I attended the most recent Title I conference in Salt Lake City and was reflecting on the work of the National Title I Association that began fifty years ago as an initiative of then President Johnson. He wanted to ensure equity for all by increasing access to a basic education. Remarkably, and fifty years later, there still seems to be increasing needs for equity and new demands for an educated citizenry.
From their website I was able to glean this about the National Title I Association:
…dedicated to improving and implementing the Title I program so that more children reach their academic potential. The Association provides educational leaders at the state and local levels with the opportunity to work together to share ideas on effective and innovative programs, identify problems and solutions, and represent the needs of Title I families.
This is in support of the eighty-one million students across the fifty states and territories, many of whom experience abject poverty (the rate of childhood poverty has grown over the last decade and represents more than one-fifth of the population) while also trying to alter their life chances through the best vehicle available to them – education.
During one session, I heard from many determined educators who weren’t looking for excuses or the magic wand to make everything better. They recognized the struggle, shared successes, and took notes on the successes of others. They probed with deep meaningful questions designed to solve a few more challenges back home – or at the very least add another wrinkle to the plans.
A recent post I wrote asked “What’s the difference between schools?” and in it I proposed that the difference really isn’t in our students, it’s in the way we view them. Dedicated educators creating a collective will overcome even the direst of circumstances. As I wandered around the conference and sat as a member of a panel, I saw many of those educators.
As I contemplate the work that lies ahead and acknowledge the work that has been done, I am reminded of the words of Ron Edmonds:
We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach
all children whose schooling is of interest to us; we already know
more than we need to do that; whether or not we do it must
finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.
He said that in 1979. It’s time for us to demonstrate our response to how we feel about closing the gap for those students who will, otherwise, be unable to successfully transition to the next phase of their lives. I am convinced we are up for the challenge and better prepared to improve the life chances of every student than at any point in our history.