic groups. About one third also wanted to see friendly approaches to diverse people. To examine in our interviews what dynamics come into play in these processes, we explored welcome and belonging.</div><div class="wf-Element-BlueBullet">Black and African American respondents were also more likely than other groups to want to stay informed with&#160;trustworthy sources of information, so building on this finding we aimed to explore the factors that affect the trustworthiness of any organization or person.</div><p>We initially didn’t seek to examine self-care within our interviews but as we spoke to people, this theme emerged organically, especially as people talked about how they have been living through the pandemic era. </p><p> <strong>WF&#58; Against the backdrop of the larger <em>Culture + Community</em> study, why was it important to conduct this qualitative study to gain the perspective of Black and African American participants regarding community and culture organizations? What are the benefits and tradeoffs or pitfalls of conducting research that delves deeper into understanding the experience of a particular group? </strong></p><p> <strong>MBD&#58;</strong> This is a question we heard often throughout both the research and dissemination process. One way we found very helpful to answer this question is to take a system-level approach and ask ourselves why the question of the importance of Black perspectives really exists in the first place. What structures and conditions that historically excluded Black people make this kind of research necessary? And why do we try to assess what there is to gain (or to lose) from this kind of research, rather than focus on how research can shift our paradigms and help us transform? With our research, we intentionally tried to stay away from the impulse to justify, but instead to amplify and celebrate Black voices, stories and wisdom, authentically and unapologetically.&#160;&#160; </p><p> <strong> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/how-can-arts-and-culture-organizations-be-more-welcoming/Tanya_Treptow_Slover_Linett_Audience_Research.jpg" alt="Tanya_Treptow_Slover_Linett_Audience_Research.jpg" class="wf-Image-Right" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;175px;height&#58;219px;" />Tanya Treptow&#58;</strong> And we felt like a qualitative study could be an important complement to—and a check on—the quantitative components of the <em>Culture + Community</em> work. In qualitative research, we’re inherently not looking to generalize research findings, but instead to hear people deeply as holistic individuals and to understand the emotional undertones of people’s values, philosophies and actions. In this case, we were able to explore how culture and community experiences and organizations naturally fit into people’s broader lives. </p><p> <strong>WF&#58; What most surprised or had an impact on you</strong><strong> while working on this study? </strong></p><p> <strong> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/how-can-arts-and-culture-organizations-be-more-welcoming/Camila_Guerrero_Slover_Linett_Audience_Research.jpg" alt="Camila_Guerrero_Slover_Linett_Audience_Research.jpg" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;179px;height&#58;224px;" />Camila Guerrero</strong>&#58; These were the first qualitative interviews I’d been a part of at Slover Linett and the loose structure of the interview, paired with people’s openness, seemed to create a space for vulnerability. The extent of how vulnerable people were willing to be, to talk about certain experiences they’d gone through was unexpected, because we were strangers and they didn’t owe us their unfiltered emotions, thoughts or experiences. The space we created in these interviews was safe not just for the participants, but also for us, the researchers. The interviews almost felt like a conversation I’d have with a friend even though they were for the purposes of this study. They all started off with “how are you feeling?” and despite our guiding question we still went in whatever direction felt most natural and comfortable. Each conversation brought something personal and eye-opening about the individual. One of many of those moments that still stands out to me is when one participant shared a beautiful moment of connection she had with her late mother through nature. I felt myself tearing up as she described her experience, and although perhaps at first glance it may have seemed unrelated to the themes we focused on in this study, it all circles back somehow. That very personal moment she gave us the privilege of exploring&#160;was what ultimately led to her love for photography, just one of the many ways she engaged with art. </p><p> <strong>TT&#58;</strong> I definitely agree with Camila. I’ve been referring back to our conversations in professional contexts and in my personal life to a much greater degree than in other studies I’ve been a part of. I think it’s because of the open-ended framing of our conversations, where people could share what was most meaningful to themselves. In a lot of social research in the arts and culture realm, research is constrained to a somewhat narrower frame, such as attendance or participation at specific kinds of institutions.&#160; In this case, we didn’t constrain our conversations, yet as in Camila’s example, people naturally still shared stories about the arts and culture in their lives. </p><p> <strong>WF&#58; Where do you think there are more opportunities for this kind of research and what would be a future priority from your perspective?</strong></p><p> <strong>MBD&#58;</strong> Shifting paradigms and building community. Thanks to the deep insights of our participants, we were able to examine the distinctions between trust and trustworthiness, and between welcome and belonging; explore the role of creativity and self-care in individual and community well-being; and question what “relevance” really means in the context of cultural experiences. One of the exciting outcomes of our study was that for each of our four thematic areas—creativity, self-care, trustworthiness and welcome—there were revelations that led to potential paradigm-shifting approaches to commonly used terms and concepts when equity and inclusion are talked about. So, one potential future priority for me is to rethink how we approach these concepts and how we ask questions in the first place. </p><p> <strong>CG&#58;</strong> This study felt more like it was about amplifying voices and perspectives than about serving institutions and organizations. I hope it encourages others to move more in this direction, to be participant-centered. Although much of the focus of this study was to support institutions through our findings, throughout the process we found ourselves thinking about the interview participants as not just the main focus, but the main <em>audience</em> for our report. During our debriefs as a team it came up time and time again, that we wanted this to be something all the participants could read through and understand, because their insights were what even allowed us to get to this point. This participant-centered approach is something I hope to see more of in studies because without participants we have no research, no findings, no ability to take action.</p><p> <strong>WF&#58; What implications does this study have for the arts and culture sector more broadly?