“Aspire to be a bridge,” Dr. Vanessa Monterosa (Ed.D.’17) encouraged attendees as they started their day at the 10th Annual Educational Leadership Symposium. The event kicked off by promoting interaction and connections, and above all examining equitable access to education.
Breakout sessions of workshops, papers, and poster sessions led by College of Education faculty, students, and alumni examined the wide field of education through an equity lens.
The keynote speech, delivered by Deputy Director, Research & Policy at Educational Trust - West and CED alum Dr. Christopher Nellum (M.S., SDHE, ‘08), made clear the unresolved need for educational equity across the state. A self-described, “educator activist”, Dr. Nellum’s presentation illustrated the systemic undercurrent of racism that underlies policy framing and development discussions across the country. Dr. Nellum’s work seeks to address and redress this exclusion of minority groups in educational policy decisions. His work with Ed Trust West remains focused on closing the opportunity gap with a focus on African-American, Native American, and Latinx students.
“What does equity mean to you?”, Dr. Nellum asked the audience as shouted replies “support!”, “access!”, “opportunity!”, “economic distribution!” carried across the room. While known for its progressive values, the state of California still has a lot of work to do in these areas to reduce educational equity issues. Areas such as early childhood education, meeting the needs of English language learners, and increasing teacher diversity and training remain major challenges to fixing the problem. In fact, a staggering 3 out of 4 California students in grades K-12 are students of color, but only a third of California teachers identify as such.
Dr. Nellum shared an overview of critical decisions facing state lawmakers and educators in order to help close the equity gap. All students should have equitable access to a rigorous education that prepares them for their future career and fosters engagement in their communities. But much work still needs to be done.
The day's message was clear. We must all do better. Make different choices when it comes to educational policy. All students deserve equitable access to education. By starting the day with the goal to “be the bridge”, participants left the symposium with new ideas, connections, data to share, and a clearer picture of the work they have to do to improve educational outcomes for all students.