Summit examines impact of poverty and violence

Summit examines impact of poverty and violence

paultough-webPhoto by James A. McBride










Paul Tough, keynote speaker at the 2013 Education Summit, stands with Christine Healey, chair of the CPS Board of Directors, and Sister Karen Dietrich, CPS executive director.


MOUNT LAUREL — Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” was the keynote speaker for Catholic Partnership Schools’ 2013 Education Summit, held here March 19 at The Enterprise Center, Burlington County College.

Called “Before the Test Scores: Overcoming the Impact of Poverty and Violence on Children’s Ability to Learn,” the daylong conference  brought together parents, teachers, counselors, nurses, school administrators, education students and others to discuss ways in which children can overcome the impact of poverty, violence and other impediments to learning.

Catholic Partnership Schools, the sponsor for the conference, helps educate and manage more than 1,000 children in five K-8 schools in Camden, one of the most violent and impoverished cities in the country.

In his keynote talk, Tough refuted the popular theory in some educational circles that intelligence is the sole indicator of success for children, and he said that personality traits such as grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control might be better measures of a student’s long-term success.

Tough also expressed how adversity might affect children’s emotional, social or cognitive growth: too much adversity can cripple a child, and too little adversity might leave them unprepared for life’s challenges.

Childhood stresses can affect later success, and the role parents play in nurturing, or not nurturing, their children can have long-term affects, as well, he said.

The day included a panel discussion, Q&A and workshops. Tough and panelists focused on practical applications to reverse the impact of poverty and violence to help children succeed in the classroom, and strategies intended to create an emotionally healing learning environment.

The panelists included Dr. C. Cybele Raver, Vice Provost of Academic, Faculty and Research Affairs at New York University; Dr. Stephanie Jones, Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University; Dr. Mary Dozier, Amy E. du Pont Chair of Child Development at the University of Delaware; and Jenny Roca of the Penn Program for Mindfulness at the University of Pennsylvania. Jeremy Nowak, president of the William Penn Foundation, served as moderator of the panel.

The conference is intended to “begin an extended conversation about the strategies and practical applications that will ensure bright futures for our students,” said Sister Karen Dietrich, executive director of Catholic Partnership Schools. “Educators need a better understanding of the impact that negative emotional and sustained stress in children have on memory, executive function and motivation. Only from that starting point can we begin to close the achievement gap.”

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