The CSU Center to Close the Opportunity Gap at Cal State Long Beach, an ambitious system-wide effort to study and eliminate opportunity gaps at all levels of education, was unveiled in a virtual event celebrating its grand opening on Nov. 10.
The Center’s website will host online resources, learning opportunities, webinars, instructional guides and teaching tools to improve the capacity of teachers, education specialists, and school administrators, and ultimately, eliminate disparities in educational outcomes among California’s students.
The event featured remarks from Patrick O’Donnell, California State Assemblymember; Dr. Loren J. Blanchard, CSU Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs; CSULB President Jane Close Conoley; and Dr. Joe Johnson, Executive Director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University. O’Donnell was the author of the bill to establish the Center and secured funding in the budget for its operation.
“The idea for the establishment of the Center came from my experiences as a classroom teacher,” O’Donnell said. “I strongly believe there needs to be a central location to house the best practices, research and strategies that our educators can use to close the achievement gap among our K-12 students.”
CSULB was chosen to host the Center following a competitive selection process in Spring 2020. The Center will be housed in the College of Education under the leadership of Dean Shireen Pavri. Dr. Corinne Martinez, Chair of the Department of Liberal Studies and Associate Professor of Teacher Education, and Dr. Cara Richards-Tutor, Professor of Special Education, serve as co-directors and oversee a team of faculty, graduate students and Ed.D. Fellows.
“The College of Education looks forward to leading this important effort to promote equitable outcomes for children and youth in our state through the new CCOG,” CED Dean Shireen Pavri said. “Young people experience deep inequities in educational access and teaching-learning opportunities based on race, income, language background, residential location, and dis/ability classification amongst other factors. With University faculty and school district partners working together, we can make significant headway in alleviating these opportunity gaps.”
CSULB was one of three lead campuses for the first CSU Center to Close Achievement Gaps in 2010 and has received multiple U.S. Department of Education grants. Through a current U.S. Department of Education, Hispanic-Serving Institution Title V grant Project Caminos, the College is developing outreach, resources, supports, curriculum and pedagogy for LatinX and low-income teacher candidates.
“Having the Center to Close the Opportunity Gap (CCOG) at Cal State Long Beach highlights our commitment to developing expert educators, and to the necessity of community partnerships. Closing opportunity gaps will require entire “villages” to focus on equity and abandon business as usual,” said President Jane Close Conoley. “It is notable that the CCOG will strengthen existing partnerships with nearly 90 school districts, 15 community colleges, and numerous regional community non-profits and mental health agencies. These gaps are among the most recalcitrant challenges in education and must be eliminated.”
In partnership with San Diego State University, Cal State Fullerton and San Jose State University, the Center will focus on identifying and refining proven strategies to eliminate equity gaps at all levels of education and will share resources, tools and evidence-based best practices with colleges of education across the CSU and education partners across California.
With the upcoming virtual launch, Co-Director Martinez hopes to highlight the timely necessity of the Center. “In this current moment, with the pandemic, with the Black Lives Matter movement, with the disparities we’ve seen across our K-12 education system, this work is extremely important to us, and it will continue to be as long as these opportunity gaps exist.”