Lufkin, TX: Beginning almost one year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic forced school districts into extended shutdowns and interrupted instructional routines. These disruptions are having significant consequences for student learning. As part of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation’s effort to address these challenges across rural East Texas, 12 school districts have been awarded grants totaling $377,000 to accelerate learning recovery in reading and math.
Lufkin, TX: In 1902, T.L.L. Temple first purchased a parcel of land that is now part of the 19,000+ acre Boggy Slough Conservation Area (BSCA). Boggy Slough belonged to the Temple family until the late 1960s when it became a corporate asset of Temple-Inland, Inc., and subsequently changed ownership with the sale of company assets in 2012. The T.L.L. Temple Foundation, under the leadership of Arthur (Buddy) Temple, III as chairman, acquired Boggy Slough in December 2013. Buddy’s affection for the property and commitment to conservation of forests inspired him to lead the foundation in negotiating the purchase and an agreement with The Conservation Fund to place a conservation easement over the entire 19,000+ acres. The easement, now held by the Texas Land Conservancy, ensures that the land will be protected and managed sustainably as a working forest in perpetuity.
The mission of the Boggy Slough Conservation Area is “to serve as a model of excellence for East Texas through ecological research and outreach to promote conservation, management, and stewardship of natural resources.” Given Buddy’s strong interest in conserving the native forest ecosystems, in learning new things about these ecosystems, and in growing a new generation of conservation leaders, the foundation chose to honor his leadership by naming three key programmatic elements of BSCA in his honor: The Buddy Temple Visiting Scholar, The Buddy Temple Graduate Fellow (graduate student), and The Buddy Temple Symposium. With these designations, Buddy’s legacy will continually be associated with core components of the research and outreach programs that align with his personal vision and interests.
Dr. Benjamin Knapp, Associate Professor of Silviculture at the University of Missouri, has been named the first Buddy Temple Scholar. “It is an honor to partner with the Boggy Slough Conservation Area in fulfillment of Buddy Temple’s vision for conservation of natural resources. This is an exciting opportunity to learn about the ecology of these forests to improve their management moving forward.” Dr. Knapp will also be recruiting the first Buddy Temple Graduate Fellow to join him in his research.
“We are excited to partner with Dr. Knapp as the first Buddy Temple Visiting Scholar,” says Executive Director of the Boggy Slough Conservation Area, Dr. Steve Jack, of Knapp’s research project. “The research that Dr. Knapp will conduct at BSCA – promoting natural regeneration of desired tree species while managing with prescribed fire – is important for sustaining the forests at Boggy Slough and other properties in the region that are managed for conservation objectives.”
Ellen Temple, Buddy’s widow and a foundation trustee, says she is happy to see that his legacy lives on through the work of the BSCA programs. “Buddy loved the rivers and forests of the Piney Woods of East Texas. He wanted to develop the knowledge through research of how we can each become a friend of the forest and then pass that love and care of the land to future generations. The Visiting Scholar, Graduate Fellow and Symposium that bear his name are the perfect way to honor his vision. Thank you to my fellow foundation trustees and foundation staff for making it happen, and a big welcome to Dr. Ben Knapp as the first Buddy Temple Scholar!”
“Pandemic related learning losses threaten our students’ academic and career paths and make it impossible for our East Texas communities to recover and thrive moving forward,” said T.L.L. Temple Foundation President & CEO Dr. Wynn Rosser. “Educational inequities existed before COVID-19, and, unfortunately, the most vulnerable students are bearing the heaviest burdens.”
According to recent studies, learning losses associated with COVID-19 disruptions will be significant and will widen underlying achievement gaps. Unaddressed, pandemic learning losses will widen existing inequities and sharply curtail future postsecondary and workforce opportunities. For the vulnerable students who are most affected, all signals point towards an increase in school dropout rates and reduced postsecondary completion at a time when automation is transforming low-skill sectors and higher levels of education have never been more important to workforce competitiveness. The lifetime economic consequences are immense: “the average K–12 student in the United States could lose $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings (in constant 2020 dollars), or the equivalent of a year of full-time work, solely as a result of COVID-19–related learning losses.”
“The T.L.L. Temple Foundation recognizes the risks that COVID-19 learning losses present to East Texas, and we also understand that the needs of rural communities and rural schools are rarely prioritized during a crisis,” said Dr. Sylvia Leal, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for Education and Economic Opportunity. “By tapping into their demonstrated resiliency and innovation, we’re committed to ensuring our teachers and students on the frontlines of rural education have the resources they need to accelerate learning. What our educational leaders develop and achieve in East Texas will be shared as a guiding model for rural communities everywhere that are trying to address COVID-19 learning losses.”
From 34 applications, the following 12 finalists were selected:
- Corrigan-Camden Independent School District
- Diboll Independent School District
- Jasper Independent School District
- Joaquin Independent School District
- Leggett Independent School District
- Nacogdoches Independent School District
- Newton Independent School District
- Orangefield Independent School District
- Palestine Independent School District
- Texarkana Independent School District
- West Orange-Stark Cove Consolidated Independent School District
- Woodville Independent School District.
“We’re elated to be a recipient of such a generous grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation,” said Nacogdoches ISD Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Daya Hill. “This will allow us to provide targeted instruction during what is sure to be a critical summer for learning, as our students work to overcome the challenges of the past year.”
The selected school districts reflect the diversity of K-12 education across the T.L.L. Temple Foundation’s rural East Texas service area:
- Selected school districts span the southeast Texas-Louisiana coastal border to the northeast Texas-Arkansas border
- The smallest participating school district serves less than 200 total students and the largest serves more than 7,000 total students
- Accelerated learning programs focus on varied grade levels, from early elementary to high school, and incorporate unique approaches, from intensive summer sessions to targeted interventions across the school year.
“Our students in Orangefield ISD, like students all across our state and nation, have endured significant challenges due school closures and loss of instructional time brought on by a global pandemic, said Zach Quinn, Secondary Curriculum Education Director. “We recognize that our students are experiencing significant learning gaps in math and reading. This grant will help us to provide additional tools, programs and resources to close these learning gaps and increase the success of our students.”
The T.L.L. Temple Foundation is partnering with the E3 Alliance to support selected school districts with collecting data and evaluating the impact of the programs on student learning. The aim of the partnership is to identify what works for accelerating learning recovery in rural schools and to use the findings to improve and scale future programs to address learning loss.
“While systemic gaps have long been recognized between different student groups, the COVID pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated the learning loss experienced by some of our most vulnerable students.,” said the E3 Alliance President & Executive Director Susan Dawson. “E3 Alliance is excited to partner with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation to identify, support, and then expand innovative ways to address these losses by working directly with schools to measure and elevate the best ideas to help all our students succeed in this critical time.”
This grant opportunity supports and elevates rural East Texas school districts at the leading edge of efforts to address COVID-19 learning disruptions. The solutions developed across East Texas will help eliminate the lingering effects of pandemic learning disruptions and prepare the next generation of rural students for success.