Best Panel of the Day: College and Career Readiness in the African American Community

Assemble five experts on how to ensure African American students are college and career readiness and you have one outstanding panel, the best one of the latest Summit on Educational Excellence for African Americans today at Jackson State University.

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collegecareerpanelJACKSON, Miss– Not counting the one that was held last night,  there were four panel discussions today as part of the second Summit on Educational Excellence for African Americans here at Jackson State University.

In my opinion, the richness of exchange, the range of panelists’ viewpoints and the passion that seemed to come forth was greatest in the first afternoon panel that focused on exactly what is meant by “College and Career Readiness” when it comes to African Americans.

The term “College and Career Readiness” has been often used and tends to have a wide variety of meanings.

The panelists– Tina Dove from the Alliance for Excellent Educationni,  Keith Eakins from Nissan North America’s Supplier Diversity Program, Ron Walker from the Coalition on Schools Educating Boys of Color, Joiselle Cunningham from the U.S. Department of Education and Cedrick Gray, the superintendent of schools here in the City of Jackson — all had a different definition.

Joiselle Cunningham,  a teaching ambassador fellow at the U.S. Department of Education makes a key point while Keith Eakins from Nissan North America listens.
Joiselle Cunningham, a teaching ambassador fellow at the U.S. Department of Education makes a key point while Keith Eakins from Nissan North America listens.

While Eakins spoke of the importance of our African American graduates being “ready” to deal with what he called “under-the-table racism” that is alive in well in corporate America,  Walker talked about how COSEBOC ensures the young men are college ready by being “socially and emotionally prepared” with a strong sense of self.

Dove presented a quick lesson on the whole concept behind the Common Core Standards.

“It’s not a big scary monster, she said.  “It’s critical that we know what it is.”

Even though I’ve been to workshops on the Common Core in our College of Education at University of Alabama,  I learned a lot more today from the insights that Tina Dove brought to this panel.

Cedrick Gray, Jackson (Miss.) Schools Superintendent
Cedrick Gray, Jackson (Miss.) Schools Superintendent

“The common core is necessary, but not totally sufficient,” said Gray, who suggested training for  teachers so that they really know WHO they’re teaching is vital to the students’ college and career readiness.

Gray also shared a number of acronyms that have apparently worked for him here in the Jackson Public Schools

  • WIGS  (Wildly Important Goals)
  • FITS (Focused Instructional Teams)
  • ABC (Attendance Behavior and Course Performance)

Not to be outdone by her very articulate fellow panelists, Cunningham reminded the audience about the importance of watching the language that we use when talking about African American achievement.

She cited education scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings, who has written extensively about the difference between the “achievement gap” and the “opportunity gap”  

Cunningham’s comments took me back to my days as a Ph.D. student in a class in Social Foundations of Education at The University of Georgia where we spent an entire semester studying education philosophy.   We definitely had required readings from the work of Ladson-Billings.

The language we use, especially when talking about our young African American boys, is so critically important.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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