Texas Forums will join with E3 Alliance and Austin Voices for Education and Youth to convene community-wide deliberative forums about the Achievement Gap in Education in seven communities across the Central Texas region. These deliberations, involving hundreds of business and community leaders, parents, students, and other stakeholders, will not only form a plan for closing the Achievement Gap in Central Texas, but also create a basis for region-wide consensus on over-arching educational system goals.
This is a critical issue for our state and our nation. The Texas state demographer has determined that there can be a $300B annual benefit by 2040 to the economy of Texas if we can close the gaps to college while continuing to raise expectations.
The seven communities that will participate in these deliberative forums are: Austin, Bastrop, Del Valle, Eanes, Manor, San Marcos, Round Rock. These districts were selected for their diversity and their projected rate of growth.
The goals of this project are to:
1. Draft a plan to close achievement gaps across the region and develop the capacity for people within local communities to work together to address the gaps within their own communities.
2. Create a basis for region-wide consensus on over-arching educational system goals.
3. Develop a self-sustaining infrastructure of volunteers in local communities able to bring people together to deliberate and decide how to act together on other community issues.
The objectives of this project are:
• To strengthen the capacity for communities to engage in deliberative forums on education policy and possible actions, and to move from individual opinions to sound and reasoned public judgment that supports systemic change.
• To collect the hopes and concerns that people express when they consider the costs and consequences of education policies, and provide information that the public, the media, experts and policy-makers can use to make decisions and set policy on education issues.
• To identify, based on the deliberative forums, additional opportunities to support communities in planning for and addressing local or regional issues.
About the Forums
The forums will be based on a national guide developed by the Kettering Foundation and distributed by the National Issues Forums network that will be localized using data collected by E3 Alliance.
Each forum will be small (10-15 people) and will be co-moderated by an adult and a student and will be recruited from the current Texas Forums and Austin Voices volunteers and newly-trained community members. Delegates from these forums will participate in a regional meeting to begin developing a plan for closing the gap across the region. While centered on school districts, these forums may be hosted through community groups, higher education partners, or other venues. We anticipate that 60-80 people of various backgrounds will participate in small group forums in each of seven communities, for total regional participation of approximately 500 people. These local forums will culminate in a regional forum attended by at least 10 representatives of each community and approximately 30 “thought leaders”.
As always in these forums, we know that we must take into account all aspects of each of these approaches and craft our own approach rooted in the values and priorities that emerge through deliberating each approach just as this diagram indicates.
The role of Texas Forums is to:
• Lead adaptation of discussion materials developed by the Kettering Foundation for local context
• Recruit moderators
• Lead training for additional moderators to be recruited from each of the seven communities
• Assist with orientation for planning teams (Community Champions)
• Act as liaison to the Kettering Foundation for national engagement, support, and research tracking
“How Can I Get Involved?” You Must be Asking!
If you would like to participate in this project as a moderator, organizer, supporter (financial or expertise), reporter or any other role I might not have considered, please contact me (Taylor Willingham) or leave a comment here on this blog. If you live in a community that is not in the seven districts we are targeting and would like to hold forums in your district, Texas Forums can provide technical support and online access to the materials we are developing. I’ll be posting updates on this blog. To follow this project, just click on Achievement Gap under the Categories section on the right hand side of this page. Materials that are in development will posted in the Achievement Gap section of the Texas Forums Sandbox and when they are ready for public use, they will be posted on the Texas Forums web site.