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Symposium Draws on 'Collective Minds and Energies' of Educators

New York University Professor of Education Pedro Noguera presented the keynote address at the Oct. 5 Lynch School of Education symposium on "Education and Its Role In Democratic Societies." (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

By Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Oct. 18, 2012

A crowd of nearly 300 educators, policymakers, students, faculty and alumni filled the Murray Room in the Yawkey Center on Oct. 5 for the Lynch School of Education’s symposium on “Education and Its Role in Democratic Societies”.

Held as part of the University’s Sesquicentennial Celebration [see related story on page 1], the Lynch School symposium — the first in a series of speaker programs hosted by the school this year — drew distinguished scholars and leaders from national advocacy and policy organizations to examine the role of education in American democracy and the forces that are re-shaping that role today.

Lynch School Interim Dean Maureen Kenny said the event’s two discussion panels and afternoon keynote speech offered an evaluation of the current state of standards-based educational reform.

“Our panels engaged in debate on some of the most pressing issues that currently exist about education and its future in our country, and helped students, alumni, and guests to think about how to best navigate the complexities of educational reform,” Kenny said.

The first panel focused on “Justice, Citizenship and the Schools,” while the second panel discussion centered on the topic “The Old Civil Rights, the New Civil Rights, and the Future of the Teaching Profession.” New York University Professor of Education Pedro Noguera delivered the keynote address, “What Community Provides: The Role of Partnerships in the Transformation of Schools.”

In addition to Kenny, Cawthorne Professor of Education Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Professor of Education Dennis Shirley organized the event.

Panelist Kati Haycock, the founder of the Education Trust, discussed the impact of social and political forces on schools.

She cited the rapid growth of income inequality and decline in upward social mobility as two significant threats to public education. It will take gutsy educators to ensure schools continue to inform our democracy, she said.

"What we educators do in our schools and colleges is hugely important, not just to our communities, but to our economy, to our democracy and the principles for which it stands,” Haycock said.

John H. Jackson, the president of the Schott Foundation, told the audience that school systems need to embrace data-driven policies and practices to better allocate resources to all students.

“Our public school system works,” he said. “It just doesn’t work for all students.”

Kenny said the speakers represented a broad range of outlooks and experiences for the audience to consider.

“The Lynch School offered the rare opportunity to bring together the collective minds and energies of scholars, practitioners, and policy makers,” said Kenny. “We all had a chance to consider the challenges, the merits and flaws of existing policies, and to generate creative solutions that are grounded in a sound base of experience and research.