AERA Centennial Lecture Series Highlights Poverty and School Effectiveness

March 2017

On March 23, AERA held its fifth Centennial Lecture and Discussion Forum in Detroit, with Charles Payne of the University of Chicago as the featured lecturer.

In his lecture, titled “The Limits of Schooling, the Power of Poverty,” Payne examined the impact of poverty on urban school districts and the tendency to underestimate schools and teachers serving disadvantaged students. He also explored what leads individual schools in urban districts to experience above-average success, often driving the conversation back to data on the city of Detroit.

The event, held at the Detroit Institute of Arts, drew a broad and engaged audience of 370 with nearly 700 more joining online. Attendees included state education policy leaders, teachers, education researchers, and other members of the public.

Payne’s talk sparked a spirited conversation with expert commentators and attendees on poverty and school performance in urban areas.

“We saw some very negative data about Detroit. Nonetheless, there are classrooms where teachers are knocking it out of the park,” said Payne, the Frank P. Hixon Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. “If Detroit is like most cities, almost no one pays attention to the good teachers and principals who are beating the odds. My great fear is that this emergent good work is going to be destroyed by people who either cannot or will not see it.”

The lecture was followed by a “living-room style” open forum, where local school administrators and experts in urban school policy joined Payne on stage and offered initial comments directed to identifying issues for audience consideration and discussion. Erin Einhorn (Chalkbeat Detroit) moderated the discussion, with Sarah Lenhoff (Wayne State University), Jeffery Robinson (Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy), and Punita Dani Thurman (Skillman Foundation) serving as commentators.

The AERA Centennial Lecture is a national, six-city series promoting public engagement and fostering new conversations between the education research community and policy and practice sectors across the country.

The final lecture in the series will take place on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. Russell Skiba (Indiana University) will deliver a lecture on “School Discipline: Issues of Equity and Effectiveness.”

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