The past three years have been transformative for public education. As the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, public school systems had to rapidly adapt their approach while ensuring the safety of their students, staff, and families. This led to multiple school years that looked radically different, ranging from fully remote instruction to hybrid learning to the more “traditional” in-person model for schooling. But, what would we consider a “normal” paradigm for public education to be now? The ways that educators approach their practice, families engage with schools, and students navigate their learning have changed. Schools have continuously reimagined their work, adapting former connections and forging new ones to further the mission of public education in shifting sociopolitical contexts. At the 2023 MERC Summit, stakeholders from educational research, policy, and practice will come together to explore all that we have navigated, learned, and gained during this formative period in public schools while sharing ideas for addressing enduring and emerging challenges.

The goals of the summit are:
1. To offer interactive sessions where educational practitioners, researchers, and policymakers can learn together and collaborate on strategies to address prominent issues in public schools.
2. To explore innovative approaches to supporting K-12 students, educators, and families.
3. To learn from locally-developed research exploring trends, outcomes, and recommendations specific to metropolitan Richmond schools.
4. To leverage the benefits of research-practice partnerships between universities and K-12 public school systems by forging meaningful connections between stakeholders.

The summit format will focus on collaborative sessions where attendees are invited to actively contribute their ideas and expertise. Participants will receive a certificate for 8 contact hours for continuing education credit.
Highland Springs High School
200 South Airport Dr
Highland Springs, VA 23075
Date & Time
June 29, 2023, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Grab your name tag, a program, and a cup of coffee to start your day.
Welcome to the 2023 MERC Summit! In this opening session we will discuss our theme Connecting Research, Policy, and Practice Through Shifting Paradigms in Public Education and talk about what to expect for the rest of the day.

Jesse Senechal, MERC Director; Andy Armstrong, Interim Superintendent of Goochland County Public Schools and MERC Chair;  Kathy Rudasill, Interim Dean for VCU School of Education; 
Kenneth White, Principal of Highland Springs High School; David Naff, MERC Associate Director 
Featuring members of the graduating class of 2023 from Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Petersburg, and Richmond Public Schools.
Session 1. Evidence-Based Practices for 
Supporting Multi-Lingual Learners
Choral room - 1503
Joining Forces for Henrico County Public Schools’ Newcomer English Learners: The Power of Collaborative Evaluation in the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium
Phil Riddle - Henrico County Public Schools; Paula Ogston-Nobile - Virginia Commonwealth University; Jesse Senechal - Virginia Commonwealth University; Sarah Modrak, Henrico County Public Schools

This session will profile an ongoing evaluation partnership between MERC and Henrico County Public Schools; its current focus is on improving outcomes for Newcomer English Learners. Participants will engage in an open conversation about the importance and potential benefits of this type of extended, collaborative work.

Takeaways: 1) An understanding of the design of a research-practice collaborative evaluation process.  2) Collaborative evaluation leads to rigorous research design and relevant recommendations for improvement. 3) Collaborative evaluation presents challenges addressed by intentional efforts to build relationships.
Responsive Circles with MLL Students
JoAna Smith, Henrico County Public Schools; Kishanti M. BarmohHenrico County Public Schools

Learn how responsive circles can be used to build community for our MLL students, increasing engagement and decreasing absences as well as discipline referrals

Takeaways: 1) Responsive Circle Questions  2) Strategies to implement responsive circles in any class 3) Research and data on creating conducive climate
Family Engagement: Communication is Key
Cindy Sinanian, Hanover County Public Schools

If you want to increase family engagement, then ENGAGE YOUR FAMILIES! Communication is key. Although this seems simplistic, it can be challenging to communicate with your families when they don't speak English. In this session you will learn how to use Apps that support the language needs of your families and the types of communication that can lead to greater family engagement. The presenter will share data, examples, and answer questions related to this topic.

Takeaways: 1) Participants will become familiar with Apps that enable communication with most non-English speaking families--and be able to use them immediately. 2) Participants will become more aware of the types of communication that nurture and foster family engagement. 3) Participants will get other tips and pointers that help online translation apps and services to be more efficient and less confusing.
JoAna Smith, Henrico County Public Schools
Session 2. Navigating New Horizons of 
Open Access in Education
band room - 1504
To Open or not to Open: An Exploration of Faculty Engagement with Open Practices
Jose Alcaine, Virginia Commonwealth University; Sergio Chaparro, Virginia Commonwealth University; Hillary Miller, Virginia Commonwealth University; Nina Exner, Virginia Commonwealth University; Preeti Kamat, Virginia Commonwealth University; Jessica Kirschner, Virginia’s Academic Library Consortium

Open practices such as open access publishing and open educational resources (OER) have emerged to increase access of scholarly outputs by removing some barriers to knowledge dissemination. While faculty engagement with open practices is increasing, barriers still remain for widespread participation. This talk will share preliminary results and highlights from a pilot study conducted at a Research 1 university.

