Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Event Recap- "Great Expectations: Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap"

What do expectations have to do with student success? How do we define those expectations and ensure they are met? How are students involved in these decisions and empowered to achieve their potential?

Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

Dr. Steve Perry: Founder and Principal, Capital Prep Magnet School
  •  One of the most powerful things we can offer someone is an idea.
  • College for the disadvantage, for many seems like a fantasy.
  • Started Capital Prep saying that college could be an expectation
  • Even in good schools children who were black and Latino were not given the same education
  • There is an achievement gap and an expectation gap
  • Poverty does not have an impact on child's performance. If you put a poor child in a good school, you will not change her parent's or her background, you will only change her expectations.
  • Even the best kid going to a failed school will only be able to do so much. When your windpipe is constricted there is only so much air that can go through. We are not letting education go through.
  • Teachers, principals, and janitorial unions focus on jobs, not the children. 
  • America's public education system has failed all around. 
  • We are at the bottom of the industrialized world in education because we focus on the adults', not the childrens' needs.
  • Schools are taking away from the children so that at the end of the day the adults continue to get paid and the children have a constricted academic windpipe.
  • I believe in an education revolution, not education reform. I believe in full choice. If the school is good and you want to send your kid there you should be able to take your tax money and send your child there. 
  • When we finally get serious about education, children will look at us differently. 
  • Our children deserve a better opportunity. 
  • Expectation gap is where the achievement gap starts.

Chanda Robinson: Director of Pathways to Success, Our Piece of the Pie
  • Does not believe that the educational system can do it alone
  • Setting high expectations is key
  • Adults can generalize and stereotype young people without knowing what is at the core of those young people.
  • By giving them opportunities we can uncover diamonds
  • Work with urban youth, helping them become successful adults
  • Focus on 14-24 year old population for 11 years
  • Match young adults with mentors and the mentor helps them realize their dreams (in written form)
  • Young adults create goals and Youth Development Specialists help them break down the barriers that stand in their way of achieving those goals
  • Unemployment is very high for urban youth.
  • All types of techniques are used. If OPP does not have the resources, they help find it for them elsewhere.

Jordan Carter: Senior at Capital Prep, Member of Congressman John Larson's Youth Cabinet
  • The achievement gap does not always effect kids, it also effects the parents.
  • Some of his friends are not as motivated, but this could be because of the lack of a support system. 
  • If kids without drive see someone inspirational in the community they can strive for something
  • My mother teaches me that I have a future everyday. 
  • Tell my friends everyday, do you want to graduate? what are your future plans? 
  • There are other kids working harder, why not push yourself
  • I know there are things I need to work on. I stay focused on my books and athletics
  • My friends look to me for advice. I go through the same thing they do everyday. 
  • I have to put my emotions to the side, graduation is coming up.

Group Discussion:

How do we make it full-on choice?
  • We need to go to the legislators to make the change
  • We have 1,370 children on our waiting list. If we have full on choice they would come with the money and we would open enough schools to provide for the children on our waiting list. 
  • There is too small a choice. There are not enough opportunities to open schools
  • We need to make sure we have enough quality schools. We get caught up in the symptoms of the problem and ask why the neighborhoods are not quality schools.
A good school has a culture of high expectations in large part because of the leader. We don't have the high quality of leaders and in some cases high quality teachers.

169 Superintendents in CT are saying that education cannot be reformed, it needs to be transformed. Their report comes out in October. Many groups are coming together to make this change.

Concentration of children in schools who are below grade level. How are they going to catch up? 
  • School staff is paid to bring quality into a family's life. 
  • We need to add value. It is your right to have a quality education.
  • The promise of America is that if you give them to us we will make a change for them and the method is a public education. 
Do race and social factors matter?
  • Some believe race, gender, sexuality, and social factors do matter.
  • Others believe they do not matter
What are the other options?
  • There are many resources, but they are not properly coordinated.
  • Mentoring programs 
  • There is not enough collaboration between organizations. We need to talk more amongst organizations that we may consider our "competitors" 
  • Agencies are competing for funding so they do not talk, but we need to put the needs of the young people first. 
  • The schools are not shutting down any time soon so we need to do something. 
  • There has to be collaboration among grassroots, the larger non-profits might not be the ones who have the best answers. Some may not have the grantwriters that others do so we need to help each other. Larger non-profits need to collaborate with the smaller non-profits that they may not see as sophisticated.
There are many schools that do not have changemakers. Teachers who are looking have to "really" look for a quality school to be a part of. Why should teachers work in Hartford?

How do we train the leaders that we desire?
  • We should have an internal program that will develop the leaders we are looking to have. 
  • If you are not a certified teacher and haven't worked in the schools for 5 years, you cannot be considered for the role of a leader.

Do teachers need to be certified teachers to teach? 
  • 20% of people are naturally good teachers
  • 80% of people need to be conditioned.
  • Certification is not the only answer. 
  • Good teachers do not mean that they are certified teachers.
  • The certification programs are important to the pedagogy of teaching
  • Mentoring in other schools can bring positive leaders to other schools
  • Successful schools are all designed the same. High expectations. 
  • There has to be an entry point, so there should be certification. 
  • Just because you are highly educated does not mean that you are able to teach. 
  • There are hardworking teachers in all towns that care about their students and the bureaucracy is getting them down. 
We hear about the bad all the time. Good news is going to be important for moving education forward. What good is going on?
  • History and science projects
  • Social justice senior projects at Capital Prep. Look at a problem in the community and look at positive ways to change the problem. If we implement these projects in schools it will enrich them
Some parents do not opt for school choice because if the parent is sick they cannot necessarily get their kids to school. There is a downside, so we need strong neighborhood schools. How do we do that?
  • If a parent does not send their child to a school out of choice, they make that choice. 
  • There are parents who will do all that they can to get their children to the school of their choice.
  • More parents want out of their community schools
  • We need to stay student focused. 
  • Reconstitution does not work. It is the same core school, it just has a different theme.  

    Inspiration to Action:  
    • Go to your legislators and ask for a change
    • Ensure that all schools are quality schools
    • Read the superintendents report coming out October '11
    • Work to make schools more kids focused and less teacher focused. 
    • Coordinate availabel resources and work to inform people of their existance
    • Develop internal leadership programs that foster strong leaders.
    • Publicize good news and ask media for positive sutdent stories
    • Change the testing cycle. 

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