Before you read any further, read this amazing bit of trivia: Carver and Borlaug There may be a quiz.
It seems our very own Iowa hero Norman Borlaug who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts to combat world hunger is only two generations removed from George Washington Carver's famous pioneering work in agriculture. All it took was one woman guiding and advocating for the young Carver to create a ripple that saved over a billion lives.
Here's how this relates to our district.....
We currently have an alarming performance disparity between minority students and their peers when measured at all levels. Across our district, there is an 30% or greater disparity in proficiency in Reading and Math. See for yourself on page 5 of this document: District Report Card
There are a few ways to address this issue. First and foremost we need to go to teachers and see what they think. No initiative is going to work without their input and enthusiasm.We also will have to enlist parents and community leaders, because we already know that the most powerful changes start with the broadest base of support. I do have a few ideas of my own though, if you were wondering.....
- I believe expanding access to Pre-K is critical. Ensuring kids get started with a solid foundation in reading and math concepts will help to streamline their kindergarten matriculation. If you start off behind your peers, it'll never be easy to catch up.
- I believe we need to actively recruit recently graduated minority teachers from across the country. This effort should be fully funded by the district. Good healthcare, low crime, great schools and a university town should be attractive to many. Having positive role models in teaching and administrative roles is a must.
- We can create a "career cluster program" to have minority students mentored by teachers who are people of color in order to foster a love of teaching in our own students who may show interest. Working with community groups we can commit to scholarships as well for minority students that are pursuing an education degree with intent to teach in the area. Recruiting from within may be more powerful than recruiting elsewhere.
- As minority teachers leave the district, we must truly dig into why they left as part of the exit interview process. We need to know what we can be doing better to retain these talented individuals and role models and we need to commit to fixing it.
For us not to insist on every single child reaching their highest potential means that we are failing all of our students. We need to try harder, because what we're doing isn't good enough.
So which child is it? Which student just needs us to try a little harder? Which one, through a small act of kindness like Etta Mae Budd's advocacy for Carver, may go on to do great things? Which of our current students is going to be the one that changes the world? Let's find out.