“Schools save lives and make a difference. School saved my life,” U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr., told more than 200 community members, parents, teachers, students, and policymakers gathered in Hartford today.
King joined U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal to draw attention to the need to increase diversity in schools to drive positive student outcomes in school and in life.
The Education Secretary said schools are facing many challenges, including a lack of diversity, and more must be done to find solutions to make them diverse and successful.
“We have work to do to ensure support in schools to provide equitable, safe, and supportive classrooms.”
According to a Government Accountability Office report, the number of socioeconomic and racially segregated schools is increasing, negatively impacting students nationwide.
More than a dozen teachers, students, parents and other education stakeholders, joined King, Murphy, and Blumenthal at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy for a roundtable discussion on the issue of diversity. The panelists, including Waterbury teacher and National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes and CEA Director of Policy, Research, and Reform Donald Williams, offered solutions to help end the deepening segregation of black and Hispanic students in high-poverty, K-12 schools.
Hayes said she takes this issue personally. “All students deserve the same assets. We need to be a voice for students who don’t have a voice.”
The John F. Kennedy High school teacher said, “We need to do more than just make a handful of schools the best. All schools need to be as good as they can be. When we send our children to school we need to know they are getting the best education possible. Period.”
The panelists agreed, change must take place on all levels.
“All students in all schools deserve first-class resources and opportunities, experienced teachers, culturally competent administrators, and a rich and diverse learning curriculum that does more than teach to a test,” said Williams.
“We know in Connecticut that separate is never equal,” said Blumenthal. “Students must be in diverse classrooms and issues including jobs, housing, transportation, and health care must all be addressed when talking about diversity.”
Blumenthal said while there is no panacea, no silver bullet to fixing the problem, there must be a commitment to working together.
“Local decision-making is key,” he said. “Parents, community members, and teachers all need to be involved.”