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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Impact of school choice on students subject of URIís annual multiculturalism lecture

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KINGSTON, R.I. ĖMarch 1, 2005 -- Howard Fuller, one of the nationís most influential advocates for school choice and other educational reforms, will deliver the University of Rhode Islandís eleventh annual lecture on multiculturalism on Tuesday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road, Kingston Campus. His talk, ďThe Impact of School Choice on Student Learning and Development,Ē is free and open to the public.

The talk was originally scheduled last month, but was postponed because of Fullerís leadership in the legislative campaign to raise the number of low-income students participating in school choice in Milwaukee.

Despite decades of research and analysis, the impact of school choice on student learning and development remains one of the most contentious issues on the American educational reform agenda. Supporters insist that the present educational system has too often resulted in mediocre learning outcomes, especially for students in segregated, low-income communities, while opponents argue that choice would devastate public education, helping only a select few while abandoning those left behind.

Once considered the primary opponents of school choice, ethnically diverse families, especially African-American, Latino, and Asian-Americans living in urban school districts, have increasingly begun to explore alternatives to public schools, such as charter schools, magnet schools, and public and private voucher plans, in their quest for quality education. Their decisions have often opposed the views of organizations and politicians that have traditionally championed their interests.

A distinguished professor of education at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Fuller also directs the Universityís Institute for the Transformation of Learning, a national research and policy forum to increase options for parents in adapting the governance, curricula, and teaching methods of kindergarten through grade 12 education to the needs of children.

As superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools from 1991 through 1995, Fuller gained national prominence by implementing a variety of reform measures, including a rigorous curriculum, decentralized decision-making, site-based budgeting, immersion academies, voucher plans, and educational standards for incorporating diversity as well as accountability for student performance. The reforms helped to improve student reading and standardized test scores and lowered absenteeism.

Fuller also succeeded in developing a broad-based coalition of elected and appointed officials, students, parents, teachers, administrators, business leaders, community organizers, and church officials.

In 1999 and 2000, Fuller and the Institute for the Transformation of Learning emerged as the catalysts for The Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national, non-profit organization, with an intergenerational membership base, whose mission is to empower black parents and to increase learning for black children. A recipient of a $4 million grant from the Gates Foundation to create 15 new schools, The Black Alliance for Educational Options has become the most visible group of school choice activists in the African-American community. From approximately 50 members in 1999, it now numbers 3,000 members in 30 cities over 20 states and the District of Columbia.

Fuller earned his bachelorís degree in sociology from Carroll College, a masterís degree in social administration from Case Western Reserve University, and a doctorate degree in education from Marquette University. From 1995 to 1997, he was a senior fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, based at Brown University.

Currently, he serves on the boards of the Johnson Foundation, the Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellowship Program for Graduate Study, the Crusade to Save Our Children, and the TransCenter for Youth.

Sponsors of the lecture include URIís Multicultural Center, the Office of the President, the Division of Student Affairs, the Honors Program, and the African and Afro-American Studies Program.

For more information, call 401- 874-2851 or visit www.uri.edu/mcc.