[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 conducted a forum for on the Achievement Gap for the twelve communities that will be using this issue in their community. These are some of the nuggets that came up in our reflections.
Sometimes “politeness” is a victory. Yesterday after our forum several people commented on how polite everyone was during the forum and it was cast as an example that we didn’t go deep enough into the issue and get to the tough aspects of the issue. But when we are dealing with difficult issues that are likely to incite passions in people, the ability to engage with the issue and diverse perspectives in a polite and civil manner should be a point of celebration.
Consider the issue of power dynamics, particularly when there are people in the room who have “titles” and a perceived level of authority or expertise. The school superintendent (who has charts and graphs at hand and can rattle of hours of data) is no more of an expert on the issue of the achievement gap than a student who sits in a classroom. In our example, the moderator chose to sit at the table rather than standing because that leveled the power dynamic.
Illuminate tensions. For example, in our forum, one participant talked about the fear that students will be victims of “tracking” if we DON’T have high expectations for everyone, but another participant talked about having expectations that are relative to the child’s capacity. When do we move from being sensitive to each child’s capacity to the point where we are tracking children. Another point of tension is when those decisions get made about a child’s capacity. A child who can’t read in the second grade may still go on to be a great novelist. If we adjust our expectations down for that child, he may never fulfill his potential.