2016 Symposium Focus: Education
The Rapides Foundation hosted 200 educators from throughout Central Louisiana at its third annual Symposium held September 14. The Symposium is an annual gathering around a topic of importance, and is a way to recognize the creation of The Rapides Foundation on September 1, 1994. The focus of the 2016 Symposium was education.
The Foundation’s public education partners attended the event, including school district superintendents, school board members, BESE board members, and administrators and educators from the school districts in the nine parishes served by the Foundation. Current and former members of The Rapides Foundation Board of Trustees also attended the event.
The Rapides Foundation's 2016 Symposium focused on education, and brought together 200 educators from throughout Central Louisiana.
“The purpose of this year’s event is to recognize and celebrate the progress made, but also learn how to strengthen schools for improved student learning,” said Joe Rosier, president and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “We hope the information presented to educators affirms and challenges the work they do each day.”
Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation, addresses the audience at the Foundation's 2016 Symposium.
“It also presents a way for our board members to learn more about the results of their investment choice,” Rosier continued. “Our work in education represents 40% of everything we do, and our board has concluded that this is a highly important and effective place for us to be. Since the Foundation’s inception in 1994, we have invested over $45 million to support improved educational attainment in Central Louisiana.”
The mission of The Rapides Foundation is to improve health status in Central Louisiana. The Foundation focuses its works in three strategic areas: Healthy People, Education and Healthy Communities. Rosier explained that the level of educational attainment, with high school graduation as the sentinel measure, helps drive the health status of a population. He said research has shown that people live longer with less illness and less disability with every level of education a person attains. “Improving educational attainment is our generational pathway to improved health status for Central Louisiana,” Rosier said.
Brian Dassler, Ed. D., was the featured speaker for the Symposium. Dassler is deputy chancellor of educator quality for the Florida Department of Education. Dassler’s presentation, “Leadership by Design: Keeping Public Schools Strong,” stressed the importance quality instruction and leadership have on student success.
“There’s unequivocal evidence that the most important school-based factor in student achievement is the quality of the teacher,” Dassler said. “The second most important school-based factor in student achievement is the quality of the leader.”
Brian Dassler, Ed.D., was the featured speaker at The Rapides Foundation's 2016 Symposium. Dassler is Deputy Chancellor of Educator Quality for the Florida Dept. of Education.
Dassler said that an investment in supporting the quality of teachers in the classroom and the leadership those teachers receive from administrators makes a difference in many ways other than directly in the classroom. “When school systems and foundations like The Rapides Foundation invest in quality teachers and leadership, they’re investing in the most controllable factors in a student’s future, as well as in community health, community development, citizenship and democracy.”
Through its Education Initiative, The Rapides Foundation supports effective schools by providing grants directly to the nine public school districts in its service area for professional and leadership development opportunities. The Foundation also provides funding to The Orchard Foundation, the education arm of The Rapides Foundation, for training institutes that focus on enhancing professional development for teachers and increasing the leadership capacity for administrators. The Rapides Foundation’s Education Initiative also funds strategies around school readiness, and career and college readiness.
Curman Gaines (center), a member of The Rapides Foundation Board of Trustees and The Orchard Foundation Board, attends The Rapides Foundation's 2016 Symposium.
Dassler’s message to the audience was that by investing in the improvement of day-to-day teaching, we have the capacity to ensure the college and career readiness of every student in every school in this country. He said that there is clear, consistent and compelling research that when teaching improves, learning improves. He believes to improve teaching we must recognize that success with students is based on skillful use of a wide, complex and sophisticated knowledge base requiring artful decision-making, but like any science, skillful teaching is observable, measurable, teachable and learnable.
Dassler explained, “The most skillful teachers develop the habit of mind with the question, ‘what do I need to do differently,’ when they balance the realism that all children can learn with the humility that none of us know everything yet about how to make that learning happen. This habit of a teacher’s mind and work results in the constant improvement of their teaching practice. It also builds a teaching culture, like is being built here in Central Louisiana, that ensures learning for every student.”
Dassler concluded the presentation with positive reinforcement for Central Louisiana educators. “Your work to improve teaching is more visionary than I think you may know. And the investment from The Rapides Foundation is significant in so many ways. I’m sure there are things you’re saying to yourself that we could do better, and indeed I’m sure that’s true. But I’m also sure of the anchor belief of your partnership, that student learning doesn’t improve unless teaching improves, and that teaching can’t improve unless leadership improves, and when all improve, everyone is better. Your vision is truly on the vanguard and represents the most promising strategy for the vision we share for strong public schools: equitable outcomes for all students, an economy where everyone competes from a level playing field, and a democracy that is vibrant, civil and healthy.”