</strong></p><p> <strong>MBD&#58;</strong> When we started this process, we were thinking about the audiences for this report. As we went through our conversations and started to identify themes, it became very apparent that the findings and insights went beyond the audiences (cultural practitioners and funders) we initially thought about. So, we shifted our focus to the “culture and community” sector, very broadly defined to include not only cultural sector practitioners and funders but also organizations, activists, policy makers and anybody who connects personally with or connects others around culture and community. Excitingly, we have already started hearing reverberations of our findings for people across a wide variety of fields like higher education, creative placemaking, civic engagement and sociological research on places and participation—many of the areas that have been working to incorporate the arts in comprehensive community development. I think one of the next steps is to capitalize on these reverberations and build community around how these learnings can translate into meaningful change, action and also more questions and research. </p><p> <strong>TT&#58;&#160;</strong>I think there also needs to be a continued reckoning in the arts and culture field in accepting, celebrating and ultimately financially supporting arts and culture organizations and initiatives that support deep extrinsic goals, such as individual and community wellness (getting beyond art for art’s sake). Arts organizations that promote these goals explicitly are sometimes given less prestige than those focused on the quality of their collections alone. And that runs contrary to what we heard from the people we spoke to in this study in how they valued arts, culture and creativity in their lives. </p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/how-can-arts-and-culture-organizations-be-more-welcoming/Final_updated_qual_report_diagram_V2_2_A_Place_to_Be_Heard.jpg" alt="Final_updated_qual_report_diagram_V2_2_A_Place_to_Be_Heard.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /> <br> <br> </p><p>We didn’t frame conversations around self-care or wellness, but these topics emerged anyways in very central ways. And I think this intersects with how the field should value and support BIPOC-led and BIPOC-centered organizations, which may be more likely to take an ‘arts and…’ approach. We do already see encouraging shifts in the sector, such as with John Falk’s 2021 publication, <a href="https&#58;//www.instituteforlearninginnovation.org/the-value-of-museums-enhancing-societal-well-being/" target="_blank"> <em>The Value of Museums&#58; Enhancing Societal Well-Being</em></a>, but there is so much more to do. I’d love to see continued centering of individual and community-level wellness at conferences, in the framing of funding opportunities and within individual organizational practice. </p><p> <em>The included chart is excerpted from the study, </em> <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/a-place-to-be-heard-a-space-to-feel-held-black-perspectives.aspx?utm_source=The+Wallace+Foundation&amp;utm_campaign=bfe7509f3a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_01_07_04_25&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_59ab24ca7b-bfe7509f3a-211159397"> <em>A Place to Be Heard, A Space to Feel Held&#58; Black Perspectives on Creativity, Trustworthiness, Welcome and Well Being</em></a>.</p>​<br><br><br>​<br><br>Authors of new report break down what they learned about arts participation from in-depth interviews with 50 Black Americans GP0|#459b8438-9b87-47d0-814e-02452652da81;L0|#0459b8438-9b87-47d0-814e-02452652da81|arts;GTSet|#e1be52fb-ad26-4379-9818-fd44f616dcf2;GP0|#13c6033c-e108-4f92-ac19-ca85041545d6;L0|#013c6033c-e108-4f92-ac19-ca85041545d6|arts research;GP0|#7ee74777-f4ad-4204-a3cc-1a02bb45abab;L0|#07ee74777-f4ad-4204-a3cc-1a02bb45abab|arts audiences;GP0|#6d76b4c4-bff2-4a32-9edd-7f97c22d5061;L0|#06d76b4c4-bff2-4a32-9edd-7f97c22d5061|performing arts;GP0|#44800786-66e9-4e66-8f29-d9d79cc403ae;L0|#044800786-66e9-4e66-8f29-d9d79cc403ae|museumsGP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61Wallace editorial team79<img alt="" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/blog-A-Place-to-Be-Heard-lg-feature.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />2022-05-03T04:00:00ZAuthors of new report break down what they learned about arts participation from in-depth interviews with 50 Black Americans5/3/2022 4:13:35 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / How Can Arts and Culture Organizations Be More Welcoming Authors of new report break down what they learned about arts 597https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Three Districts, One Principal Pipeline2845<p>R​​ecent research has shown that <a href="/knowledge-center/Pages/How-Principals-Affect-Students-and-Schools-A-Systematic-Synthesis-of-Two-Decades-of-Research.aspx?_ga=2.45912679.239897736.1650464379-225658064.1650464379">strong principal leadership is key to improved student achievement</a> and provided evidence of&#160;how building <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/principal-pipelines-a-feasible,-affordable,-and-effective-way-for-districts-to-improve-schools.aspx?_ga=2.45912679.239897736.1650464379-225658064.1650464379">principal pipelines can work</a> to better support school leaders working in large urban districts. But how can smaller, rural districts achieve this kind of success as well?<br></p><p>Three&#160;districts in central Nebraska–Grand Island Public Schools, Hastings Public Schools and Kearney Public Schools–are hoping to address this question by pooling their talent and resources to implement systemic improvements to the preparation, hiring, support and management of principals. Working together they have developed a model for an intensive internship and contextually-driven experience for teacher-leaders who are interested in becoming principals, called the Tri-City ASCEND Academy. Combined, Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney serve more than 19,000 students. </p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/three-districts-one-principal-pipeline/Tawana_Grover.jpg" alt="Tawana_Grover.jpg" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;150px;height&#58;210px;" />“We asked ourselves, how can we come together to ensure that we have high-quality educators ready to serve in the principal role where they feel confident?” said Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools. </p><p>The ASCEND Academy is a shared leadership program that offers teachers who are ready to take on administrative roles the opportunity to get hands-on experience. It is aligned with leading national <a href="/knowledge-center/school-leadership/Pages/principal-pipeline-implementation.aspx?_ga=2.45912679.239897736.1650464379-225658064.1650464379">research</a> on the elements necessary to building&#160;and maintaining a&#160;pipeline of high-quality&#160;school leaders, including&#160;leader standards that guide all aspects of principal development and support;&#160;rigorous&#160;preservice preparation&#160;for aspiring&#160;principals; selective hiring and placement of these professionals; and on-the-job induction, evaluation and support. </p><p class="wf-Element-Callout">“We asked ourselves, how can we come together to ensure that we have high-quality educators ready to serve in the principal role where they feel confident?”&#160;<span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"><em>—</em></span><em>​&#160;Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools.