September 25, 2020


For today's NCSCvirtual wrap-up series, I'm sharing tips from my session: Staying Grounded: Implementing and Practicing Trauma-Informed Mindfulness. In this workshop, we learned how the application of mindfulness might help navigate our new reality to stay afloat long enough to, eventually, swim to the shore.  

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is acceptance of what is happening in any given moment, without trying to change it. It is the ability to build awareness around what is happening and make choices about HOW to respond. Simply put, mindfulness provides space, space for us to connect with ourselves, listen, and then act with wisdom. There are many ways that mindfulness can show up in your life. It could be setting yourself apart for a 30-minute meditation or following your breathing patterns for 2-minutes, or paying attention to what you are eating during a meal. Mindfulness is not a specific act; it is a quality of being that you can bring to everything you do. It is a process of honoring your humanity and preparing the body and mind for learning and connecting.  

As we re-enter virtual or in-person classrooms, how will you make space for your imperfections and those of your colleagues and students?

Be. The. Space. Build the Space in DAILY.

Research shows that with simple mindful moments incorporated into your day, increase your ability to be more adaptive and cognitively flexible. Ultimately, we perceive fewer stressors as threats. This shift in perspective allows us to return to the social engagement space.

Here’s a practice to try alone or with your students:

  1. Take a moment to settle in your seat. Notice all the places where your body is in contact with the floor or chair.
  2. Pay attention to any sensations in your body, tingling, tightness, discomfort.
  3. Allow your eyes to close, if that feels comfortable. You can also lower your gaze so that you are looking toward the floor.
  4. Notice what is happening in your mind. Is it filled with thoughts? Can you let them settle for the next two minutes knowing that you can go back to dealing with them when the two minutes are up? 
  5. Take a deep breath and make space for any sensations. Bring some kindness to those areas. Take a deep breath and make space for your busy mind. It is OK if you are having a hard time settling.
  6. Continue to breathe. Each time you breathe in, silently say the word “in.” Each time you breathe out, silently say the word “out.”
  7. After 2 minutes, gently open your eyes. Notice how you are feeling at this moment. Commit to carrying this with you until your next mindful moment.

Simple practices like these and moments where we can feel our feet on the ground and take a deep breath can be a life-saver. Mindfulness provides you tools and space to stay afloat. The shore is visible. Let us swim together. 

You can watch the recording of my session on-demand here. Please use the email that you used to register for the conference to access the session. If you did not participate in NCSCvirtual and would like to watch the session, please click here.  

Tawanna Kane is founder of Inner Resources Project. She has created stress reduction and mindfulness curricula for public school systems, hospitals, research studies, juvenile halls, level III schools and other general adult populations throughout the US.

August 28, 2020


As part of our NCSCvirtual conference wrap-up, we will be sharing a series of posts highlighting sessions and topics that are of great interest to our community. Whether or not you attended the conference, we think this information will be useful to you in your immediate and future planning. 

 In our first installment of the conference wrap-up series, we are breaking down education and philanthropy in the age of COVID-19 and beyond.  

The COVID-19 pandemic altered every aspect of American life and forced every organization to adjust its strategies and operations on the fly. The philanthropic community was no exception. Various institutional and individual funders made rapid changes to how and where they gave. In education philanthropy, donors had to balance providing immediate support with continuing to give towards their long-term goals. And as various issues, such as the digital divide, lack of cleaning supplies, and budget shortfalls, began to be a prominent component of the K-12 discourse, philanthropy emerged as a means to provide the additional capital to address these gaps. 

On July 23, the National Alliance brought together five experienced foundation officers and executives to recap their experiences and analyze the future of educational philanthropy. Moderated by Katherine Haley from the Philanthropy Roundtable, "Philanthropy, COVID-19, and Education in 2020" featured Dakarai Aarons from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Melanie Brown from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ash Solar from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Kristin Todd from the Daniels Fund. 

Philanthropic Response to COVID-19

The philanthropic sector has been building the plane as they fly it, with the educational future of millions of children at stake. Kristin Todd highlighted how the Daniels Fund supports individual schools in their portfolio through a rapid response fund where they gave grants to help schools prepare for the possibility of distance learning in the fall. This support includes investing in new learning platforms, instructional support, professional development for teachers, and technology for students. She advised anyone seeking to start a charter school should engage their state association and local allies to explore opportunities and support. Ash Solar added that the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation has been supporting work to create resources for schools centered on reopening. Schools can obtain these resources through an application process. 

Along with academic-related challenges, philanthropy is also assessing the external factors that can present barriers to students' successful remote learning experience. Various external factors can impact whether a student's experience with distance learning is fruitful. As Melanie Brown touched on, recent polling conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted that factors, such as internet connectivity and food insecurity, can harm a student's in-home learning experience during this time. Dakarai Aarons also stressed how critical it is to address the "whole child" and make sure that children are healthy enough from a physical, mental, and social-emotional perspective to succeed. They have been working on creating resources and supporting districts and school leaders to engage children during these unprecedented times and bring out the best and healthiest versions of themselves. 

Equity and the Future of Educational Philanthropy

The digital divide has always been a core area of interest for the philanthropic sector. And now more than ever, the need to close the digital divide is top of mind. The lack of internet connectivity perpetuates economic and racial inequities within our educational system, and many of the panelists spoke about implementing new tactics to address this issue, including supporting state governments, engaging with schools directly, and creating resources. From a broader equity perspective, the panel stressed the need to ensure that their grantees are diverse and that their access to funding is equitable. By supporting more leaders of color and single-site schools, the philanthropic sector can ensure that they are empowering diverse voices. 

As education adjusted to the pandemic, the philanthropic community followed suit. Philanthropists have served as valuable partners, from data collection, direct technical assistance, and committing to equitable changes, the philanthropic sector will continue to engage, listen, and seek solutions.

