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Rebuilding systems: National stories of social and emotional learning reform

April 25, 2022

Especially in a world where technology moves at the speed of light, climate change threatens drastic shifts, and a pandemic has upended how we live and work – for worse and better.Policymakers from around the world agree. We spoke to education leaders in Australia, Colombia, Finland, Peru, South Africa, and South Korea about how they've built back systems to foster these essential skills. We're sharing their ideas far and wide through our report, so we can help keep up momentum and drive the conversation forward.

Nine Strategies to Guide Efforts to Reduce Youth Gun Violence

April 22, 2022

Gun violence, including that perpetrated by young people, is a pernicious problem for many communities, particularly those facing historically high levels of concentrated disadvantage and disinvestment. To effectively address youth gun violence and establish and maintain peace, communities need stable safety infrastructures and effective interventions.We developed a research-based practice guide to help local governments, law enforcement agencies, and antiviolence organizations determine how to shape their approaches to reducing gun violence perpetrated by young people ages 10 to 25 in gangs or groups. Here, we summarize the guide's recommendations on how to develop effective interventions and build a broader safety infrastructure that supports the success of different partners working to protect young people and communities from gun violence.

Resourcing Adolescent Girls to Thrive: A report exploring where is the money for adolescent girls’ rights using an ecosystem approach

April 20, 2022

Working within feminist, women's rights movements and adolescent girls' and young feminist activism, it was evident to the research team that the funding landscape for adolescent girls is not well understood or developed. Searching for the money that flows to adolescent girls often feels like wandering a valley floor within the mountains, crossing a stream every now and then, and seeing only the features of the landscape within the immediate view. The larger picture and its interconnectedness is obscured, shrouded by the lack of clear and consistent data and tracking, like an incomplete map. Despite adolescent girls being a unique population, there is a disconnect between girls' expressed needs, and the resources flowing for their work and activism. This was corroborated by funders who resource adolescent girls from a feminist perspective and see girls as agents of change – and so this research was commissioned. It seeks to offer sensemaking of the adolescent girls' funding landscape to stimulate a conversation and reflection about how to resource adolescent girls to thrive. It does so using a feminist approach to funding adolescent girls as the way to bring about long-lasting transformation in their lives as the point of departure.Methodologies included three workshops with 31 girls (10 countries), a survey and two workshops with 13 feminist girls' funders, complemented by a literature review (49 resources), public data review of 71 actors, six data collecting entities, and 21 key informant interviews. All of the findings from these methods were then further sensemade through virtual workshops and desk reviews with nine Working Group members.

From Access to Equity: Making Out-of-School-Time Spaces Meaningful for Teens From Marginalized Communities

April 14, 2022

This brief summarizes findings and ideas that emerged from a Wallace-commissioned literature review and set of interviews with experts in the field to identify major challenges to—and leading practices toward—equity in out-of-school-time programs. The effort was led by Bianca Baldridge, a researcher and former youth worker, now at Harvard University, who examines out-of-school-time programming and the intersection of race, class and power. The other research team members were Daniela K. DiGiacomo of the University of Kentucky, Ben Kirshner of the University of Colorado Boulder, Sam Mejias of Parsons School of Design, and Deepa S. Vasudevan of Wellesley College.Using a social justice perspective, Baldridge and her team conducted a review of pertinent research from the past 20 years; interviewed experts in out-of-school-time research, policy and practice; and conducted focus groups with professionals in the field. They also launched a research project, carried out by high school and college students, to examine young people's views of equity in and access to out-of-school-time programs. A summary of the youth-led research accompanies this brief.  Baldridge and her colleagues divided their high-level conclusions about out-of-school-time programs into two categories—those regarding marginalized youth and those regarding frontline workers. For the former, the team found that although many out-of-school-time programs seek to address inequity, programs also can perpetuate a "deficit-oriented" approach, in which Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander youth are positioned as "at risk" and in need of being "fixed." The alternative, research suggests, is a "strengths-based, humanizing, and dignity-based approach." Practical measures that programs can take include ensuring the hiring and retention of program leaders and staff members who are more representative of the racial and cultural backgrounds of the program participants and engaging young people in actively addressing inequities in their communities.  Additionally, the researchers found that out-of-school-time staffers, many of whom come from the same backgrounds as program participants, reported experiences of tokenization or marginalization on the job. Further, although they often care deeply about their work, they frequently struggle with remaining in their positions because of low wages, job instability and other unfavorable conditions. A number of steps could change this picture, from paying youth-field workers a livable wage to offering them a clear pathway to leadership positions.