Takeaways: 1) Barriers remain for widespread faculty adoption of open practices at research IHEs  2) Open practices are valued but may be perceived to hinder faculty promotion and tenure at research IHEs 3) Open practices are perceived to increase access to knowledge produced at research IHE's
Using AI to Generate Data-Driven Lesson Plans
Eric Ekholm, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Recently, conversations about the role of AI in teaching and learning have dominated much of the education discourse. In this session, I demonstrate a prototype application that combines AI, (synthetic) Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) Assessment data, and content-specific best practices to generate lesson plans.

Takeaways: 1) Participants will understand how large language models work.  2) Participants will understand how LLMs can support teachers' work. 3) Participants will generate a lesson using an example application.
Balancing the Benefits and Risks of AI Large Language Models in K12 Public Schools
Jesse Senechal, Virginia Commonwealth University; Samaher Aljudaibi, Virginia Commonwealth University; Mary Strawderman, Virginia Commonwealth University

This presentation will summarize findings from a recent MERC research brief focused on the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on public education. It will address the following questions: 1) What is AI? What are AI large language models? How do they work?, 2) What are the implications of large language models for teaching and learning?, 3) What are the main concerns with the use of AI large language models? What are the concerns for use within public schools?, 4) What are the considerations for school district policy on AI large language models?, and 5) What are the recommendations for educators and educational leaders?

Takeaways: 1) Participants will develop a better understanding of the range of applications of AI Large Language Models to K12 Education, 
2) Participants will consider the significant benefits and risks of using these models in the K12 educational context.
Matt Caratachea, Goochland County Public Schools
Session 3. Administrator Strategies for Supporting 
and Retaining Teachers
theater room - 1502
Teacher Burnout…As the School Leader, What Do You Do?
Amber Butler, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center;
LaToya Draper, Virginia Commonwealth University

Jeans pass days, and coffee carts are no longer effective ways for school leaders to contest teacher burnout. With the increasing demands on teachers from school leaders and districts, teachers face increased workplace challenges and stressors. As a school leader, the challenges must be acknowledged and addressed. More importantly, the strategies to combat teacher burnout must be sustainable and supportive if leaders are to eradicate the syndrome. This presentation will explore strategies to promote teacher wellness, foster positive school culture, and prioritize teacher feedback and recognition. The goal is to create a sustainable and supportive environment where teachers' and students' success is the priority.

Takeaways: 1) Recognizing teacher burnout: causes and symptoms; 2) Research based Strategies to support teachers’ well-being; 3) Leverage social media for teacher resources and acknowledgement
Observations Accelerated: Using Data Driven Feedback for High-Impact Instructional Coaching
MJ Rodney, Chesterfield County Public Schools; Beth Morris, Chesterfield County Public Schools

The traditional observation is one-and-done. What if observations were ongoing, produced actionable data, and could be used for PLC-level coaching cycles? Two middle schools in Chesterfield County upended their observation practices and saw student achievement soar. Learn how to leverage your teacher observations to drive meaningful instructional development for teachers.

Takeaways: 1) Rethinking the observation and evaluation process to better leverage data collection for instructional coaching.  2) Building a way to monitor implementation and efficacy of evidence-based interventions and instructional best practices. 3) Engaging teachers in data analysis that leads to a problem of practice and growth goal.
Evidence-Based Approaches to Teacher Feedback and Evaluation for Administrators
Regina FrazierVirginia Commonwealth University; Makeba Lindsay D'Abreu, Virginia Commonwealth University; Jacquelyn Cioffi, Virginia Commonwealth University

This presentation will discuss key takeaways from a MERC research and policy brief focused on evidence-based strategies for administrator feedback to teachers. It will explore the following questions: 1) What is the purpose of administrators providing feedback to teachers? 2) How do administrators typically provide feedback to teachers? 3) How do teachers typically receive feedback from administrators? 4) What are research-based strategies for administrators to provide productive feedback to teachers?

Takeaways: 1) Learn about the purposes of administrator feedback to teachers; 2) Opportunity to reflect on current observation and feedback practices; 3) Engagement with research showing evidence-based practices for providing feedback to teachers
Jenna Darby, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Session 4. Policy and Practice Solutions for Promoting Mental Health in Schools
Mental Health in Schools: A Partnership with the Community Services Board
Karla Allen, Hanover County Public Schools; Jennifer Sheppard - Hanover Community Services Board; Lauren Krusenklaus - Hanover Community Services Board

This presentation will share the process that our school division and the local CSB utilized to conceptualize and develop this partnership. It will also share data and examples related to the impact that having a mental health counselor on site has made for students. Finally, it will provide insights related to how a comprehensive counseling program can be enhanced by having a mental health counselor on site.

