It used to be that students were divided in two groups: College and Non-College. That type of thinking has changed.

How do we ensure that everyone gets a quality education and goes on to a successful career and life? What are the barriers that prevent some students from reaching their potential? How do we understand the role of racism and implicit bias in how we teach our children? We talk to educators, researchers and students and attempt to challenge some assumptions about education.

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Beth Bye, Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood in Connecticut: All children are born ready to learn, and we need a system that makes sure we take advantage of that … The first three years of brain development, that’s 80% of brain development happens in those first three years. And those critical skills like learning to communicate, like focus and self-control, attention, being able to pay and switch attention, those are skills that children learn when they’re two years old.

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools: Research does speak to the point that when our students are proficient by grade three, chances are their proficiency is going to likely sustain; their progression into high school on track and to graduate will also sustain.

We owe our students equity in excellence, and by that I mean to take into account the needs that the whole student has. Yes, there are academic needs that we must meet, but there are also all the other elements of the students’ experience.

Dr. G. Duncan Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Capital Community College: So despite our students being able to manage the cost of tuition, the other life costs are typically what cause them to have financial problems at the college…. We recognize and have adopted a more holistic support to students, recognizing that while our central focus is instruction and learning, students don’t leave certain things in the parking lot when they enter into a classroom.

Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, Sociologist at NYU Steinhardt: Virtually all teachers and administrators want to serve their youth better; and I think that it’s not about the will, it’s actually about the knowledge.

I tell teachers, if you’re not actually talking about race specifically, if you’re not talking about gender, if you’re not talking about immigration, then I don’t quite know what you’re talking about.

I think that racism is so much bigger than an individual person being a not nice person … The reality of it is we are complex human beings, and in any given day, we can have incredibly anti-racist, amazing affirming interactions, and we can also have really problematic, probably racist interactions.

Manchester Student Equity Team Student: “A lot of teachers are worried about, how am I going to get my test scores up or how am I going to be a better teacher? When all students feel comfortable in the classroom, when all students feel like they can raise their hand, when all students feel like they can make a meaningful contribution to something, then those test scores will go up, then the district and schools will feel more equitable.”

Alex Johnson, President and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners: I would argue that [college] should be considered one of many roadmaps to success. All jobs that pay good wages should have value. So if somebody wants to be a plumber, a carpenter, or an electrician, we need to hold those jobs with the same high regard as we do typical white-collar jobs.

Here’s a FULL TRANSCRIPT of Episode 4