Henrico County VA

UR, VCU conference to examine educational equity in region

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education and the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies Graduate Education Program and Center for Leadership in Education will co-host a conference to discuss possibilities for advancing educational equity and excellence in Richmond area schools March 13-14. Meetings will be held in the VCU Sports Medicine Building at 1300 West Broad St. and UR Jepson Alumni Center at 101 College Rd. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required at http://www.richmond.edu/movingforward.

The two-day conference “Looking Back, Moving Forward: Race, Class and School Boundaries in the Richmond Region,” will convene 20 national and local researchers, policymakers, educational practitioners, advocates, community members and students.

It will mark the 40th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling — Bradley v. School Board of Richmond, Va. — that blocked the consolidation and desegregation of Richmond city, Henrico County and Chesterfield County schools, a decision that continues to affect regional educational opportunities.

“The decision meant lost opportunities for many thousands of students and their schools,” said invited speaker Gary Orfield, professor emeritus of education, law, political science and urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-director of the Civil Rights Project. “This conference can help us explore ways to increase opportunities for future generations of school children and support stable diverse communities.”

Conference organizers cite more than half a century of social science evidence that confirms the academic and social benefits for students of all races that come from carefully structured, diverse learning environments. Another extensive body of research indicates racially and economically isolated schools are linked to a variety of factors — including fewer highly qualified teachers, high rates of teacher turnover, inadequate curricula, excessive discipline and low graduation rates — that negatively impact educational outcomes.

“As the Richmond region grows more diverse, we need to think and talk about how to best educate all of our children for the changing and connected world they'll experience as adults,” said Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, an assistant professor in the VCU School of Education Department of Educational Leadership.

“The conference will be a great opportunity for UR and VCU to collaborate on such an important topic: race, class and opportunities in school divisions of Greater Richmond,” said Thomas J. Shields, an assistant professor and director of the UR School of Professional and Continuing Studies Center for Leadership in Education.

The conference will focus on the scope and impact of Richmond area school segregation, with a goal of generating regional solutions for advancing high quality, diverse learning opportunities.
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