June 22, 2001

NEA Focuses on Low-Performing Schools at Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women

Making Every Public School Great will be the focus of the 2001 Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women scheduled for June 29-30 at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. The conference is held each year in connection with the Annual Meeting of the 2.6 million-member National Education Association (NEA).

"America's greatest challenge and the NEA's highest priority is to find ways to provide every child a great public school," said NEA President Bob Chase. "The Joint Conference assists NEA members in meeting that ideal by illuminating the best thinking and the latest trends and development in this key area of public policy and classroom instruction."

One of the nation's foremost experts on multicultural education kicks off the conference with a keynote speech on "Why Multiculturalism Matters" in the 21st Century of the morning of the first day of the conference. Dr. Ronald Takaki is also an author, historian, and scholar, who serves as Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

The following day, California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante will deliver a luncheon speech and share his first-hand knowledge of how cities across the nation can advance equity in educational resources. Bustamante is the first Latino elected to statewide office in California in more than 120 years and the former speaker of the state Assembly. In that role, he used his power to reduce class sizes, extend health care coverage to 600,000 low-income children, and provide $1 billion to purchase updated textbooks for LA students.

In between the speeches, conference participants will choose from dozens of workshops and sessions covering a broad range of human and civil rights issues that arise in the classroom or in schools. On Friday afternoon, for example, Professor Pedro Noguera, of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, joins Ana "Cha" Guzmán, Former Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education, to discuss "Hispanics and the Educational Pipeline: Pre-K Through Higher Education."

David Hernandez, Chair of the NEA Hispanic Caucus, will facilitate this thorough examination of the whole gamut of Hispanic education issues, from pre-school through graduate school.

Other Latino education experts —from Raymund A. Paredes, Director of Creativity and Culture at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York to Hilda Crespo, Vice President of ASPIRA in Washington, D.C.— will address the key education challenges of the day, such as closing the achievement gap between Hispanic students and others, how culture affects literacy, and support the Latino community could provide NEA to improve the education status of Hispanic students.

The Joint Conference closes Saturday, June 30, with a speech from Mary Hatwood Futrell, the internationally recognized educator and former president of NEA. Futrell will offer her own considerable insights on how NEA members can intensify the Association's growing emphasis on making every public school great. In keeping with this year's conference theme, a major focus of the 2001 Joint Conference will be enhancing under-performing schools, which NEA has named "High-Priority Schools." Several sessions have been designed to impart strategies and approaches that have proven successful in turning around such challenged schools — most based on the work of Belinda Williams, a national expert on closing the achievement gap. Williams is an education consultant who has authored many publications and papers for national organizations. She developed the concept of identifying student assets, rather than deficits, a shift in thinking that lays the groundwork for tailoring curricula to fit students and not the other way around. This new framework is at the core of NEA's Priority Schools Initiative.

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