The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

China steps up its investment in education

China has announced plans to increase its investment in education from 2.79% of GDP up to 4% within the next five years, noting that an educated workforce is "strategically important" to its modernization efforts.


Monday, February 27, 2006

A great university/school district partnership

Businesses aren't the only community stakeholders that can/should contribute to education: many universities have strong K-12 education outreach programs, a fact highlighted in a February 22 article on Duke University's work with the Durham Public Schools (article here).

The first few paragraphs of the article:

Duke University is launching three initiatives this fall that will offer intensive Spanish-language training to Durham teachers, provide mentoring for veteran teachers to reduce turnover and allow students to earn free master's degrees in teaching if they'll teach in Durham Public Schools.

With a $925,000 price tag, the programs are the latest in a partnership between the university and the school system.

"It's always been a priority that Duke be engaged with the public schools in an effort to strengthen them," said John F. Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs. "We have a really large number of people who live in Durham; therefore, the quality of education is very important because it affects our employees."

Duke established the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership in 1996 to improve the 12 neighborhoods closest to campus and to boost student achievement in the seven public schools in those neighborhoods. The relationship has helped finance health clinics in schools, sent Spanish-speaking tutors to several schools and created a mentoring program for first-year teachers.

"Duke has always been there for us," Superintendent Ann Denlinger said. "This will simply enhance the work we're already doing in the schools."

There are many other University/School partnerships out there - it'd be great to see them get more visibility, both to encourage additional partnerships like that or to serve as a model for businesses, just as Duke hopes their efforts do:
Burness said he sees Duke's work with the schools as leading by example. If other businesses see Duke's commitment to the public schools, perhaps they, too, will pitch in, he said.

Thanks to District Administration for flagging this in their daily email briefs!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Insights from a new business/education partnership effort

There was a really interesting article in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper on 2/17 about local business/education partnership efforts (thanks NASSMC for the heads-up). The article, "Business' influence in schools source of contention" (link here), offers thoughts from many of the typical players in business/education partnerships, including principals, union representatives, school partnership coordinators (these are typically school employees, often operating out of the PR or community relations offices at the district level), and of course businesses themselves.

The article focuses on the creation of a new business/education coalition in the district called CARE, made up of the power players in the area (chamber heads, CEO of the local United Way, the superintendent, head of diversity for a major casino, etc.). Most of the players' perspectives were expected and reasonable: the school partnership coordinator, for example, wanted this new group (called CARE) to realize that there were already many business/education ties in place, and that the existing relationships and knowledge base should not be overlooked. The business leaders wanted to apply business principles to education to drive change, focusing on increasing school autonomy in exchange for greater accountabilty. The principal was grateful for support in any form at any level. And so on.

There were a few things that jumped out at me, that may or may not be applicable to other such situations:

  • In this community, and probably in any community, there are really two distinct groups of businesses interested in supporting education: the power players, who want to reshape education from the top down according to business principles, and the local businesses, who support individual schools with direct contributions (money, supplies, volunteers, etc.). These are two very different entities and should be treated as such.
  • A second aspect of the two different types of business seems to be their motivation: CARE (the power players) are focused on business-related issues like competitiveness and accountability, while the local businesses are driven by a sense of civic responsibility. These differences in motivation should not be overlooked.
  • While CARE is clearly making efforts to be inclusive (they invited the union and some school reps to the table), they do seem to have a top-down mentality, moving in to demand reforms without a deeper knowledge of the school system. This could well be an unintentional portrayal in the article: for all I know, these business leaders are deeply involved in schools already and have a thorough working knowledge of education.
  • There is a lack of communication all around, likely caused in part by CARE's top-down executive mentality. The school/community partnerships person, who has years of experience and tons of local business partnerships in place, was never contacted; the CARE representative just said "we've got the superintendent on the steering committee, and if there were people in the schools we needed to talk to, I'm sure he'd tell us."
The one thing that really frosted me was the union representative's perspective. While other school personnel just wanted to play a contributing part in the reform effort by offering their experience and perspective, the union head explicitly stated that businesses should not have a voice in the goals or management of schools, but rather should shut up and do what the schools ask them to do:
John Jasonek, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, suggested members of Council for a Better Nevada "roll up their sleeves and actually work in a classroom."

