The audience was treated to the perspectives of seven featured panelists who are all in some way involved in creating initiatives and programs that contribute to student success in education.
The speakers each took five minutes to describe what they perceive to be the prevalent problems in K-12 Louisville schools, but also presented their ideas for fixing those problems
First up was Theresa Reno-Weber, president & CEO, Metro United Way, who mentioned that a recent study found that in Louisville kindergartens, only 53 percent of first-time enrollees come in ready to learn. The other 47 percent don’t know basic skills like how to hold a pencil or crayon and don’t have the vocabulary to understand what the teachers and other students are saying. She spoke of efforts being made by the Ready For K Alliance, which is aligned with the Louisville Promise Initiative to improve the quality and access to early care and education programs.
The second speaker was Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO, of the Louisville Urban League. Reynolds focused on an existing education system that is doing nothing to close the achievement gap experienced by black and brown students in relation to their white counterparts. She said that this can only be changed if we start investing differently in high-poverty schools — for example, incentivizing experienced teachers to work at high-need schools.
Theo Edmonds is the chief imaginator + co-founder of IDEAS xLab. Edmonds stated that culture and climate affect minorities more than anything they face in the classroom. In addition to suggestions for fixing the system, his proposed solutions include helping children set goals they can achieve and reclaim their stolen imaginations.
Christy Rogers, director of college and career readiness for JCPS, spoke about the initiatives currently being carried out by Academies of Louisville which help prepare, inspire and empower students by offering meaningful and relevant learning experiences that directly relate to our world today. Current initiatives include helping young adults academically so that they can make a good wage once they graduate.
Following Rogers was Pat Durham, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville. Durham spoke about the opportunities for young people to learn the building trade and how that goes against the current focus of Louisville public schools that tend to be focused only on getting kids into college. He recounted the time he asked a school official, “What do you do with the kids who don’t want to go to college or can’t go for some reason?” He touted alternative ideas, such as becoming electricians, farmers or heating and air experts — areas that start out with high wages.
Gwen Snow, principal, ESL of Newcomer Academy, spoke about what her group does: It seeks to meet the needs of sixth through tenth grade English language learners (ELLs) in the Jefferson County Public School district. She outlined the structures that were implemented in order better meet these goals, including an emphasis on mental health.
Lance G. Newman II, SpreadLove Enterprise & Young Poets of Louisville was the Insider Louisville reader submission presenter. Newman explained why poetry should be incorporated into the school experience; that some of the problems keeping kids from learning — mental health and trauma issues, inability to retain knowledge — can all be alleviated with practicing poetry.
A lively Q&A session followed.
All of the speakers were highly engaged and passionate about their work and the current state of public education. They provided thoughtful ideas about what is currently not working and what can be done to fix those things. If you’d like to see the whole program, you can watch it here.
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