That’s what NEA Vice President Becky Pringle, Rev. Al Sharpton, state and local officials and the media discovered in Trenton, New Jersey when they embarked on a learning tour and community forum on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
The tour, part of Teacher Appreciation Week, and hosted by the National Education Association and the New Jersey Education Association, was designed to support President Obama’s desire to “restore the country to its role as the global leader in education, to strengthen the nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers, and satisfying lives.”
Sharpton, a civil rights leader and commentator for MSNBC, and Vice President Pringle were treated to a tour of Trenton High School’s 9th grade academy, where the district recently launched the Progressive Science Initiative (PSI) a physics program utilizing technology and collaboration.
“One of the things that I think is a very serious civil rights issue is the lack of preparing minority students in the areas of (Science Technology Engineering and Math ) STEM,” said Sharpton after meeting with students and attending a panel. “I am very impressed with what I’m seeing here. The results speak for themselves.”
The program was created with the collaboration of the Trenton Education Association. “This is significant because in our urban area, many of our students do not have access and opportunity to take advanced math coursed beyond Algebra II,” explained TEA President Naomi Johnson-Lafleur. “We brought this program in because last year we had less than 100 students taking physics in Trenton.” Now, students will be able to take the courses and compete with their peers.
Earlier in the day, leaders also toured The New Jersey Center for Teaching, which provides rigorous professional development and science certification programs for teachers and challenging STEM curriculum for students.
The day ended with a public community forum in which students, educators, parents, and community members were able to learn about efforts to engage communities of color, offer their own testimonies, and learn about local, state, and national partnership strategies to increase access to high quality programs and services.