As everyone will likely recall, the school recently conducted the massive rollout of a new study Implement: Paper. When I was in my advisory, I know I was personally shocked that the school would make such a bold move.
For other reasons I happened to be in his office the Friday before Thanksgiving break, chatting with him about how his experience as a new principal in our school, and we happened across the new school implement he was a keystone in capturing for AHS students.
While there wasn’t enough time to continue discussing the ins and outs of this new revolutionary tool, I left his office determined to get more answers regarding this dazzling, and modern approach to studying, and how our school came to adopt it.
I went and sought out Principal Williams for an interview after thanksgiving break, and being as gracious as he is, just this last Friday I was able to get Mr. Williams for an hour to sit and talk about it.
What was the moment you first realized “we need this”, or, what was the Aha!
Principal Williams: well, probably before we even got into the school year, I could see that we needed paper. One, when you look at the academic data before COVID, you saw that there was a subgroup of students that were already behind. When you look at our at-risk groups, our communities of color, our economically disadvantaged scholars, they were behind their counterparts, and that let me know there were some at-risk groups that needed supports that simply weren’t offered. I also knew that was also compounded by the fact that scholars had been out of the classroom for over a year in respect to traditional learning. and so, I knew, there would be some additional need for academic learning and supports. and, that is exactly what the data shows…there is an overwhelming need for academic support.
we have a phenomenal…phenomenal group of practitioners here. and that speaks to this school. But there’s only so long they can be at the high school-till 2:45, but once that time arrives each day, the need for scholar support doesn’t diminish, and this resource-paper- was crucial to bridging the gap between in classroom learning and scholar support.
What was the process like for finding Paper?
Principal Williams: so, I knew Paper back when it went by the name Gradeslam, and I brought it to an old school I worked in back in New york. I saw what it could do for a community. So, seeing success with the program there helped me appreciate the extent to which it could be successful here. and, that’s how we got it.
Were there any roadblocks to getting it initially? was there anything in your path when you decided to adopt it?
Principal Williams: I think the biggest roadblock initially was the fact we could only offer it to a small number of Scholars. and paper isn’t necessarily the best school-wide scholar support tool if it is only rolled out in a piecemeal fashion. That was something the Administration team of both paper and AHS had to contend with. It couldn’t have been successful if it was kept to a small number of scholars. Thanks to the partnership, thanks to the generosity, and thanks to efforts on our end, we were able to partner with Paper and make it accessible to all scholars this year.
have there been any issues with the program since we last spoke?
Principal Williams: I think one of the big issues is that not everyone knows about it. So, as you know, this was rolled out in Advisory, but there have been numbers of students absent for quarantine and illness, and so there is a sizable pocket of our school community that may not know that Paper exists. And so, that is something the staff is currently working on. That is, making sure every scholar here knows that this option is available to them.
There is some Buzz going around recently that the implementation of Paper is a result of COVID-related shock since coming back from online, is this substantiated?
Principal Williams: If anything, some of the results of COVID have been beneficial in revealing why we need Paper, and why we needed it before. What COVID did was show the disparity of resources amongst our community. what we know is during COVID, those that could afford it were in communities where people brought in teachers during COVID to teach. Now, as apparent, that is expensive. And because of this, those with affluence and those with means had access to a resource that many others did not. If our goal is to, as a school, increase the academic outcomes of all scholars. That means er have a responsibility to ensure academic and instructional resources are equitably dispersed among all scholar groups. That was what this was about. The fact that it supported those who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was just an added bonus. But this was about increasing equity in our community so that all of our scholars have resources that can push them.
Do you believe that if we had had access to Paper at the beginning of the pandemic, that we might have fared better as a community?
Principal Williams: I will start by saying that Paper is by no means meant to be, or in any way designed to be a replacement for, or a substitute for, our incredible practitioners. Our school has one of the most robust teams of practitioners in the country. There was a traumatic event occurring in addition to a dramatic shift in the way instruction was conducted. I am not sure to the extent to which Paper would’ve had a positive impact on that because there were lots of moving pieces that impacted instructional learning and outcomes during that time. But I will say I believe it would have been an additional resource that could have supported additional scholars in their learning, and that did not happen for many pockets of scholars during the initial phases of the pandemic.
what are your hopes for the program going into the new year?
Principal Williams: my hope for the program is that we continue to have a significant showing of scholar use. My hopes are that the misconceptions are cleared and the learnings gained from it and that this will lead to increased academic outcomes for all scholars. And I hope that this will lead to a higher sense of confidence in our scholars, given that they have easier access to help outside of the classroom. Our teachers are amazing, but if you didn’t get something in one lesson one day, you should be able to remedy that problem and reach a higher understanding. My greatest hope is that we can increase our student usage, but even more so, that it brings with it higher academic outcomes.
If you could tell our readers-your students-anything about Paper, what would you tell them?
Principal Williams: I would tell the scholars everything I do now. You have a resource at your disposal; twenty-four-seven, which is practically an on-call, additional teacher. don’t be afraid to use it, don’t let it go to waste. you can ask for help you can ask for support either 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. And in using it, you are getting support and securing that we can continue to offer this to students for years to come.
while our interview was relatively short, I walked away with a greater understanding of the situation at our school. There are students that suffer from inequity, and this resource is potentially the thing that could get many of them through high school, especially during this time of quarantines and mental health crisis. Many kids do not have the benefit of going to school, and while it may not be a supplement, Paper can offer a little support when it just doesn’t make sense, or the teacher just doesn’t explain it right in the mess of teaching hundreds of your peers.
It is not commonly known, but what we were going off the bais of in the interview was the fact Paper is currently on trial.
Whether or not kids engage with this resource while we have it determines whether or not it will be fully implemented for years to come. Mr. Williams is a firm believer in the necessity in the community for such a tool, and I can say after meeting with him I have come to agree. We should do what we all can to increase our academic opportunities and take advantage of this magnificent resource. If not only for us but for the future students of AHS who may need it.