June 06, 2010

Education forum brings ideas to the table

Posted: June 06, 2010
Image is Mari Koerner as panelist at education forum
Mari Koerner, dean of ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, shares a laugh with Dewayne Matthews, Lumina Foundation VP for policy, at Friday's education forum in Washington, D.C.

Among the ways to bring about improvement in the future of U.S. education, according to a forum at the National Press Club Friday, are to position teaching as a prestigious career choice, continue to encourage innovation in the classroom, and to use technology to put additional resources and materials into the hands of educators and students.

The forum, “Fixing American Education,” was presented by ASU. University President Michael Crow moderated the panel discussion that featured eight leaders in U.S. education. Panelists were Glenn Cummings, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Education; Mari Koerner, dean, ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; Paula Kerger, president, PBS; Bonnie Reiss, California secretary of education; Freeman Hrabowski, president, University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Dewayne Matthews, vice president for policy, Lumina Foundation; Heather Harding, vice president for research and policy, Teach For America; and Lorenzo Esters, vice president for access, Association for Public and Land Grant Universities.

“As educators, we must make teaching a career choice for our students,” said Koerner, whose teachers college combines education research with teacher preparation. “We have to be the ones who offer the excellence that attracts the students and keeps them in school as they prepare to be the next generation of great teachers.

“It takes a university to make a teacher, and by making teaching a professional career of choice, we lessen the chance that we will lose these students to another profession in the future”

Koerner suggested one of the ways to ensure the quality of tomorrow’s teachers is to connect with them from the minute they walk onto campus.

“We must support and follow our future teachers from start to finish,” she said. “Providing personal direction and support through advisors and counselors is important.  Students today enter college through professional schools, different from when we went to school.  Our advisors and those who mentor our students must know what their individual needsand interests are and they must stay connected with them after they graduate; we need to know the challenges they face and the rewards they enjoy.”

With President Obama committed to ensuring that America regain its lost ground and have the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020, the panel members discussed declining graduation rates in higher education, the disparities among K-12 student preparedness for the classroom experience, and how innovation and technology can play a positive role in educational improvement.

“When it comes to innovation and technology, we need to look at what we can do to invest in our youngest children, because research shows that the younger you reach them, the more significant their performance,” said PBS’s Kerger. 

She noted that PBS creates online content specifically designed for teachers.

“Technology allows us to put materials and resources into the hands of our teachers,” she said. “It allows for multiple learning experiences in multiple places.”

Koerner added that innovations in flexibility and coursework are critical to teachers providing a rewarding classroom experience for K-12 students.

“We know that one size does not fit all,” she said. “There are wild differences between childrens’ learning abilities based on where the child goes to school.  But, the common denominator is the teacher.

“The coursework that is available to aspiring teachers has to match his or her areas of interest. At ASU, we have reduced the number of our strictly education classes in order to introduce coursework in different subject areas, and we are reaching out across disciplines to other colleges at the university to help us prepare our future teachers in a wide range of subject areas.”

For panel member Hrabowski, technology and innovation are important, but even more so coupled with the human element.

“One way to bring more innovation to education is through funding for those who are successfully using technology and the human factor to achieve results.  Hard-working students and hard-working educators are innovations in their own right.

“Our standard should be the responsibility to see that students succeed. It takes a belief that all children can succeed.”
A webcast of the forum will be available at http://asu.edu/educationforum.

Stephen Des Georges, Stephen.Desgeorges@asu.edu
480-727-0757
ASU Foundation