Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parent Involvement Equals Student Achievement

By Byron Garrett, National PTA Chief Executive Officer

During another hotly contested presidential election, the nation’s largest child advocacy organization remains steadfast in its own campaign and calling for the support necessary to improve the education system.

That’s why we support the urgent call at the Education Summit to reinforce the fundamental role of parents in their children’s education. Simply put: parent involvement equals student achievement. For parents to be engaged and make informed decisions, however, they need information about their child’s academic progress in a timely manner and in easily understandable terminology.

We’ll continue to make the urgent call for these principals as we bench the bake sale and return to our roots of being a relevant leading voice for all children from the playground to Capitol Hill.

My recent selection speaks volumes about the course PTA is taking. Once known as the “Congress of Mothers” the organization appointed me, an African-American male to carry out its mission in 2008 and beyond. The fact that I’m writing as the National PTA’s new chief executive officer sends a robust and significant statement to the public about our path.

For generations, PTA has championed passing child labor laws, the defeat of polio, desegregation of schools, and establishing a juvenile justice system. These are great feats that will stand the test of time, no doubt. But our nation faces even tougher challenges today. The reality is that there is an urgent wake up call in society today. America is in crisis. Not merely because of the economy or because of rising food and gas prices. America is in crisis because our nation’s public schools face a devastating achievement gap, widespread funding shortages, and uncompromising federal mandates… All of which have a direct affect on our nation’s economic future. Most importantly, America is in crisis because our children don’t have the schools they need to grow up and learn in. In case you've missed it, education is an economic development issue for our country as it is for those who lead us around the globe.

We will continue to focus on and provide resources to families that help them meet the needs of every child in this country. In short, PTA will stay the course on its Campaign for Kids—providing a voice for those who are voiceless. Although children do not cast ballots at the polls, they vote every single day. Every day kids across this nation vote with their feet to drop out of school which is the epicenter of the crisis we face.

Education experts have shown that there is a positive and convincing connection between family involvement and student achievement. Don't be fooled this election cycle. As a parent, a caregiver, an extended family member or contributing citizen, we must rise to the occasion to meet the needs of every child in this country. Regardless of your gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, you have a duty, an obligation to ensure that every child's potential becomes a reality. PTA will continue to lead the charge for this campaign for kids and welcome you to join over five million like minded advocates. The very future of our nation is at stake and you must be part of the solution.

To learn about parental engagement, go to the PTA's website.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Supporting Strong Parent Engagement

Attendees to Monday's National Education Summit were interviewed for their thoughts on key principles of the Summit. Individual interviews of these attendees and others will be available for viewing on the Aspen Institute website.

Bill Jackson, President and CEO of GreatSchools
The road to civic engagement passes through the realm of self-interest. Parents have to understand that this is about their children. Parents are the students 1st teachers, the need to advocate for students and hold their schools accountable.

Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform
This is a key issue and parents are tuned in. The reason we are often complacent is because we don’t have the options for parents to ask the difficult questions. What parent’s value more than anything is the report card, if you don’t give them something to do, if the child comes home with a ‘D’ - you turn them off…. Information is power. It is an old statement, but it really is true. Mothers do go to the web, dads do go to the web, and children do go to the web!!

Michael Wotorson, Director, Campaign for High School Equity
The first and most important thing parents need to know is that they have access to their children’s school leadership. They need to establish a relationship with school administrator and understand how the system works. And lastly, they have a role in what is going to happen to their children.

Lillian Sparks, Executive Director, National Indian Education Association
The parents I represent have the same concerns as all the other parents in the nation. NCLB, at its core, really does want to help every child. Now that we know that – how do we fix it to.

Peter Zamora, DC Regional Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
MALDEF is currently working in communities providing a 16-week curriculum for parents in 10 states to educate them on ways to get engaged in their children’s education.

Patricia de Stacy Harrison, President and CEO of Corporation of Public Broadcasting
Public education is in our DNA. Our mission was to educate and inform. 40 yrs ago we were given the mission of reaching out to under-served populations. Parents are our partners. We earn the trust of parents, so they know that we provide a safe place for children to learn and take education very seriously. We currently have a bilingual show, “A place of their own” to help parents and caretakers learn how to educate their children. A recent poll showed that 95% of all public TV are on the ground working with parents and teachers not only through broadcast but also through other means. We are funded by taxpayer dollars, but also by community sponsors. We are committed to a public-private partnership.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reinforcing the Need for High Standards and Accountability

Attendees to Monday's National Education Summit were interviewed for their thoughts on key principles of the Summit. Individual interviews of these attendees and others will be available for viewing on the Aspen Institute website.

