CEA Minority Affairs Commission focusing on urban achievement strategies

Marlon James (second from the left) is one of two assistant professors of educational leadership from the Neag School —experts in urban education—conducting a series of seminars for CEA’s Minority Affairs Commission.
Marlon James (second from the left) is one of two assistant professors of educational leadership from the Neag School —experts in urban education—conducting a series of seminars for CEA’s Minority Affairs Commission.

CEA’s Minority Affairs Commission (MAC) is working with two professors from UConn’s Neag School of Education to help CEA identify and develop new strategies to close the achievement gap in urban schools.

Dr. Marlon James and Dr. Shuana Tucker, assistant professors of educational leadership in the Neag School of Education, are experts in urban education who are conducting a series of seminars during the next several months to help MAC members identify, understand, address, and evaluate critical issues affecting minority student education in Connecticut.

The seminars focus on issues related to urban schooling, including school climate and culture, achievement of African-American students, and urban leadership.

“Working with these urban education experts, commission members will broaden their perspective of urban education by framing achievement issues within the social justice context,” says Joanne Gay, staff liaison to MAC and assistant manager of CEA’s department of Affiliate and Member Development.

“MAC members will expand their knowledge, sharpen their skills, and develop strategies to close the achievement gap. Ultimately, we want to help CEA develop a strategic action plan to address the inequities we uncover.”

James says the seminars will capitalize on the cultural, international, and linguistic competencies of MAC members. “They constitute the most diverse group of educators in Connecticut,” he says. “As such, their perspectives, personal experiences, and professional practices will add insights to CEA’s reform agenda once they better understand the academic, social, and cultural needs of students in urban schools.”

MAC chair and Bridgeport teacher Ana Gonzalez-Batista says the seminars will give MAC members a good foundation to develop systematic reform strategies to deal with the achievement gap. “We can also use these strategies in our districts and share them with teachers, parents, and our communities to help improve learning outcomes of our students.”

Adds MAC member Faith Sweeney, who teaches at a Title I school in Greenwich that has been on and off the AYP list for several years, “I would love to bring back new learning strategies from this training. This is an opportunity to offer my colleagues, students, and families a way to help move toward a path of continued success.”

“I’m hopeful our training will help us and other teachers see that our expectations for underachieving children may not be what they should be,” says MAC member and Bridgeport teacher Sherran Davis.

Among the topics to be covered during the seminars

  • Debunking problem-based education (the idea that diverse children, cultures and communities are pathological, and the key cause of sustained underperformance of minority learners)
  • The pedagogy of poverty (a common approach to teaching focused on basic skills and maintaining compliance of students rather than pursuing authentic learning)
  • The inherit problems caused in education by social, racial, and economic isolation
  • The historical and statistical context of the achievement gap

CEA Secretary Cheryl Prevost, an East Hartford teacher, works with the commission. She says the seminars are another example of CEA’s continuing effort to develop strategies that address the achievement gap.

“CEA has implemented several initiatives designed to address school reform, including the CommPACT school program and a partnership with Stratford public schools that focuses on the achievement gap and excellence for all. These seminars will give MAC members a unique and positive opportunity to investigate other ways to transform our public schools.”

Source: Innovating from CEA. Reprinted with permission.