Annual CASE Summit focuses on equity and access in education

The theme of the CASE summit was “The State of Equity and Access in Education.” - Graphic Editor / Julia Quennessen

On March 8, the Annual CASE (Center for Access, Success & Equity) Summit took place on Zoom for just shy of five hours. The theme of the summit was “The State of Equity and Access in Education.” 

The CASE Summit is an annual spring gathering of CASE’s partners that are in preschool through 12-grade school settings and individuals who are working in higher education settings. It provides educational resources and tools, as well as highlights new and current research on topics that are critical in the field of education. It serves as a professional development opportunity for educators.

Throughout the summit, multiple speakers shared their research with the keynote speaker, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president emeritus of the University of Maryland. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with an emphasis on minority participation and performance.

Guest Speaker Dr. Betty Lai, associate professor in counseling psychology at Boston College, focused her research on the impacts of the climate crisis and disasters on children. The research from the faculty of the College of Education at Rowan was also included in the summit. The faculty involved in this research are Dr. Anna Sun, Dr. Cathy Brant, Dr. Kate Seltzer and Dr. Carmelo Callueng.

During his discussion, Hrabowski made the point that higher-ups in the education system must be empowered to look carefully at what they are doing well and what they need to do to improve if they are looking to help more students to succeed. 

Hrabowski stated that about 30% of students are completing a program. Even though research states 60% will graduate from a four-year institution after six years, this is very misleading. This is because the most prestigious, richest, public, or private will have over 90% completion. Hrabowski said that progress has been made in this issue, but that many students are not succeeding as the graduation rates are not what they need to be.

Regarding this problem, Hrabowski shared some ideas from his new book, “The Empowered University.”

“It’s not about me. It’s about us. It shouldn’t be about one person as a leader. It’s about what we call shared leadership, that we all take responsibility, faculty and staff, whether they’re talking about in a university or talking about in the school system, that it’s faculty and administrators and staff, teachers and administrators,” Hrabowski said.

Hrabowski urged attendees to look at the culture of their universities and school systems. When it goes unrecognized, Hrabowski thinks it’s necessary to step out and take a look in the mirror.

“The assumptions that we make, the incentives that we have, the values that we hold, the questions that we ask, the questions we are afraid to ask — it’s the essence of who we are. And as I often say, culture change in education is really hard because we are accustomed to it and for those of us in power, it’s even harder,” Hrabowski said.

CASE is responsible for working with the faculty in the College of Education to connect the research that the center is doing with their educational partners in the schools and also within higher education institutions as well.

Tyrone W. McCombs, interim executive director for CASE, said the theme was chosen to discuss the areas of diversity, equity and access, and how successful educators are in those areas. It is also an opportunity to look at some of the challenges that must be faced. 

“What are some new approaches? What are some new responses to things that we can do differently, ways that we can enhance, and then also a recognition really that there are challenges that we’re facing in education connected to diversity, equity and inclusion,” McCombs said.

The mission of CASE is to conduct research and look into the ways the topics of equity and inclusion are implemented in education. McCombs saw Hrabowski as one of the best people to help discuss these topics. 

“The work that he has done really connects with our theme and our mission. So to bring someone in as we always do that connects with our purpose and mission, but then also cause us to think more about where we are and the challenges that we’re facing with equity and inclusion,” McCombs said. 

Even though the event helps educators, McCombs stated the event was open to everyone. McCombs shared that if an educator, practitioner, or student walks away with a better understanding of equity and access to education, progress is being made. McCombs stressed the importance of these types of events. 

“Where we are in the state of education is ever-changing. These types of events help educators to really deal with the many challenges and new developments. It’s a great time of really getting the resources that are needed to perform the job that you’re doing as an educator,” McCombs said.

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