​</em><br></p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/three-districts-one-principal-pipeline/Toni_Palmer.jpg" alt="Toni_Palmer.jpg" class="wf-Image-Right" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;154px;height&#58;192px;" />“When we think about leadership standards—the competencies that our leaders need to have in order to influence people to move the continuous improvement process forward—building [the participants’] level of understanding of the knowledge and scope of that leadership capacity has to be in place in order to make that happen,” said Toni Palmer, chief of leadership and learning at Grand Island Public Schools. “We were really focused on equity-driven leadership and how we can build their level of knowledge and understanding of how to lead through that lens.” </p><p>The effort&#160;emerged in part from Nebraska's involvement in a Wallace-sponsored community of 11 states seeking to bolster the principalship. ASCEND participants ​were assigned and able to learn from their own home districts, and they were also given the opportunity to intern in the other two districts within one semester. After graduating, they can be hired in any of the Tri-City districts. </p><p class="wf-Element-Callout">“When you are a teacher, or in my case an academic support coach, you don't always see what goes into a principal's day. The ASCEND internship gave me that opportunity.”&#160;<span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"><em>—</em></span><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">&#160;</span><em>​Jessica Schroeder, &#160;academic support coach at Grand Island Public Schools</em>​<br></p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/three-districts-one-principal-pipeline/Jessica_Schroeder.jpg" alt="Jessica_Schroeder.jpg" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;200px;height&#58;250px;" />Jessica Schroeder, currently an academic support coach at Grand Island Public Schools, was one of the first three graduates of the program, which was launched in fall 2021. She had the opportunity to intern as a principal in Kearney and Hastings as well. </p><p>“Seeing all the hats a principal wears was so valuable,” Schroeder said. “When you are a teacher, or in my case an academic support coach, you don't always see what goes into a principal's day. The ASCEND internship gave me that opportunity.”</p><p>Leaders in all three of the districts hypothesized&#160;that program participants&#160;would benefit by interning in different spots, although they realized that the logistics of arranging for this variety of placements&#160;would be complex.&#160;&#160;​​<br></p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/three-districts-one-principal-pipeline/Kent_Edwards.jpg" alt="Kent_Edwards.jpg" class="wf-Image-Right" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;148px;height&#58;222px;" />“We knew our overall goal and objectives, but bringing structure to it took an investment of thought and time,'' said Kent Edwards, superintendent of Kearney Public Schools. “Involving three separate school districts and three separate school boards brought forward the importance of communication and coordination between all of our districts.”</p><p>The districts’ boards approved the use of funds, and with a highly selective process, they chose their first three candidates. </p><p> <img src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Pages/three-districts-one-principal-pipeline/JeffSchneider.JPG" alt="JeffSchneider.JPG" class="wf-Image-Left" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;150px;height&#58;226px;" />“We hoped the candidates would get a feel for what it is like to be in an actual administrative position rather than just learning about administrative positions,” said Jeff Schneider, superintendent of Hastings Public Schools. “We also wanted them to learn the best practices of the district they were interning in and share these best practices with their home district.”</p><p>The three participants who were chosen kept weekly journals of their experiences to track progress and also met regularly with other educators&#160;from the districts they were interning with to work on professional development. “Each intern was exposed to three different leaders, three different structures, and three different practices and protocols to accomplish the mission of education,” said Edwards. “Each of the interns also were able to inventory and apply their own respective styles and ideas. Practically, a far better experience than any coursework could provide.”<br></p><p class="wf-Element-Callout">“We hoped the candidates would get a feel for what it is like to be in an actual administrative position rather than just learning about administrative positions,”<em style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">—</em>&#160;<em>Jeff Schneider, superintendent of Hastings Public Schools.​</em><br></p><p>Schroeder, along with the other two participants, met with the district supervisors and learned about local principal performance&#160;standards, as well as how to process the&#160;problems of practice that one might experience as a first-year principal. </p><p>“There are many situations that you discuss in your college classes, but to experience them and have someone else to process through was very beneficial,” she said. “You were also able to see how the principal prioritized different situations that came up during the school day. Deciding what needed immediate attention versus something that could wait was a valuable lesson. I was also able to develop relationships with the principals I worked with. I feel because of this internship, I have two exceptional principals I can reach out to if I need advice or support.”<br></p><p class="wf-Element-Callout">“Just being in central Nebraska, there's going to be some things that are unique to us and how we have to go about solving those problems.<em><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">”&#160;</span>​—</em><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"><em>Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools.​</em></span><em>​​</em><br></p><p></p><p> Representatives from all three districts said the communication and partnership among them&#160;became essential&#160;for the work to succeed. “The relationship between the superintendents included trust and respect,” said Grover. “We found ourselves relying on each other, asking each other ‘what are you doing, how are you going to handle this?’ Our bond became so strong at that point, and I think it allowed us to be very candid about what our needs are as an individual district, and how we're going to work on that together.” ​</p><p>The three districts had something key in&#160;common&#58;&#160;the circumstances of being relatively small and&#160;located in a&#160;rural community.&#160;<br></p><p>“Just being in central Nebraska, there's going to be some things that are unique to us and how we have to go about solving those problems,” Grover said. “The bigger challenge for us compared to some of the larger systems is that we’re not surrounded by all that support. We don’t want these students to think for one minute that they don’t deserve what a larger school district may have to offer. We may have to think differently about how we do it, but the goal of having that highly effective principal should be at the forefront, for us as leaders.”​</p><p>Working together and sharing resources and ideas across all three districts was a way to overcome this challenge. And it could be possible for similar smaller, rural districts to replicate this partnership in their own areas. <br></p><p>“We came to it with the common understanding that every student deserves to have a highly effective principal leading their building–no matter their zip code, no matter where they are.” said Grover. “And I think what we've demonstrated is there is power in collaboration. We've demonstrated that we were not going to let location or size be an excuse for us. We’re going to pull our resources together to provide these rich experiences so that we can have high-quality principals available for all of our students.”