This week’s guest blogger, Carrie Curtis, recently attend Policy and a Pint: The State of Education hosted by The Current and the Citizen’s League and shares her perspective on the panel discussion.
Earlier this week I attended ‘Policy and a Pint’, an event hosted by MPR’s The Current and the Citizens League. This is a reoccurring forum dedicated to discussing a single public policy topic and this month’s topic was “The State of Education.” To help inform and speak on behalf of our state’s need to close the achievement gap, they included guest speakers Sondra Samuels of the Northside Achievement Zone, Kerry Muse of Venture Academy in Minneapolis and Michelle Walker, CEO of St. Paul Public Schools. As a new member to the JLM and girlfriend to an elementary school teacher, I was excited to be part of this event and found the discussion to be honest, full of passion and hopeful for the future.
To kick off the event, the panel debunked a few myths regarding the achievement gap noting this discrepancy is more than test scores – it is preparation, attendance, reading levels, and participation. While testing may be the most prolific factor, they all illustrate the disparity between students of race, socioeconomic status and gender. They also made it clear that if we are to have a conversation about the achievement gap, we need to have a conversation about race. This sentiment was also shared by Principal Lorraine Cruz of Richard R. Green Elementary school at the JLM January General Meeting. It’s a conversation that no one wants to have, but is necessary if we are to make progress. When it came to discussing solutions, a key theme to me was customization. Michelle Walker talked about “equity v. equality”. In today’s schools, teachers need to ensure that all children are treated the same (i.e. equality), but Michelle pointed out that not all students are the same. Instead, teachers need to suit individual student needs to ensure that all students achieve their potential (i.e. equity). Kerry Muse also shared some secrets to his success – he makes sure his kids are engaged in their own learning and development by having them reflect on what they know and what they need because every child wants to learn. Sondra made my favorite statement of the evening – when it comes to the achievement gap, “we don’t have a child problem, we have an adult problem” as it’s going to take change from policy makers, educators and parents to close this gap.
The closing message to the audience was to do more than talk about the achievement gap instead, to take action – make a difference by attending school board meetings, volunteer as a reading buddy, and advocate for policy changes that will create equity. To learn more about the action the Northside Achievement Zone is taking, check out their website at http://northsideachievement.org/