DC Reads, DC Schools Examine Quality of Public Education
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 23:11
D.C. Reads and D.C. Schools sponsored Education Week, an advocacy event that aimed to inform the Georgetown community about the inequalities in D.C.’s public school system, this week.
Elisa Manrique (COL ’14), the chair of the Education Week Committee, led a team of 10 student coordinators from the two tutoring programs to organize the week’s activities. The team began planning the event in early October.
“This is our third year putting on Education Week,” Manrique said. “Although our events … coincide with National Education Week, which is federally funded and more policy based, our goal is to spread awareness about the problems that we confront as individuals who work in the field.”
The theme for this year’s event was “Still Separate, Still Unequal.”
“We tried very hard this year to create an overarching theme for the week,” Manrique said. “We want to present the campus with a cohesive, constructive argument about the fact that racial inequality is still very much engrained in the public school system. … It’s something that has been partially but not yet fully addressed.”
The first event consisted of a panel and discussion on the education of immigrants Monday night. Guest speakers included Georgetown anthropology professor Elzbieta Gozdziak, D.C. Public Schools English as a Second Language Specialist Rosanna DeMammos and American Institutes of Research Analyst Diane August.
Manavi Bhagwat (SFS ’16), a tutor for the D.C. Schools middle school program, said the event helped her better understand her role in helping students.
“I found Dr. Gozdziak’s section particularly interesting because it highlighted the importance of strong and supportive families in aiding immigrant integration into the American school system and culture,” Bhagwat said. “It showed me that there is an upper limit to everything tutors and the schools can do unless someone first tackles familial problems.”
The “Let Your Voice Be Heard: Poetry Slam” drew a large audience to Bulldog Alley Tuesday night and featured six student poets from the on-campus spoken word community, Corpus, and two professionals from a local group, Graffiti D.C.
The poets spoke about personal challenges within the educational system.
“This was one of the most diverse poetry events I’ve ever attended,” said Dale Batoon (NHS ’13), a student performer who spoke about the identity crisis he faced growing up as a Filipino immigrant attending public schools in the Bronx. “I thought it was an amazing event. There was such a supportive atmosphere created by everyone here.”
“Before this, we had never done anything like a poetry slam,” Cat Skolnicki (COL ’13), student planner of the poetry slam, said. “We thought the poetry slam fit in well because it’s important for people to be able to express experiences and attitudes toward these issues in a space that is more creative. The less formal setting brings a human element to the discussion of issues that can be quite controversial at times.”
Students debated the merits of charter schools in a forum moderated by government professor Douglas Reed Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Thursday events included a film screening of the movie “Precious Knowledge” and a panel on race and diversity in D.C. schools.
The week will culminate with a presentation by this year’s keynote speaker, Carol Rasco, president and chief executive officer of Reading is Fundamental, a nonprofit children’s literacy organization, Friday afternoon.
“Rasco is considered the mother of [the America Reads Challenge], the national organization under which D.C. Reads exists,” Manrique said. “We’re so excited to have arranged for her to come.”
The week will also conclude with three panels as well as another speech by Kid Power D.C. Executive Director and founder Max Skolnik Friday.
The two organizations are planning to collaborate again with an action week in the spring.
“This year we refocused Education Week with the goal of informing the student body about what we do, why it’s important and the challenges we still face,” she said. “This spring, with people fully informed about the issues, that’s when we can really get down to work.”