Takeaways: 1) Consider a similar model for collaborative efforts. 2) Multiple methods of considering data for implementation of programs.
3) How to integrate a mental health school based clinician with a school counseling team.
Exploring School Policy Efforts in Suicide Prevention and Response
Fatemah Khawaji, Prince George's County Public Schools; Jill Flynn, Fairfax County Public Schools

This presentation will share findings from a MERC brief focused on school division policies focused on suicide prevention and response. It will answer the following questions: 1) What are recent trends in youth suicide? 2) What does research show about school division policies that are effective in suicide prevention and response? 3) What policies in Virginia and the MERC region guide the prevention of suicide in school divisions? 4) What are the key takeaways and recommendations for preventing youth suicide through education policy?

Takeaways: 1) Understanding trends in youth suicide since COVID-19, including particularly impacted subgroups; 2) Exploring evidence-based education policies focused on suicide prevention and response; 3) Engaging with state and school board policies in the MERC region focused on addressing suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Teen Summit RVA: Promoting the Voices of Richmond Area Youth
Chloe Carter, Chesterfield County; David Naff, Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, Virginia Commonwealth University; Kristen Tuxbury, Virginia Commonwealth University; Meg Sheriff, Hanover County Public Schools; Sherry Bosarge, Virginia Commonwealth University

This presentation will describe the genesis of the first annual Teen Summit RVA, an event designed to support the social and emotional needs of adolescents in Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond Public Schools. Attendees will learn about how this event was conceived and developed while centering youth voice, how participating teens in the Richmond area responded to the experiences provided at the event, and what the data showed about the evidence of impact in its inaugural year. Although the Summit focused on supporting youth in a variety of topic areas that they identified as important to them, this presentation will specifically focus on the perceived mental health impacts of the event.

Takeaways: 1) Participants will learn about the processes used to conceptualize and execute a regional youth summit with support from stakeholders in each community. 2) Participants will hear from youth who participated in the Teen Summit RVA, including why they found it important and how they perceived its impact. 3) Participants will engage with data from an evaluation of the Summit, including quantitative and qualitative evidence of perceived impact on youth mental health outcomes.
Brian Maltby, Hanover County Public Schools
Session 5. Strategies for Addressing Chronic Absenteeism, Bullying, and Student Behavior
Challenges in the Post-Pandemic Era
Addressing School Bullying Since the Onset of COVID-19
Christina Tillery, Henrico County Public Schools and Virginia Commonwealth University; Fatemah Khawaji, Prince George's County Public Schools

This presentation will summarize findings from a recent MERC research and policy brief focused on addressing school bullying since the onset of COVID-19. It will explore the following questions: 1) What is the nature of school bullying since the onset of COVID-19? 2) Which students have been particularly impacted by bullying since the pandemic? 3) What are recommended strategies for preventing school bullying since the onset of COVID-19? 4) What are current policies in Virginia and MERC school divisions related to addressing bullying? 5) What are the key takeaways and enduring questions about addressing school bullying since the onset of COVID-19?

Takeaways: 1) Participants will learn more about data and trends in school bullying since the onset of COVID-19, including which student groups have been particularly impacted. 2) Participants will explore evidence-based strategies for intervening with students involved with bullying as either a victim or perpetrator. 3) Participants will engage with state and local policies intended to help curb both bullying in public schools.
Where Are All the Kids?: Leveraging School Counseling 
Practices to Combat Chronic Absenteeism
Christina Tillery, Henrico County Public Schools and Virginia Commonwealth University

School counselors are uniquely positioned to help address the significant increase in chronic absenteeism. School counselors can collaborate with other vital educators, families, and students to increase school attendance through tiered supports. This presentation will review the literature and data on chronic absenteeism while providing tangible strategies for schools.

Takeaways: 1) Participants will have a more robust understanding of chronic absenteeism trends in Virginia. 2) Participants will identify ways school counselors can address chronic absenteeism. 3) Participants will review tangible strategies to address chronic absenteeism.
What is a Behavior Coach?
Brian Maltby, Hanover County Public Schools; Lisa Winn, Hanover County Public Schools; Justin Harvey, Hanover County Public Schools

Presentation attendees will learn how Hanover County Public Schools has created a model for coaching where our behavior coaches work directly with teachers to help build the skills they need to deal with difficult student behaviors. They will learn how directly supporting teachers has led to a measurable decrease in physical aggression and defiance as well as an increase in teacher capacity.