"Instead of trying to be power brokers, why don't they be worker bees?'' asked Jasonek, who has been invited to represent the teachers' union on CARE's working group.

There are already enough legislative committees, councils, working groups and coalitions discussing what's wrong with the county's public schools, Jasonek said.

"It's the same old song. How about a little less talk and a lot more action," Jasonek said.

Mr. Jasonek should acquaint himself with David Mathews' book "Is there a public for public schools?" (previously discussed here), in which Mr. Mathews writes:

Efforts to involve citizens, though well intentioned and sincere, sometimes unwittingly treat the public as a means to ends that educators have in mind. In talking to people about public participation, I realized that some see this as a technique whose effectiveness is judged by how well it helps schools reach their objectives. The public schools really are the public’s schools, and the public’s involvement is not by sufferance of the educational authorities. Citizens belong in the schools’ hallways because they are their hallways. If they are given the impression that they are welcome to participate only if they can do something that educators think worthwhile, this puts the cart before the horse (i.e., treats citizens as means) and disconnects the public from the schools.

The public is not a means to the ends of educators, and people know it. They react adversely to many of the techniques used to involve them; though educators intend to empower, people feel manipulated. For example, the common practice of having the community discuss its needs, on the assumption that this will make people feel “involved” – while consultants and staff members develop curricular reforms based on long-held professional preferences – gives people the sense that educators are experimenting with their children and not listening to what they are saying. Researchers say practices like this have created a “legacy of mistrust.”

Great article, and great insight into the various parties involved in or affected by business/education partnerships.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bringing retirees into the classroom

Good article in The Washington Post today on the value of retirees volunteering in the schools (click here to see "Wisdom, Knowledge of Elders Stream Into Area Classrooms"). From the article:

Similar scenes are playing out across the region and the country. A recent study in Maryland showed that in schools where older adults were a regular fixture -- with volunteers working 15 hours a week -- reading scores went up, and kids had fewer behavioral problems than their peers at other schools. The adults, meanwhile, had fewer falls, expanded their social circles and performed better than their peers on a memory test.

"It seemed to have a big impact on the atmosphere of the schools," said George W. Rebok, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, who helped conduct the study. "I think what we're tapping into is a sincere desire to help the next generation."

This a great example of the community entering the classroom and outlines some of the benefits. Let's hope that as the boomers start to retire we see a lot more of this.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Report roundup

I've come across a few reports in the past few months that people engaged in education outreach may want to know about:

Some great information here - enjoy!

Is there a math/science crisis?

Is there a crisis in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in this country? Not according to parents and students. In a recent survey by Public Agenda, parents' concern about math and science achievement has actually declined since the mid-90s, and today only 32% of surveyed parents feel that schools should be teaching their children a lot more math and science. Students share that lack of concern, with only a quarter stating that a lack of emphasis on math and science is a problem at their school. Complete survey results, guaranteed to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, available here.

While this is frightening, and a monumental hurdle in improving both education and American competitiveness, it isn't insurmountable. Over the past 40 years, we've been extremely successful in selling the idea that college is a required step to future success. According to a 1993 NCES
report, there was a dramatic shift in expectations from 1972 to 1992, with only 5.3% of high school seniors in 1992 expecting to attain no more than a high school diploma, compared with 18.9% of 1972 seniors with that expectation. Further, 33.3% of 1992 seniors expected to attend graduate school, compared with 12.6% of 1972 seniors. (Whether these expectations were fulfilled - and other data indicates that they were not - this points to how well we have sold the value of higher education to the country.)

