As part of a series of community conversations about the dynamics around race, class, and education in our neighborhood, the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC) will be hosting Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, to talk about the upside and challenges of socioeconomically diverse schools at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The event is open to the community and has been generously funded by a donation from Westminster. The title of Kahlenberg’s talk is: “Why economically diverse schools are good for kids.”

Dubbed the “intellectual father of the economic integration movement,” Kahlenberg has written extensively about school diversity and integration, and is a recognized expert on a wide range of school reform topics. His talk will focus on the challenges and opportunities that arise in the context of neighborhood schools in diverse urban settings — precisely the sort of issues that parents throughout the neighborhood grapple with as they decide where to enroll their children in school.

In an effort to help our neighborhood school populations grow to reflect the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the families that live in-boundary, the CBCC’s Education Committee has undertaken a series of initiatives to help Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, Van Ness Elementary School (opening in 2015), and Jefferson Academy reach a wider array of neighborhood families.

Over the past month, the Committee has hosted community outreach events with Amidon-Bowen Principal Izabela Miller at River Park, Potomac Place Towers and Condominiums, and Station 4. Miller has spoken profusely about her desire to see Amidon-Bowen serve all children in the neighborhood, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, touting the school’s rapidly increasing test scores and enrollment numbers as testament to the high-quality education that the school offers.

Likewise, Jefferson Academy Principal Natalie Gordon, in conjunction with neighborhood parents and the support of the CBCC, has initiated a series of Living Room Chats throughout the community. These talks are focused on changing the perception of Jefferson Academy’s academic environment and student achievement across the Ward 6 boundary that feeds into the school.

Kahlenberg’s talk will complement these outreach efforts by giving parents and community members a deeper understanding of the risks and rewards that accompany the decision to enroll children in diverse schools. His remarks will follow on a sermon that was delivered by Michelle Molitor, an expert on race and equity in schools, at Westminster’s Education Sunday last November, which focused on the importance of having honest conversations across racial difference.

The CBCC’s Education Committee is seeking to raise funds to support continued community dialogue around the issues of race and class in our neighborhood schools. Please visit https://www.crowdrise.com/courageousraceequityinswdc for more information.

By: CBCC Education Committee

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