Speaking to the World
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International Speaker on Economic Diversity & Social Economic Class, Expert on the Impact of Financial & Emotional Poverty on Learning
Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. is the founder of aha! Process and an author, speaker, publisher, and career educator. Recognized internationally for A Framework for Understanding Poverty, her foundational book and workshop, Dr. Ruby Payne has helped students and adults of all economic backgrounds achieve academic, professional, and personal success. Read More >
As an expert on the mindsets of economic classes and overcoming the hurdles of poverty, she has trained hundreds of thousands of professionals, from educators and school administrators to community, church, and business leaders. Payne founded aha! Process in 1996 to offer a broad range of training solutions–workshops, consulting, books, and trainings for K–12, higher education, and communities—with a focus on creating sustainable success for everyone.
In the field of education, her career-long goal of offering strategies for successfully raising student achievement and overcoming economic class barriers has become the cornerstone of aha! Process’ K-12 work, used with school districts across the country. Dr. Payne’s work stems from more than 30 years of experience in public schools as a high school department head, principal, and central office administrator of staff development. Sequels to her original Framework book include Research-Based Strategies (2009) and School Improvement: 9 Systemic Processes to Raise Achievement (2010), coauthored with Donna Magee, Ed.D.
In 2000 she coauthored Bridges Out of Poverty with Philip E. DeVol and Terie Dreussi-Smith as the organization branched out into working toward healthy, sustainable communities.
Dr. Payne has written and coauthored more than a dozen books besides the bestselling A Framework for Understanding Poverty and Bridges Out of Poverty. Two recent publications are How Much of Yourself Do You Own? A process for building your emotional resources, coauthored with Emilia O’Neill Baker,PhD,, and Bridges to Health and Healthcare: New solutions for improving access and services, coauthored with Terie Dreussi-Smith, Lucy Y. Shaw, and Jan Young, DNSc.
The 5th edition of A Framework for Understanding Poverty: A Cognitive Approach (2013) was given top honors for professional development with the REVERE Golden Lamp Award from Association of American Publishers in 2014. Also, two of her publications were honored in 2011: Removing the Mask: Giftedness in Poverty received a Gold Medal from Independent Publishers in the Education category, and Boys in Poverty: A Framework for Understanding Dropout (Solution Tree Press) received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers in the Professional Development category. Both titles were coauthored with the late Dr. Paul Slocumb.
Paynes’ other publications include: Emotional Poverty in All Demographics, Before You Quit Teaching, Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to Do When You and Your Partner Grew up in Different Worlds, Working with Students: Discipline Strategies for the Classroom, Working with Parents: Building Relationships for Student Success, Under-Resourced Learners: 8 Strategies to Boost Student Achievement, and From Understanding Poverty to Developing Human Capacity: Ruby Payne’s Articles on Transforming Individuals, Families, Schools, Churches, and Communities.
Dr. Ruby Payne received a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana; a master’s degree in English literature from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Read Less ^
"If “seeking first to understand” is a habit for effectiveness, Ruby’s work is multipurpose. While many bemoan the status quo or seem overwhelmed, her work offers viable solutions and challenges our thinking. The model provides insights about our perceptions and pushes our “buttons.” We have found that Ruby’s work—as a catalyst for open dialogue—resonates with community leaders from all sectors, including education, business, human services, and the faith community. It skillfully offers practical strategies for members of all economic classes to build social capital and human capacity—for ourselves and our communities. Ruby’s work has become an integral part of our work."
"What this work does in the school improvement area is bring in the support that people really need. I’ve watched schools go from 5% of their eighth-grade mathematics students passing the state assessment to 60% of their students passing. That’s what people want, and that’s what this work does. I’ve had a lot of experience using the school improvement process both as an outside consultant and within a district in which I’ve worked. And I can say without a doubt that every school I’ve worked with has improved no less than 20% within the first year. That’s amazing to me, and in the school district where I recently worked the high school-level science exit scores have gone from 60% passing to 87% passing, which is phenomenal. What does that mean? That means kids have a choice about what they do in life. They can’t graduate from high school if that haven’t passed that exit-level assessment. So when they’re passing that assessment they have a choice about what they’ll be doing with their future."