Michael Wotorson, Executive Director, Campaign for High School Equity
The Civil Rights community is on strengthening rigor and setting high national standards. Communities of colors stood up against reauthorization no children left behind without accountability. Data is become more and more robust- now we can see what is happening to students of color. From a civil rights perspective, it embodies what the civil rights movement is all about. We are in favor of the NCLB reauthorization and in favor of accountability, transparency and high expectations for all students.

Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education & former-Governor, West Virginia
Accountability is incredibly important. Accountability on graduation rates is a part of that. Currently, the Federal government allows five different ways to measure graduation – we have no way to compare. It is not that the U.S. is educating worse than we have before, but rather that the rest of the world is accelerating its advancement.”

Calling for Effective Teachers in Every School

Attendees to Monday's National Education Summit were interviewed for their thoughts on key principles of the Summit. Individual interviews of these attendees and others will be available for viewing on the Aspen Institute website.

Senator William Brock, former-US Senator from Tennessee, Founder of Intellectual Development Systems, Inc.

You can never have a world-class education system without having a world-class teacher. We pay them like dirt then we micromanage them – we are driving the very best away. You have to pay better with portable pensions and give them the treatment a professional requires.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Echoing the Need for an Urgent Call

Here are some statements from a few attendees to Monday's National Education Summit. Individual interviews of these attendees and others will be available for viewing on the Aspen Institute website.

Lillian Sparks, Executive Director, National Indian Education Association
Getting our kids just to the classroom is a major issue. Transportation concerns – populations in rural areas – which is different from what we talked about this morning. It was comforting to know that a lot of the issues we face in rural areas are similar to those in the inner cities. Moreover, there is a national conversation around these issues.

Peter Zamora, DC Regional Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
NCLB created a national conversation around education, which has been useful. Improving access to education for Latino communities to quality education cannot be just access for access sake. NCLB may be flawed but it is the best vehicle we currently have.

Jane Swift, former-Governor of Massachusetts
What’s scary is how much work we have done and how much work there is left to do. There are many lessons to learn from Massachusetts. The Governor enumerated that success was contingent on mustering the broad based political support, including the business community, teachers and public policy leaders. Crucial was the cultivation of public opinion makers; which included both major newspapers in Massachusetts, who supported the basic principles. This allowed the elected officials to stay on track with a broad based political support. We as the government had to demonstrate to the parent, student and the public that we were committed to the endeavor. We succeeded with a 90 percent graduation. All of this was possible because we were successful in changing the dialogue. But, this would not have been possible if we did not have a firm deadline over our heads, a pending law suit. Deadlines were reasonable but aggressive.

Senator William Brock, former-US Senator from Tennessee & Founder of Intellectual Development Systems, Inc.
I am terrified with what is happening to us, the rest of the world is doing something different. I am not used to the United States not being first. Superintendents are operating in a system that is dysfunctional. The system itself was designed in a mercantile society not in a global economy – we have to teach more effectively the basics of math and science. System designed for mediocrity because it does to relate to the global reality. We are competing with the brazils of the world, with the panamas with the Chinas. We have to get parents involved. We have to convince parents that our children are not being served by a broken system.

Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education & former-Governor, West Virginia
We’ve got a lot to do. It’s the old 1/3, 1/3,1/3 rule. 1/3 drop out and 1/3 doesn’t graduate from college. In a recent 8th grade NAEP exam, we found that 70% of our children are reading below the proficient level. I do not want to spend an additional federal dollar to make a dysfunctional system more expensive.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Videos from the Summit Sessions