</p><p>Grover’s advice for districts that&#160;want to take on similar work is to look for opportunities for collaboration,&#160;which proved&#160;beneficial to the Tri-City effort&#160;in a number of&#160;ways. Among other things, the three districts were able to split costs of the program, and they were able to have extra support, with multiple staff members from each district dedicated to the work.&#160; </p><p class="wf-Element-Callout">“We came to it with the common understanding that every student deserves to have a highly effective principal leading their building–no matter their zip code, no matter where they are.”&#160;<em style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">—</em><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"></span><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"><em>Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools.​</em></span><em style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">​​</em><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"></span><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">”&#160;</span><br></p><p>In the first year of the academy, all participants were elementary-school placements. For the 2022-2023 school year, the participants will remain in elementary schools, and&#160;the districts are considering&#160;expanding to the secondary level. Another change is likely to be the number of schools where the participants serve; the districts learned&#160;from the candidates’ feedback that sending the interns&#160;to two different buildings in the same semester was a difficult task. </p><p>“While we liked the exposure to two different leaders, it was also very challenging for them to build relationships with two different sets of staff,” Schneider said. “So this year, they will just intern at one of the other districts as opposed to both.”</p><p>According to Edwards, the districts hoped to develop a stronger&#160;leader pipeline to meet the needs of the respective districts. The districts were able to ascertain if the participants ultimately would&#160; have&#160;the skills and traits of the kind of leadership they needed for their schools. And even if a&#160;match ends&#160;up not working, districts stand&#160;to gain from the&#160;endeavor. “Should they [the participants] elect not to pursue a formal leadership position, however, the district would still benefit, informally, from their decision to remain in their current position,” he said. “They would have a completely different perspective.”</p><p>Schroeder offered up some advice for future participants in the program, noting that her experience as one of its first three participants was both challenging and rewarding.<br></p><p>“The best advice I have is to ask questions,” she said. “I asked lots of questions to understand what the principal's thought process was for the decisions they made. My other piece of advice is to enjoy this experience. It was definitely an experience that challenged me. Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable to learn and to grow through this experience truly helped me develop more confidence in myself as an instructional leader.”&#160; </p><p class="wf-Element-Callout">​“When we're able to lift up leaders across the state, ultimately we're going to have a national impact.”&#160;<em style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">—</em><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"></span><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"><em>Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools.​</em></span><em style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">​​</em><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;"></span><span style="color&#58;#2b92be;font-size&#58;24px;">”&#160;</span>​​<br></p><p>As the Tri-City ASCEND Academy prepares for its second year, educators in smaller districts and rural areas elsewhere&#160;might take notice.&#160;​“When we're able to lift up leaders across the state, ultimately we're going to have a national impact,” Grover said. “Kids all across the country can benefit from the seeds that are sown right here in the heartland.”<br></p><p> <em>Lead photo above&#58; ​Educators involved in the first year of the Tri-City ASCEND Academy included (from left to right)&#58; Kent Edwards, superintendent of Kearney Public Schools and Shannon Blaschko, selected as an intern from that district; Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools, and Jessica Schroeder, selected as a Grand Island intern; and Tamisha Osgood, an intern selected from Hastings Public schools and Superintendent Jeff Schneider.</em></p>An inside look at how three rural districts worked together to train, develop and support principals GP0|#3fabc3e0-eead-49a5-9e92-99d8217d8607;L0|#03fabc3e0-eead-49a5-9e92-99d8217d8607|principals;GTSet|#e1be52fb-ad26-4379-9818-fd44f616dcf2;GP0|#b9334c26-a923-4388-bc0a-e17897e654f7;L0|#0b9334c26-a923-4388-bc0a-e17897e654f7|schools;GP0|#78fba0d8-bc10-4d3c-be46-3e19b4af2521;L0|#078fba0d8-bc10-4d3c-be46-3e19b4af2521|school leaders;GP0|#ef957b83-4dcb-4f16-bf0a-af36a2a203fa;L0|#0ef957b83-4dcb-4f16-bf0a-af36a2a203fa|hiring;GP0|#585ab5b2-b18b-4f5a-a5e0-0c2e83ebbf6a;L0|#0585ab5b2-b18b-4f5a-a5e0-0c2e83ebbf6a|leadership development;GP0|#3c236eec-afa6-4172-9b42-36a57befc9fe;L0|#03c236eec-afa6-4172-9b42-36a57befc9fe|principal pipeline;GP0|#10d62570-e180-46ad-9e4f-dea65096247b;L0|#010d62570-e180-46ad-9e4f-dea65096247b|rural districtsGP0|#330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708;L0|#0330c9173-9d0f-423a-b58d-f88b8fb02708|School Leadership;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61Jenna Doleh91<img alt="" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/blog-Superintendents_and_particpants-lg-feature-cropped.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />2022-04-26T04:00:00ZAn inside look at how three rural districts worked together to train, develop and support principals4/28/2022 12:00:54 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Three Districts, One Principal Pipeline An inside look at how three rural districts worked together to train, develop and 1160https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Creating a More Equitable—and Welcoming—Afterschool Ecosystem2758<p>​​O​​​​​​​​ne of the best parts of my job as director of research at Wallace is to interact with some of the country’s leading scholars and researchers studying our areas of work&#58; the arts, education leadership and youth development. These folks are so committed to and insightful about their respective fields.&#160;It’s maybe no surprise that many of them worked as teachers, youth workers, artists and the like, before entering the research world, and that this is partly what drives their passion.<br></p><p>Since I joined the foundation in late 2019, we have awarded 36 research grants, large and small, to 33 researchers, 14 of whom were first-time Wallace grantees. I thought it would be interesting (and fun!) to start an occasional series of interviews with some of them, as we publish their findings on the Wallace website.&#160;Kicking off the series with me is ​Bianca Baldridge​​​,​ ​an ​associate professor of education at Harvard University. Bianca is <a href="https&#58;//www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty/bianca-baldridge" target="_blank">a national expert​</a> in out-of-school-time programming (OST), with a particular interest in the youth workforce. </p><p>In 2020-2021, we commissioned Bianca, along with a group of her colleagues, to produce a rapid evidence review intended to inform Wallace’s future work in youth development. High level takeaways from that study are summarized in this <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/from-access-to-equity-making-out-of-school-time-spaces-meaningful-for-teens-from-marginalized-communities.aspx?