Dr. Jennie Weiner pens commentary on a viral social media post around homeschooling during a pandemic and what she’s learned – pg.29 in the UConn Magazine
Dr. Jennie Weiner pens op-ed for the New York Times on not recreating school for her children during the coronavirus.
EDLR’s Dr. Jennie Weiner was recently selected to serve as a juror to determine 2020’s The Brock Prize in Education Innovation, an award dedicated to enhancing education and promoting change.
Each year, the recipient of the Brock Prize in Education Innovation is determined by a jury of nine members. Jurors include educators and champions of education, university officers, meritorious professors, business and government officials, and others committed to excellence in education.
Weiner was chosen for her scholarship on issues of educational leadership and organizational change, including the impact of gender and racial discrimination in educational leadership.
UConn Today covers two EDLR faculty researchers, Drs. Jennie Weiner and Laura Burton who will be serving as PI and Co-PI during their investigation on 25 black, female principals and how microaggressions and discrimination affect their experiences.
This research is funded by a Spencer Foundation Grant.
Clinical Instructor Jen Michno and colleague Dr. Jennie Weiner agree that research on administrator preparation is critically important for the field of education. Both Michno and Weiner are recent recipients of grants that support this vital research area.
Michno’s focus is to better prepare administrators to excel in Family School Community Engagement (FSCE). “This research helps practitioners in the field understand the types of strategies and practices that will garner the best outcomes for students in schools,” she says. Weiner’s research focuses on students’ experiences within the preparatory programs themselves: “Are we, instructors in preparation programs, replicating patterns that are problematic and that reify discriminatory and ineffectual practices?” she asks. “More progressive, feasible, appropriate ways of thinking about leadership need to be learned and discussed.”
Thanks to a generous grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG), Jen Michno is currently conducting research that will inform the design and implementation of a new module of the Department of Educational Leadership’s UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) curriculum that will focus on the area of Family School Community Engagement (FSCE). The new FSCE module will ultimately become part of the curriculum for all UCAPP students, and will also be made available to several HFPG priority school districts across the state for use with currently-practicing administrators.
“There is clear evidence at the national level that there is a lack of focus on Family School Community Engagement in administrator preparation programs across the country. FSCE practices promote equity in schools and should be an integral part of every individual’s administrator preparation experience. This research addresses this issue by creating an empirically-validated FSCE curriculum module that will reach not only UCAPP students but administrators across Connecticut.” - Jen Michno
Broadly, Dr. Jennie Weiner’s research aims to redefine conceptualizations of leadership: to “move away from the ‘great (white) man’ theory, both literally and figuratively.” Her current research project investigates the experiences of black woman administrators–including their current roles and their experiences in preparatory programs–to understand if and how they have experienced microaggressions. After conducting a 10-person pilot study (forthcoming in the Journal of Research on Leadership Education), Weiner, Dr. Laura Burton, and Daron Cyr, a doctoral student in Educational Leadership, were recently awarded the Spencer Foundation Grant for Small Studies. This grant will allow them to widen the scope of the study to 25 participants, and to learn more comprehensively about each participant’s experience and career trajectory. “The ultimate goal is to create opportunities so that leadership itself is more inclusive and equitable in terms of who has access to it and who can succeed in the work,” says Weiner.
“We know from the pilot study that the participants experienced quite a few microaggressions in their administrator preparation programs. They cited being invisible in the space, never getting to talk about how their racial or gender identities might impact how people respond to them or how they engage in leadership, and a serious lack of curriculum written by anyone other than white men.” - Dr. Jennie Weiner
Whenever there were conversations about race, says Weiner, they were either centered around white privilege or students’ racial identities. “There was a focus on better understanding students from minoritized groups, which implies that the administrators are white,” she says. “And discussions about white privilege, while important, don’t really pertain to black women. There was more than one story in which a woman said she had to listen while instructors tried to convince a white man that white privilege was real. How safe or encouraged could she or anyone else outside our society’s dominant groups feel in that space?”
The impacts of both Michno’s and Weiner’s research are impressive, and neither woman’s work is without challenges. “As new material is introduced,” says Michno, “there is inevitably less time for other topics. Finding that perfect curricular balance is the biggest challenge emerging from this research.” For Weiner, the nature of her research calls for constant growth and learning. “Real change is really hard,” she says. “Every day I see the pain and the unfairness of how discrimination impacts people. I want change to happen yesterday but I also understand that this is not how things work. That said, I am committed to use my privilege to make a difference.”
