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2012 National Conference: Morning Plenary Session

The National Imperative for Preparing All Children for School and Building a Public Education System That Prepares All Children and Our Nation for the Future

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery. Jails and prisons are the complement of schools; so many less as you have the latter, so many more must you have of the former.

— Horace Mann

A world-class education system is vital to preserving not just the country’s physical security but also to reinforcing the broader components of American leadership, such as economic dynamism, an informed and active democracy, and a coterie of informed professionals willing and able to live and serve around the world.

— The Council on Foreign Relations Renewing American Initiative Report

The greatest threat to America’s national, military and economic security and democracy comes from no enemy without but from our failure to invest in and prepare all of our children for the future now. Tomorrow is today. Millions of poor children, especially children of color who already are a majority of all babies being born and who will be a majority of our child population within this decade, face bleak futures without high quality, early childhood programs to be school ready and excellent and equitable public schools to be college ready and prepared for productive work. Closing the achievement gap between non poor and poor children and White and non-White children is an urgent national priority.

Today:

  • A public school student is suspended every second and a half;*
  • A public high school student drops out every 8 seconds;*
  • A child is born into poverty every 29 seconds;
  • A public school student is corporally punished every 30 seconds;*
  • A majority of all children, more than 80 percent of all Black and more than 75 percent of all Latino public school students cannot read or compute at grade level in fourth, eighth or 12th grade, if they have not already dropped out. Many who graduate high school are unprepared for college or the workforce;
  • Nearly one in four public high school students does not graduate from high school within four years;
  • 75 percent of all 17-24 year old Americans can’t join the military because they do not possess basic skills, have criminal records, or are physically unfit;
  • 30 percent of potential recruits with a high school degree take and fail the armed forces qualification test; and
  • 2,923,895 students received one or more out of school suspensions in 2009 and chronic absenteeism affects an estimated 5-7.5 million children. * Based on 180 school days of 7 hours each.

A child unable to read, compute at grade level and graduate from high school college or workforce ready is being sentenced to social and economic death in our globalizing, increasingly competitive economy. Since children do not come in pieces, it’s time for schools, parents and adults across all sectors to address the needs of the whole child through a comprehensive continuum of care from birth through the early years.

This includes ensuring high quality early childhood supports for every child 0-3; quality pre-kindergarten and universal full day kindergarten to ensure school readiness and achievement of K-12 core standards; and public schools where administrators and teachers hold high expectations for every child and where learning, thinking and questioning are encouraged. School discipline and school attendance policies must be examined with urgency to assure they enhance and not impede the educational achievement of children; meet tests of common sense and fairness; and do not continue funneling children, especially poor children of color, into a school to prison pipeline rather than one to college and productive work. Ending child poverty must become an urgent national priority. That our youngest children are the poorest group in rich America is shameful unnecessary and costly. And if federal core standards on K-12 are to succeed, the very broken kindergarten step, universally required in only 10 states, must be fixed now. Presenters will share successful efforts to educate children through a comprehensive, continuum of care during the early childhood and school years.

Moderator:

  • Geoffrey Canada, President & CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone, Inc.; Chair, CDF Board of Directors

Video Keynote: The Economic Case for Investing in Quality Early Childhood Development and Public Education Systems

  • Ben Bernanke, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Speakers:

  • Robert Balfanz, Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist, Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University
  • Jonah Edelman, Ph.D., CEO, Stand for Children
  • Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Ph.D., Director, Urban Superintendents Program, Harvard University and former Superintendent, Richmond, Virginia Public Schools
  • Craig Ramey, Ph.D., Professor and Distinguished Research Scholar, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Jerry Weast, Ed.D., former Superintendent of Schools, Montgomery County, Maryland

 

In this clip, president and chief executive officer for Harlem Children’s Zone and CDF Board Chair Geoffrey Canada reminds the attendees at the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of the CDF’s 2012 National Conference that those who think the fight against poverty is purely an issue for Black or Latino children should be careful. Poverty knows no color or city limits. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Geoffrey Canada chairs CDF’s board of directors and is recognized nationally for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem and as a passionate advocate for education reform. Since 1990, Canada has been the president and chief executive officer for Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City, which The New York Times Magazine called "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time." In October 2005, Canada was named one of "America’s Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report and in 2011 he was named to Time Magazine’s "Time 100" list of the world’s most influential people.


 

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke delivers the video keynote address during the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of CDF’s 2012 National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, in which he underscores the impact of persistent educational disparity in the United States on our economic health now and into the future. The Children’s Defense Fund is dedicated to closing the achievement gap for the good of the country, and Chairman Bernanke understands the urgency of the mission. “When individuals are denied opportunities to reach their maximum potential, it harms not only those individuals, of course, but also the larger economy, which depends vitally on having a skilled productive workforce,” says Bernanke. “As a result, we all have a stake in the essential work that you are doing for our children.” This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ben S. Bernanke, Ph.D., began a second term as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on February 1, 2010. Bernanke also serves as chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the System’s principal monetary policymaking body. He originally took office as chairman on February 1, 2006, when he also began a 14-year term as a member of the board. His second term as chairman ends January 31, 2014, and his term as a board member ends January 31, 2020. Before his appointment as chairman, Bernanke was chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from June 2005 to January 2006. Bernanke has already served the Federal Reserve System in several roles. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2002 to 2005; a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia (1987-89), Boston (1989-90), and New York (1990-91, 1994-96); and a member of the Academic Advisory Panel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (1990-2002). Bernanke studied at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


 

