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Old 03-25-2011, 02:33 PM
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Default Latino education conference growing in stature

Latino education conference growing in stature
In only its second year, the Latino Education and Advocacy Days conference at Cal State San Bernardino has established itself as a can't miss event for some of the country's top education leaders.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will address Monday's conference via video from Washington, D.C., and six other high-ranking Obama administration officials are planning to participate either in-person or by video hook-up.
Also attending will be: Charles Reed, chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system; David Sanchez, the head of the state's largest teachers union; Cal State San Bernardino President Albert Karnig; Cal State Poly University President J. Michael Ortiz; and Moreno Valley College President Monte Perez.
Hundreds of universities, school districts and education groups from around the nation and in 17 other countries will transmit the event live. Latino advocacy organizations and even tax-preparation offices are among nearly 1,300 locations planning a webcast, up from about 150 at the inaugural event.
That is one reason so many federal officials will participate, said Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, who addressed the conference last year and will do so again Monday.
"It's not just a local conference," Sepulveda said. "It's an international conference. We know there's an ability to reach a wider audience. They've been very good at using the technology to bring this to many people."
Sepulveda said the summit is the largest Latino education conference he's aware of with such a broad scope.
Cal State San Bernardino education Professor Enrique Murillo founded the conference to discuss the roots of "the crisis in Latino education" and search for solutions.
Latinos have greater high school dropout and lower-college-going rates than their non-Latino counterparts and score lower on standardized tests.
Murillo said the summit is aimed at a wide audience and not filled with the type of scholarly jargon that makes some conferences unintelligible to non-academics.
"This can't just be the campuses in isolation," Murillo said. "We have to get out of the ivory tower and get out of our box and figure out with others the strategies to address the crisis in Latino education. No one segment has the grand solution."
The difference in attainment between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students is often called the Latino "achievement gap." Elsa Ruiz, an assistant professor of education at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said a better term is "opportunity gap."
Latino and other minority students are more likely to face barriers to academic success, such as underfunded schools, ineffective teachers and fewer computers in classrooms, she said. Ruiz is organizing a viewing of the all-day conference on her campus and will help lead a discussion afterward.
"That will allow us to reflect on what we heard so we don't just watch it and go home," she said.
Rene Antrop-Gonzalez, an associate professor of education at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, said the summit stands out for treating parents, teachers, community activists and others as equals in discussing how to improve educational attainment for Latino students.
"It brings in individuals and groups in a speaking-with fashion, rather than speaking to or speaking down," said Antrop-Gonzalez, who moderated a panel at last year's conference. "This is about, 'How do we make this a community conversation?'"
The conference will conclude Monday night with a viewing of President Barack Obama's education town hall meeting on the Spanish-language Univision network, which is taping the president's event earlier in the day at a Washington school.
Murillo said the town hall and the burgeoning interest in the summit illustrate the growing realization that the country cannot move forward academically or educationally without improving opportunities for its Latino students, who make up a rapidly rising share of the nation's school-age children.
Latino students have for years been a majority in Inland schools, and the country's Hispanic population rose 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, to 50.5 million people, or 16 percent of the population, according to recently released census data.
"This is not some peripheral issue," Murillo said. "It needs to be upfront and taken on."
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