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Commitment to education: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation & NBC News’ Education Nation

NBC News hosted its second Education Nation national Summit in New York City September 25-27. The educational initiative aimed to address the developments, challenges and progress of the past year, as well as identify and explore new, exciting opportunities to transform education and learning in America. A proud sponsor of the education initiative, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation participated in every aspect of the two-day event. From planning assistance to logistics to offering substantive expert guidance on content, the foundation helped ensure this year’s summit was a success.

The summit convened on Sunday, September 25th with a Teacher Town Hall to brainstorm ideas and solutions for reinventing America through education. Hosted by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, it was an opportunity to talk about what works in the classroom and discuss the challenges of today’s education system. During the evening, the documentary American Teacher by Ninive Calegari and Dave Eggers premiered.

With the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s focus on early childhood development, the summit’s second day opened with a panel, Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters, featuring Cornelia Grumman, executive director of WKKF grantee First Five Years Fund. The panel began with an investigative look into what makes the brain function and how early learning has a positive impact on a child’s first few formative years and on their academic achievement. Sharlonda Buckman of the Detroit Parent Network, another foundation grantee, later argued the importance of parental involvement in ensuring a child succeeds on the panel, Motor City on a Mission: Taking the Driver’s Seat in Education. Detroit’s educational challenges and triumphs took center stage with Roy Roberts of the Detroit Public Schools.

Our nation’s governors sat with Brian Williams to discuss the state of education across the country. From Colorado to Oklahoma to Alaska, 10 governors discussed how they tackle the tough issues to ensure their students succeed. They fielded questions from their education constituents, including teachers, principals, parents and students. A number of governors focused on the importance of early childhood education and discussed poverty’s impact on education.

On day two of the summit, NBC’s most popular morning shows, “Sqwauk Box,” “Morning Joe and the “Today Show” broadcasted education-focused segments live from the summit tent. They hosted top guests committed to education, such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and former First Lady, Laura Bush. In a Meet the Press style interview, Diane Ravitch and Geoffrey Canada squared off on education reform in a heated debate about the questions at the heart of improving the nation’s education system. The debate was followed by a roundtable discussion moderated by David Gregory, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press.

A new topic of this year’s summit focused on race and poverty in America, an issue strongly pushed and advocated for by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Our own Gail Christopher participated on the panel, What’s in a Zip Code? A look at Inequality Across our Public School System. During the panel, guests from other foundations, teachers and policymakers examined the role that race and poverty has on a child’s ability to succeed. The dynamic conversation included crucial issues such as how to close the achievement gap and hunger’s impact on a child’s success.

The Summit closed with a special guest, former President Bill Clinton, who challenged the audience to make a strong commitment to education. He emphasized the need to strengthen education by creating more pathways out of poverty and provided an update on the education commitments made through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was pleased to both sponsor and support NBC News’ education initiative, Education Nation. The foundation’s voice and grantees were not only on display throughout the summit for participants to learn about, but were also highlighted on its news programming. Cornelia Grumman of grantee First Five Years Fund appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and Angela Cobb of the New Options Project, also a foundation initiative, appeared on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

For more information and highlights from Education Nation, including videos from every panel, visit the Education Nation website.

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