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Community Conversation: Improving education in Dallas

Diane Xavier | 5/23/2014, 1:07 p.m.
From left: Dr. Rosie Sorrell, former State Board of Education member; Mavis Knight, a current State Board of Education member; Keisha Crowder Davis, director of High School Redesign for Dallas ISD; Ramona Clarkson, a DISD parent and grandparent; and Moderator Casey Thomas Photo by Robyn H. Jimenez

The Dallas Examiner

The topic of improving education has been a heated debate in Dallas for the past decade. Not only has this issue been a local and state debate, but it has also drawn national attention as well.

According to the latest report on the well-being of American students, the numbers are not pretty. The test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the nation’s report card, shows that many high school seniors are not college-ready and performed low in reading and in mathematics.

In order to tackle this issue and bring community awareness on how we can help the city move forward in education, The Dallas Examiner hosted the next round of Monday Night Community Conversations on the topic of the Dallas’ education system. The event took place on April 28 at the African American Museum in Fair Park.

“We all know that there are problems within our education system,” said Mollie Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner. “Tonight, we want to have a conversation in order to try to come up with some solutions.”

The night featured experts about the state of education in Texas and the forum was moderated by The Dallas Examiner columnist and Dallas ISD teacher Casey Thomas.

“We want to talk about how we can improve education,” Thomas said. “We have panelists who are knowledgeable in each of the areas that are concerned of interest with Dallas ISD.”

The panelists included Dr. Rosie Sorrell who has spent 25 years as an educator in early childhood education and is a former State Board of Education member; current State Board of Education member Mavis Knight; Ramona Clarkson, a DISD parent; and Keisha Crowder Davis, director of High School Redesign for Dallas ISD.

Thomas started the forum asking Sorrell how important early childhood education is and how it can be used as a tool to eliminate the achievement gap that exists today.

“Early childhood is really a passion with me and it’s just amazing to me why it is that any adult, any educator and any citizen would not know that you have to start early in order to be successful,” Sorrell said. “My favorite saying in all of this is that the death starts before students start school. The most important years are the first five years of a child’s life yet we don’t want to put our money where our mouth is.”

The Texas Legislature in this past decade has cut spending on the educational system.

“We will talk about them but it will cost us a lot of money for programs for parents and programs for children in order for that gap to not be there,” she said. “So we keep wrestling. It’s a game we are playing. And we can’t win. If you are not going to put the money in the early years then you are going to keep talking about it, the achievement gap, it’s just something we just can’t give up on. If we can get all of us talking about the same things and have the same definition, when I talk about early childhood, I am talking about ages 0-8.