"It is transformative. I believe strongly in the work. I know personally—and with my 10 years of experience as a consultant—how it’s changed teachers and staff to include custodial all the way through to administrative. For students, it’s a case of making minor changes in some cases, to have an enormous impact on a student’s life—to go from being shut off, isolated, not participating at all to engaged, inquisitive, inquiring, participating in a class and extending that beyond the class to where that student is now part of the community."
"Many of our teachers are first-generation college graduates, and so they were some of the first ones out of that poverty area and it really hit home to them (a) what they had accomplished and (b) the power they had to help other children have that future story and to have those goals and dreams. So it was a very powerful day. It has already rippled through the district, and the best thing is that they want more information. It’s not us forcing information onto them. They are clamoring for us to tell them more."
"The Hurst-Bedford high schools are recognized, and in the state of Texas that’s the second highest achievement [level]. We are recognized because of the work we do with data and our relationship piece with students. HEB is a district of 25+ schools. Of those we have 19 elementaries, five junior highs, two high schools, and an alternative high school, and then we have an alternative elementary campus as well. We are a recognized district in Texas, and both our high schools are recognized, which is a phenomenal achievement in our area. And the only way we’d ever arrive with that is by having a vertical, aligned process that works because I believe from pre-K we are preparing our children for college readiness or career readiness. And so it’s an investment by everybody. Of our elementary campuses, we had 16 exemplary campuses out of the 19. The other two are recognized, and we had only one that was what we call acceptable, and that was by two students that we missed it. All our junior highs are exemplary, and we actually have two blue-ribbon schools now that are recognized, and they were honored in Washington, DC."
"When we academic coaches come in with the 9 processes [School Improvement] into a school, the first thing that I notice is that the teachers stop and understand the data. They see that Johnny counts more than one time. They become more interested in one student or two students who are in their class because they realize that could be the one who keeps their percentages down or puts them on school improvement or keeps them from being recognized—or whatever the gauge is in that state. When we know who to work with, then it makes our job so much easier. Then we build that relationship, never give up, and the success stories happen. Ruby Payne’s work benefits the veteran teacher in that no child is left out because we recognize every child and where every child is in the testing scheme. We now realize how many times they count, we understand which standards or which objectives they’re not strong in, and every child is now identified. It benefits the brand-new teachers in that it gives them the test background to be able to have their students be successful."
"In Oklahoma we have an AYP score of 0–1500, and my school, which is large (60% Hispanic, 100% free and reduced lunches) “shouldn’t” be performing as well as it does. Our AYP is usually around 1100–1200. Our ELL students, which are 60% of our population, are scoring just as well as any other learners, and we take that to mean we’re being successful with all the methods that we have."
"I use mental models through my teaching and everyday subjects I do in my classroom. This is a way for students to have some kind of mental picture in their head of how we use some things, and students are able to make some real-life connections. I always tell my students that it doesn’t matter where you live or your background or what you don’t have or have, that they have what it takes, and it’s just to do what they can. And I always tell my students that they have a brain, and that’s all they need to be successful, and I always share my personal experience with them as well. And I make that connection with them, and I always ask them to tell me what they’re going to do when they grow up. I ask them to come and see me when they become a professional in whatever they choose to be because I want them to know that I believe in them—and I think that that’s where the success is for them too. And I also think that’s what has made us exemplary."
"I think I’m a good teacher [after attending all the trainings]. I think my kids are more successful, and I think my teachers are more successful because I can embed all those strategies in there. And it’s become so second nature that I can look at a task now and tell you what input processes are needed to do that and what strategies I need to embed in order for the kids who don’t have those automatically to be able to do them. One year my fourth-grade team came for a grade-level meeting, and they brought their benchmark assessments for math—and the kids had missed translations, reflections, and rotations, and they were also missing scanning in on their Scantron (they were having the right answer in the booklet but were coloring in the wrong bubbles on their Scantrons)—and I said, Well, that’s because it’s input processes—they’re missing identifying data in space. So when we started intentionally implementing those strategies to help the kids acquire that, then we started seeing huge, huge differences in mathematics and huge differences indirectly in language arts because they were able to track better."
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