Monday, September 15, 2008

Panel Discussion Two: Educational Performance…What are the Implications for the Nation’s Economy, Global Competitiveness, Security, Healthcare?

For many individuals, the problems facing our education system appear to have little relation to or impact on their daily lives. However, our nation’s health and prosperity depends on a highly skilled and innovative workforce, vigorous civic institutions, and fully engaged citizens—all of which require first-rate education. For example, high school dropouts are more likely than graduates to suffer from health problems that drive up health care costs, more likely to be involved in criminal activity, and less likely to vote and take part in civic affairs. During this discussion, prominent leaders from the economic, national security, health care and civil rights arenas discussed the importance of an effective education system to these and other areas of our national life most often cited by voters. To view the complete discussion, go to

* Moderator: Walter Isaacson, President & CEO, Aspen Institute
* Tommy Thompson, Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
* John Engler, President, National Association of Manufacturers
* John Podesta, President & CEO, Center for American Progress
* Byron Auguste, Chairman, Hope Street Group
* Janet Murguìa, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza

Excerpts from the discussion:

Tommy Thompson:
“We must have up-to-date data to make decisions. Must have strict accountability and it must be enforced. Parents need more information about the services available to their children so their children can be brought up to date. We must go to merit pay of some degree for teachers - if you want your school system to work, you must pay your better teachers more.”

“NCLB is working but we must do more with standards and accountability, as well as choice.”

“I agree with the absolute necessity of data but there is a great need for leadership, which has been lacking for several years. We've lost leadership and focus since the governors were called together in the late '80s.”

Audience Question:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“Locking poor children into poor performing schools should be a civil rights issue. We should allow those children and their families choice to go to a school that is performing. Competition-wise, it will bring up all schools.”
John Engler:
“All the data is two-years old at best. We need to get data in real time. The National Assessment Governing Board should be privatized. It could be the NIH of education.”

“15,000 school systems around America. We could save millions of dollars if we standardize information and apply, across the board, lessons that we know work.”

“Business needs to see accountability if they are to get involved. College may not be for everyone but everyone must go into the workforce with a skill set. There is no place for unskilled labor today.”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“If we're to maintain a strong economic base, we need to have a strong manufacturing base of highly-skilled workers (fewer workers but more technology-based jobs).”
John Podesta:
“Where there has been leadership at the local level, we've seen success. The federal government can do more to deal with the dropout problem, high-performing teachers, and create more incentives for reform.”

“We must have fairness in the educator pay system. We need strong data associated with the ability to track what's working and what's not.”

“Politicians are lagging not leading on education. What will it take to lift this back up? There is bi-partisan agreement on how to reform high schools and get kids into college, and importance of pre-school; but it will take pressure from communities because the politicians aren't feeling the pressure to inact immediate education reform.”

“Establishment of national standards and a national test is an important role because of the difference in state tests and data.”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“The values of the United States was based on the dignity of all people and I would hate to lose this. We've become the greatest country on earth because we've valued all people.”

“At the national level, going back to President Johnson we passed Title One, but there's a loophole -- the kids who are the most economically advantaged still receive the most funding.”
Byron Auguste:
“McKinsey did a study on best performing school systems in the world, and the best school systems do things very differently (e.g., class size, local vs. national leadership). All systems retain top-notch teachers. They invested in teacher training and resources and used this information to intervene rapidly in school systems.”

“Teaching is a good job but a lousy career. You're making a huge difference in children's lives. But it's not a great career because of lower pay and people want to be recognized for a good job. If you're a teacher today you're alone for the most part, don't have up to the minute data. Young people today don't see how they can develop a career path in teaching. We need to set the bar higher and teachers need to see large corporations recruit teachers into their companies.”

“In 1965 we were number one in the world in education. In 1975 we were number one in the world in college. It was a huge national effort then and we need a national effort now. We have public data now but it's not timely data.”

“It is very important to get business involved -- for example, what if GE, which has one of the best training systems in the world, worked with teachers on training?”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“If you look at Finland, they have high achievement, including students from all economic backgrounds.”
Janet Murguia:
“We cannot be paralyzed by not knowing how to deal with the statistics. Embracing accountability is the future for Latino kids. We must set high standards but also must have resources to meet the standards. It is important to embrace accountability and standards.”

“We need to continue to embrace NCLB and standards measures. We must look at this in a more holistic way, such as the importance of pre-school education. Hispanic kids still have the lowest participation in pre-school despite one out of four children of pre-school age are now Latino.”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“We need the resources to invest in these accountability systems. We must also focus on kids achieving their best potential.”

“We cannot run NCLB on the cheap -- we all want higher standards and accountability, but the nuts and bolts also involve funding. Some people want to politicize this with immigrant kids -- but 90 percent of kids involved in the education system are American kids.”

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