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Technical Assistance Conference for WEEA Grantees
Summary and Highlights

January 23-24, 2002
Washington, DC

Click here for conference photos and information about current WEEA grantees.

On January 23-24, 2002 an enthusiastic group of over 50 current and former WEEA grantees, staff, and guests attended a technical assistance conference in Washington, DC hosted by the WEEA Equity Resource Center and the U.S. Department of Education. WEEA Center director Sundra Flansburg called the conference to order. In her welcoming comments to the group, Edith Harvey, Acting Group Leader, School Improvement Programs, U.S. Department of Education, outlined the conference goals:

  • To provide current grantees with an opportunity to meet each other
  • To create a forum for sharing successful practices as well as strategies for broad dissemination of their work
  • To inform grantees about Department requirements related to the completion of their projects

The two day conference included an interesting mix of plenary sessions with keynote speakers, panel discussions, and small group meetings where grantees with similar projects discussed their work. Grantees also offered their peers advice and strategies in panel discussions on leadership development and building institutional and community support for equity. Staff from the U.S. Department of Education presented sessions on grants administration and effective research and evaluation. Additionally, WEEA Center staff conducted workshops on how to publicize grantees’ work and how to publish materials through the center.

The opening event for the conference was an "Expo" of exhibits designed by the grantees to showcase their projects and to share highlights, accomplishments, and lessons learned. These displays included pictures, videos, literature, PowerPoint presentations, student work, journals, brochures, newsletters, and other project materials.

Conference Themes
Four themes emerged from the conference speakers and small group discussions:

  • WEEA grantees are doing outstanding work with limited resources; however, there are now opportunities to expand and leverage this work.
  • Gender equity advocates need to recognize our expertise and the importance of sharing what we know with our local communities and at the national level.
  • We need to more effectively communicate the current issues, successes, and impact of the WEEA program to a broader audience—policymakers, parents, teachers, students, community organizations, etc.
  • We need to develop local partnerships to increase understanding of, and support for, gender equity work.

After viewing the exhibits, Arthur Cole, Director of School Improvement Programs, complimented the projects on continuing the high quality standards set by the WEEA Program over the years. In his remarks, he outlined the massive infusion of funds in education under the new "No Child Left Behind Act." While not explicitly meant to address gender issues, he said the goals of the new law are compatible with the WEEA Program. He encouraged grantees to develop collaborative efforts with others in their communities to take advantage of this new law to expand their gender equity work.

Jane Oates, Senior Education Advisor to Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, delivered the luncheon keynote address on January 23rd. Her lively presentation included an overview of the status of current educational equity issues in Congress as well as her assessment of some of the barriers to advancing equity initiatives in Washington. She also gave the participants some practical tips about how to better communicate their activities, expertise, and needs to policymakers.

Katherine Hanson, director of the Gender & Diversities Institute at Education Development Center, Inc. (and former director of the WEEA Center), highlighted some of the significant achievements of the WEEA Program. She spoke of the need to document the "ripple effects" of WEEA that has been changing families and communities for 28 years. The extensive network developed over those years is another strength of the program that should be emphasized.

Blanca Rodriguez, Director of the Department of Education’s Grants, Policy, and Oversight Staff, led the grantees through the requirements for completing their projects. She provided the grantees with an extensive packet of resources to take home.

Wanda Gill, Senior Advisor, School Improvement Programs, stressed the need for grantees to document the successes of their projects. During her overview of effective research and evaluation strategies, she suggested several low-cost options asking for implementation, including:

  • Statisticians within the school (K-12) to conduct research or evaluation
  • Local colleges that also have statisticians
  • Advisory Board members
  • Colleagues from other schools, colleges, community boards, etc.
  • Ph.D. students or other graduate students from nearby colleges
  • The WEEA Center or other WEEA grantees

In the discussions following this presentation, grantees said they already were using both quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate their work including self-esteem tools, pre- and post-tests, interest inventories, interviews, and student/mentors.

Small Group Discussions
Throughout the conference, participants met in small groups to discuss the challenges they face and to share strategies for addressing these issues. For example, grantees working on the themes "gender equity awareness" and "leadership development" identified working with overburdened staff in schools as a key challenge. Suggested strategies included:

  • Begin by learning to take care of ourselves
  • Build solutions into budgets (plan for retreats, etc.)
  • Use money—pay teachers for their time—e.g. to create special activities
  • Pay for sub time to release teachers
  • Find ways to show teachers how this work will benefit them in their classrooms
  • Give teachers units for professional development
  • Use regular staff development days
  • Develop personal relationships with people who run professional development programs in your district
  • Use clients (students) to do professional development: they can tell their own stories
  • Get buy-in from administrators as well as teachers. Identify the right contact person.

Those projects working at the community level added the following suggestions:

  • Use teachers to work in the community
  • Use schools for outreach, e.g. to distribute fliers
  • Deliver services at the school site—recruit at school; make connections there
  • Parents are also overburdened. Give them refreshments, nice facility, etc.
  • Ask people to do things they believe in
  • Send reminders
  • Have celebrations, recognition of their work (e.g., luncheon, awards ceremony)
  • Give volunteers a chance to network
  • Give stipends to school site coordinators
  • Show people what they do makes a difference
  • Give certificates of recognition
  • Send a thank you letter to the volunteer’s boss
  • Use college students who have community service requirements

Many of the participants said meeting in small groups and the informal networking opportunities were very valuable to their learning and their work.

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