Conference & Workshops

Eskolta is committed to connecting educators who believe in the potential of once disconnected youth to re-engage and succeed in school and in life. Through various events and use of our space in Manhattan, we offer opportunities for these educators to learn from one another.

2017 Transfer School Conference

“The advocacy work of transfer schools goes beyond being in the classroom and running schools. Being in a transfer school means consistently being a revolutionary about the work.”
—Dr. Christopher Emdin

On June 8, 2017, more than 950 district and organizational leaders, teachers, students, and alumni attended the Seventh Annual New York City Transfer School Conference, an initiative of the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness in partnership with Eskolta. Representing 40 transfer schools that together serve more than 8,000 high school students who were once considered at risk of dropping out, educators participated in 70 workshops, panels, and lectures exploring a wide array of topics uniquely chosen to meet the needs of the transfer school community.

Lynette Lauretig, Senior Director of Multiple Pathways at the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness, and Eskolta Executive Director Michael Rothman served as conference hosts. They were joined by Transfer Schools Superintendent Paul Rotondo, University of Texas researcher David Yeager, PBS journalist John Merrow, the Center for American Progress’s Catherine Brown, and dozens of presenters from NYC transfer schools.

In his keynote address, Dr. Christopher Emdin of Columbia University passionately challenged listeners to engage deeply in the work of transfer schools. “The advocacy work of transfer schools goes beyond being in the classroom and running schools. Being in a transfer school means consistently being a revolutionary about the work.” Speaking from his own learning experiences as a teacher and an advocate, Emdin urged educators to consistently get to know the evolving culture of their students, however unfamiliar or uncomfortable that process may be. By doing so, he said, educators purposefully shape their pedagogy to meaningfully capture the attention of transfer school students, who have often had negative experiences in traditional educational settings. “Engaging in progressive pedagogy means moving beyond respectability [in order to] create the components for students to engage,” asserted Emdin.

Themes of student engagement and advocacy, among others, were salient at the conference as attendees participated in a series of 60- to 90-minute workshops and panels of their choosing, such as “Breaking Walls: Discovering Student Voice through Literacy and the Arts,” a hands-on workshop during which participants actively explored the creative and social aspects of a youth-empowerment documentary film, and “Making Misconception Meaningful in the Math Classroom,” where math teachers discussed how to use misconceptions to better instruction and students’ conceptual understanding, and “Unleash Your Students’ Superpower: Key Strategies to Infuse Growth Mindset into the Classroom,” a student-facilitated workshop that explored studies showing how small changes in the way students think about learning can impact their academic success and engagement. Such workshops helped translate educational research into ready-to-use strategies that could be implemented in classrooms.

 

2016-17 Workshop Series for New York City Transfer Schools

EXPLORING MINDSETS FOR STUDENT SUCCESS: GROWTH, VALUE, AND BELONGING

Thursday, October 6, 4:30-6:30pm, Eskolta Conference Room, 50 Broad St. Suite 1617, NYC

A growing body of research shows that key beliefs have a dramatic impact on students’ success and may be holding back many students. How do we help students believe that they can get smarter if they work harder? How do we help students believe that they value school? How do we help students believe that school values them? In this workshop, participants will walk away with key ideas from the research and sample materials that have been used in transfer schools to help students develop positive academic mindsets.


 

USING FEEDBACK AND CONFERENCING TO HELP TURN STUDENTS AROUND

Thursday, October 20, 4:30-6:30pm, Eskolta Conference Room, 50 Broad St. Suite 1617, NYC

Many transfer school students have never grown accustomed to taking feedback from their teachers and using it for their own improvement. Yes, it’s what we intend for them to do, but how do we help them understand it? In this workshop, we share research and lessons learned from some of the most effective practices for helping students to reflect on their own learning and monitor their own improvement. Participants will get sample materials, practices, and sentence stems for structuring and giving feedback on learning.


 

GROWTH MINDSET: DEMONSTRATING THAT EFFORT LEADS TO SUCCESS

Thursday, November 3, 4:30-7:00pm, Eskolta Conference Room, 50 Broad St. Suite 1617, NYC

Educators can’t open a journal or an education website without hearing about growth mindset – but what does it really mean to effectively cultivate a growth mindset for students? As students struggle in school, growth mindset language and practices can guide and motivate them towards success. In this workshop, practitioners will explore the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset, see cases demonstrating the importance of growth-mindset for student learning, and engage with tools designed to help apply growth-mindset language and approaches in the classroom.

