Education Nation: Reoccurring Themes

Today is the final day of the NBC News, Second Annual Education Nation Summit. For the past five days NBC News hosted a national discussion that explored developments, challenges, and progress in education, as well as identify and explore new, exciting opportunities to reinvent America as an Education Nation. City Year was honored and excited to be invited as an attendee and participant in this year’s summit. Today’s Guest Blogger is our Executive Director,  Itai Dinour, who represented City Year New York at the summit.   

For the last two days, I had the opportunity to attend Education Nation, an amazing conversation produced by NBC News. Like last year, I leave the two days of sessions with a greater appreciation for the complexities of what it takes to make schools stronger, but deeply inspired by the community of innovators who are demonstrating what is possible. Most importantly, I walked away with a renewed sense of confidence that the work of the City Year corps members is one key ingredient in the education reform landscape.

Through the plenaries, smaller sessions, and hallway mingling, several themes kept popping up:

  • From politics to action:  As Chancellor Walcott said early in his tenure, we need a sense of civility in the education reform conversation. As compared to last year, the tone of this year’s session was positive, solution oriented and I applaud the organizers for showcasing what works in education. From observing three teachers live in their classrooms, to meeting the next generation of education innovators, to featuring City Year’s partnership with Mayors, NBC was effectively highlighting bright spots.
  • The importance of school culture: From President Clinton, Geoffrey Canada, Diane Ravitch to Cory Booker, many of the thought leaders talked about school culture as a key ingredient for success. Yet clearly, more work needs to happen to understand how to transform both the student and adult culture while effectively integrating parents.
  • Neighborhood based solutions: Throughout several panels, the question of the role of zip codes as a determining factor for a child’s chances for success were debated. As the City Year New York team knows, this is a critical question we wrestle wrestle with as we focus our efforts in four communities yet struggle to determine the best strategy for serving our students as they travel throughout New York City for their high school years. In addition, these conversations reminded me of the important role that community partnerships play, in particular with local stakeholders who can support the holistic needs of students and their families.
  • The ability to use data as an intervention tool: While no perfect system exists (yet), it was reassuring to hear how hungry the education community is to get access to the right student level data that can determine the best interventions. Perhaps by next year’s summit, there will be a more perfect solution that is accessible by educators, community partners, and parents alike.

Thank you again to our partners at NBC Universal, Comcast, and Education Nation for dedicating the time and resources for these crucial conversations and for letting members of the City Year community participate.

I encourage you to check out for footage from the summit and to continue the conversation.

Also – please read Itai’s reflections from Day 1 and Day 2 from last year’s Education Nation Summit.