Friday, July 10, 2009
Panelists suggest higher standards for education
Bredesen cites Tennessee reforms By Natalia Mielczarek • THE TENNESSEAN • July 10, 2009 Rigorous academic standards, more funding for career training and beefed up use of technology in the classroom: Those were among the things panelists at a national education conference that met Thursday in downtown Nashville said are needed to fix the U.S. education system. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen highlighted parts of the state's massive education reform started in 2007 as he joined Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in a discussion of best practices in education policy. The session was moderated by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. "One of the things that we've certainly observed here is that there really is a chasm between the educational process and what these young people find when they get out into the work world," Bredesen said. The conference was organized by the Education Commission of the States, a nationwide, nonpartisan group that brings together policymakers from around the country devoted to improving public education. The main goal of the three-day meeting, which ends today, was to brainstorm on the best ways to prepare high school graduates for today's marketplace. In Tennessee, Bredesen said, one strategy is to offer a single track of study in high school so all graduates get the same academic training, regardless of their plans. "The thing that was an epiphany to me was: to get a good job in a factory almost takes the same set of skills as to enter an institution" like college, Bredesen said. As part of Tennessee's education reform, the state will roll out higher-level math, English and science academic standards in the fall, as well as more demanding graduation requirements. Bredesen was introduced to the crowd as an "education governor" and earlier accepted the Education Commission of the States 2009 Frank Newman Award for Innovation. The accolade recognizes excellence in shaping education policy. Pawlenty, a Republican whose name has been mentioned as a presidential candidate, echoed Bredesen's sentiment of the importance of having "rigorous uniform standards for everybody" but said that high schools also ought to offer "differentiated" learning to those who gain knowledge in nontraditional ways. "The ultimate goal is to reinvent high school," Pawlenty said. Standards too low In a speech before the panel discussion, Bush talked about some ideas that worked in Florida under his leadership that could be duplicated on a national scale to overhaul the entire education system. Rigorous academic standards were among them. "Why don't we raise standards as a nation?" Bush said. "They're too shallow and there are too many of them," Bush said. "They imply that some kids can learn and some kids can't." The one item not specifically mentioned in his speech was No Child Left Behind, the education reform effort ushered in under former President George W. Bush. Bush praised the Obama administration and the Republicans for working together to reach a consensus on the best education practices for all children.
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