Research for Action was honored to participate in the third annual L.E.A.R.N Conference on March 1, 2014. L.E.A.R.N is an interdisciplinary organization that seeks to create an education forum for the broader Philadelphia community hosted by graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Education, Law School, and Fels Institute of Government. The conference was well attended by members of the Philadelphia education community including School District of Philadelphia and charter school employees, professors, researchers, education advocates, parents, and students.
The 2014 conference theme, “Achievement Gap or the Education Debt? Combating Racial Inequalities in our Public Schools”, engaged conversations surrounding the disparity of educational outcomes between white and minority students. Furthermore, topics discussed the reasons behind varying educational outcomes for students of different races and possible solutions to the problem. Obviously, it is an important conversation.
The challenges and responses to persistent education challenges are complex. There’s a cliché among education researchers that the best response to any question posed is, “It’s complicated.” With our hour, my colleagues Jessica Beaver and John Sludden wanted to convey, as best we could, just a few of the pressures facing large urban school systems, with a focus on Philadelphia. We built our slides around three trends factoring into the local decision-making in major urban areas, but have been particularly relevant in our city in recent years:
- Accountability policy,
- Budget cuts, and
- Market-based reforms, namely school choice.
Our slides exploring these issues, along with the accompanying presentation notes, are attached.
Additionally, while Philadelphia is home to a number of extraordinarily qualified education experts, we believe there is no one better able to engage and analyze the challenges facing urban school systems better than Dr. James H. Lytle. We were thrilled to have him join our panel discussion to provide perspective on Philadelphia’s situation. Dr. Lytle provided an insight into the broader policy dynamics amongst various stakeholders within the city as well as his predictions on recent financial requests to the state by the district.
The conversation we were fortunate to take part in has never been more important. We thank L.E.A.R.N. for including our voice in the conversation, and we hope you will feel free to add yours as well.