Educating English Learners During the Pandemic: Insights from Experts, Advocates, and Practitioners

April 13, 2022

There is a growing body of evidence about the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on English learners (ELs). We sought to capture the complexity of learning conditions for this student population during the COVID-19 pandemic by interviewing 20 EL education leaders. These experts' experiences revealed that while remote learning posed significant challenges to EL education and services, educators improvised, collaborated, and continued to innovate throughout the pandemic. To help EL students moving forward, education leaders on all levels must acknowledge both the struggle and perseverance that shaped their educational experiences during the pandemic.

Ukraine Policy Brief

April 4, 2022

The conflict in Ukraine has displaced more than 10 million people since the latest military offensive by the Russian Federation began in February 2022; more than 3.5 million people have fled to countries in the region and an additional 6.5 million people are forcibly displaced within Ukraine itself. As hostilities continue, the impact on civilians remains alarming, including damage to civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, and the breakdown of vital services such as electricity and water. Among those displaced or in need of humanitarian aid due to this conflict, the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) is particularly concerned about the situation for women, adolescent girls, children, and other marginalized populations such as people with disabilities, older people, LGBTQI+ individuals, the Roma community, and third-country nationals. Their unique needs in emergencies demand urgent responses, particularly to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV); meet critical health care needs, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care; and uphold their human rights.This policy brief outlines WRC's key concerns and our recommendations for policy and programming.

The Quest For Equity and Quality Examining Provider Experiences and Participation in Texas Rising Star

April 1, 2022

Exposure to high-quality child care is the foundation for a child's academic and social-emotional success, especially for children from low-income families. Increasing access to subsidized child care is one of the many strategies used to provide affordable early education to children from low-income families. However, increasing access alone is not enough when it comes to early learning. Children need to be in high-quality care to reap the many benefits.One systematic way to measure and increase quality of child care programs is through a state's Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). QRIS is a systematic framework used to measure, improve, and communicate the quality of early childhood education (ECE) providers across a range of indicators. In Texas, this system is called Texas Rising Star (TRS). TRS is only open to child care providers who accept families receiving subsidy child care assistance. While TRS offers incentives for participation including professional development and increased reimbursement rates, currently TRS reaches only a fraction of lowincome children and the providers. 

Strategic Communications for Unaccompanied Children: Principles and Strategies

April 1, 2022

The past five years have seen numerous communications challenges for unaccompanied children's providers and advocates, along with substantial threats to the well-being of unaccompanied children (UC) themselves. In 2018, under the Trump Administration, shelters were targeted as sites of protest during the height of the Family Separation policy. More recently, 2021 and into 2022 have seen attacks on UC care providers from state governors who want to end the care of unaccompanied children in their states.This brief provides two key principles for strategic communications around the UC system, and five communications strategies for putting those principles into practice. Advocates and shelter care providers know the importance of providing care for unaccompanied children. To continue to provide that care, the program needs support from Congress, the Administration, members of the public, and state government officials. It is in the children's best interest to be able to effectively communicate and advocate on their behalf.

Researchers Should Understand and Adapt Race and Ethnicity Data That Change Over Time

