Photos of speakers at last year's MERC conference - this year will feature virtual presentations on the Hopin.to platform
The 2020 MERC Conference program includes more than 20 collaborative sessions exploring prominent topics in public education. Click below to review our schedule and plan your day!
Andrew Daire (Dean, VCU School of Education), Amy Cashwell (Superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools and MERC Chair), Jesse Senechal (MERC Director), and David Naff (MERC Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation) offer opening remarks for the 2020 MERC Conference
Shawn Abel, Principal of Midlothian High School (Chesterfield), Deia Champ, Director of Middle School Education (Henrico), Bryan Hicks, Assistant Principal of Elizabeth Davis Middle School (Chesterfield), Heather Storrie, Special Education Lead Teacher (Powhatan), Melissa Rickey, Principal of Binford Middle School (Richmond)
Learn strategies from districts that have provided teaching and learning via in-person, fully remote, and hybrid approaches. Panel members will share highly relevant, real-time information and will facilitate the engagement of attendees through reflective conversations providing participants with opportunities to envision how the learning may apply or be generalized in their home district.
Session 2: Supporting Student Mental Health Through Evidence-Based Practices: The Role of School Counselors
Collaborative Relationships Between School Counselors and Stakeholders to Support Student Mental Health
Dana Brookover, PhD Candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision (VCU), Mary Hermann, Associate Professor of Counseling and Special Education (VCU), Kaprea Johnson, Associate Professor of Counseling and Special Education (VCU)
The presentation focuses on how teachers and administrators can leverage the training and expertise of school counselors to meet the mental health, social, and emotional needs of students and educators. The discussion will center on providing five practical recommendations based on evidence based practice and collective expertise from counselor educators who are former school counselors.
Reshaping Elementary School Practices & Systems To Meet Student Mental Health Needs
Matt Shenker, School Counselor at Elmont Elementary School (Hanover)
Is it time for our elementary school behavior management practices & community building to be rooted in modern behavioral science, neuroscience, & psychology? When emotional skill-building and belonging are not essential aspects of a K-5 classroom culture, we don’t do our students a disservice, we do them an injustice. Session participants will learn a clear definition of what a values-driven classroom entails, concrete examples of how mindfulness, neuroscience, restorative practices, & Acceptance Commitment Therapy can be applied in an elementary school setting, and tools for trauma-informed emotional literacy.
Reed Senter, PhD Student in Special Education and Disability Policy (VCU)
Language disorders are associated with a variety of negative academic and behavioral outcomes. Aside from the impact on classroom performance, there is an increased likelihood of involvement with the juvenile justice system and incarceration. This session will explore the risk factors, and discuss how to support students with language disorders.
Korinthia D. Nicolai, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Alison C. Koenka, Assistant Professor of Foundations of Education (VCU), Destini Braxton, Special Education Math Teacher at Boushall Middle School and PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU)
Feedback is a powerful means for promoting motivation. However, students from historically marginalized racial groups and students perceived as having low ability receive motivationally maladaptive feedback. In this session, researchers will discuss the motivational impact of feedback, differential feedback, and feedback strategies that will fuel motivation in all students.
Addressing Digital Equity in Education Beyond the Pandemic (*MERC Research*)
Jonathan Becker, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Justice (VCU), Joan Rhodes, Department Chair of Teaching and Learning (VCU), Andrea Woodard, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Oscar Keyes, Multimedia Teaching & Learning Librarian and PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Joy Washington, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU)
By most accounts, educational leaders and policymakers have done incredible work making sure the playing field for virtual schooling is as level as possible under extremely difficult circumstances during a pandemic. There is now an opportunity to look at the reflection of society in the mirror of this pandemic and begin to planfully address larger issues of digital equity in education. This session will take a longer-term, more comprehensive look at digital equity in education so that schools can serve students and families in ways that are more just. Session participants will learn near- and long-term strategies for improving technology access for all families, understanding equitable technology use by students, and ensuring equitable technology outcomes.
Tracie Daniels, Chief Academic Officer (Petersburg)
While the Standards of Learning remain the same, the parameters of teaching have narrowed. School and division leaders must stay focused on the measures of accountability while walking the tightrope of leading during the digital age. This presentation will focus on juggling the demands of leadership while moving a school forward to success.
Kathleen Rudasill, Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development (VCU), Martinique Sealy, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Jungwon Eum, Research Coordination Specialist (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Jentry Barrett, PhD Student in Child Development and Early Childhood Education (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Gwen Nugent, Research Professor, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Children's behavior and emotional reactions are rooted in their temperament; understanding temperament helps teachers and children have more positive interactions in the classroom. A better understanding of the role of temperament can help teachers work with children's temperament to manage negative behavior. Session participants will learn how children's (and adult's) temperament has reactive and regulatory components that work together to inform behavior and emotional responses, as well as temperament-based strategies for addressing negative behavior that will result in self-regulation development.
