As white teachers in a predominantly white school, we see the impacts of racism on all of our students on a daily basis. For many, they do not even recognize what they are experiencing and perpetuating. Great anti-racism work is being done throughout Vermont, but it's either small and localized so it doesn't spread, or it's a top down mandate from people who have limited experience trying to actually "do it" inside of schools. And when we look at our wider community, whether it is local or national, we see similar racial issues that our students will confront when they leave our school. Milton High School has undertaken anti-racism work among the faculty for a couple of years. However, racism has not gone away, nor is it likely to without more concentrated effort and specific, direct action. This leads to our two focusing questions: first, what is the best way to bring racial equity work to a predominantly white space, especially one in which there is pushback from some stakeholders about why this race matters in a school lacking diversity? And second, what would be a viable plan for moving the school forward?
As Rowland Fellows, we will begin by deepening our own racial literacy, recognizing that racial equity starts with the self. Next, we want to study the anti-racism work being done by similar schools on the local and national levels. Working with stakeholders, we will develop an implementation plan for Milton, which could be adapted for schools around Vermont. We hope to gain expertise and knowledge so that we can help other "doers" become intentional and successful in their anti-racism work. We will use our research to create a plan to increase racial equity in a way that is done with students, faculty, and the school community, and not done to them. This plan may include options such as integrating racial equity work into the existing TA structure, creating and growing a racial equity team that includes students, or proposing required courses for students.
We envision a school culture in which all students will be able to self-identify with their racial and/or ethnic backgrounds and celebrate, share, and have pride in who they are. They will feel comfortable embracing all aspects of themselves, and they will feel valued, respected, and supported. This will lead to an increased sense of belonging and community for all members of the learning environment. Additionally, we anticipate a reduction in hazing, harassment, and bullying, and a drop in disciplinary issues, allowing all students to reach their full potential in their educations. Student attendance will increase, transfers will decrease, and student academics will become stronger. They will grow as leaders and activists, and we will see more student involvement in groups, clubs, activities, trainings, and classes that strive to create a racially equitable culture. Within our current divisive climate, educating our students to be race aware and not colorblind will begin to address the racial inequities they will face as they become members of communities beyond high school. We are all socialized into a racially segregated society, and we need to intentionally fight systemic racism in our schools in order for our students to lead richer, more vibrant lives, and to create change in their communities.
Mill River Union High School was founded on the premise that core academics, the arts, and athletics are of equal importance in teaching young people to be active and engaged citizens. Our strong music program currently focuses on creating quality student musicians who are capable of the highest level of music performance, as well as helping students develop transferable skills that enable them to be successful adults in the next chapter of their lives. My vision is to replicate the systems and structures that make our music program exemplary within an all school tier-one instructional model focused through the lens of performance-based assessment. I envision this work acting as a catalyst for genuine and sustainable change in school culture by building a climate where teacher expertise is valued and student achievement and leadership is celebrated. The three cornerstones of Mill River arts instruction are high expectations, authentic assessment, and student equity. This is accomplished by modeling musical excellence, utilizing student leadership, providing a safe learning environment, advocating for equity regarding race, sexual orientation, and gender identity as well as focusing summative assessment on meaningful and authentic, performance-based learning. As a Rowland Fellow, I plan to create demonstrable and scalable action steps as well as professional development content that serves to increase overall student achievement. Specifically, I want to enable teachers to access the foundational core of high-quality music education in order to implement performance-based assessment as a key component of tier one instruction in any classroom in the school. The ultimate goal of this work would be to create a positive shift in our school culture toward performance as the most authentic representation of learning and assessment while reinforcing the belief that embracing our diversity creates more meaningful learning experiences for all.
Five years ago, when I became the advisor for our school's student newspaper, the Chronicle, I discovered the cause that will define my career: working to sustain Vermont's vibrant civic culture by empowering student journalists.
The Chronicle is more like a sports team than an academic class. My students, motivated by their shared purpose and accountable to a real audience, push each other to excellence. They've covered serious issues in our community, sometimes holding our school's leadership to account, embodying John Dewey's conception of democracy as an active habit of civic engagement. Their reporting has clear civic value: every citizen benefits when young people are heard.
Student journalism empowers students, enriches our civic culture and supports the individualized, project-based learning Vermont has committed to pursue, yet many schools have abandoned their school newspapers. I believe we're only scratching the surface of what student journalists can achieve in Vermont.
My fellowship will pursue two projects. First, I'll work with my colleagues to make U-32 a model for what I call a "culture of publication": encouraging teachers across disciplines to find authentic audiences for their students' work and exploring ways to use published student work as a resource for classroom teaching.
My second project will be to work with VTDigger to connect Vermont's student journalists with a statewide audience. This will take the form of a digital platform, embedded on the VTDigger website, with resources for students and teachers to guide their work toward publication. Ultimately I hope to develop a dual enrollment workshop course, conducted through live web conference, giving every student across the state the opportunity to pursue journalism. Please help spread the word about these exciting opportunities.
I see student journalism as a civic mission. Today's young Vermonters are more aware and more eager to engage than at any time since the 1960's. We need to work harder to include them, not just as children to be taught, but as coequal partners in the effort to restore our civil discourse.