Videos from each of the Summit sessions is now available at Featured videos include:
  • Aspen Institute CEO and President Walter Isaacson opening the Summit
  • U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressing the current State of American Education
  • Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer highlighting the realities and challenges
  • Fox News and National Public Radio Analyst Juan Williams offers an opening comment
  • Session One: The State of American Education: Where Do We Stand? This session featured Governor Roy Romer, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donahue, United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein
  • Session Two: Educational Performance: What are the Implications for the Nation's Economy, Global Competitiveness, Security and Health Care? This session featured Isaacson, former Michigan Governor John Engler, Byron Auguste, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and NCLR President Janet Murguía
  • Session Three: A Matter of Will: Can We Sustain our Commitment to Excellence for All Children? This panel featured Atlantic Media Company Political Director Ron Brownstein, Prince George's County (Maryland) Schools Superintendent John Deasy, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall, Education Trust President Kati Haycock, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten
  • Session Four: Are We Aiming at the Right Target? Will Students Be Prepared with Current Expectations? This panel featured David Bradley, owner of the Atlantic Media Company, Vicki Phillips of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Chairman and CEO of Accenture William Green, Executive Director of Council of Chief State School Officers Gene Wilhoit and Michael Ortiz, President of California State Polytechnic University in Pomona
  • Session Five: Investing in the Enterprise: Could Public Education Make the Grade as a Capital Venture? This session featured CitiBridge Foundation president Katherine Bradley, California State Board of Education President Theodore Mitchell, Edison Learning Institute Founding Partner John Chubb, 2005 National Teacher of the Year, District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and co-founder and CEO of New Leaders for New Schools John Schnur, Jason Kamras

Monday, September 15, 2008

Keynote: Condoleezza Rice

Keynote Address by Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State
To view the complete address, go to

Thank you very much. I’d like to thank you, Walter, for that kind introduction. But I’d also like to thank you for the opportunity that Walter did give me to play with some students from the Aspen Music School. I was a student myself in the Aspen Music School in 1972, and the experience was terrific and it absolutely convinced me that I had made the right choice to move on from music.

I’d also like to recognize my good friend and colleague, Margaret Spellings. We’ve been in this together for a while now, Margaret. And Margaret is a trailblazer, and I don’t know anybody whose heart is more in her work than Margaret. So thanks for everything you do.

I’m glad to see that former Assistant Secretary Patricia Harrison is here. Patricia was our Educational and Cultural Affairs Assistant Secretary at the State Department, and she’s now the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and we remain very grateful for her years of service.

Now, I want to talk a little bit about education. As an educator, I have a really firm appreciation for the work that is done each day and every day in the classrooms across America to enrich lives and to uplift people. So I know that I am among educators and that I don’t need to convince you of the essential role that education must play in our society. I know too that I don’t have to convince you that we have a lot of work to do, because we are really not succeeding at that task in the way that America must.

There are still fewer students graduating in key fields of science and technology than we need. The United States graduated just a little over 67,000 engineers in 2006, in a world that needs engineering and the creativity that it brings. Currently, the United States ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of students receiving degrees in science or engineering. Three decades ago, we were third.

And from my world, I am concerned that less than one percent of our youth are studying critical languages. Now, that would be trouble enough. But it is even more troubling that many children, particularly from underprivileged backgrounds, are simply not finishing high school. And we know that that means that fewer Americans are going to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.

Now, as someone who has devoted her life to education – I’m an educator – this breaks my heart. And it breaks my heart because I am also someone who has benefited greatly from our educational system.

But today, I want to tell you not why it breaks my heart as an educator, but why it worries and concerns me as Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, as I’ve traveled around the world representing this great country which I love and which I admire so much, I have seen firsthand the importance of confident American leadership. In a troubled world, in a world in which sometimes values are out of kilter, in a world in which the challenges to the kind of world that we want to be are many, I know that the United States does indeed stand as an anchor of values, an anchor of principle – not a perfect one, to mind you, because the United States of America has certainly had its struggles with its own principles – but as the country to which everyone, and I want to underline everyone, looks for leadership, confident leadership.

Now, I am quite certain that America will not be a confident leader in the future if, in fact, we cannot compete. And we cannot compete if our population is not educated to the tasks of the 21st century. I can assure you that if we feel that we have lost our ability to compete, we will turn inward. We will fight to protect a shrinking economic pie internationally, not look to be an engine to expanding that economic pie.

One of the remarkable things about the United States after World War II was that we enjoyed probably 50 percent of the world’s GDP at the end of World War II. And yet, we didn’t seek from that position of strength to protect our share, but we helped to create an open trading system, a system of open markets, believing that if every country grew and if all people prospered, we would all do better. That’s how we dealt with our strength. And when we were confronted in – at the end of the 1950s by a Soviet Union that seemed to be racing ahead of us in science and technology, the so-called Sputnik challenge, how did we answer it as Americans? Not to get fearful, not to turn inward, but to say that’s a challenge that we can take on, and to decide we were going to go to the moon. And not only that, but we took on the Sputnik challenge by making it the patriotic thing to do to learn Russian. Now, I was one of the beneficiaries of that national defense languages approach, having, myself, fellowships under that program to learn to speak Russian.