Session 6: Meeting the Current and Future Needs of English Learners
Considerations for Using WIDA ACCESS Test Scores in Decision-Making for ELs
Carolyn Waters, ESL Teacher at Falling Creek Middle School (Chesterfield)
The WIDA ACCESS for ELLs®️ English language proficiency test is used for accountability and high-stakes decision-making for English learners in Virginia. A study that surveyed Virginia educators raises questions about relying solely on ACCESS scores to make high-stakes decisions. This may be particularly true in the COVID-19 “new normal.” Session participants will learn about how to use multiple measures and data points when making decisions about supporting English learners.
What Does Digital Equity Look Like in a Multilingual Context? (*MERC Research*)
Andrew Harris, MERC Undergraduate Research Assistant (VCU)
A member of MERC's English Learner Research and Evaluation Team (ELRET) will share insights into the relationship between multilingual learners, their families, and technology. With data from before and during the pandemic, attendees will learn how school divisions can identify needs and foster greater digital equity for multilingual learners.
Challenges ELs Face in Academic Opportunities that Lead to Being a College- and Career-Ready Graduate
Sarah Glass, ESL Teacher at Meadowbrook High School (Chesterfield), Julie Cloninger, ESL Teacher at Meadowbrook High School (Chesterfield), David Glass, Sheltered World History Teacher at Meadowbrook High School (Chesterfield)
English Language Learners (ELLs) represent a growing population in the U.S. K-12 system that often struggle against oppression that leads to marginalization. These students are tracked and pushed through a curriculum that does not help them to be college and career ready. This presentation will engage participants in discussing ways that schools can meet the challenges while providing students with the quality education they deserve.
Erica Ross, PhD Student in Research, Assessment, and Evaluation (VCU), Lauren Cabrera, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), James McMillan, Distinguished Career Professor of the VCU School of Education (VCU), Stephanie Moore, PhD Student in Research, Assessment, and Evaluation (VCU)
The purpose of this research was to develop a self-report measure of secondary students’ perceptions toward science classroom assessment tasks. Presenters will share ways that teachers can utilize this survey in their virtual classes to better understand how their students internalize assessments. Session participants will learn methods for documenting student thinking about classroom assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of science assessments. They will also be given ideas on surveying students around assessments in a virtual format. Participants will gain understanding about critical elements of what constitutes a good assessment and feedback, and are encouraged to bring a copy of a classroom assessment to the session.
Jesse Senechal, MERC Director, (VCU/MERC), Hillary Parkhouse, Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning (VCU), Fantasy Lozada, Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology (VCU), Douglass Beecher, In School Detention Monitor, Monacan High School (Chesterfield), Meg Jacoby, English Language Arts Teacher, Monacan High School (Chesterfield), Thea Paul, Librarian, Meadowbrook High School (Chesterfield)
ARTCRT (Action Research Teams for Culturally Responsive Teaching) is a two-year professional development program that works with middle and high school teachers from the MERC region. In this session, leaders from the program will share information about ARTCRT, with a particular focus on how it has adapted to the virtual teaching space and the rising awareness on racial justice.
Melissa Cuba, MERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow (VCU), Kate Daly Rolander, Workforce Education Specialist, Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center (VCU), Virginia Massaro, Lecturer, Department of Teaching and Learning (ODU), Carolyn Waters, ESL Teacher at Falling Creek Middle School (Chesterfield), Virginia Palencia, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Andrew Harris, MERC Undergraduate Research Assistant (VCU), Luciana de Oliveira, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor (VCU)
Researchers will discuss how schools and practitioners can support and encourage multilingual families of English learners to develop academic language and skills at home. Additionally, this session will address solutions to potential communication challenges with these families during COVID-19.
Virtual College and Career Advising for High School Students
Tracy Brower, Program Manager of RVA Future (Richmond), Seth Knight, RVA Future Center Navigator at Armstrong High School and Franklin Military Academy (Richmond), Ryan Hannifin RVA Future Center Navigator at Huguenot High School and Richmond Community High School (Richmond)
RVA Future relies on in-person advising to support RPS high school students in creating their post-secondary plans. The closing of schools and the move to an on-line learning environment required the creation of alternate ways to assist students. Presenters will discuss how RVA Future Center directors leveraged program strengths and tools, and collaborated with partners. In addition, this session will explore how they utilized existing infrastructure to advise students virtually and celebrate their successful post-secondary transitions.
Access and Equity: The Value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities During COVID 19
Jada Brooks, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Family, Child, & Community Services (VSU)
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are important in the nation’s educational system. HBCUs were established during the pre-civil war years (Redd, 1998) during the period of segregation in the U.S. (Mathews & Hawkins, 2006). This presentation will focus on the value of HBCUs to the African American community, specifically during COVID-19.
