School of Education News

Capital Times checks in at MSAN Student Conference

November 06, 2019

The Capital Times put the spotlight on the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) Student Conference, an annual event aimed at developing student leaders dedicated to ending racial disparities in achievement and opportunity.

This year, the MSAN conference was hosted by the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District and included keynote speakers like Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and tours of the UW-Madison campus.

More than 200 people from 19 school districts around the country — including four from Dane County — gathered in Madison, where students and staff of color discussed ways to make their schools better and more inclusive. 

MSAN 20th anniversary logoFrom representation among teachers to representation in advanced learning classes and the curriculum itself, students and staff worked together to address many issues. 

The Capital Times reports that once issues were identified, those points were turned into action plans that the students would bring back to their districts to help improve schools for themselves and their peers.

One action planning group came up with a project they titled “We Want To See Us,” which focused on representation among the Madison School District’s teaching corps.

A student from that group, Yacouba Traore Jr. from Madison Memorial High School, commented that the first time he had a black teacher was in his 10th grade English class. “It was very monumental in my life,” he said. “I feel like when you have a diverse staff, you learn a lot more because people aren’t afraid to talk about certain things.”

The Cap Times reports that another student, Andrew West, explained that a staff member of color can also serve as an important resource for students of color. West commented that he often feels that a staff member of color may understand his point of view better.

Many students were inspired and empowered by the MSAN conference, and felt an automatic connection with other students in attendance, the newspaper reports. Madison East sophomore Samuel Cann commented that the experience “empowered (him) as a black man in America” and gave him hope that they can find solutions by working together.

“It allowed me to have the conversation with others and see where they’re coming from and experience that same goal that we all have and work together to achieve that goal,” Cann said. “it’s comforting to know we’re not doing this alone.”

This year’s conference also marks the 20th anniversary of MSAN, which is headquartered at UW-Madison and organized as a national coalition of 28 multiracial school districts focused on understanding and eliminating gaps in opportunity and achievement that persist within their own schools.

Launched in 1999, MSAN is a project of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, a part of UW-Madison's School of Education. In addition to engaging in collaborative research, it organizes two conferences annually: the student conference in the fall and an MSAN Institute for educators each spring.

Read The Capital Times report via Madison.com's article this Madison.com web page.

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