Takeaways: 1) How behavior coaches can transform teachers' ability to handle difficult student behaviors; 2) How to increase teacher capacity and confidence through behavior coaching; 3) What are the qualities of a successful behavior coach? How to hire.
JoAna Smith, Henrico County Public Schools
Session 6. Promoting Sustainable and Equitable STEM Learning Ecosystems in Schools
BAND ROOM - 1504
Building a Sustainable STEM Learning Ecosystem
John Fife, Virginia Commonwealth University; Christine-Jones-Monaccio, Virginia Partnership for Out-Of-School Time; Kamden Strunk, Virginia Commonwealth University

STEM Learning ecosystems involve multi-sector partnerships unifying schools, universities, businesses, museums, and other Informal Science Learning (ISL) and community organizations to drive STEM innovation in teaching and learning. Our session will highlight the process involved in the formation of a STEM learning ecosystem in Central Virginia.

Takeaways: 1) Attendees will understand the process of ecosystem formation; 2) Understanding of recent policy change facilitated by a move to forming ecosystems; 3) Receive an invitation to become involved in ecosystem work
Building a Stronger Future: Exploring the STEM Pipeline Partnership between Virginia State University and Petersburg City Public Schools
Decardra Jackson, Petersburg City Public Schools; John Blackwell, Virginia State University; John Travis, Virginia State University

The STEM partnership pipeline between Virginia State University and Petersburg City Public Schools aims to enhance STEM education by providing hands-on learning opportunities, teacher professional development, and mentorship to students in underserved communities, thereby improving their chances of pursuing STEM careers.

Takeaways: 1) The STEM partnership pipeline provides opportunities for underrepresented students in underserved communities to explore and pursue careers in STEM fields, as well as, opportunities for public school teacher professional development, and mentorship, to enhance STEM education in K-12 schools. 2) The partnership between Virginia State University and Petersburg City Public Schools aims to address the shortage of STEM professionals and improve the economic prospects of the region by preparing a diverse and skilled workforce for the future. 3) The STEM partnership pipeline program aims to increase diversity in STEM fields by providing opportunities and access to underrepresented students to visit college campuses, interact with college students, and attend the summer workshops to learn the soft skills necessary for success in STEM careers.
Centering Students in Science Talk: Tools, Strategies, and Example Activities
Tracyee Hogans Foster, Richmond Public Schools; Phylis Wilson, Richmond Public Schools; Michael Stange, Richmond Public Schools; Melodee Haskins, Richmond Public Schools; Victoria Weber, Chesterfield County Public Schools; Christine Bae, Virginia Commonwealth University

In this presentation, RPS and CCPS middle science teachers who have been working together in lesson study teams over multiple years will share tools, strategies, and example discourse science talk activities that make connections to their students' identities, homes, interests, and communities.

Takeaways: 1) To engage your students in classroom talk, you first need to know who your students are; 2) Students bring a wealth of knowledge and interests that help the whole class better learn science; 3) Lesson study is a powerful professional learning model for teachers to share ideas, and reflect and improve their practice
Matt Caratachea, Goochland County Public Schools
Session 7. Cultivating Student 
Success in Reading and Writing
Investigating the New Reading Wars
Jennifer Askue-Collins, Virginia Commonwealth University; Karli Zilberfarb, Virginia Commonwealth University; Allison YandleVirginia Commonwealth University

Our research design aims to determine whether a systematic phonics approach or an embedded phonics approach leads to greater reading skill acquisition. Using a quasi-experimental design, student progress is analyzed within a mixed design ANOVA. Findings will contribute to the debate surrounding effective approaches to literacy instruction.

Takeaways: 1) Debate in Literacy Instruction: Research highlights the longstanding debate between proponents of a phonics-based approach and those favoring an embedded approach. This debate has led to different instructional practices employed in schools and we hope this research finds common ground between the different perspectives. 2) Approach to Design: We will express our strategies for recruitment, ethical considerations, positionality, data measurement, and data analysis allowing participants of the MERC conference to see and understand our novel research study. 3) Implications for Policy, Practice, and Scholarship: Results from this study will iimpact practice working toward closing the achievement gap in reading. Additionally, our findings will promote discussion between the different perspectives and help educators make informed decisions about their instruction when it comes to “reading wars.”
When Giving Feedback, Consider This: Development & Validation of a Tool to Support Teachers When Developing Feedback for Students
Bailey Bontrager, Virginia Commonwealth University

Prior research revealed four factors mathematics teachers consider when developing feedback for students. A visual tool presenting and detailing these factors was designed to provide teachers with guidance for developing feedback. Potential routes for validating the visual tool are being explored and will be presented.

Takeaways: 1) Feedback has been identified as an important aspect of the learning process that can support student learning and motivation.  2) Guidance and effective training supporting feedback practices in classrooms is needed; additional research can contribute to understanding how to best support teachers in implementing these practices. 3) Infographics have the potential to be a valuable resource to support teachers as they implement specific feedback strategies and practices in mathematics classrooms.
Using Fluency in the Upper Elementary Grades
Samantha Smigel, Henrico County Public Schools

Fluency is one of the foundational skills students need to be successful readers. However, it is rarely a key part of reading programs and little research has focused on reading fluency. In this presentation, action research is shared on using fluency activities in existing 3-5 curriculum.

