August 8, 2014

Davidson Education Scholars program finishes second year

There’s no shortage of data when it comes to public education, from graduation rates to test scores.

There’s no shortage of data when it comes to public education, from graduation rates to test scores.

But a group of Davidson College students who spent the summer embedded with Charlotte students and educators said they came away with the feeling that raw figures aren’t the important part of schooling.

“Some of these things are just too difficult to put into numbers,” said Scott Cunningham, a junior English major who spent the summer with the Arts & Science Council. “There are some parts of education that go beyond data.”

He and nine other students spent Friday morning at the UNC Charlotte Center City building sharing what they’d learned during their internships.

The presentations marked the end of the second year of the Davidson Education Scholars program, an initiative designed to help push students off campus and into the community, said program manager Allison Dulin.

All three of last year’s graduating seniors who took part in the program’s first year are now working in K-12 education, she said.

The program pairs students with organizations that work with students in Mecklenburg County, ranging from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to the YMCA to the Levine Museum of the New South. Instead of doing typical intern work, the students work on a high-impact project, Dulin said.

Nearly all of them kept coming back to a few major themes in their presentations: change takes time, relationships are key to getting through to students and administrators can’t measure everything.

“It’s important not to stay in this world of numbers, but remember why we are doing this in the first place,” said senior Addie Balenger, who worked with the UNCC Urban Institute.

Sophomore Thomas Rocca said his mission for the summer was to help the Y Readers program, a six-week literacy program, measure how well its “soft skills” activities such as swim lessons help kids in the classroom. He didn’t end up finding a clear metric, but said he did find a new perspective.

“Learning is all about cultivating curiosity,” he said. “It’s not about all the data.”

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