March 31, 2022

Embedding race equity principles into supports provided for young people who age out of foster care can better prepare them for a successful transition into adulthood. Child welfare practitioners and policymakers must consider how race and racism affect a young person's child welfare experience and the services and supports they receive. For example, practitioners and policymakers should understand how employment program outcomes vary by race/ethnicity, or the ways in which access to culturally competent sexual and reproductive health care varies by race/ethnicity. This focus on race equity principles ensures that all young people have access to services tailored to their needs.For practitioners and policymakers to accurately interpret data and make decisions about programming for all racial and ethnic groups, researchers must be able to capture someone's racial and ethnic identity alongside their outcomes. One common resource available to researchers who want to examine outcomes over time is panel, or longitudinal, data, for which the same people are repeatedly and regularly surveyed over an extended period of time. However, researchers should carefully consider how they use these data in analysis because individuals' responses to race/ethnicity and other demographic variables may change over time. When researchers treat race/ethnicity as an unchanging variable they potentially miss important equity considerations.Reviews of panel data show that responses to questions on racial and ethnic identity can and do change over time. While this is a fairly common occurrence in longitudinal data for respondents of all ages (adolescence through adulthood), such changes may be particularly meaningful for young people aging out of foster care. These young people's child welfare experiences (e.g., frequent moves, lack of information about family history, placement in foster homes with parents of a different racial and ethnic identity) may leave them without the information needed to form a healthy racial and ethnic identity. During the transition to adulthood, implicit and explicit biases around racial and ethnic identity from both individuals and systems can create opportunities and barriers at key moments in life, such as pursing postsecondary education or attaining first jobs. Despite the potential fluidity of racial and ethnic identity, however, this variable is commonly treated as static and unchanging in analysis. To date, there are few resources to guide researchers in designing and conducting analyses that both honor the racial and ethnic identities of young people and maximize the reliability of the data.In this brief, we first provide some background on racial and ethnic identity formation and describe some of the barriers to this identity formation process that child welfare system involvement may create for young people. Next, we qualitatively explore, through interviews with former foster youth, why racial and ethnic identity may shift during emerging adulthood, particularly among young people with foster care experience. The interviews provide context on the importance of honoring a young person's chosen identity as that identity shifts. We then explore the practical implications of these identity changes for researchers by quantitatively demonstrating how small decisions made while preparing longitudinal data for analysis can produce completely different results.After describing patterns of racial and ethnic changes observed in our dataset, we then undertake what we call a "three-approach analysis" in which we repeat the same analysis three different ways, with the only change being how we prepare the racial and ethnic data. We conclude by discussing the equity implications of being transparent and detailed when describing how racial and ethnic identity data is used in research studies.

Universal Screening for Maternal Mental Health Disorders

March 21, 2022

Maternal mental health (MMH) disorders, like postpartum depression, are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting on average, 1 in 5 mothers. Rates are higher among those facing economic challenges and among certain racial groups. For example, rates of maternal depression are more than doubled for Black than White mothers. When left untreated, these disorders can cause devastating consequences for the mother, the baby, family, and society. Many people, including health care providers, are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of these disorders, to easily recognize an MMH disorder. With the incidence of MMH disorders on the rise, it is even more critical that these disorders are detected and treated. The use of researchvalidated screening tools (questionnaires) to identify those who may be suffering, are now universally recommended. However, because of several complicating factors, screening has not been universally implemented.

Big Gifts for Little Learners: Making the Case for Philanthropic Investment From Pregnancy Through Preschool

March 21, 2022

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the wealthiest counties and most generous donors in the country. But how do those individuals choose where to spend their philanthropic dollars?In our 2021 survey of Bay Area donors, which included both affluent individuals and foundations, 40% of respondents said that when considering causes or groups to give to, demonstrated impact would lead them to choose one cause or group over others.In some ways it is surprising, then, that only 15% of donors said they give to early care and learning -- an area with robust research demonstrating positive impact on the children supported (including permanent increases in children's IQ and better health outcomes) as well as on their families and the broader community (e.g., gains in maternal workforce participation).

Expanding Early Education and Child Care Opportunities

March 3, 2022

High-quality early education and child care enriches our children's lives and improves the long-term prospects of our entire region. Decades of research have shown that engagement and play are vital for early brain development, and that good learning environments lead to lifelong improvements in educational achievement. At the same time, reliable access to early education and care programs gives parents more flexibility to pursue their own careers.Here in the South Coast of Massachusetts, dedicated providers are already offering top-notch educational programs for our young kids, complete with wraparound services like transportation and extended hours. But challenges abound — both for the providers and for the families that need support.To better understand — and strengthen — the early education and child care landscape across our region, we at the SouthCoast Community Foundation have partnered with the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University on a rigorous assessment of the best available data, supplemented by interviews with local experts and thought-leaders.This report highlights our key findings, with particular attention to issues of racial and economic justice, the landscape for individual cities and towns, and the impact wrought by COVID-19. Our emphasis throughout is on how we can support our youngest residents and brighten our collective future.