Takeaways: 1) What fluency instruction encompasses beyond words per minute. 2) Activities and hand-on applications for ways to incorporate fluency instruction in the upper elementary classroom within existing ELA curriculum. 3) How fluency growth is related to both students' reading comprehension and motivation to read.
Michelle Boulanger Thompson, Old Dominion University
Session 8. Unveiling the Power of Black Women in Educational Leadership: Shifting Paradigms through Personal Narratives
(Panel) Unveiling the Power of Black Women in Educational Leadership: Shifting Paradigms through Personal Narratives
Jasmine Bates, Henrico County Public Schools; LaRuth Ensley, Albermale County Public Schools; Chantel Hill - United States Department of Education; Lauren Jackson, Virginia Commonwealth University; Tiffany Lewis, Henrico County Public Schools; Ashley WalkerHenrico County Public Schools

This conversation will highlight the crucial role of Black women in educational leadership positions and demonstrate how gaining insight into their personal narratives can lead to a transformative shift in the field of education. It will also contribute to a deeper understanding of the pivotal role of Black women in educational leadership and inspire attendees to actively promote inclusivity and equity within their respective educational communities.

Takeaways: 1) Discuss the experiences, challenges, and triumphs of Black women in educational leadership roles; 2) Discuss and identify strategies for empowering and supporting Black women in pursuing and maintaining leadership roles in public education; 3) Engage in dialogue that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in educational leadership, specifically Black women
Session 9. Embracing Inclusion and Unlocking Opportunities for Students with Disabilities
The Inclusion Project: Amplifying the Voices of students with Disabilities
Richard Chapman, Virginia Commonwealth University; Seb Prohn, Virginia Commonwealth University; Sarah Lineberry, Virginia Commonwealth University

This presentation will provide a overview of a project aimed to address challenges that persons with disabilities face in the school system when it comes to inclusion.

Takeaways: 1) Inclusion is powerful in the lives of persons with disabilities; 2) Persons with disabilities have something to contribute to the school system; 3) Self-determination and inclusion improve outcomes for persons with disabilities.
Capturing Transition: Collaborating with Teachers to Implement a Photovoice Transition Project in Intensive Support Classrooms
Richard Chapman, Virginia Commonwealth University; Rebecca Ceja, Richmond Public Schools; Amanda Dailey, Richmond Public Schools; Tammy Sellers, Richmond Public Schools; Molly Taylor, Virginia Commonwealth University; Seb Prohn, Virginia Commonwealth University

In this participatory action research study, high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) participated in a photovoice project to explore and discuss their employment goals and barriers. In this presentation, we discuss our researcher-practitioner partnerships and we share materials, lesson plans, student photos, and dialogue from classroom sessions.

Takeaways: 1) Based on our experience of piloting photovoice in a classroom for the first time, we offer advice for overcoming the many challenges of conducting participatory action research in schools and forming partnerships between schools and universities. 2) We offer a model for translating research into practice through inviting mentor teachers and administrators onto the project team. 3) Attendees will be encouraged to reach out to our project team for the opportunity to partner with us and implement a photovoice curriculum in their school or community-based program.
Teaching Writing to Students with Disabilities:
Considerations for Research, Policy, and Practice
Julie Dauksys, Hanover County Public Schools

This presentation will provide an overview of a recent MERC research and policy brief exploring evidence-based strategies for teaching writing to students with disabilities. It will explore the following questions: 1) Why is it important to teach writing? 2) What is the nature of the challenge in teaching writing to middle school students with disabilities? 3) What interventions help with teaching writing to middle school students with disabilities? and 4) What strategies are utilized in the MERC region for teaching writing to middle school students with disabilities?

Takeaways: 1) Participants will learn about how research characterizes the challenges associated with teaching writing to students with disabilities. 2) Participants will explore evidence-based strategies for teaching writing to students with disabilities. 3) Participants will learn about strategies used in the MERC region for teaching writing to students with disabilities.
Michelle Boulanger Thompson, Old Dominion University
Session 10. Centering Cultural
Competence in the Classroom
BAND ROOM - 1504
Culturally Competent Teacher Practices and Pedagogy
Tessa Boutwell, Virginia Commonwealth University; Kristen Brown, Virginia Commonwealth University

Currently, the majority of students in US public schools are students of color (NCES, 2022) therefore classroom practices must include a diverse and inclusive lens. This session will provide culturally competent practices for educators to best serve students across all identities. We will discuss the importance of taking actionable steps in adapting culturally competent pedagogy, setting meaningful intentions when working with students of all backgrounds, practicing actionable strategies, and inviting others to join them in this powerful work. Cultural competence is not a practice; rather it is what informs our practice so we can make better teaching choices for eliciting, engaging, motivating, empowering, supporting, and expanding the intellectual capacity of all our students (Hammond, 2014).

