This past week, I was invited to participate on a panel at the Education Innovation Summit organized by ASU SkySong (affiliated with Arizona State University) and NeXtAdvisors. The goal of the summit’s organizers is to “’curate’ an environment that provides the right mix of wild-eyed education entrepreneurs, value added investors, not-for-profit leaders, progressive policy makers, academic thought leaders, and forward leaning foundations, philanthropists and industry executives.” Based on the attendees that I met as well as my fellow presenters and panelists, I believe that the organizers hit their mark.
Regardless of the speaker or panel topic, if there was an underlying theme, it was “America’s education system is broken. There are many good ideas. If we don’t implement them soon, our nation will suffer.” Whether it was James Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, US Department of Education; Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University; Craig Barrett, retired CEO of Intel Corporation; or Joel Klein, EVP at News Corp and former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; all of them delivered the message that we need to reform our education system. Dr. Crow talked about how the taxpayers of Arizona are paying twice for inadequately prepared high school graduates who have to take remedial math and reading courses when they matriculate in Arizona’s colleges. Dr. Barrett listed the many policy studies beginning with A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform that identified the problems in our education system and yet little progress has been made. Joel Klein said that the perverse incentives with K-12 leave little reason for striving for excellence in teaching and learning.
Despite the big issues that need to be solved, I think this nation has the ability to solve many of these problems. I left the conference committed to not just focusing on higher education issues, but to see if there are ways that members of our institution can contribute to K-12 innovations and improvements as well. We have reached the stage where it’s no longer appropriate to say that the problems are someone else’s. Reforming education is all of our responsibilities and cooperation is needed if we want to improve the lives of the generations behind us.