University of Minnesota’s Educational Equity Resource Center

Generation Next applauds the new University of Minnesota’s Educational Equity Resource Center

Carrying those big backpacks on and off the bus is hard work, so it’s nice when adults give our kids a hand. It’s even nicer when the adults give our kids a hand to build a better future.

That’s what happened today when University of Minnesota President, Eric Kaler, announced a new strategy to align the University’s many different experts in many different disciplines into an aligned effort to attack education disparities.   Those of us at Generation Next see this as a major step for a University already doing a lot to help kids but can now do significantly more.

The Educational Equity Resource Center (www.gap.umn.edu) will be a bridge between the University’s many resources and help the educators who work with our kids all day.

On the face of it, it may not be clear how important this is, but we understand at Generation Next because our team works with some part of the University every week, usually many times a week.   It’s a privilege to have that kind of access to some of the best academic minds in the country, but it is also complicated to find all the resources that are currently spread among more than 130 experts at the various departments.  We know it is even more difficult for the teachers and principals in our K-12 schools who may want the knowledge available at the University but simply cannot take the time away from their own schools to find it.

The new Resource Center will put proven strategies to close one of the largest achievement gaps in the country in the hands of teachers and school leaders.   It will provide easy access to the growing body of research, professional development opportunities, and curriculum and classroom resources, especially those focused on improving equity in educational outcomes.

This work will also include integrating research about closing the achievement gap from all University of Minnesota campuses and colleges, and there are also plans to make it easier to find through a searchable database.  To ground this work in the needs of classrooms, there will be an advisory committee of pre-K and K-12 educators.

Working as closely as we do with the University researchers has led us to taking a much more nuanced approach to this work, recognizing that poverty, housing, health and hunger play a major role in our unacceptable gaps.  They have been engaged in some breakthrough work in classroom instruction, but they have also been pioneers in areas like developing social-emotional learning.

Most major land grant universities are in mid-sized or small towns (Madison, WI, Ann Arbor, MI, etc.).  The University of Minnesota is one of the few that is in a major metropolitan area, and sometimes it seems this means we do not realize the impact it has on the community.  I have always known its importance, but never appreciated it as much as I have in the past year and a half when we have had such tremendous help from the arms of the University as we attack these gaps.  The need is urgent, which is why we were so pleased this latest step shows the University’s commitment to equity in education is stronger than ever.

– R.T. Rybak

SIF 2015