George Hewan, Assistant Principal at Woodson High School (Fairfax), Jordan Black, Emotional Disabilities Teacher at Woodson High School (Fairfax), Margie Shapiro, Spanish Language Teacher at Woodson High School (Fairfax)
This presentation will focus on how school leaders, teachers, students, and parents in Woodson community came together following the murder of George Floyd to begin the healing process around racial injustice. Session participants will learn strategies to support K-12 students and teachers and how to engage and support parents and the community around racial injustice and having conversations with their students.
Kume Goranson, Executive Director, (CodeRVA), Rebecca Hall, Math Teacher, (CodeRVA), Gwendolyn Ashworth, Student Services Coordinator (CodeRVA), Keisha Tennessee, Computer Science Technology Specialist, (CodeRVA), Tracy Walker, MSAP Project Director (CodeRVA), Amy Corning, Assistant Professor/MERC Lead Evaluator (VCU), Jonathan Becker, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Justice (VCU), Preeti Kamat, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Ricardo Kunkel, Senior at CodeRVA Regional High School (CodeRVA)
The move to remote learning in March 2020 identified challenges as well as gaps in access for students and professional development for teachers and staff. This panel discussion will draw on experiences at CodeRVA Regional High School to illustrate ways in which research can be used to inform instructional and support practices.
Ethnic Disproportionality in Special Education
Tameka Burroughs, EdD Student in Educational Leadership in Higher Education (VCU)
Students of color are being identified as having disabilities and receiving special education services at a higher rate than other students in K12 education. This presentation will address the need to acknowledge ethnic disparities in special education and factors that are directly impacting disproportionality of students.
Nashae Jones, English Teacher at Powhatan High School (Powhatan), Christian Miller, Spanish Teacher at Powhatan High School (Powhatan)
This presentation looks at the implementation of a social justice framework in secondary schools. By looking at the implementation of short and long-term strategic goals, session participants will learn how to dismantle systemic racial disparities and gain tools to create an environment in which all students benefit from equitable learning practices.
Implementing Anti-Racist/ Anti-Blackness Learning Forums to Increase Preservice Teachers' Critical Consciousness
Kendra Johnson, Residency Coordinator for RTR Petersburg and PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU)
Anti-racism/anti-Blackness forums were developed to support preservice teachers' development as critical antiracist educators. By interrogating racism and oppression at individual, interpersonal, and institutional levels, participants will be encouraged to examine their roles as change agents within the current social, political, and cultural contexts of teaching and learning.
Kaprea Johnson, Associate Professor of Counseling and Special Education (VCU), Lauren Mahan Phd Student in Counselor Education (Regent University), Dana Brookover, PhD Candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision (VCU)
The twin pandemics (i.e., race and health) have caused a resurgence of interest into diversity and multiculturalism. Including socio economic status (SES) into discussions around diversity is key to addressing differing layers of challenges your students maybe facing. This presentation discusses social determinants of health (SDOH), which are impacted by SES. SDOH, includes where one lives, work, grows, and plays and impacts health and wellbeing. This presentation defines SDOH, and practical strategies for addressing issues in your schools.
Session 15: How Can We Promote Equitable Access and Support for Advanced Coursework Across K12? (*MERC Research*)
David Naff, MERC Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation (VCU), Andy Armstrong, Assistant Superintendent for Administration (Goochland), Amy Jefferson, NBCT Early Childhood University Supervisor and PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Tomika Ferguson, Interim Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence (VCU), Andy Wojcik, Assistant Professor of Counseling and Special Education (VCU)
This session will provide key takeaways from research about racial and socioeconomic disparities in advanced coursework representation across K12, including gifted programs in elementary school, Algebra I in middle school, and Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school. Members of the MERC Equitable Access and Support for Advanced Coursework research team will discuss factors contributing to these disparities as well as strategies for addressing them.
Climate Justice: A K-12 Curriculum
Bill Muth, Professor of Teaching and Learning (VCU), Angela Allen, PhD Student in Urban Services Leadership (VCU)
This session will provide a brief overview of the current climate emergency and its disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx communities, sharing inspiring stories, and offering a way to empower children through K-12 content area instruction.
Culturally Responsive Strategies for Meeting the Instructional and Emotional Needs of Educators
Cara Jean O'Neal, Educational Specialist for Professional Learning and Leadership (Henrico), Monica Manns, Chief Equity, Diversity and Opportunity Officer (Henrico)
When schools closed amid the crisis of COVID-19 and racial injustice, educators lost access to their physical school community and traditional professional learning methods. Learn how the Office of Equity, Diversity and Opportunity in Henrico is using a multifaceted, culturally responsive, virtual approach to support educator's instructional and emotional needs.
