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Education Reform – What will it Take?

by Employee ‎09-17-2010 04:54 PM - edited ‎09-28-2010 11:05 AM


rose.jpgFirst, you engage with your heart; then your mind is provoked; suddenly outrage erupts. Once the emotions subside, you ask, “how did it come to this and what can I do to help?”


At least that’s how I’ve felt this week as I listened to, and engaged, in debates and dialogue surrounding the buzz coming from our Nation’s Capital and elsewhere on education reform.


In D.C. on Wednesday, I attended a screening of a documentary assured to create a firestorm of debate and a list of solutions to poor teachers, poor-performing schools (no matter if they are in rich or poverty-stricken neighborhoods), and teachers’ union rules that prevent administrators from dismissing those viewed as unengaged, ineffective and not interested in teaching, though they show up daily in classrooms to do so.  Titled “Waiting for Superman”, it is simultaneously thought-provoking and mind-numbing.


On Thursday, President Obama announced the expansion of the Educate to Innovate campaign aimed at improving American students’ standing in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM). The expansion launches “Change the Equation,” a CEO-led effort engaging America’s largest companies, including Verizon, in addressing education reform by lending human and financial resources to the creation of STEM-related programs.  


All these programs are compelling, and thus many people are collectively holding their breaths in anticipation of these efforts and awareness-building vehicles becoming three-dimensional embodiments of solutions to aspects of our nation’s education crisis.


While they will address needs for a small percentage of students, we must think more broadly about how we address a larger swath of the population, with programs that are sustainable, repeatable and become integrated into our educational systems if we’re to reverse decades of decline.  


I think Geoffrey Canada of The Harlem Children’s Zone project has figured it out. HCZ is committed to early involvement, i.e. during infancy, in the lives of children and their parents. They hold themselves accountable for specific, targeted, measurable outcomes, and remain committed to the children in their programs until they walk into the fullness of their being with college degrees in hand. An astounding 90 percent of the 2009-2010 high school seniors in their school went to college.   


In our efforts at repairing education, we all agree that we must put the best teachers in our classrooms, and eliminate those who don’t perform; we must provide resources, support, and financial incentives; we must put the best, most innovative teaching methods into action, which is why Verizon invests millions of dollars annually into its education program;  and we must make school the largest part of our children’s activities and interest every day, for as many days a week as possible. Canada has proven this approach is doable, is scalable and works. His students are some of the best educated, best prepared in our nation, with the best test scores.


So, exactly why is there a firestorm of debate surrounding education reform initiatives?

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Rose Kirk

V.P. of Global Corporate Citizenship and President of the Verizon Foundation

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Rose leads Verizon's global corporate responsibility initiatives and philanthropic strategy, which focuses on applying Verizon's technology to improve education, healthcare and energy management.

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James oversees Verizon’s supply chain, vehicle fleet, investment recovery, purchasing and materials management and sustainability initiatives.

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Director of Corporate and Community Responsibility

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Jack promotes digital wellness and online safety. He works with parents, educators, service providers, application developers and industry leaders to foster responsible use of Verizon's mobile and broadband networks.

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