2016 Transfer School Conference

Transfer School Conference 2016 crowdOn June 9, 2016, Eskolta founder and executive director Michael Rothman celebrated the organization’s sixth annual transfer school conference. Successfully organized and funded in partnership with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness, this year’s conference was the largest transfer school gathering to date. Almost 1,000 educators and support staff representing more than 38 of the City’s 50 transfer schools and partner agencies gathered at the Brandeis High School campus on West Eighty-Fourth Street to take part in more than 75 workshops and panels designed to speak directly to the needs and interests of the transfer school community.

Throughout the history of the conference, participants have been exposed to a variety of powerful and influential keynote speakers. Each year, keynote speakers such as Jonathan Kozol, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Michelle Fine, and Pedro Noguera have challenged and excited participants by connecting outside research on educational policy, pedagogy, and social justice. This year’s conference continued in that tradition in welcoming the 2016 keynote speaker Dr. Monique Morris.

Transfer School Conference 2016 registrationDr. Morris is an author and scholar with more than 20 years of experience in the areas of education, civil rights, and juvenile and social justice. Dr. Morris is the author of Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-First Century (The New Press, 2014) and Too Beautiful for Words (MWM Books, 2012). Her newest book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (The New Press, 2016), explores a world of lost potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

In addition to the keynote, the day included opening remarks by Superintendent Paul Rotondo, a former transfer school principal and a lifelong educator committed to serving overage and under-credited students in New York City.

2015-16 Workshop Series for New York City Transfer Schools

HOW CAN WE HELP STUDENTS DEVELOP THE MINDSETS TO SUCCEED?

Thursday, February 25, 4:00-6:30pm, City-As-School, 16 Clarkson Street, NYC

A growing body of research shows that key beliefs have a dramatic impact on students’ success and may be holding back many students. How do we help students believe that they can get smarter if they work harder? How do we help students believe that they value school? How do we help students believe that school values them? In this workshop, participants will walk away with key ideas from the research and sample materials that have been used in transfer schools to help students develop positive academic mindsets.


RAISING EXPECTATIONS THROUGH OUTCOMES-BASED LEARNING

Thursday, March 31, 4:00-6:30pm, Nathan Cummings Foundation, 475 10th Avenue, NYC

Great transfer school educators put the support and expectations in place for students who had once struggled to now achieve at high levels. One promising approach to achieve this is by reimagining schools as places where students are working not to achieve numeric grades but instead to attain proficiency in outcomes. In this workshop, participants will learn about and get examples of the key building blocks Eskolta has helped transfer schools put in place to become outcomes-based, including grading policies, rubrics, competency-alignment grids, and other schoolwide systems and structures.


HOW CAN FEEDBACK HELP TURN STUDENTS AROUND?

Thursday, April 21, 4:00-6:30pm, Nathan Cummings Foundation, 475 10th Avenue, NYC

Many transfer school students have never grown accustomed to taking feedback from their teachers and using it for their own improvement. Yes, it’s what we intend for them to do, but how do we help them understand it? In this workshop, we share research and lessons learned from some of the most effective practices for helping students to reflect on their own learning and monitor their own improvement. Participants will get sample materials, practices, and sentence stems for structuring and giving feedback on learning.


EFFECTIVELY ADDRESSING THE SIGNIFICANT SKILL AND KNOWLEDGE GAPS OF OUR STUDENTS

Offered by Eskolta partner reDesign
Thursday, May 19, 4:00-6:30pm, City-As-School, 16 Clarkson Street, NYC

The Common Core Standards are challenging for all students, but for Transfer School students they define a particularly steep climb to college and career readiness. Coupling transfer school students’ significant skill and knowledge gaps with the short time they have before graduation, creates a particular challenge for practitioners. In this workshop, we’ll explore a new tool that provides ready-made, strategic scaffolds for teachers engaged in addressing students’ skill and knowledge gaps, while simultaneously increasing the rigor of the texts and tasks students engage with. Participants will leave with access to a full suite of over 200 activities designed to support students in learning highly transferable skills.