_ga=2.110720197.1937604982.1650308769-375849283.1649958955">research brief</a>. In addition to a lit review and interviews with experts, their study involved a YPAR (youth participatory action research) project, where a group of older students designed and conducted a research study of their peers involved in afterschool programs, that you can read about <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/youth-perspectives-on-designing-equitable-out-of-school-time-programs.aspx">here​</a>. This work also led to a series of podcasts, where youth researchers discuss key issues related to their experiences in afterschool programs and which will be released later this spring.</p><p>This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. </p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; How did you come to focus on out-of-school-time?<br> </strong> <br> <strong>Bianca&#58;</strong>&#160; I came to this work because I was a participant in youth-work programs as a middle school student and started engaging in youth work as a staff member in high school.&#160; </p><p>As much as I loved these programs—as a participant and a staff member—and as&#160;important as&#160;they were in shaping my development, as a Black girl growing up in south-central Los Angeles, I was also troubled by the way programs were making assumptions about who I was. They tended to position themselves as saving me, and that kind of deficit positioning of me, which I consciously felt, was a problem. But I didn’t have the language to name it until I got to college and graduate school and began to study African American Studies and sociology. I started to see how my experiences, and the organizations themselves, had been shaped by the social and political context around them—the broader structures of power like race, class and social-economic policies.</p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; Over the last several years the OST field has started to more explicitly name the “ecological dimensions” of learning and development—in other words, looking beyond the program to understand how it is situated within a broader context, and how that context shapes what is possible. But the social and political dimensions of that ecology are not often articulated. The focus is more on spaces and places and practices.<br></strong><br><strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> I’m glad you said that. Families matter, communities, neighborhoods, all of that matters.&#160; And if those things matter, then within that ecosystem what’s happening? How do we not name those things?&#160; </p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; That attention to the broader structures of power that shape and constrain possibilities is what we call “a critical lens” in the research world. How do you bring that lens to the study of OST?<br></strong><br><strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> Afterschool spaces are important sites of learning and development, particularly for minoritized communities and communities that are multiply oppressed. My research agenda has been to think about how young people experience these programs&#58; Black and Latinx young people or racially minoritized people in general. To understand the role of relationships within the programs—among youth, youth workers and staff members. And to try to legitimize and create scholarship that highlights the pedagogy as well as the philosophies of youth workers, as legitimate pedagogues and educators within the educational landscape.&#160; </p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; Can you say more about what you mean about youth worker pedagogy? <br></strong> <br> <strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> I find that youth workers often have a true pedagogy in the sense that they have a philosophical sort of understanding about teaching, about learning, about youth development, about engagement with young people, and you can see that in practice in how they actually engage. So how they teach, how they cultivate relationships and connect with young people and their families, how they spark interest and ideas and a love of learning that is not just about academics, but also just about the world in general. </p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58;&#160;</strong><strong>It sounds like you’ve seen them recognizing the totality of the young person? <br></strong> <br> <strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> Yes. Youth workers can support youth academically, emotionally, socially and politically. They are really significant to “whole child” development. Youth workers are often placed in the position where they are supporting young people through their lives in school, neighborhoods and their families. Young people’s identities are complex and youth workers can be instrumental in nurturing all of who a young person is and who they are becoming. </p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58;&#160;</strong><strong>There has been a lot of research on how social policies and structures affect teachers and schooling, but less on how they impact youth development or afterschool and summer programs. I know you’re currently writing a book about this.<br></strong><br><strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> Yes, my current research is thinking about how displacement and gentrification can lead to school closures or rezoning, which in turn can impact community organizations that have been committed to Black liberation or youth development within Black communities. Part of the premise for me is that community organizations in many ways can be the backbone of neighborhoods and communities, and I’m really struck with the question of what happens when afterschool programs can’t afford high rents. What happens when they’re moved out of neighborhoods, what happens to programming for young people? Where do they go? Where will they hang out, what will they do? </p><p>For youth organizations that are committed to sociopolitical development or critical consciousness, I’m really interested in what they do and how they’re making sense of these transitions and displacement, and how they’re able to maintain a social justice, youth development approach in their work through this change. My new book links Black youth workers to the legacy and traditions of organizers like Ella Baker or Septima Clark, and projects how youth workers approach preparing young people to make sense of the world around them and to navigate a racially hostile, anti-Black world. It also addresses how they navigate anti-Blackness within their profession. How are they simultaneously taking care of themselves and also helping young people to negotiate the same social and political forces?</p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; Your work has made me think a lot about how much our vision of the best out-of-school-time programs depends on youth workers who are profoundly giving&#58; Giving love, giving respect, giving vision, giving support. But it’s not like there’s a bottomless well of giving if the system is not giving back to them. Your work highlights how the structures that suppress wages, limit benefits and sometimes tokenize youth workers can work to undermine the whole vision for what young people can gain from out of school time. <br></strong> <br> <strong> Bianca&#58; </strong>Yes. Because the burnout and the turnover are real. And youth workers are everywhere&#58;&#160; detention centers, museums, libraries, housing programs, afterschool organizations. I believe that programs and organizations, however they look, need to be able to meet the needs of the young people in their communities. But we need to think about the youth workers, or the people who care for young people, and find systems and structures that support them.