More than 150 parents, teachers, administrators and members of community organizations gathered at the San Diego County Office of Education recently for the first Interactive Conference on African American Student Achievement.
The conference, "How to Better Work with African American Students, Parents and Families," focused on the efforts needed to close the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and income groups.
Keynote speaker Noma LeMoine, a nationally recognized educator and professor, told the gathering that the styles and strengths of African American children are often not compatible with the cultures of their schools. She introduced the notion that students enter classrooms as members of different cultures, with unique ideas and learning styles, and it is the teacher's job to connect the culture of the student with the culture of the school.
According to LeMoine, it's important for teachers to be knowledgeable of children's cultural orientations in order to provide them with equal opportunities to learn and grow. "African American students have been told systematically and consistently that they are inferior and incapable of high academic achievement, often time by teachers who would rather not teach them and have low expectations for their success," she said.
The conference was presented by the San Diego County Office of Education, in partnership with the Urban League of San Diego County, Concerned Parents Alliance/College Bound San Diego Family Resource Support Network and the United Front for Educational Justice.
In addition to LeMoine's keynote address, the conference also featured Jimma McWilson, Director of the Campaign for African American Achievement of the Urban League of San Diego. McWilson gave several statistics of African American educational student achievement.
Reaction from attendees was overwhelmingly positive. "We are very excited about what we heard, and we plan on sharing this information for next year. Today's conference was a professional conversation, all based on data, research and proven practices," said Ernest Anastos, Superintendent of the Lemon Grove School District.
Brian Bonner, PTA President said, " This was a well organized conference which was very easy to understand and it made a lot of sense."
"The first annual African American Educational Conference was a resounding success with educators and community members. The conference represents a new era of collaboration between African American and Latino advocacy groups," said Norma Gomez, Parent and Family Involvement Coordinator at the San Diego County Office of Education.
Gomez, who was awarded a plaque in appreciation of her efforts to organize the conference a success, said she expects a second African American Interactive conference to be scheduled this fall, focusing on parents and their role in helping students and teachers.