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Engaged in the Pursuit of Equity

Joe Rogers, Jr. (M.A. '09) is using his policy skills and community organizing talents to mobilize key stakeholders around improving New York's public schools.
Engaged in the Pursuit of Equity
Joe Rogers, Jr. (M.A. '09) is using his policy skills and community organizing talents to mobilize key stakeholders around improving New York’s public schools.
As a eighth grader in Gray, Maine, Joe Rogers, Jr. wrote a speech, for an oratorical contest, about inequity in education.
“I was in a class for gifted and talented students, and I saw that so many of my schoolmates didn’t have the same access to experiential hands-on activities, and that didn’t seem right to me,” recalls Rogers, who has received his master’s degree in Education Leadership, Policy and Politics. “Through conversations with Mrs. O’Wril, my English teacher and oratorical coach, I realized there were broader systemic issues that we, as a nation, needed to address.”
Rogers has been addressing them ever since, calling in particular on a self-professed talent for “bringing folks together to problem-solve and strategize.” He has tutored in inner-city Washington, D.C., where “kids in the nation’s capital, literally in sight of Congress, are receiving almost a third-world education”; launched and run an AmeriCorps program that provided adults with instruction in English as a second language, preparation for attaining a GED degree and family literacy skills; served as a program associate with New Visions for Public Schools, co-facilitating a process for sharing libraries in buildings that house multiple small schools; and consulted with the New York Mission Society, helping to improve and leverage dialogue among community leaders about education. He now serves as Director of Policy and Civic Engagement for Education Voters of New York, one arm of which engages New Yorkers around educational issues and policy reform while another functions as a political action committee, endorsing candidates committed to strengthening the public schools.
“Civic engagement is critical to educational equity,” he says. “Too often it’s the so-called policy elites making the decisions at 20,000 feet and missing the opportunity to inform policy through the experiences and views of everyday citizens. My principal interest is to engage the communities most impacted by education policy, helping them play a substantive and meaningful role in crafting it and shaping the educational landscape.”
Another of Rogers’ major concerns is teacher quality. While that’s an attribute that has yet to be universally defined, he acknowledges, “what is clear is that poorer kids and kids of color tend get the least effective and least well prepared teachers.”
At TC, Rogers has worked with Luis Huerta, Douglas Ready, Sharon Lynn Kagan, Carolyn Riehl, Craig Richards and other faculty members to “develop my own theoretical framework along with a series setof advanced policy skills.”  Right now, he feels his job at Education Voters is a perfect fit, but he doesn’t rule out a change in direction down the road.
“Educational equity is my goal and my passion, and I’ll do whatever maximizes my impact,” he says. “If I ever felt I could make a greater impact as a legislator, I’d consider it.”

Published Thursday, May. 20, 2010


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