On Earth Day 2019, National Public Radio reported that 4 out of 5 parents are interested in more climate education in school. Despite 74% of educators feeling that teaching about climate change is important, only 42% include the topic in their courses. In November 2019 students from across Vermont came together to demand climate leadership from our government officials. The document they created, the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration, included this specific plea to educators: "Incorporate Climate Justice into the existing Vermont public school curriculum related to climate change and require this to be enforced in grades K-12." These young Vermonters know that climate change is impacting their future and they want their education to prepare them for that reality.
I plan to organize my project in two phases: (1) Learning and Connecting; and (2) Practice and Implementation. During phase one, I would learn from Burr and Burton students and colleagues, and from the statewide network of educators and youth involved in climate issues. Working with colleagues and department chairs, I plan to identify materials and trainings needed to teach about climate change while meeting their discipline specific goals. Working with students, I hope to learn what they already know, and what they need to know in order to prepare for a climate resilient future. With this insight, I would use the school-wide curriculum maps to identify places to engage students with topics in climate change across disciplines and departments. Outside of my school, I will engage with students from the Youth Lobby about their climate education goals, the sustainability educators professional learning community in Montpelier, and the statewide Climate Resilience Education Network based at Shelburne Farms. Beyond Vermont, two national conferences provide the most current developments in climate change education: the Bioneers Conference and the Drawdown Learn initiative. Through connection and collaboration I hope to gain ideas and inspiration that will prepare our school to teach about climate across any of our courses.
Phase Two of the project would be direct work with faculty and students to incorporate climate education in our school curriculum. This could be through collaborative, interdisciplinary project based work or through targeted lessons that fit within existing teaching structures. The goal of phase two is to create vigorous and engaging educational experiences related to climate change. The work aims to ready both students and schools to tackle the opportunities and challenges of their future. The climate crisis will reshape all sectors of society: our biological environment, our political systems, and our economic priorities. In the face of this great challenge there is hope and potential for emergent solutions. By including creativity and resilience as key components of climate education, joy can be found in each other and in the changing world. An integrative understanding of changing realities will help students thrive as problem solvers working to increase justice, communication, and economic opportunity in ways that are good for all people and the planet.
We aim to address the marginalization of females, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming youth that occurs within Computer Science (CS) education and the workforce. We envision a world where all are inspired to become creators, change-makers, and leaders.
We believe that we all bear a responsibility to actively combat this inequality by creating new systems, and we plan to do just that. We will develop a K-12 CS program because schools must assume a critical role to create CS learning opportunities. Otherwise, students will continue to develop identities informed by a world where males far outpace female participation in this area. As a national example, only 28% of students who sat for the AP CS exam over the last three years identified as female. The disparity in Vermont is 8.5 % greater.
Developing a vertically coherent CS program will ensure that all early-adolescents have the opportunity to see themselves as creators, leaders, and computer scientists. If we wait until high school, we have missed a golden opportunity; the cognitive structures of eleven-year-olds are dramatically rearranging themselves as youth develop identity at full-tilt during this time, imagining themselves in adult roles. The data are clear; our world does not present females as integral to, and leaders of, the creative, technological workforce. Our project seeks to change that for our students, andby sharing our workfor students in other schools, as well.
"Every girl deserves to take part in creating the technology that will change our world, and change who runs it." Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace prize winner and educational activist.
Toxic stress brought on by complex trauma impacts the developing brain of a child, which may in turn contribute to academic and behavioral problems by the time a child reaches school age. Findings from a large influential study conducted in Spokane, Washington, revealed that 80% of students experiencing three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences ACES) exhibit one or more academic concerns in the school environment (Blodgett, 2010).
Teachers, school administrators, parents, and others within and beyond the education sector are working to create healthy and supportive school environments that promote the academic, social and emotional/behavioral success of all students, as well as staff, through the application of trauma-informed methods to help create a safe environment in which students feel connected, and ready to learn and in which educators can deliver a curriculum that reaches all students.
Recent data suggest that 19.9% of Vermont children from ages 0-17 experiences two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) that impact their social, emotional and cognitive development (healthyermont.gov).Rutland High School (RHS) has begun the process of becoming a trauma informed school to help build resilience in its students impacted by ACES so that they can learn with purpose, lead lives of integrity and contribute to society in meaningful ways (RHS Mission Statement). While we are taking steps to gain the knowledge of the impact of ACES on our students, RHS needs to transform its pedagogical culture to become trauma informed, which will evolve through an ongoing learning, evaluation and reflection process that unfold over the course of several years.
A Rowland Fellowship will allow me to learn the critical ingredients of understanding the impact of ACES and toxic stress on student engagement in school. I will then take that knowledge to work with my colleagues and administration to adopt trauma informed practices to support student engagement and learning, as well as self-care for teachers and staff.
With successful implementation of trauma informed practices, RHS will, over the course of three to five years, see a decrease in suspension rates, an increase in overall attendance and academic engagement, an increase in the quality and quantity of alternative pathways for a target group of students who are not successful with the traditional high school schedule, and an overall increase in teacher job satisfaction and self-care.