Success for Every Student
Conference Purpose and History
P

rairie Middle School is one of the most diverse schools in the state. Students from over 70 countries speaking over 50 languages attend Prairie. To help accommodate this enormous diversity, every major ethnicity is represented by a leadership group which includes parents and students. With the help of staff members, and the principal, Dr. Kandy Cassaday, those leaders work to help the entire community understand the uniqueness of their needs in effort of closing the achievement gap, and to speak against cultural and ethnic stereotypes.

In conjunction with Overland High School, Prairie has hosted seven previous community-wide conferences: B.L.A.A.C.K. I Conference featuring The Three Doctors, B.L.A.A.C.K. II Conference featuring Hill Harper, B.L.A.A.C.K. III Conference featuring Chris Gardner, B.L.A.A.C.K. IV featuring Dr. Geoffery Canada. Hispanic Opportunities in Public Education (H.O.P.E.) I Conference featuring actor Edward James Olmos, and H.O.P.E. II and III Conferences featuring author Carlos Cuauhtemoc Sanchez. All these speakers inspire our students to prepare for their future in a planned and thoughtful way. The conferences also guide community members in efforts to support every child's path to success. Each of these conferences has been hosted by our African-American Parent Leadership Group and our Hispanic Parent Leadership Group. Their focus has been to bring our parents, families, and community together to increase the awareness of the academic achievement gap that exists between students of color and white and Asian students. When our parent (and student) leadership groups come together to plan these conferences, it creates tremendous pride in the fact that we are not only helping our own school and students, but we are also helping provide focus to surrounding schools throughout the Denver area.

Being a non-profit organization, all expenses in the pa st were funded through fundraising opportunities such as bake sales, school dances, candy sales, and community outreach. These conferences also provide our students with a sense of purpose and heartfelt pride by helping them feel they

can make a difference. Since our first community-wide B.L.A.A.C.K. Conference in 2006, we have seen tremendous improvements in our state assessment data with growth measuring at an increase of ten percentage points in reading, eleven percentage points in writing, and nineteen percentage points in math. As a school that prides itself on culture and climate, it is clear that the collaboration between building, family and community through these annual conferences has had an undeniable impact on the overall academic performance and self-determination of our student body, but there is still work to do.

Our vision for the B.L.A.A.C.K. V Conference is to continue to stress the importance of triad consisting of school, family, and community in creating success among students of color. With 70% of our students receiving free and reduced lunch, we recognize that this is no small feat. After focusing on this work intently for over seven years and hosting thousands of people at our community-wide conferences, we realize there is still much work to do. Our parents continue to ask, "What can I do to help my child succeed?" Our staff members continue to ask, "What can I do to help this child succeed?"and our students continue to wonder, "What can I do to be successful?" These questions continue to perplex our school in spite of all of the work and progress already achieved. This present quandary of closing the achievement gap is one that we will continue to address through charging our community once again with taking the reins and helping the schools meet the needs of our children at the upcoming B.L.A.A.C.K. V Conference on November 19, 2011.

We would like to have Dr. Ben Carson be a part of this conference as the keynote speaker. He is the perfect fit as we open the new Institute for Science and Technology on our campus. All our students will be enriched in a STEM curriculum that we want lead them into the science, technology, engineering, math, and medical fields of employment. Dr. Carson is a model for our students to follow. His work proves that success for all students is possible through the investment in education.

❝As a result of these conferences, since 2006 we have seen a CSAP test performance increase of 10% in reading, 14% in math, and 11% in writing.❞