Nobody asked me, but I am extremely happy about a conference that took place Oct. 9 at Neighborhood House in St. Paul.
I am happy about who attended. I am happy about what we learned. And, I am happy that the Twin Cities educational community now has a shining example to follow.
The conference, Learning and Teaching with Fire … Lessons From HBCUs and TCUs Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges and Universities, was the brainchild of Joe Nathan, long a fearless warrior in education. It was sponsored by the Center for School Change, the United Negro College Fund, African American Leadership Forum, Migizi Communications and St. Paul Indians in Education with key support from Grotto Foundation, Target, General Mills and Cargill.
Dr. Ivory Toldson, deputy director, White House Initiative on HBCUs and Dr. Brian Bridges, UNCF’s vice president of Research and Member Engagement laid out the impressive records HBCUs achieve with college students who are low income and begin their post-secondary careers with statistically weaker college prep backgrounds.
This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Insight News. Check out the links below for other recent Insight News stories:
HBCUs enroll approximately 9 percent of Black students attending four-year post-secondary institutions. And they produce 16 percent of bachelor degrees and 27 percent of the degrees in STEM fields earned by Black students. STEM is science, technology, engineering and math. The top 10 schools that send African-Americans on to earn PhDs in science and engineering are HBCUs … not one Ivy League or Big 10 School – they all are HBCUs.
This is an “achievement gap” turned on its ear.
What are the elements of their extraordinary success? They consist of promoting high levels of student-faculty interaction, employing intrusive advising, promoting student engagement based on culture, developing a strong sense of identity and encouraging graduate school enrollment.
One has to wonder how the “best practices” these institutions have employed for the last century haven’t trickled into mainstream institutions.
In the coming weeks, I intend to explore each of these methodological lynchpins of HBCU and TCU success and examine what I perceive to be the barriers to their widespread adoption by the nation’s “major” educational communities. There simply isn’t sufficient space here.
I can say how pleased I was to see the presence and involvement of both Minneapolis and St. Paul public school superintendents, members of their staffs and representatives of some of the schools they lead. Parents also attended. It was good that district and charter public schools were represented. I was glad that some suburban districts sent staff. Many suburban districts produce no better results with their many students of color than the “big two”, but they seem to escape the scrutiny and criticism that is reserved for the lone African-American superintendent in our midst.
We have work to do all over the area. But thanks to the partners in this meeting, the path to narrowing/eliminating/reversing the “gap” has landed in our laps. A planning team that included Sharon Smith-Akinsanya of UNCF, LaVon Lee, then of Grotto, Marisa Gustafson from Center for School Change and yours truly were able to make connections that included leaders of White House Initiatives in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaskan Native Education. The conference focused on success, rather than “deficits” or “gaps.”
A fire must be lit and feet of all colors must be held to it.