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Ford foundation Project Promotes the Interest of Woman Educators

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In 1977, with $100,000 from the Ford Foundation, the American Association of School Administrators (aasa) set out to boost the careers of 75 carefully selected women holding middle-level administrative positions in the nation's schools.

By the following year, eight of those women were superintendents. Today, 14 of the 75 women hold district superintendencies (one woman has held two), another directs a state school-boards association, another, the Peace Corps in Afghanistan, and many others have been promoted to the upper levels of educational administration, according to Effie Jones, associate executive director of aasa

Intensive Training Workshops

"When you have a good thing going, you keep it going," Ms. Jones said. And the association's program of intensive training workshops for women continues as one facet of another, greatly expanded effort on behalf of women in education known as Project aware, an acronym for"assisting women to advance through resources and encouragement."

Established at the initiative of the Ford Foundation in 1979, the project now embraces five regional groups, in addition to the coordinating office at the aasa Although the groups function independently because "there are different local needs," said Ms. Jones, who directs Project aware, they share a common mission--to foster equity for women in education. Each group provides "technical assistance, training, visibility, and a support system," she added.

The groups' activities range from the Women's Leadership Project of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, in Austin, Tex., which serves woman educational administrators in the state governments of six Southwestern states, to the job monitoring, research, and workshops at the school-district level conducted by the NorthEast Coalition of Education Leaders (necel), based in Lincoln, Mass. necel is a membership organization covering nine states. The other groups are: Southern Coali

tion for Education Equity, in Atlanta; Northwest Women in Educational Administration, at the University of Oregon in Eugene; and aware West, in Phoenix.

Common Need Recognized

These groups have formed "from the bottom up," she pointed out. "Sometimes it begins with women just getting together." They recognize a common need and begin to branch out, she said.

The project was born, she said, when the Ford Foundation received several separate proposals for programs to promote women in education, and it was the foundation that proposed the groups join in a loose affiliation with aasa in order to have the greatest impact.

"It has really done well," said Joy Carol, Ford's program officer for Project aware. "Our own informal evaluation suggests that our investment in women in education is slowly beginning to pay off."

For the 1981 fiscal year, Ford's support for Project aware came to $523,000.

That support is slated to diminish as the groups "institutionalize with state affiliates of aasa," according to Ms. Jones.

To what does Ms. Jones attribute the success of the original workshops? "The women had all of the credentials on paper to be superintendents; they were people on the move"--principals, assistant principals, and people with the title of supervisor or director--"who might have done it anyway." Then, she said, "we worked on the women themselves, to deal with the internal and external barriers. And we worked on the policymakers themselves."

That strategy--to make the men responsible--is important, she said. ''We got the head honchos to be instructors" in interviewing, letter writing, and other aspects of "gaining access."

"It was good for them. The men started thinking about women. They began to think, 'I groomed that gal.' They took pride in helping, and it was good for their egos. We provided the forum for them to do that."--M.L.W.

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