And so when we have been challenged in the past, we have believed and been confident in our ability to meet those challenges because we were confident in the strengths of each and every individual American to meet the challenge and to succeed. So America, in order to lead from confidence, is going to have to train and educate its people so that we know that we are indeed capable of competing.

But more than that, more than that kind of common wisdom thinking about why it is that we need to educate our people, I want to argue to you that this also has to do with leading from a sense of who we are. You know, around the world, I know that America’s military strength is not what’s really admired. It’s respected, to be sure. And I know too that not even our economic power is really admired. It is desired and it is even, at times, envied. America is admired around the world because of who we are and what we represent. We are a nation where you can get ahead regardless of your circumstances. We are a nation that values merit and that values hard work over where you came from. That’s, in fact, what draws so many immigrants to this country, a nation of opportunity and creativity and innovation that lets each and every individual achieve at the highest level possible for that individual. It’s what leads people to try to make a better life for families who are living in subsistence, and it’s the same impulse that drives all of those people to come from around the world as software engineers to go to the Silicon Valley. And if you stand in an elevator in Palo Alto, California, you will see the faces of every place in the world and you will hear the accents of every place in the world.

So at its core, that is what the world believes about America, that it is a place that if you can just be there and get there, you can succeed, because America has an open pathway to success for all. Now, that belief of others reflects very much how we think of ourselves. We have in this country, as all countries have, a myth about ourselves. Now, a myth is not something that is not true, but it is a kind of organizing principle, a kind of organizing set of beliefs about who we are. It was once called the log cabin myth. You could grow up in a log cabin and be president. And we really believe that. We really do believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from; it matters where you’re going. We also believe that even if our children – even if we didn’t do very well, well, things will be better for our kids.

Now, in my own family, this value was so strong in grandparents who just believed that America, despite the limited horizons of Birmingham, Alabama, was going to be better for their kids and their grandkids than it was for them. My grandfather on my mother’s side sent all five children to college. In fact, when my uncle tried to drop out and to go to work in Pennsylvania, my grandfather got on a train and he went and got him, and he got him back and he put him in college someplace. (Laughter.) And when my dear aunt, who now lives in Norfolk, Virginia and is a retired school principal, decided that she was going to run away from college and make her fame and fortune in New York instead, he got on a train and he went to New York, and he deposited her with my father’s mother and sister to go to college. That was how strongly he believed in education, because he understood that with an education, it really didn’t matter what circumstances there had been; it mattered what would happen next, what the educated person could be.

And I’ve seen that play out time and time again, as a Stanford professor standing in front of a classroom and seeing on the one side a fourth generation Stanford legatee and right next to that kid the son or daughter of an itinerant worker, knowing that after their experiences at Stanford or at any other university, all that would matter is that they had been educated. It wouldn't matter where they came from; it would matter where they were going.

Now, that would be reason enough, an instrumental reason to be able to compete, a philosophical reason to be able to live up to our great national image of ourselves. But there’s more. Education is more than just a way to get a job. Education is more than just a way to achieve a little bit more. Education is truly a way to become who you were really meant to be. Its transformative power is what really makes education special. And that transformative power, making certain that each and every individual can achieve whatever they can and become who they were really meant to be, is what makes for the richness of America.

And again, in my own family, there was a wonderful example of this. My grandfather on my father’s side was a sharecropper’s son. He was living in Ewtah – that’s E-w-t-a-h – Alabama. (Laughter.) And one day, he decided he wanted to get book learning. Why, nobody really knows. And so around 1919, he started asking how could a colored man go to college. And they said, well, you see, there’s this little Presbyterian school about 60 miles from here called Stillman College, and you could get a degree there. So my grandfather saved up his cotton and he made his way to Tuscaloosa to go to Stillman College.

And he made it through the first year, and then in the second year they said, “All right. Now, how are you going to pay for your second year?” And he said, “Well, I don’t have any more cotton.” They said, “Then you’ll have to leave.” And he said, “Well, how are those boys going to college?” They said, “Well, they have what’s called a scholarship. And if you wanted to be a Presbyterian minister, then you could have a scholarship, too.” My grandfather said, “That’s exactly what I had in mind.” (Laughter.) And my family has been Presbyterian and college-educated ever since. (Laughter and applause.)

