Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Echoing the Need for an Urgent Call

Here are some statements from a few attendees to Monday's National Education Summit. Individual interviews of these attendees and others will be available for viewing on the Aspen Institute website.

Lillian Sparks, Executive Director, National Indian Education Association
Getting our kids just to the classroom is a major issue. Transportation concerns – populations in rural areas – which is different from what we talked about this morning. It was comforting to know that a lot of the issues we face in rural areas are similar to those in the inner cities. Moreover, there is a national conversation around these issues.

Peter Zamora, DC Regional Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
NCLB created a national conversation around education, which has been useful. Improving access to education for Latino communities to quality education cannot be just access for access sake. NCLB may be flawed but it is the best vehicle we currently have.

Jane Swift, former-Governor of Massachusetts
What’s scary is how much work we have done and how much work there is left to do. There are many lessons to learn from Massachusetts. The Governor enumerated that success was contingent on mustering the broad based political support, including the business community, teachers and public policy leaders. Crucial was the cultivation of public opinion makers; which included both major newspapers in Massachusetts, who supported the basic principles. This allowed the elected officials to stay on track with a broad based political support. We as the government had to demonstrate to the parent, student and the public that we were committed to the endeavor. We succeeded with a 90 percent graduation. All of this was possible because we were successful in changing the dialogue. But, this would not have been possible if we did not have a firm deadline over our heads, a pending law suit. Deadlines were reasonable but aggressive.

Senator William Brock, former-US Senator from Tennessee & Founder of Intellectual Development Systems, Inc.
I am terrified with what is happening to us, the rest of the world is doing something different. I am not used to the United States not being first. Superintendents are operating in a system that is dysfunctional. The system itself was designed in a mercantile society not in a global economy – we have to teach more effectively the basics of math and science. System designed for mediocrity because it does to relate to the global reality. We are competing with the brazils of the world, with the panamas with the Chinas. We have to get parents involved. We have to convince parents that our children are not being served by a broken system.

Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education & former-Governor, West Virginia
We’ve got a lot to do. It’s the old 1/3, 1/3,1/3 rule. 1/3 drop out and 1/3 doesn’t graduate from college. In a recent 8th grade NAEP exam, we found that 70% of our children are reading below the proficient level. I do not want to spend an additional federal dollar to make a dysfunctional system more expensive.