The Yale chapter of a new outreach-based student group of education advocates met for the first time Wednesday to bring the national push for education reform to New Haven.
Students for Education Reform (SFER), created in 2009 by current Princeton University junior Catherine Bellinger, is an educational reform advocacy group that seeks to increase the quality of public school education in the United States. The program gained popularity at Princeton last year and subsequently expanded to Harvard and Brown Universities, Haverford College and now Yale. The first meeting of Yale’s group attracted 29 students to hear about new outreach programs intended to introduce students to the concept of educational reform and spur student involvement in New Haven public schools.
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“There is no group on campus that attempts to raise awareness in such a manner,” said Danielle Guillen ’13, vice president of the Students for Education Reform, of the group’s activity-based strategy.
Lawrence Lim ’13, the group’s president, and Guillen jointly founded the chapter at Yale after Bellinger contacted Lim last month to talk about the organization, having heard about his recruitment work for Teach for America.
“I was skeptical at first because I wasn’t sure what the group did,” Lim said. “But after talking to Catherine, I realized she had a ton of knowledge regarding education reform and the group was in really good hands.”
Each chapter is autonomous, Lim said, but for now, the Yale group will follow the event-based model established by Princeton’s chapter. He added that this preliminary model can be changed in the future to change and adapt to the Yale population.
In the meantime, Lim said he and Guillen want to plan more events and begin outreach efforts within the Yale community. At the information session, Lim and Guillen outlined several different activities for members this year. The group plans to bring prominent figures in education reform to campus to speak with students, but students will also travel around the country to “proof point” schools with good practices during fall and spring recesses. Lin and Guillen said the group will start a blog that will cover issues related to education reform.
Students who came to the talk said they were impressed by the group’s presentation and several expressed their interest in the movement. At the meeting, Lim and Guillen gave students an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about the program, but no students offered negative feedback. The majority of students in the room were optimistic about the direction of the club, but expressed worry about the state of public education in America, especially in New Haven.
“I feel there is so much happening in New Haven,” said Brittany Concannon ’12. “There is such an achievement gap. Education is faulty in the city around us.”
The event hit home for Andrea Ramos ’13, who said she had watched her older sister struggle in public school when the two were growing up in California.
“I witnessed my own sister fall behind and not even be able to keep up,” Ramos said. “The students who are struggling are left behind and they get farther behind.”
Ramos said such students require extra help and added that public schools should offer extra tutoring and after school programs for students.
Ben Prawdzik contributed reporting.