But with the challenges come successes. “I get most excited when I think about the impact this will have, not only on leader development but also on the students within these school systems,” says Michno. For Weiner, it’s rewarding to do work that feels relevant: “Maybe I could help somebody feel a little less alone or a little more empowered. Getting to work toward changing things that I think are wrong–what a gift!” Thanks to the HFPG and the Spencer Foundation, Michno and Weiner are making strides toward sustainable change that supports CT's emerging leaders.
Congratulations to Dr. Jennie Weiner who has been named the 2019 recipient of the Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award, which honors a faculty member in the Neag School each year for outstanding teaching.
Weiner will be formally recognized at the Neag School’s 2019 Alumni Awards Celebration in March.
Women currently represent almost 77% of the teaching workforce. And yet, only about 50% of principals are women (2014), and less than a quarter of school district superintendents are female. Moreover, this is true despite the fact, according to research by Brunner and Kim in 2010, female superintendents tend to be, on average, more prepared for the role than their male counterparts.
The frequent tendency towards grooming and selecting white males for leadership positions over their female and minority counterparts is reflective of larger systemic racism and sexism still present in our society. While most of the behaviors limiting the opportunities of women in educational leadership are subtle and ambiguous—they are discriminatory and harmful nonetheless.
In the fall of 2018, the Connecticut Association of Public School Principals (CAPSS) and the Department of Educational Leadership’s Drs. Laura Burton and Jennie Weiner kicked off the “Women in the Central Office” seminar series, which explores some of the underlying factors of how gender bias and discrimination impact women leaders. Most recently was a session focused on “workplace incivility” and the elements that may contribute to it, including why women experience more uncivil behaviors than men and why women may perpetuate or be perceived to perpetuate uncivil behavior towards other women. Acting as a safe space for female leaders to gather and discuss the ways their social identities shape their beliefs and experiences in their roles and the world at large, these workshops aim to address ways to combat gender bias as well as other forms of discrimination from an individual and organizational perspective.
“We name gender bias and other forms of discrimination (i.e., social identities) to move away from blaming women or asking them to change themselves or their behaviors to fit better with unfair expectations and norms. Instead, we orient our conversations towards helping women leaders to live and lead authentically and in ways true to their values.”
-Drs. Laura Burton and Jennie Weiner
The seminar approach enables participants, comprised of current and aspiring women superintendents, assistant superintendents and other district-level administrators, to make their voices heard on issues directly affecting them and their careers. Discussions in the first installment of the series included networking, incivility at work, and gender and race-based discrimination in the role. In upcoming seminars, these discussions will extend to issues of work-life interface and the expectations put on working women to “do it all.”
The purpose of the series is to bring focus and voice to the special and unique experiences of women in educational leadership—experiences shaped by social identity.
Additionally, in the series, participants have the opportunity to challenge institutional bias, network with women leaders across Connecticut, learn skills and strategies to enhance their effectiveness as a female leader, and enlighten others around issues of work culture and improvement.
Research is the cornerstone of the seminar series—both Drs. Burton and Weiner bring together expertise on women in leadership in sport and organizational change, respectively. Together, they have built a collaborative research agenda to explore how gender and racial bias impacts opportunity and experience in education. More specifically, recently together they looked at how the construction of turnaround leadership and school leadership tends to favor white male professionals by analyzing experiences in turnaround principal preparation programs. In this research, they found that women were often subject to gender bias concerning their leadership approach and acumen. Moreover, they found little discussion or awareness of the effects of gender bias in school leadership. Consequently, this silence caused the women to blame themselves regarding others’ negative feedback, diminishing their sense of efficacy or opportunity in leadership roles.
Most recently, Drs. Burton and Weiner worked with Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy (LLEP) doctoral student, Daron Cyr, on research funded by the Obama Administration’s Initiative on Women and Girls of Color to explore the impacts of leadership preparation programs’ failure to discuss issues of social identity. The research focuses primarily on perpetuated microaggressions towards black female participants, highlighting a need for educational institutions to tackle issues of racism and sexism plaguing career advancement in education.
Combating the silence, their research paired with these workshops empower women to engage in deep conversation about their collective and unique experiences, and afford them the opportunity to strategize enhancements to the experiences of women in educational leadership.
Drs. Burton and Weiner are proud of the success of the series thus far, and look forward to the upcoming seminars on January 11, March 15 and May 3, 2019. For more information please visit the CAPSS website.
Chalkbeat (A new study by EDLR’s Shaun Dougherty and Jennie Weiner about turnaround schools in Rhode Island is featured)
EDLR’s Jennie Weiner quoted in The CT Mirror on Connecticut’s Alliance District program.