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ODU Summit to Discuss Region's Education Issues and Look at Transition from Early Care to Schools

Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education will host "State of Education Summit 2010" and a community welcome for its new dean, Linda Irwin-DeVitis (pictured), on Friday, Oct. 8.

A wide spectrum of guests from greater Hampton Roads - representing the education, legislative, business and student communities - have been invited to attend the summit, which will feature roundtable and panel discussions, and a lecture by Diane Ravitch, historian, educator and former U.S. assistant secretary of education, who will discuss testing and choice, and its role in shaping education.

The afternoon panel discussion will consider the following topic: "Collaborative Relationships: Bridging the Transition from Early Care to Educational Settings."

A collaboration among the ODU president's office, Norfolk Public Schools and the Darden College, the summit will address vitally important issues in education, Irwin-DeVitis said.

"Education is perhaps the critical issue of the 21st century in Hampton Roads, as across our country, we have work to do to reach our young people," she noted. "That work must start with preschool and families and continue through postsecondary education. We cannot lose students in the transitions and none of us - political leaders, school divisions, universities, communities, early child-care providers and the business community - can accomplish this task without working together. This summit is a call to action to work together.

"Hampton Roads has terrific superintendents, and many talented teachers who do a great job every day. If we all work with them, we can make Hampton Roads schools the envy of Virginia. Most important, it will take all of us working together to reach the students who are not succeeding and challenge those who are already performing to seek even higher levels of excellence."

Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" (New York: Basic Books, 2010). She shares a blog called "Bridging Differences" with Deborah Meier, hosted by Education Week.

From 1991-93, Ravitch served as assistant secretary of education and counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education, and led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program.

As part of Ravitch's morning lecture, guests will take part in roundtable discussions of the critical issues in education facing Hampton Roads. Participants will include education policy makers, superintendents, school board representatives, teachers, administrators, counselors and local legislators, along with staff, selected graduate students and alumni from the Darden College.

The afternoon panel discussion, "Collaborative Relationships: Bridging the Transition from Early Care to Educational Settings," is designed for early care providers and public and private school teachers and administrators. The discussion will highlight the need for collaborative relationships to support effective transitions for children from early care to school settings. Participants will look at the importance of these relationships and discuss strategies for building them.

"Early childhood education is an area where every investment in quality has enormous payoffs for our children, our community and our economy," Irwin-DeVitis said. "I hope problems, issues and dreams will be raised and coalitions formed to explore and respond to the needs of children and youth in Hampton Roads."

Members of the panel include: Richard Bentley, superintendent, Norfolk Public Schools; Andrea DeBruin-Parecki, ODU associate professor of early childhood education; Lawanna Dowden, director, STOP Organization (Head Start); Jennifer Barefoot Gresham, director, Barefoot Kids; Lisa Howard, president and CEO, Smart Beginnings South Hampton Roads; and Myrna Simmons, senior coordinator, Early Childhood, Norfolk Public Schools. Katie Squibb, early childhood professional and ODU doctoral student in early childhood education, will serve as moderator.

Irwin-DeVitis said she believes that the summit will produce positive results.

"We will be analyzing the feedback from the summit participants and taking their comments and concerns back to a variety of stakeholders and audiences - from businesses and civic groups to neighborhood organizations and parent groups, from foundations to researchers, to school divisions to colleges and universities. As we move to define the issues and prioritize the needs, we will be working together to find solutions and answers and maximize our shared resources," she said.

"We hope this event will be the first of many with our partner school divisions, community agencies and other stakeholders who care about quality education in our region. As to the specifics of future events, our summit will provide the specific direction and timing. I can say with certainty, we are determined to make a positive and lasting difference. We know we cannot do it alone, but improving education at every level is our mission; it is our passion; it is why we exist."

This article was posted on: October 7, 2010

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