Takeaways: 1) Build understanding of how students' background knowledge, cultures, and family traditions impact student learning.
2) Provide an overview of culturally competent instructional approaches and strategies. 3) Offer student-centered approaches for teachers to apply into their classrooms for diverse learning needs.
Providing Opportunities to Enhance Cultural Competence:
The Creation of a Black Families Lecture Series at an HBCU
Jada Brooks, Virginia State University; Christin Haynes, Virginia State University

There is a great need for university communities to expand opportunities for understanding of cultural competence. The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Virginia State University created a Black families lecture series for students and faculty providing a platform for discussion on Black family relationships. This presentation will focus on the steps taken to create the series.

Takeaways: 1) Participants will gain an understanding of creating opportunities for enhancement of curriculum/classroom instruction outside of traditional classroom instruction. 2) Participants will examine cultural competence. 3) Key information on the development of the lecture series will be reviewed to include the steps taken during development.
Engaging the Voices of Students and Parents to 
Develop a Framework for Family Engagement in Curriculum
Jesse Senechal, Virginia Commonwealth University; Thea Racelis, Virginia CommonwealthUniversity; Blanly Rodriguez, Chesterfield County Public Schools and University of Virginia; Eisley Goldman, Chesterfield County Public Schools

In this session we will share information about an interdisciplinary research project that brings together faculty and doctoral students from VCU with K12 students, caregivers and teachers to create a conceptual framework merging developmental science perspectives on youths’ ethnic-racial identity development and family ethnic-racial socialization processes with educational perspectives on students’ funds of knowledge and culturally responsive education. The goal of this project is to develop a culturally responsive professional development curriculum for educators that includes activities, case studies, and specific teaching strategies. We will provide an overview of the community engaged process we used to develop the framework, and talk about our goals for the use of the framework within K12 professional development efforts.

Takeaways: 1) An understanding of a community-engaged process for the development of conceptual frameworks,  2) A deeper understanding of the relationship between ethnic/racial identity and school / community partnership.
Jesse Senechal, Virginia Commonwealth University 
Session 11. Student and Educator Perspectives on Promoting Equitable Access to Advanced Coursework
Opening the Door Wider - Addressing Disproportionate Application Rates
in a Virginia Governor’s School by Employing Student Voice and Agency
Tracy Kwock, Radford University; Kelly Huff, Mountain Vista Governor's School; Eshal Aamer, College of William & Mary

Research practitioners will share the initiatives created to encourage and support more Black and Latinx students applying and enrolling in Mountain Vista Governor’s School and the overwhelming benefits of actively employing student voice and agency within the problem solving process.

Takeaways: 1) Participants will consider the use of Improvement Science as a problem solving process geared toward achieving equitable outcomes in an equitable way. 2) Participants will explore the development and implementation of strategies utilized by the MVGS Equity Team to increase application and enrollment of Black and Latinx students to the MVGS program. 3) Participant will identify the importance of ensuring student voice and agency within the problem solving process and it’s impact on positive results
Exploring Equitable Enrollment Practices in
Advanced Coursework Across K-12: A MERC Multiple Case Study
Tomika Ferguson, Virginia Commonwealth University; Isaiah Moore, Virginia Commonwealth University; Amy Jefferson, Virginia Commonwealth University; David Naff, Virginia Commonwealth University

This presentation will share background literature on school-level policies and practices that promote or inhibit equitable enrollment in advanced coursework before describing how MERC explored this topic through a multiple case study in local schools. The session will include a preview of findings featuring the voices of students, parents, and educators.

Takeaways: 1) Understanding research evidence of how enrollment practices address or exacerbate inequities in advanced coursework participation in K-12; 2) Learning about how MERC collaborated with local school divisions to engage with key stakeholders in a multiple case study; 3) Engaging with the voices of students, parents, ane educators participating in the MERC case study to learn their perspectives on how to promote enrollment in advanced coursework opportunities across K-12
Bigger Doesn't Always Mean Better: One District's Story of Leveraging Small School Size to Expand Access to Dual Enrollment Courses for All
Joi Ely, Reynolds Community College; Beth Fowler, Goochland County Public Schools

Practitioners from a one-high school district will share how their flexible, inclusive pathway to an associates degree expanded student opportunities for earning college credit, even to those outside of the program. Information will highlight moving from a philosophy to a reality that includes 30% of high school seniors earning an associates degree.