&#160; </p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; The research you and your colleagues did for Wallace, and the research of the youth themselves, really got to how essential building a positive and inclusive context is, and that job is ultimately left to youth workers to create those conditions.<br></strong><br><strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> What blew us away was hearing directly from the youth about how students feel in those programs. They talked about feeling like things were cliquish or tokenistic. This goes back to what do these programs look like, what do they feel like, how are they organized, how are they structured? Not just anybody can run an inclusive OST program, not just anybody <em>should</em> run a program. I think allowing young people to share their firsthand experiences is just always, always, always sobering.</p><p> <strong>Bronwyn&#58; I&#160;</strong><strong>totally agree. There’s been a lot of work done on the kinds of things you need to have in place for assessing or building towards quality programs, but it is outside-in, and not inside-out, in terms of what it actually feels like to be in that space.</strong>&#160; <br> <br> <strong>Bianca&#58;</strong> Yes. And I definitely want to be able to talk about the resistance and the triumphs and the celebrations, the ways in which organizations, youth workers and young people are able to navigate structures outside and inside of the programs. But I think it’s important to name those structures that can oppress and get in the way of the possible. We have to be able to name and understand them to be able to overcome them.<br>​<br><br></p>Expert in afterschool programming ponders how we can better support youth workers and the young people they serveGP0|#d757acf5-471b-4382-96fe-4be19717ddbd;L0|#0d757acf5-471b-4382-96fe-4be19717ddbd|OST;GTSet|#e1be52fb-ad26-4379-9818-fd44f616dcf2;GP0|#1e20fb94-7fab-472d-a0c9-fcb059d9ea3d;L0|#01e20fb94-7fab-472d-a0c9-fcb059d9ea3d|out-of-school-time;GP0|#cad33471-a186-455a-836f-0d0657808f00;L0|#0cad33471-a186-455a-836f-0d0657808f00|research;GP0|#af601d73-7b6f-4545-8747-0b0ce065c916;L0|#0af601d73-7b6f-4545-8747-0b0ce065c916|interview;GP0|#3b1adca7-9ee2-4aeb-a9de-b4a01989a4b8;L0|#03b1adca7-9ee2-4aeb-a9de-b4a01989a4b8|Q&A;GP0|#37e72e97-63c0-4a59-a307-c9cd87ec9ef2;L0|#037e72e97-63c0-4a59-a307-c9cd87ec9ef2|education research;GP0|#417147d3-42f9-46f0-bd81-9dcff3bd8a98;L0|#0417147d3-42f9-46f0-bd81-9dcff3bd8a98|youth workers;GP0|#74382b82-b70e-4a4a-ac69-ac07f4786718;L0|#074382b82-b70e-4a4a-ac69-ac07f4786718|equityGP0|#b804f37e-c5dd-4433-a644-37b51bb2e211;L0|#0b804f37e-c5dd-4433-a644-37b51bb2e211|Afterschool;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61Bronwyn Bevan100<img alt="" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/Bronwyn-Bianca-Q-A-3.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />2022-04-21T04:00:00ZExpert in afterschool programming ponders how we can better support youth workers and the young people they serve4/21/2022 3:01:25 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Creating a More Equitable—and Welcoming—Afterschool Ecosystem Expert in afterschool programming ponders how we can better 824https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Two Summer Programs Inch Towards Normal as Covid Subsides40943<p>​​T​​​​​​​​​​​​renton, N.J., <a href="https&#58;//www.nj.com/mercer/2014/04/from_iron_to_steel_to_pottery_trenton_once_flexed_industrial_might_for_world_to_take.html" target="_blank">a former manufacturing hub</a> where <a href="https&#58;//www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/trentoncitynewjersey/AGE775219#AGE775219" target="_blank">nearly a third of the population now lives in poverty</a>, is not known for nature or green spaces. It is understandable, then, that when two busloads of children from the city arrived last August at the&#160;<a href="https&#58;//princetonblairstown.org/" target="_blank">​​Princeton-Blairstown Center</a>, a bucolic, 268-acre environmental education center in Blairstown, N.J., some were a bit nervous.</p><p>When some two dozen children set out on canoes to explore the center’s Bass Lake, two stayed behind, both terrified of the unfamiliar body of water. Staffers had to coax them into the lake, first getting the children into life jackets, then helping them onto canoes, then gently bumping off the pier and, only when the panicked parties had found their sea legs, paddling off to join the other students in the center of the lake.<br></p><p> This is what the Princeton-Blairstown Center, a 114-year-old organization that brings students from some of the poorest parts of New Jersey to its campus in Blairstown every summer, calls “challenge by choice.” The goal is to help <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/podcast-lets-talk-social-and-emotional-learning-(sel)-podcast.aspx?_ga=2.40619170.1045308987.1648136693-1352763000.1643649010">build social and emotional skills</a> by getting children out of their comfort zones, helping them confront some fears and showing them how they could use those experiences to overcome challenges at home, in school and in their communities. The practice can cause its share of anxious outbursts, but staffers are trained to help students learn from them. “That’s the whole point of our activities,” says Christopher Trilleras, one of the counselors who helped the wobbly mariners onto Bass Lake. “To process frustrations at the end, to really talk about them and prevent them.”<br></p><p>Such<a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/helping-children-feel-safe,-understood-and-supported.aspx?_ga=2.47824935.1045308987.1648136693-1352763000.1643649010"> social and emotional support is especially important</a> for children today, as the coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of months of school, play and interpersonal experimentation. The Wallace editorial team visited two summer programs in 2021—one operated by the Princeton-Blairstown Center and the other by <a href="https&#58;//freshair.org/" target="_blank">The Fresh Air Fund</a> in New York City—to see how they worked to help young people overcome the effects of months of isolation, including social anxiety, emotional volatility and a lack of focus after several school terms spent spacing out on Zoom. Both programs have had to get creative with established practices to help young people through two Covid-infested summers, staffers say, and are learning from those experiences to take on an unpredictable summer ahead.<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read fae0f294-6dd2-4d33-b4ca-9d4fcd783c83" id="div_fae0f294-6dd2-4d33-b4ca-9d4fcd783c83" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_fae0f294-6dd2-4d33-b4ca-9d4fcd783c83" unselectable="on" style="display&#58;none;"></div></div><h3 class="wf-Element-H3"> <br>Old principles, new social and emotional needs<br></h3><p>The two organizations, both more than a century old, have well-developed practices to help young people develop the sorts of social and emotional skills that the pandemic appears to have compromised. When they take children out canoeing, for example, they’re working to help children build confidence to confront new experiences. When they design collaborative construction projects or obstacle courses, they’re looking to grease social wheels and encourage teamwork. When they teach kids to tend to vegetable gardens or model farms, they’re working to foster a sense of responsibility. The students’ mere presence in peaceful but unfamiliar outdoor spaces, far removed from their regular lives in urban centers such as Trenton, New York City and Newark, N.J., can help build relationships, says Pam Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the Princeton-Blairstown Center. “When you come together for a week with people who have a shared experience that’s really unique from most of the other people in your life,” she says, “you form a very close bond.” </p><p>Such practices can be insufficient in a pandemic, however. Months in isolation without social opportunities have made many young people more reluctant to try new things, program staffers say. Last August in Sunset Park, a diverse, middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., about 30 tots and tweens spent a morning practicing crafts, learning to dance and racing handmade carts on a street blocked off for summer programs by The Fresh Air Fund. Most seemed comfortable enough, but one 10-year-old clung to a counselor, too uncomfortable to approach the others. It was a situation familiar to Jane Li, an area resident whose son faced similar anxieties when he first came to The Fresh Air Fund.