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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Diversity Week keynote speaker, Oct. 1

Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116

Scholar and writer Pedro Noguera to talk about closing
racial achievement gap in nation’s schools

Weeklong program to celebrate importance of diversity
and equity in education, workplace, community

KINGSTON, R.I. – Sept. 9, 2013 – Education scholar, writer and media commentator Pedro Noguera will give the keynote talk at the University of Rhode Island’s 17th Annual Diversity Week, events from Sept. 30 through Oct. 6 on the Kingston campus to celebrate diversity and equity in the schools and community.

Sponsored by URI Diversity Week and the URI Honors Colloquium, Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University, will talk about “Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Urban Schools and the American Dream’’ at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1 in Edwards Auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.

One of the country’s most compelling voices about the importance of addressing the persistent racial achievement gap in education from preschool through college, Noguera focuses on how social and economic inequities and institutionalized school practices maintain race and class hierarchies across generations.

Skeptical about the growing influence of the nation’s academic standards initiative with its accountability paradigm and emphasis on high-stakes testing, Noguera advocates for more equity in which government, education and business work together with parents and communities to remedy the educational, social and economic conditions that undermine the academic performance and progress of students.

Noguera links the racial achievement gap to policies and practices that favor the well-to-do over the poor. Income disparities and housing practices often lead to the concentration of children of color and poor children in communities in which personal safety, food security, and shelter stability are an issue. Political decisions and local traditions result in these children typically attending schools that receive less funding than their counterpart schools in more well-to-do neighborhoods. School districts frequently match the least-experienced teachers with the students who have the greatest impediments to learning.
In his most recent book, Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving from Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap (2011) with A. Wade Boykin, Noguera concludes that the origins of the racial achievement gap rests in the belief that people of color were genetically inferior in intelligence to whites.

Intelligence was regarded as unitary and innate, rather than multiple and subject to environmental influence. During the early 20th century, proponents of eugenics proposed that superior intellects should be encouraged to procreate to enhance the national groups, while inferior intellects should be discouraged, or even prevented, from procreating.

Slavery, segregation and neo-segregation reinforced these beliefs and systematically embedded and reproduced race and class in the policies and practices of education, specifically, in the way we finance education, the way we assign teachers to schools, the learning expectations we have for students, teachers, parents and schools, and the values underlying the ways in which students are disciplined. Despite these obstacles, some schools in kindergarten through grade 12 have succeeded in transforming their school culture and reversing the racial achievement gap.

The son of Caribbean immigrant parents, Noguera earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and history with teacher certification in 1981 and a master’s degree in sociology in 1982, both from Brown University. He obtained a doctorate in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989.

After working as a classroom teacher in Providence, R.I., and Oakland, Calif., he held tenured professorships at the University of California at Berkeley and at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he was the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools.

He is the director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education in the Steinhart Graduate School of Education at New York University and the co-director of the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings. He has appeared as a regular education commentator on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio.

A prolific writer, Noguera has published more than 150 research articles, monographs and research reports on topics such as urban school reform, conditions that promote student achievement, the role of education in community development, youth violence and race, and ethnic relations in America.

Among his books are City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education (2003), Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools (2006), The Color of Success: Race and High-Achieving Urban Youth (2006) with Gilberto Conchas, and The Trouble With Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education (2008).

Sponsored by the URI Multicultural Center, Lifespan, College of Arts and Sciences, the URI Student Entertainment Committee and the URI Office of Community, Equity and Diversity, URI Diversity Week helps students and other members of the campus community develop the perspectives, ways of knowing and multicultural competencies needed for global citizenship in a constantly morphing world. The theme for 2013 is, “Improving the Quality of Education in the 21st Century: Toward Excellence, Equity and the Knowledge Economy.”

Other events, also free and open to the public, scheduled for the week include:

Entrepreneurship and New Ventures. Facilitated by Danny Warshay, DEW Ventures. Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2 to 3:15 p.m. and 3:30 to 4:45p.m., in the Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.
Choral Music Among the Nyanja People of Mozambique. Facilitated by Music Professor Mark Conley. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 11 to 11:50 a.m., in the Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

Triple Decker. A performance and discussion featuring Marc Levitt, writer and storyteller; Song Heng, Chris Turner, Phil Edmonds, Carlos de Leon, Obuamah Laud Addy and Thawn Harris, musicians; and Valerie Tutson, storyteller. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union, Ballroom.

The Future of Education in Providence: A Mayor’s Point of View. Facilitated by Providence Mayor Angel Taveres. Thursday, Oct. 3, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

Creating Capabilities in Higher Education: Coping and Adaptation of Diverse Undergraduate Students. Facilitated by Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo, Brown University, Friday, Oct. 4, 2 to 2:50 p.m., in the Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

Improving the Quality of Education for Diverse Students: A Model School Committed to Whole School Reform. Facilitated by Daniel St. Louis, University Park Campus School, Worcester, Mass., Friday, Oct. 4, 11 to 11:50 a.m., in the Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum.

For more information about URI Diversity Week, visit http://www.uri.edu/mcc/DiversityWeek/2013/index.html or contact Mailee Kue at 401-874-5829 or maileekue@uri.edu.


Pictured above: Pedro Noguera, education scholar and writer, is the keynote speaker at the University of Rhode Island’s Diversity Week. Noguera’s talk about the racial achievement gap in the nation’s schools will start at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1 in Edwards Hall on the Kingston campus.