Let's "Wake Up" & Give Every Child the Best Possible Education
Nearly 1,000 people attended the May 22 Minnesota Meeting event at the Fitzgerald featuring John Legend. Many came for the music, but were moved by his message. Legend's remarks were direct and diplomatic. He focused on ensuring every classroom has an effective teacher, every community has great school choices, and every student has a truly equal shot at the American Dream. He also endorsed our local approach, saying "RESET is something we can all agree on." Read an account of the event below.
John Legend gave us a night to remember. In the second of three Minnesota Meetings on closing the so-called “achievement gap,” Mr. Legend spoke persuasively about the importance of excellent education for every child—and about what we need to do to provide it. Afterwards he gave a brief performance of some of his best-known songs. Fans of the 9-time Grammy-award winner and education advocates alike got what they came for and more.
The Minneapolis Foundation, along with its community partners, invited Mr. Legend to the Minnesota Meeting series as part of the RESET campaign, an education-focused public awareness and action campaign that grew out of the foundation’s work improving quality of life for all in Greater Minneapolis.
Greeting an attentive audience at the Fitzgerald Theater, Mr. Legend didn't rely on his celebrity or his listeners' good will to make his case. A Penn grad and well-informed education advocate, he identified strategies, consistent with RESET, that we can use to better educate children: collecting and using data to teach students, encouragement to succeed, high expectations, and more time in school. In an open-mike question-and-answer session, Mr. Legend received vocal approval from the audience ("Tell it!") when he emphasized the importance of giving schools more autonomy to attract strong leaders.
Above all, Mr. Legend focused on supporting effective teaching. A board member of Teach for America, he emphasized that competitive wages, great working conditions, ongoing professional development and continuing evaluation were all imperative to hiring, developing and retaining highly effective teachers.
Lamenting the fact that too often "the conversation turns to how we can fire people," Mr. Legend said, "The focus of evaluation and review should be on helping good teachers become great teachers."
Mr. Legend urged Minnesotans to take action. Describing himself as an "education voter," Mr. Legend called on us to put policymakers to task and to support only those who put children first when establishing education policy.
His advocacy work concluded for the night, John Legend presented his listeners with the gift of a few songs performed with his signature style and velvet voice. The theater lit up with cell phones capturing his performance of "Wake Up Everybody." It was a fitting finale to Mr. Legend's wake-up call to all of us: we can RESET education in Minnesota.