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Happy Universal Children’s Day

Learning Differences Programme / Partner story

Happy Universal Children’s Day! Here at Oak, we believe in unlocking the creativity and power of every young person through education. Appreciating the value of education, our fundamental sense of justice demands that every child has the chance to develop skills and knowledge to realise his or her potential.

“The Learning Differences Programme is excited to support the launch of a learning and action network in North Carolina. It will help make schools more engaging and inclusive for students from all backgrounds, particularly students with learning differences who experience additional adversity due to poverty and/or racism,” says LDP director, Heather Graham.

MDC is a not-for-profit organisation that works to advance economic mobility for people on the margins in the southern United States. As David Dodson, president of MDC describes, this is because “people who have not been well-served by society historically have often been communities of colour. Because of the legacy of slavery and the subsequent years of intentional disinvestment in communities of colour, we are now living with the consequences of that history of disinvestment.” Based in Durham, North Carolina, a fundamental part of MDC’s work involves eliminating structural racism and removing barriers to opportunity for low-income communities and people of colour in all systems, including the education system.

MDC is building a learning and action network that will support up to eight organisations working at the intersection of education, learning differences and equity across North Carolina. The network, Learning for Equity: A Network for Solutions, or LENS-NC, will meet regularly to learn from one another on how to address common challenges. It will explore opportunities that make positive changes at classroom, school, community, district and state levels. MDC considers this work essential to building the culture and systems necessary to stamp out inequity in the education system, so that people and communities across North Carolina who have been traditionally disenfranchised through policy and practice can more easily connect to opportunity.

Ultimately, MDC seeks to support partners who will create learning environments where marginalised students with learning differences thrive. Some of the learning that MDC’s network will focus on includes:

  • understanding how to combat structural racism within the education system, with a focus on the identification and support systems for students with learning differences;
  • providing support to marginalised students with learning differences and their families;
  • increasing understanding among teachers of equitable practices and learning environments that address bias and promote cultural responsiveness in the classroom;
  • influencing systems to embrace and adopt policies and practices necessary for schools to reduce race and income disparities in educational outcomes among students with learning differences; and
  • elevating the voices of students and families affected by structural racism to advocate for changes to practice, policy, and systems that improve opportunities for marginalised students with learning differences.

Stephanie Walker is the programme director for this project at MDC. “The vision for this work is to make a difference in the lives of children with learning challenges in North Carolina who are/have been marginalised because of race and poverty,” she says. “Children who have been told they can’t succeed can have hope in the work of the network to seek solutions to address some of the barriers they encounter.”

MDC believes that educational opportunities must address the history of racial exclusion in order to build the kind of systems that are going to equip every child to be happy, contribute to society and be successful. “Every human being deserves a rich opportunity to succeed – that’s fundamental,” says David Dodson. “If we are to have healthy communities and a strong economy, people have to be equipped to contribute, and they have to believe that they belong, and they have an inherent role in shaping the future wellbeing of the society.”

MDC’s work at the intersection of learning differences, educational success and racial inequity is deeply aligned to its mission. By bringing together groups working on the various issues, MDC hopes to break down silos and support them to think about their work from another perspective, whether it’s practice, policy or research. “This is changing what history has dealt us and showing that there can be a different way,” says David.

LDP supports the work of MDC as it strives to raise awareness of what is needed to reach children in North Carolina with learning differences, particularly those who are furthest from opportunity due to structural racism and poverty, and to bring about social change to this end. Learn more about LDP’s strategy here.