B-CU to host Educational Justice Conference
Three-day collaboration in Orlando will include governmental agencies, community organizations school districts and families
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Bethune-Cookman University is serving as a millennium model to advance awareness of critical issues affecting minority student education. The university will host its First Annual Educational Justice Conference July 12-14 at Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa in Orlando.
The three-day conference is themed “Connecting with the Diverse and Underrepresented Youth of Today” and seeks to galvanize K-12 educational leaders and teachers through inspiring discourse and presentations that empower leadership skills.
Invited speakers will emphasize under-resourced schools, teacher preparedness, mislabeling of students, insensitivity and family/community support. Registrants will receive extensive learning opportunities toward best practices in standards-based education and innovation models.
Free for some teachers
Bethune-Cookman University is partnering with The Ford Fund and Volusia County Schools. The Ford Fund and Volusia County Schools are supporting approximately 15 teachers. The university believes this is such an important discussion that B-CU is sponsoring 50 Title I teachers/administrators statewide.
“As a way to operationalize our commitment to work with Florida school districts, this conference will showcase best practices in district classrooms, cutting edge discussions with local, state and nationally known speakers,” said Dr. Willis Walter, vice president of Community Affairs/K-16 Initiatives Dean, College of Education for Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU).
“All conference participants will receive a written compilation of information shared at the conference.
This document will also be available to school districts. Due to the university’s dedication to quality instruction for all, qualifying teachers receive free registration and room accommodations,’’ he added.
Upon leaving the conference, participants will be better armed to understand, serve and advocate for an underserved and underrepresented population of students.
Included are minorities, English language learners, students with exceptionalities, economically disadvantaged students and those who struggle with at-home challenges.
“Reaching underrepresented students is critical to both improving overall academic performance as a district and assisting students to find a career path after graduation or postsecondary education,” offered Kelly L. Amy, coordinator of Volusia County Schools Career and Technical Education Department. “This conference will focus on more concrete ways to reach students, all students, and that’s very exciting.”
Disparity in education remains an age-old problem as minority students continue to perform in school at a slower pace than their majority counterparts and lag behind in both test score and graduation rates. The reasoning stems from a plethora of broad factors.
According to a January report in U.S. News and World Report, more than 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, school systems in the United States are still separate but unequal. By 2022, the number of Hispanic students in public elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow 33 percent from the 2011 numbers.
The number of multi-racial students is expected to grow 44 percent. Black students are more likely to be held back despite mounting research that holding back children doesn’t benefit them socially or academically and makes them more likely to drop out later on.”
“It’s time to take action,” declared Walter. “If we don’t begin to truly examine the core of the problems in our educational system, we will lose these children. We as a nation can’t continue to take these risks and lose these precious resources. We have to find ways to reach all students and place them on the track to fulfill their potential.”
The First Annual Educational Justice Conference is a monumental collaboration between B-CU and local/regional stakeholders within the school districts, governmental agencies, community organizations and families.
The Florida Department of Education will be well represented by Hershel Lyons, newly appointed Florida K-12 Public School Chancellor for the State Department of Education along with area administrators and superintendents from the following counties: Duval, Miami-Dade Flagler, Seminole and Gadsden. Tom Russell, superintendent of Volusia County Schools, also will participate.
“With persistent social inequities and increasingly diverse classrooms, we must work together in our communities to close the growing educational opportunity gap,” shared Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown, associate professor and director of Graduate Education Programs and the Jessie Ball DuPont Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson University.
“The First Annual Educational Justice Conference hosted by B-CU holds tremendous promise. We need more spaces in our community for critical dialogue about pressing social justice issues in our schools,” Shankar-Brown noted.
Education administrators and researchers will be joined by judicial/law enforcement officials and political stakeholders, including Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Commissioner Paula Reed. Retired Volusia Judge Hubert Grimes also will participate.
Ford Foundation out front
B-CU has been a longtime partner of the Volusia Career Connection Cadre.
Walter serves as the current chair of the Cadre and made both a conscience and forward-thinking decision to include the Ford Fund: Next Generation Learning as a leading stakeholder in the annual conference.
Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL) mobilizes educators, employers and community leaders to prepare a new generation of young people who will graduate from high school ready for college, career, and life – prepared to compete successfully in the 21st-century economy.
Ford NGL conference presenters will include Ronda Alexander from Detroit and Rick Delano from Southhampton, N.Y. Alexander will be discussing the positive student outcomes of using Problem Based Case Learning (PBCL) in career academies; Delano will be sharing information regarding millennials as high school and college students and as current and future employees.
“Volusia County Schools through the Career Connection Cadre was one of Ford Next Generation Learning’s first designated communities in the United States,” stated Thomas N. Besaw, a Ford consultant. “Volusia has nationally known career academies and has provided assistance to other communities around the country in the development and implementation of academies in high schools.”
One conference stakeholder who sees the long-term dividends that Volusia County will reap from the conference is Jerry Mayes, economic development manager of Deltona.
“As the economic development official for Volusia County’s largest city, with a workforce exceeding 40,000, development of the workforce is always a critical issue,” stated Mayes. “Today’s businesses look not only for the workforce numbers but also closely examine at the skills, the education and the training of the workforce. This entails the high school graduations of and the secondary education from institutions of higher learning.”
The U.S. News and World Report states that more than one-third of Whites held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2013 and 19 percent of Blacks did, according to the Census Bureau. But even if the educational landscape was equal, there would likely still be problems.
A recent study found the unemployment rate for Black college graduates was much higher than the rate for White graduates. Studies on labor market discrimination have shown that even when Black and White candidates have the same qualifications, the Black candidate is less likely to be called back for an interview.
Mayes adds, “We either invest in educational justice or we produce an unskilled workforce that is low in wages and high in unemployment, which negatively affects all our communities. We must accept the importance that an education can offer. Bethune-Cookman University has embraced this ideal through educational justice and the conference that promotes this ideal.”
B-CU expects to draw hundreds of teachers and educators from around the state to the conference.
“We are extremely excited about the Educational Justice Conference,” shared Dr. Louis Dunbar, assistant professor for the College of Education of B-CU.
“Our president – Dr. Edison O. Jackson – is clear regarding our commitment to exercise effective efforts as we partner with the public school system.”
Interested parties can find more details and information at http://www.cookman.edu/ejconf.