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Long-time project tackles student achievement gap

Woman speaking into microphone with many people behind herCommunity Wide Dialogue to End Racism (CWD) has been ongoing in Syracuse since 1997. More than 6,000 people of all ages have taken part in one of the nation’s longest running efforts to address racism and racial inequities. Outcomes include:

  • Implementing fair-lending practices at a local bank
  • Increasing numbers of people of color on local boards
  • Pairing city and suburban schools for a high school exchange program for students (In 2008-09, 186 students participated in dialogues to build understanding about the effects of white privilege and structural racism.)
  • Launching dialogues between the refugee community and American-born residents (Following the dialogues, over 500 people took part in a peace march, and a police-community forum was held to address racial tensions between refugees and the police.

At present, CWD has decided to concentrate its efforts on the gap in student achievement in the Syracuse City School District. At the request of a high school principal, CWD launched a pilot program designed to help staff cope with rising racial tensions at the school and to look at the root causes of the gap in student achievement between Whites and students of color. Results include:

  • Expanding reading lists to include authors of color
  • Reworking the American and World History curriculum to more accurately reflect contributions of people of color
  • Decorating a classroom to reflect images and cultures of people of color

Building on the success of that pilot, CWD expanded the program, working with three more city high schools, one middle school, and one grammar school. The goal for the first year was to reach an additional 150 staff in the district.

Elements of the project include:

  • Professional staff development for the Syracuse City School District, including dialogue to address the gap in academic achievement, and leadership development to train dialogue leaders to expand the reach of the program
  • Continuation of the city/suburban school exchanges aiming to reach at least 450 students, 40 staff, and 40 volunteers (Eight high schools, two middle schools, and two grammar schools were expected to participate in semester-long dialogues.)
  • Parent/staff dialogues focusing on academic achievement and school completion goals
  • Implementation of action plans through school systems and structures
August 13, 2010

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Mayme Webb Bledsoe of the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership Uses Dialogue to Lift Voices in the Duke / Durham Community 

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