March 17, 2006 To Whom It May Concern: Thank you for your interest in our conference in Santa Monica on “Excellence in Hispanic Education,” March 14, 2006. William E. Simon Jr., who welcomed us as we paid tribute to excellence in Hispanic education, declared that “if we continue to fail yet another generation of Hispanic children, we jeopardize not only their futures, but our country’s as well. Our nation depends on an educated citizenry, not only for economic prosperity, but to preserve our freedom and democracy.” Dan Katzir of the Broad Foundation chaired the opening session on how philanthropists can transform urban education to better serve Hispanic students. Panelists Russlynn Ali of the Education Trust-West; Shawn Arévalo McCollough, superintendent of Maricopa County Regional School District; Johnathan Williams, charter school entrepreneur and California State Board of Education member; and Thomas Saenz, counsel to the mayor of Los Angeles, recommended that donors invest in efforts to dramatically raise standards and accountability; collect and disseminate better data on school performance; reform district governance, management, and labor relations; and promote high-quality charter schools and other forms of competition to pressure the school system to improve. McCollough and Ali said that Hispanic children are crippled by a culture of low expectations and a school system designed to serve the interests of adults, not children. Saenz also noted that Los Angeles would benefit from greater philanthropic, business, and community investment. Antonia Hernandez of the California Community Foundation led a session on “Engaging Hispanic Families in Education Reform.” Maria Casillas described how Families in Schools and its community partners mobilized Hispanic families to successfully persuade the L.A. school district to adopt more rigorous high school graduation standards. Rebeca Nieves-Huffman of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options discussed her organization’s work to expand high-quality school options for low-income Hispanic families, who have very few choices. Huffman said that options give families leverage and a voice in school reform. Lawrence Hernandez of Cesar Chavez Academy in Pueblo, Colorado, told how he uses the freedom that his school’s charter provides to hire a full-time director to work directly with parents. Hernandez emphasized the need to make families feel welcome and treat them with dignity, something too many schools neglect. Frank Baxter, the chairman emeritus of Jefferies and Co. Inc., who now chairs the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a new network of small public charter middle and high schools, led a session on schools where Hispanic children are excelling academically – from public charter schools like the IDEA Academy in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and Partnerships to Uplift Communities in Los Angeles, to a private Catholic school serving low- to middle-income Hispanic boys. Panelists emphasized several ingredients for success: high expectations for all students; a rigorous standards-based curriculum; increased time for learning; empowered school principals and effective teachers; performance management and data-driven decision-making; and accountability for results. Brother John Montgomery noted the value of providing Hispanic boys with structure, daily contact with successful male role models, and a spirit of belonging. By universal agreement, the program’s highlight was the morning site visit to Rafe Esquith’s fifth-grade classroom, where children of recent Asian and Hispanic immigrants excel in character and academics – and the spectacular luncheon performance of Hamlet by Esquith’s Hobart Shakespeareans. Esquith and his students are a testament that high expectations coupled with hard work yield excellence. Their example has helped inspire a national school reform movement to “make no excuses” and “take no shortcuts” in the education of low-income minority children. PowerPoint presentations from the conference are at www.PhilanthropyRoundtable.org. For more information, contact me at ssaroki@PhilanthropyRoundtable.org. Thank you again for your interest. We hope to see you at our annual meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, from November 9-11, as well as other Philanthropy Roundtable meetings. Yours sincerely, Stephanie Saroki Senior Director, K-12 Education Programs P.S. The enclosed issue of Philanthropy features photos from our meeting (p. 28).
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