You can watch "Philanthropy, COVID-19, and Education in 2020" on-demand. Please use the email that you used to register for the conference to access the session. If you are not registered for NCSCvirtual and would like to watch the session, please click here

Kyle Breckenridge is the senior manager of strategic initiatives at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

August 18, 2020


Day three of the Virtual National Charter School Conference struck a much-needed optimistic note as the keynote and featured speakers focused on reimagining education.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shared their vision for public education in America, focusing on innovation and ensuring that all students have resources they need to learn outside the classroom.

The Senator from New Jersey began his remarks by highlighting the need for high-quality schools for all children, regardless of their zip code. He shared his personal story of his parents' fight to move to a neighborhood with well-funded public schools and during his time as Mayor of Newark New Jersey, the personal pleas from parents to help their students in failing schools. He noted that while charter schools have contributed significantly to the education sector, more work is needed to ensure equity, inclusion, and transparency. Senator Booker ended his talk with words of encouragement, noting that the charter community has fought through many obstacles and challenges and would surely overcome the current crisis with even better results for the students they serve.

Senator Cory Booker
Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ

Next, Governor Jeb Bush, in a conversation with NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Stacey Childress, struck a similar tone suggesting that a culture of action and creative problem solving was needed in public education. Some of the proposed solutions discussed included creating a national plan to ensure that all students have the resources they need to learn outside the classroom. Governor Bush also spoke about Congressman John Lewis's legacy and his incredible bias towards action when it came to addressing racial inequalities and the lack of economic opportunities. "We need more people like John Lewis," he said passionately.

Jeb Bush
Governor Jeb Bush

The featured sessions for the day carried on the problem-solving mindset with in-depth conversations on how schools can safely and successfully reopen and understanding how embracing social-emotional learning can ultimately lead to a better classroom environment and more equitable outcomes for students. Marc Brackett, founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, gave a compelling presentation on the importance of cultural competency and emotional intelligence. One of the most powerful moments in the presentation was when Dr. Brackett noted that misreading students' emotions led to miscommunication and inequity, which can harm students. Trying to adjust the behavior without understanding the feeling often leads to a suppression of their feelings and worse behavior.

At the other featured session on reopening schools, school leaders from DSST Public Schools, Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys, Summit Public Schools, and STEM Preparatory Schools convened to discuss the complex factors involved reopening strategies. The school leaders shared insightful tips and tricks on how to provide counseling for children and adults, developing school culture online, maintaining academic standards, and engaging thoughtfully with students and parents. The consensus among the leaders was that schools should focus not on recreating the physical school environment but instead nurture relationships with students, create community, and provide the best remote learning experience for students. One of the highlights for me came from Diane Tavenner of Summit Public schools, who noted that her team does not refer to online learning as distance learning because she never wants students or teachers to feel distant from one another. Instead, Summit refers to their online learning as homeschool and has developed a comprehensive strategy to make sure students feel that they are part of a community.

In many ways, the school leaders, professors, and speakers that lead sessions on day three of NCSCvirtual embodied the very optimism and can-do attitude that both Senator Booker and Governor Bush attributed to the charter sector. Attendees were able to attend sessions that will help them adapt policies to address the digital divide and inequity and deep-dive into Google applications that have helped teachers with remote instruction.

The 2020-21 school year is sure to be filled with challenges, and charter schools are sure to create new and innovative ways to meet the needs of students.

Jamison White is the senior manager of data and research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

July 28, 2020


The Virtual Charter Schools Conference (NCSCvirtual) entered day two of the event on Thursday, July 23. The conference schedule was filled with engaging sessions packed with content. The content focused on three main areas: remote learning, reopening schools, and reimagining education. 

The day began with homerooms, which focused on career tracks this week. The homeroom theme allowed participants to connect with other attendees serving in similar capacities. 

In keeping with our commitment to elevating black voices and addressing race and equity issues, DeRay Mckesson, civil rights activist and co-founder of Campaign Zero, and Tre Johnson from Catalyst: Ed opened with a powerful keynote address focused on understanding the Black Lives Matter movement. The session focused on the role of charter schools in advancing educational equity and engaging in meaningful conversations that bring about change and understanding. Artemisio Romero y Carver, a student activist and rising senior at New Mexico School of Arts, also spoke during the opening keynote on his activism in the community and encouraged us to stand with students. 

DeRay McKesson, civil rights activist
DeRay McKesson, civil rights activist 

After a brief break, breakout sessions began with a featured session on equity in education, moderated by Afrika Owes from the Center for Constitutional Rights and a KIPP STAR NYC alumna. This session featured a rockstar group of panelists: Margaret Fortune (president & CEO, Fortune Schools), Shaver Jefferies (president, Democrats for Educator Reform), and Layla Avila (CEO, Education Leaders of Color) came together to discuss the inequity within education that has plagued the American school system for years. Each panelist offered strategies that charter school organizations can implement to take steps toward eradicating inequality within education.

On day two of NCSCvirtual, registrants had the opportunity to participate in over ten engaging sessions related to reopening schools, remote learning, and reimagining schools. These sessions ranged from topics like social-emotional learning, navigating teaching during remote learning, and charter school finance. Participants walked away with newfound knowledge and insight. 

Day three is sure to provide even more opportunities for our participants. We are excited to hear from our keynote speakers who are sure to ‘bring us home’ on the final day of NCSCVirtual. We cannot wait to see you there! 

There is still time to join us live for the final day of our conference and access all content on-demand. Register here

Zoie Jones is a 2020 Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellow serving with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She is a rising senior at Spelman College, a historically black college and university in Atlanta, majoring in Elementary Education. After graduation, Zoie aspires to become a teacher focusing her efforts on educating and inspiring children from low-income communities.