Legislative Weekend Shines Spotlight on Nation’s Education Emergency

Legislative Weekend Shines Spotlight on Nation’s Education Emergency

WASHINGTON
Education advocates were put on alert last month at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative weekend in Washington as Rep.  Major Owens, D-N.Y., declared an “education emergency” in America, more specifically in the African American community.
“Examined within the context of the overall terrorism-provoked national security emergency, education does not diminish, but instead mushrooms as a national priority,” said Owens, chairman of the CBC’s Education Braintrust. “Mounting a ‘war’ against a very well-educated terrorist enemy requires a well-educated populace.”
Much of the weekend’s activities were focused on efforts to increase minority representation in the fields of science, mathematics and technology, as well as initiatives aimed at closing the “digital divide.”
Issue forums featured panels on high-stakes testing, parental involvement and collaborative learning.
During one of the weekend forums, Dr. Andre Hornsby, superintendent of New York’s public schools and others, urged caucus attendees to ensure that high-stakes tests are used to improve public schools, not to punish students and teachers. Actor Danny Glover also was on hand, serving as a spokesman for the Algebra Project and encouraging caucus attendees to support programs that excite Black youngsters about math and science. Glover, who is dyslexic, told how his own proficiency for mathematics kept him turned on to school and eventually resulted in his earning a bachelor’s in economics.
In another Friday session, Michael Edmonds, an executive with computer software firm Discreet, demonstrated a new teaching tool that complements instruction in history, current events, government and communications by enabling students to hold virtual conversations via computer with important public figures. The demonstration featured a virtual version of Owens.
The caucus weekend brought local and national organizations together to share their mutual agendas as well as to renew existing partnerships and forge new ones.
Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, president of the Education Technology Think Tank (ET3), welcomed the chance to rub shoulders with diverse stakeholders of education.
“Technology and telecommunications are the tools of transformation, says Lowenstein. “But private and public partnership development is the strategy for that transformation.”
ET3, a partnership of business, civic and government sector representatives, sponsored several of the weekend’s activities, including an awards reception honoring several publishers and a variety of innovative technology projects.
Black Issues In Higher Education, along with Science Weekly and Career Communications Group were honored for their ongoing efforts to research, examine and investigate education’s critical issues.
The importance of research and researchers emerged as a key focus for educators and education advocates during the weekend.
Dr. Joyce E. King, chairwoman of the Commission on Research in Black Education (CORIBE), an association in affiliation with Spelman College in Atlanta, presented findings from a series of focus group discussions with K-12 educators about what teachers and schools can do and are doing to improve outcomes for African American students.
As well, Frank Matthews, publisher of Black Issues, presented findings from a National Policy Summit on Mathematics, Science and Technology Education for African American Students held earlier this year.
The summit, held in Reston, Va., sought to move discussions about the absence of African American involvement in the scientific enterprise toward a national plan of action designed to boost Black achievement and engagement in math-based fields (see Black Issues, July 5).
More than 50 students participated in the weekend’s education-related activities. As part of the NetGeneration of Youth organization, students worked as cyberjournalists committed to sharing their experiences with others through photo essays, videotapes and Web reports. The students also served as tour guides for the think tank’s TEC fair, which featured hands-on demonstrations of technology applications and partnerships.
 As the weekend neared an end, caucus participants were encouraged to maintain the communal spirit that permeated the many events.
“We (African American community) know about being collective and cooperative and not just competitive,” said Dr. Adelaide L. Sanford, a New York Public Schools regent.
“It is up to us to make a personal commitment for change,” Sanford said. 

— Cheryl D. Fields and Robin V. Smiles contributed to this report.



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