Professor and distinguished research scholar Craig Ramey tells a rapt audience during the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of the CDF’s 2012 National Conference that there is a palpable fear of children from lower economic means having the same resources as those born into privilege. Education makes the difference, he says—it can change the class system and even the playing field in ways that make some people uncomfortable. Ramey knows how to make the educational system fair to everyone and gives action plans that you can do to help today. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Craig T. Ramey, Ph.D., is Professor and Distinguished Research Scholar of Human Development at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Professor of Psychology at Virginia Tech, and Professor of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He specializes in the study of factors affecting children’s health and the development of intelligence, social competence, and academic achievement. Over the past 40 years, he and his wife Sharon Landesman Ramey have led multidisciplinary longitudinal research with more than 100,000 children in over 40 states. He is the founding Director of several frequently cited early intervention programs including the Abecedarian Project, Project CARE, the Infant Health and Development Program, and the National Head Start Transition Study. He currently serves as the chief science officer for the statewide preschool educational program for prekindergarten children in Louisiana and is helping to develop The Roanoke Brain Study – a functional mapping of the human brain from infancy to old age. He consults frequently with governments, philanthropies, and the media. He studied at West Virginia University and the University of California at Berkeley.


 

Punishing children by suspension or expulsion casts them out of our schools and sends the wrong message. Deborah Jewell Sherman, director of the Urban Superintendents Program at Harvard University and a former superintendent, shares alternatives that work with 3,000 advocates at the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. She underscores the difference between punishment and justice by giving suggestions on building character in our Black boys in a constructive way. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Ph.D., serves as the Director of the Urban Superintendents Program at Harvard University and is the principal investigator for an initiative between the faculty of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, as well as a key faculty member for HGSE’s new Doctor of Education Leadership Degree (Ed.L.D). Prior to joining the HGSE faculty, Dr. Jewell-Sherman served as Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools - with a track-record of success that culminated in her being named Virginia Superintendent of the Year 2009 by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. During her appointment, 95 percent of Richmond’s lowest performing schools achieved full accreditation under Virginia’s Standards of Learning reform legislation. In addition, the district improved from 18 percent to 91.7 percent of all schools meeting this standard as measured by the State Department of Education (2008). Dr. Jewell-Sherman is honored today because she gives voice to women and minority leaders and to the moral imperative to eliminate inequities that impact children in school systems across America.


 

Robert Belfanz, associate research scientist, Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, reveals results of new research on student absenteeism. According to the study, an estimated 7.5 million children are missing a month of school every year. Belfanz knows why and he tells the crowd of more than 3,000 attending the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of the CDF 2012 National Conference how to get them back in school. He has ideas that you and your group can make into an action plan right now. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Robert Balfanz, Ph.D., is an associate research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University. He is the co-director of the Talent Development Secondary Project, which is currently working with over 100 high poverty secondary schools to develop, implement and evaluate comprehensive school transformation and turnaround. His work focuses on translating research findings into effective reforms for high poverty secondary schools. He has published widely on secondary school reform, high school dropouts, middle grade on-track indicators, chronic absenteeism and instructional interventions in high poverty middle and high schools. Recent works include “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenges in Ending the Dropout Crisis.” He is the Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins launched in February 2009 which engages in analytic, tool and model development, and capacity building efforts aimed at ending the nation’s graduation rate crisis. Dr. Balfanz is also the Co-Operator of the Baltimore Talent Development High School, a Baltimore City Public School System Innovation High School, and Director of the Talent Development/Diplomas Now U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovations (I3) validation grant project. Dr. Balfanz is the first recipient of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Everyone a Graduate Award.


 

Jerry Weast, former superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, says we need to change the culture of our public schools, and he knows how we get them back on track. Weast received the Educator of the Year Award from the Schott Foundation for Public Education in 2011 in recognition of his successful initiatives to improve academic outcomes for African American students and won the 2012 Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Educational Research Association for his success in closing the achievement gap. He tells 3,000 attending the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of the CDF 2012 National Conference that we need to allow teachers to organize and develop professionally—they will utilize their resources and bond together to make our schools better. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jerry Weast, Ed.D., is the Founder and CEO of the Partnership for Deliberate Excellence and a veteran of education leadership with more than 35 years as a superintendent of schools. Weast has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ensuring all students graduate prepared and inspired for success in college and careers and led Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools to achieve the highest graduation rate among the nation’s largest school districts for four consecutive years. He is respected for his expertise in crafting coherent strategies and leveraging his management experience to successfully sequence change efforts. Working through his Partnership for Deliberate Excellence, Weast advises and collaborates with foundations and school leaders to improve public education for children across the United States. Weast received the Educator of the Year Award from the Schott Foundation for Public Education (2011) in recognition of his successful initiatives to improve academic outcomes for African American students and the 2012 Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Educational Research Association for his success in closing the achievement gap. Weast studied at Pittsburg State University and Oklahoma State University.


 

Jonah Edelman, CEO of Stand for Children, is dedicated to building community support for our school superintendents. We can change the public school system by selecting the best leadership, but they can’t do it alone. During the “Preparing Children for The Future” session of the CDF 2012 National Conference, Edelman divulges a plan to help our schools stay vital for the long-haul. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jonah Edelman, Ph.D., serves as the CEO of Stand for Children, the nation’s most influential political voice for students. Stand for Children now has affiliates in ten states--Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. Stand for Children has been a catalyst in the passage of key laws to improve public education in nine states. Edelman continues a long family line of community service. His grandparents, Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright, started their town’s first home for the aged and took in 22 foster children. His parents, Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman, have stood up for civil rights, equal opportunity, and children’s well-being their whole careers. Edelman studied at Yale University and Oxford University.