&#160; “Sometimes in the beginning, he’s a little withdrawn,” Li says of her son. “Maya, the counselor, she talks to him, plays games with him, gets him warmed up and gradually join the small group and then the bigger group.” </p><p>Some counselors are even able to use the pandemic to help students deal with deeper traumas. Many students who find their way to the Princeton-Blairstown Center or The Fresh Air Fund have histories of homelessness, domestic abuse or worse. Tabs Alam, a senior environmental education facilitator at the Princeton-Blairstown Center, speaks of group sessions with students where conversations began with talk of the pandemic but ended with discussion of more visceral worries about home, family, friends and poverty. Some students will admit how they find lockdowns especially hard, Alam says, because home has never been safe for them. </p><p>“Covid was a vessel to have people think about themselves a little bit more,” she says.<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-wpbox"><div class="ms-rtestate-notify ms-rtestate-read c042efd2-9392-414f-9c95-097f0727d9c0" id="div_c042efd2-9392-414f-9c95-097f0727d9c0" unselectable="on"></div><div id="vid_c042efd2-9392-414f-9c95-097f0727d9c0" unselectable="on" style="display&#58;none;"></div></div><h3 class="wf-Element-H3"> <br>Learning Without Knowing It</h3><p>There are fewer silver linings when it comes to academics, however. School closures and other pandemic-related disruptions have set students, especially “historically marginalized students,” months behind, according to <a href="https&#58;//www.mckinsey.com/industries/education/our-insights/covid-19-and-education-the-lingering-effects-of-unfinished-learning" target="_blank">consulting firm McKinsey &amp; Company</a>. Basic math and English are rarely the central focus of programs like The Fresh Air Fund and the Princeton-Blairstown Center, but they are still working to help students regain the ground they’ve lost. </p><p>Both face two major constraints when doing so. For one thing, &#160;they can’t really drag children into classrooms and force them to make up for the academics they’ve lost. <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/getting-to-work-on-summer-learning-2nd-ed.aspx?_ga=2.47824935.1045308987.1648136693-1352763000.1643649010">Research suggests</a> that attendance is a key component of student success, and students are unlikely to want to attend if they’re crammed back into rooms after months spent indoors. </p><p>For another,&#160;both programs have less time than usual to dedicate to academics. In normal times, the Princeton-Blairstown Center would host its students for at least five days, while The Fresh Air Fund would shuttle campers to nature reserves north of New York City for two weeks. In 2021, after a season spent online, the Princeton-Blairstown Center was able to offer four days of programming in parks and schoolyards in its students' communities and a fifth-day daytrip to Blairstown. The Fresh Air Fund had to move most activities to New York City, cordoning off streets for camp-like activities for two, three-hour sessions a day, four days a week. </p><p>Both programs work to meet these twin challenges by doubling down on one of the things they do best&#58; making learning fun. “We like to fold education in without kids knowing that they’re learning,” says Sheila Wilson-Wells, chief program officer of The Fresh Air Fund. The programs feature libraries that staffers encourage students to use and quiet spaces where students can read, reflect and write. They also offer activities such as cooking, architecture and soil and water analysis that help students brush up on science and math. “For a lot of the young people that we serve, it’s the first time that they understand that learning can be fun,” Gregory says. “Because it’s hands-on, not just sitting there doing worksheets or a lecture.”</p><p>“Throughout their time with us, they’re learning,” adds Wilson-Wells. “From the time they get off the bus and they don’t even know it.”</p><p>Such subtle blends of academics, fun and social and emotional learning are essential in summer programs, say Aaron Dworkin and Broderick Clarke of the <a href="https&#58;//www.summerlearning.org/" target="_blank">National Summer Learning Association</a>​ (NSLA), especially in the wake of a crippling pandemic. “We have to get away from false-choice binary arguments that are a waste of time,” says&#160;Dworkin, chief executive officer of the NSLA. “Do kids need academic help or do they need social emotional help? They need both.”</p><p>“The best practitioners don't necessarily make that distinction or separation,” adds&#160;Clarke, the association’s vice president for programs. “They figure out a way to make the magic happen and to incorporate social and emotional competencies in the course of whatever activities they're presenting.”</p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">O to Struggle Against Great Odds…</h3><p>Summer programs must make this magic happen while dealing with their own daunting challenges, from staff burnout and fatigue to the limited time they have with their campers. Three characteristics help them do so, say staffers from the two programs&#58; flexibility, partnerships and continuous improvement.</p><p>Both programs have had to be nimble to offer children as much programming as the pandemic permits. When the coronavirus shut everything down in 2020, for example, the Princeton-Blairstown Center sent its students “PBC in a Bag,” kits with books, snacks and the materials they needed for daily activities such as building catapults and seeing how far they could shoot projectiles across their rooms. After each activity, counselors led discussions on Zoom and helped students draw lessons from the experience. “It was very challenging for our facilitators,” says&#160;Gregory, “but over time they perfected it.”</p><p>The following summer, as the relative safety of outdoor gatherings became clearer, the Princeton-Blairstown Center resumed in-person activities. It still couldn’t host people overnight, as most parents were still nervous about children sharing rooms, so it devised its schedule of four days in students’ neighborhoods and one at its Blairstown campus so students could get at least a little taste of nature. It isn’t much, but Richad Hollis, a rising eighth grader from Trenton visiting the center in August, appeared to appreciate it. “In Trenton, it’s just streets and people playing outside,” he said. “Here, it’s a whole creek right over here. It’s just way more stuff that you can do other than just running around in the streets.”