Part II: Creating a Seamless Educational Continuum From K-12 Through College and Beyond
Todays extra credit is the second in a two-part series highlighting Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings testimony on lifelong learning before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Thursday, April 14, 2005. The following is an excerpt from the Secretarys prepared remarks:
This attitude of change extends to higher education. The President, as you know, is seeking the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But we want to improve it as well.
For the first time, Pell Grants would be made available year-round, to allow students to learn on their own timetable. And the maximum award would be increased by $100 each of the next five years. An estimated 5.5 million students would benefit.
Our Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative will help community colleges identify and meet the needs of local job providers. It's a bold partnership between the Department of Education and the Department of Labor. As a former Austin Community College employee, I know how hard these institutions work to be responsive to their diverse students and the community.
Portland Community College's Gateway to College program, for instance, helps former dropouts earn a high school diploma, then continue on to certificate or degree programs in their academic or technical field. They understand that you don't have to have a four-year bachelor's or a master's degree to enjoy a successful career and life.
Finally, our reform of the Perkins Vocational Program will ensure that the people it was designed to help have the rigorous background in math and science as well as the technical skills to succeed in the modern workplace. The data that we know—and the facts that you've just heard—tell us that the status quo just isn't working.
As President Bush has said, "If we don't adjust quickly, and if we don't do smart things with the taxpayers' money, we're going to have a shortage of skilled workers and we're no longer going to be on the leading edge of change."
In other words, we cannot just "pour new funds into old federal models." We have to anticipate needs and take steps to meet them.
One of the best ways is through technology. As part of our Adult Education national plan, we're establishing a web-based system to inform adults of programs and activities that help them learn English and math. And we'll offer access to software so they can learn these skills from any computer at any time.
Technology is changing the world faster than our imagination can predict it. Our high schools may be very different places a decade or two from now. The old, regimented "factory"-type model, based on time spent in classrooms, may give way to a new "competency-based" model that measures progress according to what kids have learned, not the date on the calendar.
Such a model would take full advantage of community resources, private sector innovations and the advanced, interactive technologies kids and teachers use at home and school. We already see it in the movement to create "Digital High Schools" and the explosive growth of "Distance Learning." It is a smarter, faster, more student-centric model of learning.
I compare it to tax season—which is on many Americans' mind right now! In the past, you would see lines of cars stretching to the post office at midnight on April 15th. That was the old model. Now sophisticated computer programs like "Turbotax" help us get the job done faster and better.
I have traveled to elementary and secondary schools across the country, from Ohio to California, and closer to home in Annapolis and Richmond. I've spoken with dozens of parents, teachers, principals and administrators. I have not heard many questions about specific federal programs.
I have heard concerns about how well we are preparing young adults to succeed in higher education and the workforce. They understand that we live in a world in which 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs will require post-secondary education or training.
Reform cannot wait. According to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, our students lose interest in math and science the further they advance through the educational system.
Meanwhile, Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, reports that "China and India are expanding their university-level math, science and engineering programs at a pace comparable to the United States after World War II." He adds, "If the world's best engineers are produced in India or Singapore, that is where our companies will go."
In 2001, India graduated nearly one million more students from college than the U.S.; China has six times as many graduates majoring in engineering. Both are now members of the World Trade Organization. If only 10 percent of their population is well-educated, that means 230 million new competitors. Clearly, we're no longer the only economic kid on the block.
This is a time of change and opportunity. But we can take advantage only if we change as well. We must stop being captives of the past and start thinking like competitors and consumers.
President Bush's proposals will help create a seamless educational continuum from K-12 through college and beyond, to serve young students and adults seeking to adapt to the ever-changing global economy.
All Americans need a strong foundation of academic skills in order to fulfill their roles as workers, parents, and citizens. We look forward to working with the Committee and Congress to help make it happen. Thank you.
Note: Part I was featured in the Extra Credit on Friday, April 15, which is available online.
About Extra Credit
NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
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