About Saskia Traill

Saskia is TASC’s Vice President for Policy and Research. She leads our policy development and advocacy work, oversees independent evaluation of TASC initiatives and works with our team of TASC researchers investigating the most urgent questions in the field of expanded learning opportunities. She came to TASC and New York from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland.

Skills You Need in a Crisis

Author’s note: I wrote this just before Sandy hit, and before we knew just how many New Yorkers, kids included, would have their resilience tested.

Saskia TraillLast week, while fall seemed to race toward winter, many of New York City’s education leaders (including Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson) were talking about summer. Addressing the hundreds assembled for the National Summer Learning Association conference in Pittsburgh, Commissioner Jeanne Mullgrav knocked it out of the park with a compelling tale about the importance of cognitive, social and emotional development.

She described the excitement she, her family, and her community felt when she landed her “dream job” as Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development. Then she told how news that she had cancer suddenly threw up a huge barrier to being able to keep that dream job, and how it took all her resilience and strength of character to get through that time and continue her professional and personal successes.

There were teary eyes all around, and hoots and hollers when she proclaimed that she has a clean bill of health today. The story wasn’t just moving, it was a terrific example of the false dichotomy between cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We don’t use them in isolation, yet we talk about them in isolation all the time. Another false dichotomy? Summer and the school year. We have to include summer when we consider how to offer kids more and better learning time. Summer learning should have its own look and feel, but it should all be part of the package.