</p><p>The Fresh Air Fund never stopped in-person programming, but it created <a href="https&#58;//freshair.org/summer-spaces/" target="_blank">a new Summer Spaces</a> program to avoid crowding children into buses or dorms. It blocked traffic on 11 city blocks throughout New York City and opened them up so children could drop in for activities including dancing, sports, STEM projects and arts and crafts. Each site featured two health and safety officers to ensure adherence to pandemic protocols and social workers traveled from site to site to help acclimate children unnerved by the sudden onslaught of social activity. </p><p>These adaptations would have been impossible without partnerships, says Wilson-Wells. To find and secure city blocks, staffers worked with communities, city councilmembers and the New York City Department of Transportation. To offer dance lessons, they recruited performers through a partnership with&#160; the <a href="https&#58;//www.abt.org/" target="_blank">American Ballet Theatre</a>. To help teach science, they asked for help from <a href="https&#58;//www.biobus.org/" target="_blank">Biobus</a>, a New York City-based organization that runs mobile labs for children. To get books, they worked with the Brooklyn and Queens libraries. “There were so many wonderful partners that really pulled together to do comprehensive services,” Wilson-Wells says, “so we can ensure that, even in the pandemic, we were able to impart learning moments.”</p><p>There are about 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price lunches in American schools, according to the <a href="https&#58;//schoolnutrition.org/aboutschoolmeals/schoolmealtrendsstats/" target="_blank">School Nutrition Association</a>, a trade group for the school-food-service industry. Such partnerships are essential to get those children the services they need, says Aaron Dworkin of the NSLA. “No one program can serve 22 million kids,” he says. “But collectively, we can.”</p><h3 class="wf-Element-H3">…To Meet Enemies Undaunted</h3><p>Both programs are now using these experiences to gear up for an uncertain summer ahead, inching towards traditional programming, keeping what worked during the pandemic and tweaking what did not. The Fresh Air Fund plans to reopen camps for two-week experiences again. But 2022 will include important adjustments to help students and staffers adapt and respond to new realities. The organization will open just four of its six camps and limit capacity to 50 percent. The reduction in size, says Wilson-Wells, should help get campers the extra attention they need, give staffers room to reacquaint themselves with camp life and ensure everyone has enough space to return to social distancing should that become necessary. </p><p>To help meet the demand it cannot meet at its condensed camps, The Fresh Air Fund will continue to operate the Summer Spaces program it created during the pandemic. However, as it begins to direct resources back to more traditional programs, it will trim that program from 11 sites to four, focusing on neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the pandemic and where families have expressed the greatest interest. </p><p>All experiences, both at the camps and in New York City, will still include the health and safety workers who&#160;helped ensure adherence​​ to Covid restrictions during the pandemic. Staffers felt kids could use more social and emotional support, however, so the fund will replace its traveling social workers with support staffers dedicated to each site. “We're hoping that that will allow us to have organic conversations with young people to really hear how we can best serve them,” says Wilson-Wells.</p><p>The Princeton-Blairstown Center, meanwhile, is staying flexible. It will begin to host groups for overnight sessions at Blairstown if the parents, schools and organizations that send them are comfortable. But it will keep a pandemic schedule to accommodate students from communities with low vaccination rates, those who may live with vulnerable family members in multigenerational households and those whose regular teachers are too Covid-worn to chaperone them.</p><p>Like The Fresh Air Fund, the center is adapting that pandemic schedule based on observations from the last two years. The one, five-hour day at Blairstown seemed rushed in 2021, Gregory says, so the center&#160; may expand it to an eight-hour day for children who cannot visit for a whole week. The extra time, says Gregory, would allow children to experience more of the pastoral expanse of the Blairstown campus, learn more about their relationships with nature and form closer bonds with each other. “Dosage matters,” she says. “The amount of time kids spend doing the activities matters a lot.”<br></p><p>The center will also tweak its curriculum to adapt to shifting needs during the pandemic. In 2021, most students read <em>Seedfolks</em>, a book about 13&#160;children of different ethnicities tending a community garden in Cleveland. To spark conversations, counselors asked students which of the book's characters they found most relatable. The book remains the same for 2022, but the discussion will now focus on the plants in the garden and what they could teach campers about sprouting from the ashes of a pandemic. &quot;It's to provide kids with more of an opportunity to talk about how challenging it's been,&quot; Gregory says, &quot;and what they need moving forward.&quot; </p><p>It is unclear whether such careful planning can help children recover from the two years they have lost to the pandemic. Many parents and educators, however, are happy just to see them get out, let loose and have fun again. “They were free to run,” says Alice Lightner, a parent who was chaperoning children in Blairstown in August. “They were free to play, free to explore and engage with their peers.”</p><p>“Getting in touch with nature, just a quick walk, you feel so at peace,” adds Samantha Elliott, another parent. “I just saved probably about $500 from the therapist.”<br></p> <p><em>Additional reporting, editing and production work by </em><a href="/about-wallace/people/pages/jenna-doleh.aspx"><em>Jenna Doleh</em></a><em>.</em><br></p>The Princeton-Blairstown Center and The Fresh Air Fund lean on creativity, flexibility and self-reflection to help kids rise from the ashes of a pandemicGP0|#507166ce-121b-4ec6-97dc-339d45606921;L0|#0507166ce-121b-4ec6-97dc-339d45606921|summer;GTSet|#e1be52fb-ad26-4379-9818-fd44f616dcf2;GP0|#727f837e-da88-41cd-8e2b-519b38340410;L0|#0727f837e-da88-41cd-8e2b-519b38340410|summer learning;GP0|#72b4de8d-2e9d-4acd-8926-79d5645f215f;L0|#072b4de8d-2e9d-4acd-8926-79d5645f215f|learning and enrichment;GP0|#d12b494a-8c5d-4014-9866-51539e68ea50;L0|#0d12b494a-8c5d-4014-9866-51539e68ea50|COVID-19;GP0|#093a2e91-3046-4ae3-bfcd-92b58b845614;L0|#0093a2e91-3046-4ae3-bfcd-92b58b845614|summer programs;GP0|#b30ec468-8df4-44a4-8b93-5bb0225193fc;L0|#0b30ec468-8df4-44a4-8b93-5bb0225193fc|SELGP0|#ff9563e3-b973-45a7-8ac3-c9f4122f9a13;L0|#0ff9563e3-b973-45a7-8ac3-c9f4122f9a13|Summer Learning;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61;GP0|#890cbc1f-f78a-45e7-9bf2-a5986c564667;L0|#0890cbc1f-f78a-45e7-9bf2-a5986c564667|Social and Emotional LearningSarosh Z. Syed50<img alt="" src="/News-and-Media/Blog/PublishingImages/blog-pandemic-summer-post-lg-feature.jpg" style="BORDER&#58;0px solid;" />2022-03-29T04:00:00ZThe Princeton-Blairstown Center and The Fresh Air Fund lean on creativity, flexibility and self-reflection to help kids rise from the ashes of a pandemic3/30/2022 2:42:25 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Two Summer Programs Inch Towards Normal as Covid Subsides The Princeton-Blairstown Center and The Fresh Air Fund lean on 4453https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx

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