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Leaders Convene to Discuss “How To be Smart Leaders 4All”

Leaders Convene to Discuss “How To be Smart Leaders 4All”
More than 115 educators, private and public sector representatives and community activists, met at ETS for the United Way of Greater Mercer County Latino Vision Council (LVC) and HISPA 9th Annual Leadership Conference. ETS-based Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA) co-hosted the conference for the second consecutive year.


With the theme “Reconfiguring Yourself Be a SMART Leader 4All,” the event sought to convey the importance for Latinos to connect, serve and benefit from interactions with all sectors of society, and for leaders to develop skills that will enable them to work across all sectors. Speakers, panels and workshops spoke to that theme.
The conference highlight was the keynote address by Steve Lazer, Vice President of Student and Teacher Assessment at ETS. He focused on “truths and half-truths” about American education, asking what participants thought was true or false. “Be careful with assumptions about data,” he said. “They can often mean different things and must be viewed in context.”
Contrary to popular views, he said, American education is improving compared to that of other industrialized nations. “But we must do better to be competitive,” he stressed. He challenged attendees to think about how classrooms today differ from those of two decades ago. “The use of technology and the diversity in students are among the biggest changes,” he said. “But instruction changes more slowly than anything else.”
Lazer concluded with his views on leadership. “Resist easy solutions. One test will not tell you everything you want, no matter what some people may tell you,” he said. “And be careful interpreting data. Numbers may not mean what they seem, and data should be used as a guide to judgment, not a replacement for it.”
Finally, he advised, “Show aggressive patience. All approaches will not ‘work’ the right way. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Be in it for the long haul.”
In his response, Superintendent of Trenton Public Schools Francisco Durán said he agreed with Lazer, and added: “Community and home environments play critical roles in how well children learn, and we must understand what is going on outside the school.” At the conclusion of his remarks, he and Lazer fielded questions.
Another highlight was a panel of experts who delved into the topic of how to be a smart leader for all. Moderated by HISPA’s Board Chair Yvonne Shepard, it included Abraham López, Executive Director, New Jersey Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development (CHPRD), Kathleen Larkin, Human Resources Vice President, AT&T Services, Inc; Martha Bahamón, President, LUPE Fund, Inc.; and Dr. Eddie Manning, Executive Director/Associate Dean, Equal Opportunity Funding Office at Rutgers University.
López showcased the New Jersey Governor’s 2013 Hispanic Fellows Program, to be led by HISPA, as a best practice strategy in which today’s public and private sector leaders join forces to provide unique professional development opportunities to Latino students preparing them to be “Smart Leaders 4All”.
“Steve did a masterly job of setting the tone for the goal of the conference,” said Lenora Green, Director of Community Relations with ETS’s Social Investment Fund, which hosted the conference. “He put the day’s deliberations in a data-driven educational context – as was fitting – while also citing ETS’s world class research on learning and educational attainment.”
Dr. Ivonne Díaz-Claisse, Founder and President of HISPA, said the conference success would not have been possible without the support of ETS. “The respect that ETS enjoys made it easy to attract the influencers we wanted to reach. Also, the fact that panelists and speakers referred to Steve Lazer’s remarks throughout the day testifies to the value of his message.”
Ana Berdecía, President of the Latino Vision Council, was equally enthusiastic. “Lazer, as the saying goes, hit it out of the park. We could not have had a more appropriate speaker to spark our deliberations and give us food for thought to take back with us.” Berdecía is also Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children (CPDUC) at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College.
HISPA’s next program, to which the Latino Vision Council is also invited, is the HISPA Youth Conference, scheduled for June 7 at Princeton University. HISPA Role Models are welcome to serve as volunteers during the one-day inspirational event, which will bring 150 7th and 8th graders to the area.
More information is available on the LVC and HISPA sites.