Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Conferences Aim to Outline Battle Plan for Educating, Preparing Black Students

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Conferences Aim to Outline Battle Plan for Educating, Preparing Black Students

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill debated the final particulars of Bush's education reform bill, just minutes away at the historically Black Howard University and .just outside the Beltway in Reston, Va., education advocates and experts gathered to craft their own battle plan for reform. Their charge: ensuring quality and comparable education for African American students.

The Black Education Leadership Summit at Howard University brought together a unique group of individuals from various educational institutions, organizations and agencies. Bush's presidency and "Leave No Child Behind" act served as an impetus for the meeting. Shortly alter Bush was elected, former Congressman Augustus Hawkins and Dr. Vinetta C. Jones, dean of Howard University's School of Education, convened a group of concerned education leaders to address key issues facing students of color. Last month's summit was an extension of that first meeting.

Led by Hawkins, Jones and a summit advisory group, participants at the two-day conference worked together to find policy recommendations to address critical issues facing Black students.

"We have to go beyond a reactive mode ... to put forth our own proactive plan," said Jones in outlining the conference's goals. "We have to refocus education discourse back from rhetoric to what actually works for African American students."

In reference to the title of Bush's bill, Hawkins said the summit would give participants a chance to "understand what it really means ... not just lip service."

Hawkins also reminded the summit participants of the elder President Bush's claim during his presidency that although the nation had the will for education reform, it did not have the wallet.

"That is not the case today," said Hawkins. "We have the resources today. The question is do we have the will."

Among the critical education issues focused on by the Howard summit participants was the dearth of qualified teachers and administrators. According to Jones, in 1977, 22 percent of Black graduates received their bachelor's degrees in education. By 1991, the number was down to 7 percent.

Participants identified a variety of actions to take to address the shortage, including lobbying for increased funding for teacher programs, incorporating innovative recruiting measures and celebrating the successes of quality teachers.

Other critical areas addressed by participants included: enforcing the basic principles adopted in the 1994 reauthorization of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; supporting early childhood development and literacy; fully funding effective education programs; and using appropriate assessment measures vs. "high-stakes testing."

PREPARING FOR THE INFORMATION AGE

At the National Policy Summit on Science, Mathematics and Technology Education for African American Students, preparing Black students for the information age was the focus of discussion.

Participants at the two-day conference in Reston, Va., came together to examine public policies that affect the education of Black students, identify best practices and programs that have yielded favorable outcomes; and to outline a series of policy recommendations that aim to generate better math and science outcomes among Black students. …

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