Improving the Quality of Teachers in the Classroom
Remarks of Diane Melley, Director, Corporate Community Relations, IBM Corporation

Good afternoon. I am Diane Melley, Director IBM Community Relations. I am responsible for IBM's Global Volunteerism Program and support our work in public education worldwide. Over the last ten years, IBM has been one of the leading corporate contributors of cash, technology and talent to non-profit organizations and educational institutions across the U.S. and around the world. We are committed to applying our skill and ability as an innovator against the challenges that exist in communities across the globe, addressing both education and societal concerns and doing so in a fundamental and systemic way.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you our experience and perspective from our global Reinventing Education initiative and our recently announced Transition to Teaching Program.

IBM launched the Reinventing Education grant program in 1994 not only because we felt business had a tremendous responsibility to improve education, but also because we believed that IBM's technology expertise -- working in collaboration with school leadership and with the guidance of experienced teachers and administrators -- could make a unique and meaningful difference in our schools.

Now a $70 million program, Reinventing Education is raising the quality of teaching and learning for all children by attacking systemic problems at their root, using technology as a lever for change. In each of our 21 U.S. and eight international sites, IBM has been working closely with over 90,000 teachers, administrators and parents to develop and implement technology solutions designed to eliminate the barriers that have stood between students and world-class performance. Each of our projects is working to overcome a specific barrier to school reform, such as the length and structure of the school day and year, how learning is measured, and how language, math and science are taught. Collectively, the projects address nearly every aspect of the education agenda -- from home-school communications, to data management and analysis, classroom instruction, teacher training, and student assessment

Since the beginning of Reinventing Education, IBM has been working with the Center for Children and Technology of the Education Development Center, an independent, not-for-profit research and evaluation organization, to ensure that our efforts are truly having a measurable impact on student achievement. Their findings include significant student gains in core academic areas in a number of sites, as well as evidence that each Reinventing Education site involved teacher professional development solutions characteristic of what recent research tells us are key qualities for effective teacher development - sustained opportunities that are embedded in the regular teaching experience and that are able to be used immediately by the participants.

Our most recent partnerships with school districts focus almost exclusively on professional development, because if we want great schools, we must have great teachers.

Just over a year ago, IBM's Chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano, co-chaired the National Innovation Initiative. The NII Report, issued in December 2005, articulated the competitive challenges facing the United States and the urgent need to "unleash America's innovation capacity to drive productivity, standard of living and leadership in global markets."

While the Innovation Agenda encompasses many initiatives and stakeholders, the human dimension is critical. We need to build the base of scientists and engineers and prepare the next generation of innovators. It is clear that if we are going to have a constant flow of talent in science and engineering, we need to attend to the earliest stages in the K-12 pipeline. We must insure that students in middle, junior high and high school are having the experiences that will generate enthusiasm about science and math and their ability to solve problems. They must also complete a rigorous curriculum so that they have the option of pursuing scientific and technical degrees in college.

This requires a cadre of incredible math and science teachers in our schools, teachers who have the content expertise, the real world experience, an understanding of problem-based learning and the pedagogic practice to launch the next generation of innovators.

In September 2005, IBM announced Transition to Teaching, our own initiative to address the K12 pipeline issues and encourage young people to enter science and engineering careers.

For Transition to Teaching, we decided to address the issue by leveraging our greatest asset - IBM employees. Of course, most IBMers have backgrounds in math and science, whether they are currently working in software development, research, consulting or management. IBMers are also great volunteers; more than 60,000 of them engage in volunteerism through our On Demand Community, contributing over 2.3 million hours of service in the last 2 years. And the majority of IBMers who volunteer do so in a school, many visiting schools during e-Week, over 8,000 eMentors providing online academic assistance to students, working with children in a Head Start or daycare program, or leading an after school program for middle school students or coaching high school students for a science fair or robotics competition through They also run EX.I.T.E. camps for middle school girls to encourage them to pursue math and science careers. These IBMers tell us repeatedly that they have a passion for education, for young people and for giving back to the community.

At the same time that we are focusing on the national decline in math, science and engineering, another trend has the public's attention - the changing face of retirement and mature workers. Recognizing that there is a large group of IBM employees who are approaching what was once formal retirement age, and that IBM employees are eager to continue being productive and contributing to their communities, we are specifically targeting our mature workers who are interested in a second career in teaching. We want to reach these IBM employees who are ready for their next challenge to help address the national teacher shortage in math and science.

The IBM Transition to Teaching program will begin with a pilot, with as many as 100 U.S. employees across the country participating in our first class of 2006. If successful, and we trust it will be, we will expand significantly. We also hope to engage other companies in similar efforts.

Each employee chosen for the program will be able to participate in models involving both online course work and more traditional courses, participate in online mentoring while remaining at the company, and student teach for up to four months to meet state certification requirements and prepare them with quality experiences. IBM will provide participants with up to $15,000 for tuition reimbursement and stipends during their time in the classroom.

Our criteria focus on IBMers who already have a Bachelors degree or higher in a math or science discipline. We are reimbursing their tuition costs for education preparation. We are also providing stipends for IBMers so they can go on a leave of absence, maintain their benefits and do student or practice teaching for up to 4 months.

We need to make sure that practice teaching is done under "qualified teachers." This means collaborating with schools and school districts to place teacher candidates in appropriate settings and also providing support to mentor teachers. IBM is already working with the State Education Departments and/or public universities in North Carolina, New York and most recently in PA to develop new program models that meet these criteria.

IBM's Transition to Teaching is one small effort. We know that our 100 participants will not make an appreciable difference in a teacher shortage of national proportions, though we are convinced that they will have a significant positive impact on the thousands of students they teach. Even if we double or triple our program and even if 10 other companies start similar efforts, the private sector alone can not solve this problem. However, we can influence and improve teacher preparation programs; we can enhance the reputation of teaching as an option for math and science professionals; and we can jumpstart a national discussion with influencers like the National Science Board, school districts, colleges of education and others that certainly will provide the solutions we need.

I look forward to continuing this discussion today and to sharing our experiences further.

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Last Modified: 05/05/2006