Last Saturday, five Batten students attended Alpha Phi Alpha’s forum, “The State of Education in America: The Cause & The Solution.” Batten Council generously sponsored a table at the symposium, which supported the Lynchburg-based S.Y. Scholars Program — a mentorship and scholarship program for low-performing and at-risk young students.
U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan gave the opening address following a live jazz performance and a brunch buffet (a Batten favorite). Sullivan spoke of the need to connect younger students with educational opportunities and motivate them to seek higher education later in life. As testament to Sullivan’s insistence that doing so is crucial to building a bright future for America, some of the Scholars themselves shared their stories and joined the audience during the panel.
The panel itself was composed of local policymakers and educators who debated over topics as salient as the purpose of teaching and the need for high expectations in the classroom. Speakers included Charlottesville Public Schools superintendent Rosa Atkins, University History Professor Claudrena Harold, Charlottesville High School Principal Thomas Taylor, Charlottesville City Councilwoman Dede Smith, and Green County Public Schools Superintendent David Jeck.
The SY Scholars Program hopes that its first annual symposium will promote education reform — beginning at the local level with participants and audience members. The discussion often centered around the ubiquitous debate over standardized testing, which many educators argued limits students’ motivation and engagement, but is cited by city administrators as a key factor in lowering dropout rates.
Sheridan Fuller, an APA brother and a first-year accelerated MPP student, told Batten Council that he hoped the symposium would “motivate members of the community to undergird the local education system in an effort to remedy the plight of American education.” Regardless of the attendees’ specific policy interests, the energy of the panelists was certainly successful in establishing the pervasive relevance of education policy in the United States.