Takeaways1) Understand the role of dual enrollment in fostering post-secondary degree attainment; 2) Explore how investing in a site-based specialty program can actually support college enrollment of those outside the program; 3) Consider how embracing multiple onramps to a program increases diversity and outreach.
David Naff, Virginia Commonwealth University
Session 12. Prevention and Support Strategies
for Students Experiencing Trauma
Dispelling the Myth of School Resource Officers: Why Trauma-Informed 
Practices are a More Effective Policy Approach to Student Behavior
Dana Ainsworth, Virginia Commonwealth University; Maggie Wallace, Virginia Commonwealth University

This presentation explores the impact of policies that prioritize school resource officers over evidence-based, trauma-informed practices to address student behavior. Utilizing local data from Richmond area schools, we make the case that funding for SROs should be a minimal part of addressing unwanted student behavior.

Takeaways: 1) Understanding contributing factors to the school-to-prison pipeline; 2) Exploring how trauma-informed practices support teachers and help prevent behavioral problems; 3) Exploring how trauma-informed practices support students and keep them out of the criminal justices system
Understanding A School’s Response to School Employees' Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
Emiola Oyefuga, Virginia Commonwealth University; Andrew Ortiz, ChildUSA

In this session, we share findings from interviews with school administrators from the pilot district of our larger study which is examining school employee-perpetuated child sexual abuse (CSA) in schools across the United States. The interviews conducted with 11 administrators highlight several pertinent issues that schools can engage with and learn from.

Takeaways: 1) Best practices school districts can adopt for school employee child sexual abuse (CSA) prevention; 2) Understand barriers to implementing CSA policies and prevention practices (findings from the pilot site); 3) Information on free CSA prevention training offered by VCU and funded by CDC.
Jenna Darby, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Session 13. Examining and Improving Working Conditions to Foster Educator Retention
BAND ROOM - 1504
Improving Teacher Working Conditions: Teachers’ Perspectives from a Mixed Methods Study
Amy L. Reynolds, University of Virginia; Luke C. Miller, University of Virginia; Rachel S. White, University of Tennessee Knoxville

We highlight findings from our mixed methods analysis of the 2021 Virginia School Survey of Climate and Working Conditions and follow-up educator interviews to examine the factors that support/hinder teacher working conditions. Building upon these findings, attendees will discuss how to leverage existing resources to improve their teachers’ working conditions.

Takeaways: 1) Teachers’ working conditions are important for their job satisfaction and retention intentions, which varies across Virginia K-12 public schools and across schools in MERC divisions. 2) The voices of educators reveal valuable depth and context regarding the school, division, and community factors that contribute to and/or hinder teacher working conditions. 3) Divisions can use their results from the Virginia School Survey of Climate and Working Conditions to seed conversations that guide action to improve teacher working conditions.
Respite Days: How Providing Breaks for Teachers
Fosters Healing and Resilience in Richmond Public Schools
Surprize Parker, Greater Richmond SCAN; Kanika Mcbride, Greater Richmond SCAN

In the fast-paced and demanding environment of school, teachers and staff need breaks to regulate their own nervous systems, rest, and recenter. To respond to this need, SCAN staff developed and provided Respite Days to promote teacher wellness. When teachers are well they are better able to meet the needs of their students and their well being. While specialist provide breaks for teachers and a wellness space, students are engaged with social emotional activities to allow a regulation break for them as well.

Takeaways: 1) Teachers need a break, by way of community care. 2) When teachers are well, they can better support student wellness. 3) A very simple, yet effective approach to supporting teachers and staff while in the building.
Whose campus?: Understanding (and Fighting) the Deregulated University
Kristin Reed, Virginia Commonwealth University

This session will draw on lessons from the anti-privatization movement in k-12 education to better understand the challenges facing higher education in Virginia today.

Takeaways: 1) Higher Education characterization is widely studied by finance capital, but almost entirely overlooked by higher education professionals. 2) Virginia is a case study for the translation of privatization of public education from K-12 to colleges and universities.
3) Privatization of higher education in Virginia has led to precarious outcomes for students and workers, including skyrocketing tuition costs, unsafe facilities, and reduced worker protections. 
Jesse Senechal, Virginia Commonwealth University
Session 14. Strategies for Cultivating Classroom Environments that Foster Student Success
THEATER R00M - 1502
Constructing Diverse Pre-K Spaces through Montessori
Liz Nigro, University of Virginia 

In partnership with the Virginia Montessori Association, this policy report explored potential pathways to create more integrated pre-K spaces within the city of Charlottesville through expanding Montessori access. Upon consideration of policy solutions, the team decided to first work toward expanding subsidy and mixed-delivery slots within existent private Montessori centers.

