University of Pittsburgh
April 20, 2004

Pitt National Conference Aims at Developing Blueprint for Improving Performance at Inner-city Schools

May 7 Event is Second in a Series Commemorating Historic Brown v. Board of Education Court Decision

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) will hold a free public national conference—Fifty Years After Brown: New Solutions for Segregation and Academic Underachievement—aimed at mapping out a blueprint for tackling academic underachievement in the nation's inner-city schools. The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 7 at Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

The national conference commemorates the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which gave Black children the Constitutional right to attend public schools with White children. It is the second in a two-part series sponsored by Pitt and Duquesne University. At the first conference, participants heard a historical perspective from lawyers, judges, and former students who actually lived through the event. This second event will examine where public education is now and how it can improve, using the Pittsburgh Public Schools as a representative example of inner-city schools nationally.

"Ours is a society in which most children of color still attend racially segregated schools, resulting in academic underachievement," said Larry Davis, dean of Pitt's School of Social Work, professor, and director of CRSP. "The goal of this conference is to find solutions to the conundrum of racially separate and unequal education in America."

The first three guest speakers will be featured during the morning session and the fourth in the afternoon, followed by a panel of Pittsburgh experts. Members of the audience will be permitted to ask questions following each segment. Chris Moore, producer and host of "On Q" for WQED Multimedia, will moderate the panel discussion.

The speakers and the times of their presentations are as follows:

9-9:20 a.m.: Welcoming Remarks

Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg

Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty

Dean Larry Davis, Pitt School of Social Work, director, CRSP

9:20 a.m.

Gary Orfield, director, Harvard Project on School Desegregation. Orfield's professional expertise has been the development and implementation of social policy, with a focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society.

10:10 a.m.

James P. Comer, professor of child psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine Child Study Center. Comer's career has focused on promoting child development and on the collaboration of parents, educators, and the community to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for children.

11:15 a.m.

Abigail Thernstrom, senior fellow, The Manhattan Institute, New York City. Thernstrom, also a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has worked on education achievement, race and ethnicity, and affirmative action.

1:30 p.m. Special Address

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, via videotape

1:50 p.m.

Kati Haycock, director, The Education Trust. The trust provides hands-on assistance to urban school districts and universities to help improve student achievement, focusing in particular on the poor and members of minority groups.

2:40 p.m.

Pittsburgh panelists include:

Helen Faison (EDU '46, '55, '75), director of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute and emerita member of Pitt's Board of Trustees;

William Isler, president of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors;

Janet Schofield, professor of psychology and senior scientist in Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center; and

John Thompson, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation have provided funding for this event. To register, provide your name via email at or fax it to

412-624-1984. For additional information, call 412-624-7382.