[This was posted from the Kettering Foundation meeting on September 20-21, 2007 with 12 sites working on the project, “Too Many Children Left Behind”. For more information about the project visit the Project Home Page.]
We are just launching into two days of meeting at the Kettering Foundation Achievement Gaps. Twelve communities – six representing National Issues Forums strongholds, and six representing Local Education Fund (LEF) sites. LEFs are community-based groups that support schools – advocacy, information, convene citizens, workshops for parents – but are not part school system.
So why are we gathered together and why are we talking about how to engage the public in a conversation about the Achievement Gap? Here’s Carolyn Farrow-Garland’s explanation:
Even after years of research and burgeoning bookcases of reports from researchers, but scant involvement from people in the community. And yet, there is evidence that this kind of involvement is important. Carolyn told a thought-provoking story about a woman in a county where no single African-American child had passed the test. She convened these children in order to better understand why. When she talked with these children, she was surprised to learn that they had never heard of the achievement gap. They didn’t know that they had not passed the test. They said that, if they had known that they were expected to be doing better.
In Kettering’s research to frame this issue, Charles Houser conducted focus groups with hundreds of people engaged. During those focus groups, only one person really understood and was able to talk about the achievement gap. This is alarming given the size of this challenge and the dire consequences of not addressing this issue – to our economy, to the quality of life for those who are falling behind.
The research agenda for this group of people is to answer these questions:
- When communities have a dialogue about this issue, how do they rename it?
- How do they use this as a basis for addressing this problem?
- Once they have renamed it, what are they willing to do about it?
Participants are now in community pairs (LEF with NIF) introducing themselves and responding to these questions. Now off to hear the intro…
- What expertise do you share?
- What might you be able to learn from each other?