William & Mary

Spring break trip allows students to explore achievement gap

  • Meeting with alumni
    Meeting with alumni  Drew Stelljes' EDUC 400 class poses with W&M alumnae and Teach for America teachers Ashley Sobrinski and Lauren Sturner (center, seated on the couch) during the class's spring break trip to Washington D.C.  Photo by Kelly Chroninger, W&M DC Office
  • Education experts
    Education experts  The class poses for a picture in the W&M DC Office with other William & Mary alumni who are now working in the field of education.  Photo by Kelly Chroninger, W&M DC Office
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William & Mary’s students are spending spring break in a variety of ways. Some are enjoying vacations or visiting their families while others are investing their extra time in research or in serving communities both locally and abroad.

The students in Drew Stelljes’ EDUC 400 class are spending their break in Washington D.C., visiting schools and meeting with mathematics and science education officials to learn more about the achievement gap.

"Throughout the class, we’ve come to understand the complexity of overcoming the achievement gap in America,” said Stelljes, director of community engagement at William & Mary. “It is not enough to watch a documentary or read an inspired book to understand the structural, political, historical, cultural and social systems that perpetuate the gap."

The twelve students in the class, titled “Theory to Practice: Examining the Mathematics and Science Achievement Gap in High-Needs Schools,” arrived with Stelljes and a teaching assistant in D.C. on March 5. Activities planned for the week included getting a presentation at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, participating in two events at the W&M DC Office with alumni involved in education, and visiting the National Science Foundation, The Academies at Anacostia, the District of Columbia Public School Chancellor's Office, Discovery Zone, Maury Elementary School and U.S. Senator for Virginia Jim Webb.

"Media attention has brought public education to the fore,” said Stelljes. “It is useful to engage in informed discussion from multiple perspectives. It is the more complicated task but it is the better way to examine such a complicated and significant topic. Where some may be quick to draw conclusions on the state of public education, it is our aim to be decidedly slow and resistant to making such assertions. Instead we read multiple perspectives and listen to many voices."

 The group has been blogging throughout their trip. Follow along by reading their posts at http://wmblogs.wm.edu/author/slc08/.