2015 Transfer School Conference

TSC-2015---Michael-RothmanThe 2015 Transfer School Conference was Eskolta’s biggest event to date, with more than 800 participants from 40 schools in attendance. The opening convocation featured Phil Weinberg, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department of Education, who addressed the group with a reminder of the scope of the transfer school population: NYC transfer schools serve 12,782 young people in 51 schools. Weinberg went on to add that everyone “shares the responsibility to create the conditions to re-engage students and to tap into their resilience, to tap into their persistence, to empower them to graduate with real options for their future.” Rounding out the opening convocation, Lynette Lauretig, Senior Director of Multiple Pathways in the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness, and Eskolta Executive Director Michael Rothman, highlighted the value of every attendee’s experience and commitment to the students failed by the traditional school system. They both noted the importance of having a space exclusively for transfer school staff and partners to share ideas and collaborate.

The conference included nearly 70 workshops spanning a broad range of topics. Attendees learned from fellow transfer school educators about strategies being used “on the ground” in sessions such as Transition Planning for the IEP Student and College-Ready Academic Habits.Many workshops were presented by organizations that work closely with the transfer school population. Some highlights included the Dance Theatre Etcetera session Spoken Word Poetry and Rap as Pedagogy, StoryCorpsU’s Building Community in the Classroom: Why Do Stories Matter?, and Real Stories, Real Teens: The Power of Narrative from Development Without Limits.

Building on the panels from last year’s conference, this year’s panels focused on youth development and research on the brain. In a panel moderated by JoEllen Lynch of Springpoint, speakers Lili Allen of Jobs for the Future, Sabrina Evans Ellis of the Youth Development Institute, and Paul Forbes of the Expanded Success Initiative at the DOE discussed the central role of youth development in college and career readiness. Another special guest, Vanessa Rodriguez, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of The Teaching Brain, engaged participants in a presentation about the importance of understanding the difference between teaching and learning.

An intensified focus on student involvement this year gave both current and former scholars the chance to contribute to discussions about issues central to the transfer school system. A popular event was a panel headed by alumni Samantha Fernandez, John Melo, and Abraham Im, who shared their experiences and successes as former students who have gone on to college. Student facilitators from Student Voice Collaborative led a new workshop this year, Tackling Engagement Together: A Student-Staff Think Tank, during which adult participants were joined by student representatives from their schools to exchange ideas on how to keep students involved and invested in their education. Student Voice Collaborative members also attended Student-Led School Improvement, a workshop aimed at expanding a model of addressing specific student-identified challenges in schools across the city with targeted, student-led campaigns.

TSC-2015---Michelle-FineMichelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology, Women’s Studies, American Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center, CUNY, closed out the day with an engaging and pragmatic talk tying larger city- and society-wide systemic issues of educational equity to transfer schools and educators specifically. Michelle encouraged the attendees to recognize and understand the causes of educational inequality and how it affects the students they serve, but also to bear in mind the crucial role they play in helping students navigate the challenges they face. As she told the attendees, the overall system and context provides a large amount of “acid rain” for students to overcome, and “what you are doing is holding an umbrella. You’re not stopping the acid rain, [but] you’re holding an umbrella over most young people’s lives and giving them an opportunity to revise. And for that … all the people of New York should thank you.”

2014 Transfer School Conference

The 2014 Transfer School Conference was our biggest to date, with 825 participants from 37 schools in attendance. The day kicked off with words from Evin Orfila, a student at Liberation Diploma Plus High School in Brooklyn. Orfila highlighted the struggles his generation faces and those in his own life, praising the role that transfer schools play to help students cope with those struggles: “Liberation never will be just a school to any of the students that attend. Liberation is and forever will be a home for those that are lost or spit through a system designed to fail us. That is what a transfer school can be for us.” Download full text or listen to the speech below:

Rounding out the opening convocation, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña addressed the group, expressing her admiration for the work transfer schools do and higeventsFarinahlighting the high standards schools have put in place to help students become productive citizens, ready for work and college. Fariña noted that former transfer school students return to volunteer or for help because transfer schools have created a supportive environment: “You have made not just a difference academically in kids’ lives but you’ve made a difference in every aspect of their lives and in their families’ lives. And as I talk to kids in transfer schools, what’s very clear to me is that for many of them, you are their family. You have given them life and you have given them hope.”

