Community Conversation on Education Held in Dayton, Ohio
On a recent Saturday morning, the Montgomery County, Ohio Educational Summit unfolded as the latest in a series of community conversations on education improvement, supported by NLC in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.
Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley, along with the county administrator and the chair of a business leadership group, welcomed 200 representatives from Dayton and surrounding cities, school board members, educators and legislators. She kicked off the meeting by saying that “education is the most important issue facing our region.” Mayor Whaley stressed the importance of broad community participation in order to ensure children’s success from cradle to career, through multiple stages of the educational journey: “If we aren’t all engaged, if we aren’t all aiming for the same targets, we will not be successful as individual institutions or as a community. And, most important, our kids will not have what many of us have experienced and what we so badly want for them.”
The mayor went on to describe the City of Learners initiative, which she launched earlier this year to support Dayton's schools and students in achieving new levels of success and to build a stronger workforce for the future. Through the initiative, a committee of 60 community leaders and volunteers is meeting regularly and seeking input from the community via a series of ten ongoing listening sessions. This summit, with representation from all 16 Dayton-area school districts, constituted the eighth listening session. A report, recommendations and implementation steps will follow during the summer months.
Key representatives of the U.S. Department of Education rallied summit participants around education improvement strategies. David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans noted that “too often, the word ‘excellence’ is conspicuously absent” from discussions of African American educational achievement. Johns outlined the multiple strategies of the initiative he leads, ranging from high-quality early learning and adult literacy to building “college pathways with no off-ramp.” Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Director of the Department’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, noted the contributions that community- and faith-based organizations can make alongside those of school districts, city and county government and postsecondary institutions.
The summit also included briefings on progress against targets for the Dayton region and on development of a countywide high-quality Preschool Promise initiative, a recognition of Dayton as one of the first 20 cities selected for the Lumina Foundation Community Partnerships for Attainment initiative and an interactive session with eight state legislators about how Ohio is implementing the Common Core State Standards and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.