Of course, it's a big job to shift attitudes and expectations across the country, and we're off to a weak start on STEM education. The people most concerned about it - industry groups, trade organizations, business leaders, and the academic community - have been talking amongst themselves, with little to no outreach to the students and parents who ultimately have the greatest stake in this. Let's hope that these folks start to engage the public, illustrating the crisis and clearly explaining the solution, so that we can begin moving the needle of public opinion.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The leap from legacy

I’ve been holding on to an editorial that Denis Doyle of SchoolNet wrote a couple of weeks ago. In “Human Capital: Schooling is Flat…”, Denis points out one of the differences between our education system and those of China and India:

Ironically perhaps, the third world is perfecting an elite model of education
designed to draw out the best, brightest and most ambitious students and their
families. In the West, public discussion about equity is the heart and soul of
education policy. In the developing world it is about expanding access to
quality schooling. With more than half the population – 900 million people –
rural poor, education is truly the only way out in China.

Setting aside the “excellence vs. equity” debate for the time being, what gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was a striking realization: these countries are creating new educational models that, unlike in the US, are generally unencumbered by past practices. Up until recently, these countries were relatively undeveloped, with education systems to match. Because their previous systems were not adequate, and because the demand for good education in these countries is so high, they are essentially able to start from scratch, working with new models and new approaches without having to accommodate an existing infrastructure or pedagogy.

Compare that to the US, where our education system has been traditionally strong, but is no longer producing graduates who are competitive with those of other countries. There’s a great deal of talk of reform, but with few notable exceptions it’s couched within the framework of our existing school models, more along the lines of “tweaks” than wholesale shifts in approach or operation. We talk about raising licensing requirements for teachers; we don’t talk about year-round schooling. We talk about better measuring students’ progress through tests; we don’t talk about eliminating bells and classroom walls and moving to a project-based learning model.

The reason that we don’t have great schools, to paraphrase Jim Collins, is because we have good schools. We don’t feel that our current system is so bad that it needs to be scrapped entirely, which means that we end up building on to what we already have.

But does this work? Does it allow you to cause significant change, or just incremental improvement? And can incremental improvements keep schools relevant and competitive in a time of quantum change?

Software companies face this issue when planning new versions of their software. Should the next version be an upgrade, built on their current platform? That’s usually a safer bet: all current versions of the software continue to be supported, and risk to the customer is low in terms of money and time. However, upgrades don’t produce breakthrough improvements. To create a new wave of productivity and features, companies often have to start fresh, keeping to the principles that made their product successful, but altering their approach to take advantage of new technology and programming languages, and forcing adoption of the new version by discontinuing sales and support for the older versions. This is riskier, but it’s also the only way to make real leaps forward.

I think also of “Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation” by James Utterback, who used the typewriter/computer and ice industries as featured examples in his excellent book. As I wrote here, the ice industry didn’t move forward through incremental change: no one was substantially better served if the ship carrying ice from Boston got to them in four days instead of five. It was the leap from legacy that drove progress: creating ice factories in each city (much to the chagrin of the ice harvesters in the North), and then creating machines that could create ice in the home (much to the chagrin of the ice factory owners).

One final example comes in the name of our company; read about it here.

It’s common sense that incremental changes cause incremental improvements. The question is, will incremental improvements get us to where we want and need to be? I think the answer is clear. So how can we shift the current discussion? How do we stop talking within the existing framework, wipe away our rules, traditions, and assumptions, and start talking about Education 2.0?

Monday, February 06, 2006

New white paper from DeHavilland

Just posted a new white paper on our resources page - Tools for Marketing Education Outreach Programs. Click here to access it in HTML or PDF formats.

There's no cost and no registration requirements - what are you waiting for? :-)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

School versus real world learning

Ronald Wolk, founder and publisher of Education Week and Teacher Magazine, offers another great commentary on the state of education here. An excerpt:
In the late 1980s, research was beginning to provide a basis for making
this distinction, and in her address, Resnick explores four major differences
between the two types of education: “Schooling focuses on the individual’s
performance, whereas out-of-school mental work is often socially shared.
Schooling aims to foster unaided thought, whereas mental work outside school
usually involves cognitive tools. School cultivates symbolic thinking, whereas
mental activity outside school engages directly with objects and situations.
Finally, schooling aims to teach general skills and knowledge, whereas
situation-specific competencies dominate outside.”

Well worth reading the whole thing.