Meeting Them Where They Are...and They Eventually Come to You
Pamela Bell, Chief Student Advancement Officer (Petersburg)
This session will focus on creative ways to support families ,fill gaps, and provide the level of intentional outreach that is so needed in this time. Meeting them where they are literally means...just that. Sometimes you just have to canvas the community, connect with the citizens, and call upon the community to corral the group to bring about the change and support that is needed. Session participants will leave with a list of creative ways to connect with the community and families, a more clear understanding of the struggles and situations our families are currently in how best to support them, and strategies to increase student attendance, behavior, and achievement through family engagement efforts and a positive school/home connection.
Learning in a Pandemic: Lessons on Supporting Parents and Families
Emiola Oyefuga, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Justice (VCU), Bridget Azubuike, Senior Program Officer for Research (TEP Centre)
The pandemic disrupted the way that Nigerian parents engaged with the children’s education with many parents having to reorganize their lives to support the learning of their children. This presentation focuses on lessons learned from a study on Nigeria's response to teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Session participants will learn how the challenges being faced by parents and families with regard to the education of their children during the pandemic are not unique to American parents. Additionally, they will learn more about parents and families that do not have the required educational background to support the learning of their children, as well as support strategies that can be quickly and easily implemented as children return to school.
It is no longer enough to just tell your story. With the departure of many of the legacy media practices, digital media requires an emphasis on user experience. Are you engaged in meaningful communications and leadership with your stakeholders? Session attendees will gain an understanding of the need for a digital framework and transformation of the school division as a dynamic player in the marketplace of ideas and information that matters to students, families, and staff that we serve. Topics include social media, print and tv media, email, and marketing.
Session 18: Teacher Workforce Experiences in 2020: Key Takeaways from the MERC Teacher Retention Team (*MERC Research*)
Val Robnolt, Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning (VCU), Elizabeth Edmondson, Principal Investigator, VISTA ELIS at VCU, Teaching and Learning (VCU), Jonathan Becker, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Justice (VCU), Andrene Castro, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership (VCU), Jesse Senechal, MERC Director (VCU), Erica Ross, PhD Student in Research, Assessment, and Evaluation (VCU), Kasey Dye, PhD Student in Special Education and Disability Policy (VCU)
This session features findings from the MERC Teacher Retention study. Members of the research team will share key takeaways from the research literature on the role that principals play in retaining teachers at the school level followed by a discussion of findings from a regional survey of teacher workforce experiences in 2020.
Session 19: Student Mental Health During a Pandemic: Research and Resources for Offering Support (*MERC Research*)
Shenita Williams, PhD Student in Educational Leadership, Policy and Justice (VCU), Melissa Lee, PhD Candidate in Educational Leadership, Policy and Justice (VCU), Jenna Furman, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Elizabeth Broda, Social Studies Teacher at Henrico High School (Henrico), Karin Castillo-Rose, Principal of Henrico High School (Henrico)
This session will provide an overview of a recent MERC report offering a rapid review of research about supporting student mental health as students return to school during COVID-19. The report pulls from literature on natural disasters like hurricane Katrina, the psychological impacts of quarantine, and emergent research on the mental health impacts of the Coronavirus. The session (and report) is structured to answer three overarching questions: 1) Why is it important to address the mental health needs of students in schools? 2) How can we expect COVID-19 to impact the mental health of students? 3) What are some practical strategies for addressing the mental health needs of students and personnel as they return to school?
Virginia Massaro, Lecturer, Department of Teaching and Learning (ODU), Melissa Cuba, MERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow (VCU), Andrew Harris, MERC Undergraduate Research Assistant (VCU), Carolyn Waters, ESL Teacher at Falling Creek Middle School (Chesterfield), Virginia Palencia, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Kate Daly Rolander, Workforce Education Specialist, Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center (VCU)
This session will present ways in which the COVID-19 virus has impacted the mental health of English learners. Additionally, researchers will discuss ways in which educators and schools can support these vulnerable students in a virtual learning platform.
Session 20: Anti-Racist Transdisciplinary Coalition in Higher Education
Tosha Yingling, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Robyn Lyn, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Ejana Bennett, PhD Student in Curriculum, Culture, and Change (VCU), Aliza Lambert, PhD Student in Counselor Education and Supervision (VCU), Erin Hanley, PhD Student in Counselor Education and Supervision (VCU), Korinthia D. Nicolai, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Margaret K. Wallace, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Catina Venning, PhD Student in Educational Psychology (VCU), Meagan Rawls, PhD Student in Research, Assessment, and Evaluation (VCU)
The VCU School of Education Student Standing Action/Advocacy Collective (“the Collective”) is developing an interdisciplinary model for equitable anti-racist education to protect Black lives unapologetically and end white supremacy in higher education. This session explores dismantling hetero-racist practices and offers a plan for advocacy, action and accountability for equitable education access.