The ASCD Annual Conference took place in Los Angeles from March 14–17. It was consistently thrilling to be among a diverse group of 9,000 educators. Everyone had stories to tell, aspirations to share, and good work to do. You just had to sit down next to anyone and say, "Where are you from? What do you do?" and an hour later you had another colleague.
I heard competing narratives about our students and the schools they need. One narrative concerns poor kids of color who come to school from the earliest elementary years already behind in basic skills. They need schools structures and teachers who are strong enough and sensitive enough to stand with the kids, and who have a pedagogical skill set attuned to their students' particular needs—especially in reading, writing and the traumas of poverty. If we don't provide a more rigorous and high-end curriculum of health care and basic skills for these kids, they'll never catch up; the lack of resources to more predictably turn these communities around is further proof of the institutional racism we still must fight. There is much call from these communities for longer school days and longer school years to bridge all the gaps.