May 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Former NYC school leader urges focus on teaching, technology

Dramatic changes in education are needed to prepare students for 21st century jobs, Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City Department of Education, said Wednesday at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

Klein, the keynote speaker for a panel on “STEM Economy: Innovations in Educating the Next Generation,” said America needs to make teaching the most revered profession, and technology can be used to transform education.

“It can make kids more engaged and teachers more effective,” Klein said, discussing tech innovations in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. “Five years from now, we will see a radical reimagining of the education system. Our challenge is, will the American dream become the American memory?”

Klein said Michigan must have real curriculum standards and gave a shout-out to Gov. Rick Snyder for standing up for Common Core State Standards, which have become embroiled in controversy nationally. Michigan approved the standards in 2010.

“America’s colleges and universities are seen as the best in the entire world. No one comes here to study K-12,” he said. “What we need is the kind of leadership that steps up and says business as usual and incremental change will no longer work.”

Also part of the panel were Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation in Detroit; Von Washington Jr., executive director of community relations at the Kalamazoo Promise; and Tiffany Williams, executive director of Teach for America Detroit.

Allen said she thought several education initiatives were going well in Metro Detroit, including a concept called personalized learning, where students learn according to individualized plans that meet them at their current education level. Such a model is at work in the Education Achievement Authority, a state-run district created by Snyder for the state’s worst performing schools.

“We all have complaints about the EAA. We need to focus on what is working and stop fighting against each other. How do we deploy this model to other students?” Allen said.

Washington said STEM education begins in the 6th grade in Kalamazoo, where 99 percent of graduates are attempting postsecondary education through a scholarship program that covers their tuition.

“That project-based learning gets them in there learning. Do we need more than money from businesses? We need greater partnerships,” he said.

In Detroit, Teach for America is part of the 100Kin10 initiative, a national initiative to increase the number of STEM teachers

“When STEM is done right, schools have teachers who are collaborating across the board. So there aren’t any disconnects for kids,” Williams said.

jchambers@detroitnews.com
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