University of Pittsburgh
April 22, 2009

Academic Achievement in the Black Community Focus of Two-day Conference at University of Pittsburgh


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-Academic challenges facing the Black community and ways to overcome those challenges will be explored at a two-day conference at the University of Pittsburgh May 1 and 2 in the auditorium of the Frick Fine Arts Building, 650 Schenley Dr., Oakland.

The conference, titled Academic Achievement in Africa and Its Diaspora: Challenges and Solutions, is the Dubois-Nkrumah-Dunham International Conference. Each of the four sessions will focus on a particular issue. Full registration is $250, for students and the general public, $50. This includes all sessions and materials, a Friday dinner, and a Saturday networking luncheon. For more information, call 412-648-2276.

The topics to be discussed, the speakers, and their backgrounds follow.

Friday, May 1

9 a.m.-noon

What Academic Challenges Do We Face?

Lloyd Bond, senior Carnegie Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has identified four sources of underperformance on standardized tests-test anxiety, lack of test sophistication, lack of automaticity, and test bias. Bond will discuss these issues as well as recommendations on how parents, schools, and the community can work to minimize them.

1-4 p.m.

How Do We Account for Identified Challenges?

Gloria J. Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Professor in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will talk about a range of factors she has identified that undermine Black academic achievement as well as factors that promote it. Ladson-Billings has researched multicultural education and critical race theory in her position as project director at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

6:30 p.m.


Speaker: Pa. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D)

Wheatley, elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2002, represents a number of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. He chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and serves on the Health and Human Services and Transportation committees. Wheatley has a master's degree in administration from Pitt and served in the U.S. Marine Corps with action in operation Desert Storm. He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal.

Saturday, May 2

9 a.m.-noon

Which Policy Reforms Offer Promise of Overcoming the Identified Challenges?

George J. Sefa Dei is on the faculty of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. He will share his recommendations on what policy makers, educational institutions, and communities can do to normalize achievement excellence in Black populations. Sefa Dei has researched how gender, class, sexuality, and ethnicity influence teaching, learning, and educational administration.

12:30-2 p.m.

Networking Luncheon

2-5 p.m.

Which Practice Reforms Offer Promise of Overcoming Identified Challenges?

Brenda DeMar-Williams, principal of Chicago's Amelia Earhart Elementary School, has demonstrated with her staff how to obtain impressive levels of reading and math proficiencies among her low-income predominantly Black students. In 2007, these proficiency levels exceeded district and state standards at the third through eighth grade levels. DeMar-Williams will share what is behind these success stories and what practices promote and sustain Black achievement.