This year’s conference offered more than 50 workshops spanning a broad range of topics. From their fellow transfer school educators, attendees learned about strategies being used on the ground in sessions such as Let’s Play! How to Create a School Community Through Theatrical Practices and Global Traveler: Reframing the Global History and Geography Curriculum. Additionally, this year a number of workshops were presented by organizations that work closely with the transfer school population. Two such organizations, Jobs for the Future and Facing History and Ourselves, shared their work and resources in sessions titled “Best Bet” Postsecondary Programs of Study: Connecting Graduates to Pathways That Pay Off and Promoting Civic Agency and Student Voice in Humanities Classrooms.

eventsPanelTwo panel discussions were another new feature this year. The first, focusing on building positive school cultures that promote academic behaviors, featured youth developer and public theologian Dr. Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, education researchers Dr. Michelle Fine and Dr. Joshua Aronson, transfer school principal Jean McTavish, and graduating high school seniors Erica Hernandez and Bob Rivera. The group touched on issues of social justice, communication between teachers and students, and school accountability in light of the tension between providing a rigorous academic experience and supporting students’ socio-emotional development. The second panel centered on college readiness and featured voices from both sides of the transition from transfer school to college. College professionals Dr. Nicola Blake, Richard Rivera, and Eric Hofmann and transfer school graduates Miguel Fores, Arienna Daniels, and Rahking Williams exchanged ideas about the factors that help transfer school graduates succeed in college and the kinds of practices in transfer schools that have helped and can help them be prepared.

eventsAndradeFinally, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, professor of Raza Studies at San Francisco State University and a high school teacher in East Oakland, California, closed the day with a moving talk on critical pedagogy in urban settings in which he shared his own experiences and strategies for effective teaching in schools serving poor and working-class children.

Dr. Duncan-Andrade’s words echoed sentiments expressed by many throughout the day, such as those eloquently stated by Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, who affirmed that the compassion, love, and hard work of transfer school educators help students “feel that they are empowered to make their own decisions, that they can stand, and that there are some people that will stand with them.” Through this tireless work, he reminded the audience, “we will not only embrace the champion, we will create a transformative movement that young people will come back years later as your volunteers, as your staff members, as the light to prove that this works.”

2013-14 Eskolta Transfer School Educators Forums

eventsForumEskolta’s Transfer School Educators Forums are an opportunity for small groups of teachers, counselors, administrators, and other staff from NYC transfer schools to convene around topics of shared interest.

Over a light dinner, forum participants connect with colleagues from other transfer schools, engage with research and experts from related fields, and discuss strategies and resources applicable to their work.

The 2013/14 Forum Series

Metrics that Fit:
Exploring Fresh Approaches to Measuring Success in Transfer Schools
December 5, 2013
Co-sponsored by Metis Associates, a NYC-based firm that has conducted many studies on transfer schools and youth development.Participants developed ideas for alternative metrics that can more thoroughly and accurately capture transfer school efforts in order to better inform their work and communicate successes.
Engaging with Community:
Building Student and Teacher Advocacy Skills
February 6, 2014
Co-sponsored by the Alliance for Quality Education, a state-wide coalition advocating for high quality public education for all students.Participants discussed opportunities for educators to engage in advocacy on educational issues and strategies for preparing transfer school students to be empowered participants in their communities.
College-Readiness in Transfer Schools:
Incorporating Research-based Skills into Curricula
February 26, 2014
Co-sponsored by CUNY At Home in College, a college transition and retention program working with many NYC transfer and high schools.Participants reviewed a study on the key skills needed in the first year of college and discussed instructional strategies and school supports for helping transfer school students get prepared for college courses.
Building Competitive Skills:
Work-Readiness In and Outside the Classroom
April 3, 2014
Built on study of key workplace skills and career-readiness curricula.Participants explored research on skills most important to employers and strategies for transfer schools to offer meaningful course curricula and internship experiences that build career readiness.
(Re)engaging after Absences:
Designing Learning Opportunities in the Face of Erratic Attendance
May 8, 2014
Hosted by Apple Educationa division of Apple, Inc. working alongside educators and students to reinvent what it means to teach and learn.Participants engaged in a design process to generate innovative ideas for addressing the familiar transfer school challenge of maintaining engagement and learning for students with inconsistent attendance.