Takeaways: 1) Pre-K appears to be more segregated across lines of ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status; in Charlottesville specifically, White students appear to even more underrepresented in public pre-K than state averages.  2) In demand pedagogical models like Montessori, which emphasize the whole-student and autonomy, have demonstrated the potential to address segregation in other contexts. Within the pre-K space, this could look like incorporating Montessori in the public system, increasing equitable access in the existent private centers, and intentionally engineering new programming with an eye for diversity. 3) Within the Charlottesville context, expanding private providers ability to accept subsidy/mixed-delivery funding through the state appeared to be the best first step the Virginia Montessori Association could take in addressing pre-K segregation locally, with intentional implementation considerations.
Effectiveness Replication of BEST in CLASS: Partnering with Early Childhood Programs to Evaluate a Tier 2 Behavioral Intervention Under Real World Conditions
Daniel Cohen, SRI International; Gullnar Syed, SRI International; Kevin Sutherland, Virginia Commonwealth University; Carl Sumi, SRI International; Michelle Woodbridge, SRI International        

BEST in CLASS is an evidence-based tier 2 behavioral intervention for children in early childhood education settings. This presentation will describe the development of BEST in CLASS and discuss considerations for conducting large-scale effectiveness research in the context of partnerships with local early childhood programs.

Takeaways: 1) Knowledge about the development of the BEST in CLASS intervention; 2) Considerations for large-scale effectiveness research; 3) Guidance on optimizing partnerships with school districts to conduct research under real-world conditions
Let’s Take This Outside! Designing Active Classrooms Without Walls!
Misti Mueller, Virginia Commonwealth University; Stefanie Ramsey, Richmond Public Schools

If your school has sidewalks, a blacktop, and you are a K-12 educator, this session is for you! This presentation, intended for K-12 educators, will showcase a community engaged initiative to support Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs.The development of outdoor play and learning spaces on blacktops/sidewalks that connect with science, social studies, language arts, math, music, and physical education will be highlighted. This presentation, intended for K-12 educators, will showcase a community engaged initiative to support Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs. The development of outdoor play and learning spaces on blacktops/sidewalks that connect with science, social studies, language arts, math, music, and physical education will be highlighted.

Takeaways: 1) To explain the benefits of developing outdoor learning spaces. 2) To describe the alignment of outdoor learning spaces with the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program. 3) Discuss examples of outdoor learning spaces that would benefit their students.
Michelle Boulanger Thompson, Old Dominion University
Students Navigating Shifting
Paradigms in Public Education
Graduates from the class of 2023 will reflect on how they have navigated shifting paradigms in public education over the past four years and share ideas for educational research, policy, and practice in the future.
Patterson Summers
Midlothian High school
Chesterfield County Public Schools
During his time at Midlothian High School, Patterson has served on the Principal's Advisory Board and the Superintendent's Student Advisory Group. He was in the first group of students to be on Chesterfield County's Equity Advisory Committee. Patterson will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall, where he will be majoring in Political Science.
Anna Fowler
goochland county public schools
Throughout her time at Goochland High School, Anna has been a member of both the Advance College Academy and Blue Ridge Virginia Governor’s School. She has also been an active participant in the GHS Drama Department, the 2023 Class Committee, and several community service organizations. This fall she will be attending the University of Virginia and is planning on majoring in politics.
Funmi Adepegba
hermitage high school
henrico county public schools
Funmi attended the Center for Humanities at Hermitage High School. She was involved in the National Honors Society, Rho Kappa, and Mu Alpha Theta. She was also an Equity Ambassador for her school. She participated in the Science Club, HermTV (the HHS newscast), Writing Club, and Dance Club. She was also on the cheer and tennis teams. She will be attending Vanderbilt University and plans to major in Neuroscience on a pre-med track before attending medical school.
Charlotte Costic
HANOVER County Public Schools
Charlotte Costic is a recent graduate from Mechanicsville High School, where she served as Student Council Association President, newspaper Editor-in-Chief, and mental health advocate on the SEL team. Out of school, she danced at 804 Dance Place, launched her small business, and enjoyed writing and babysitting. Charlotte will attend Christopher Newport University in the fall to study English and secondary education.  
Tuchili Juan Pierce
RICHMOND public schools
Tuchili graduated with an advanced diploma from Armstrong High School in 2023. He was a member of the National Honors Society, was a Scholar Athlete in Cross Country Track, was the Mr. Armstrong Homecoming King, and participated in SOAR Virginia 529, and the TRIO Program. He also served on the Richmond Public School Superintendent's Student Advisory Council and routinely volunteers at the Richmond Boys & Girls Club. Currently, he works as a Certified HIV Rapid HIV Testing Counselor at the Minority Health Consortium. He will attend Virginia Union University in the fall on a full scholarship as a Biology major. He plans on working in a career in medicine.
Moderator - Jeremy Raley, EdD
Chief of staff
virginia Department of education
Dr. Jeremy Raley is a career educator who was served in multiple roles during his 26 years of service to public education in the Commonwealth, including teacher, building level administrator, and superintendent.  A graduate of both the University of Virginia and Shenandoah University, he now serves as the Chief of Staff for the Virginia Department of Education.
Join us on June 29
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