And this same Grandfather Rice, at the height of the Depression, came home one day and he was just so happy, my father said. He had nine leather-bound books: the works of Victor Hugo, the works of Shakespeare. And my grandmother said to him, “John, how much did you pay for those books?” And he said, “Ninety dollars.” The height of the Great Depression. She said, “How are we going to pay for them?” He said, “Don’t worry. We can pay for them on time.” My grandmother was not amused. (Laughter.)

But he knew something, that the sharecropper’s son, exposed to Shakespeare and Victor Hugo would somehow be different. And one of the proudest moments for me was when my father – my grandfather died in 1954, just before I was born – but when my father presented the five remaining leather-bound books to me on the day that I got my Ph.D.

Now, I suspect that Granddaddy Rice would have known that passing this on from generation to generation to generation was passing on more than opportunity. It was passing on a dream. It was passing on a sense of who you could be. And that, more than anything, is what education does. And by the way, in a country in which we are not bound by blood or by nationality or by religion, it is extremely important that we know that we do, in fact, have this ability to make ourselves over and over again, and that it is available to all. You see, it is our diversity that defines us. But on this, it is our sameness, the fact that we are bound by this ideal, the core that every individual matters, that each individual has a right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we know that in today’s world, the pursuit of happiness is a lot more fulsome and a lot more possible if you are educated.

And so what we do when we fight for and struggle for education, when we confront what President Bush has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” is we fight for America’s confidence as a leader: confidence that our people will be capable of taking the jobs of the 21st century so that we do not have to turn inward and protect; confident that we will live up to our great national myth that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going, and that for each successive generation that will be truer; but confident too that, as a people, we are united in our belief and in our certainty that our national belief in the pursuit of happiness, the transformation that takes place when you’re educated, is available to all.

Thank you very much.

Panel Discussion Five: Investing in the Enterprise: Could Public Education Make the Grade as a Capital Venture?

During this session the audience will be encouraged to take a fresh look at public education by imagining that the enterprise must do more than simply open its doors every year to attract students and public dollars. Now is the time to pursue bold reforms that will produce significant and sustainable gains in our educational performance at scale. Participants will propose innovative ways to better engage parents with information and options and more effectively use student performance data for accountability purposes and to better support teachers and school leaders.

To view the complete discussion, go to

Moderator: Katherine Bradley, President, CityBridge Foundation

Investor: Ted Mitchell, CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund and President, California State Board of Education

Pitch Team:
* Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools
* Jon Schnur, President, New Leaders for New Schools
* John Chubb, Managing Director Edison Learning Institute

Excerpts from the discussion:

Michelle Rhee:
“We are trying to create the definition of success here in the District. I am accountable only to the mayor. Teachers will be accountable for every child in their classrooms. What I've learned over the past 15 months is that cooperation; collaboration and consensus building are way overrated!”

“We have gotten our first-year achievement results back—our one year gains were greater than the previous four years together. Our long-term goal is to be the best performing urban school district in the country. Within five-years you'll see a vastly different school system.”

“We created conditions for success in the district: got rid of the school board; leadership in place; accountability in place; we have a vision. We are laying our bottom lines and everyone is having to fall in line.”

Jonathan Schnur:
“New Leaders for New Schools is trying to blend the best of the business world with education. Every child can and does achieve at high levels when s/he gets the best instruction.”

“In virtually every school getting high results from low-economic backgrounds has an outstanding principal.”

“When we're focused on results, talent and transparency you can make great strides toward improving schools.”

“We have slipped from first in the world in secondary and high school achievement and from percentage of college graduates.”

“It is easier for us to track principals in school districts with high accountability like those in Washington, DC, New York and Louisiana -- these cities are also becoming more attractive to principals.”

“We need to make working in education a revered profession. We need to make clear standards of effective teachers and school leaders.”

John Chubb:
“A high-quality teacher can utterly transform the life of a student in a relatively short period of time.”

“Hold schools accountable, then teachers accountable and eventually students accountable.”

“Right now we run schools in the same way as we have for the past hundred years. Technology enables teachers to teach kids one-on-one. Every industry has been transformed by technology except education and we need to change this.”

“The states in the nation that have established low levels of achievement and are giving their students awards for low levels of achievement, I have to believe that the parents will eventually rise up and not accept this. It will become more unacceptable and school boards will have to act.”

“Transparency, results and a system that invites innovation are the three most important steps needed. Choice, along with results and innovation, has brought us KIPP, New Leaders for New Schools and others.”

Panel Discussion Four: Are We Aiming at the Right Target? Will Students Be Prepared with Current Expectations?

Americans have long taken comfort in the belief that the U.S. education system is among the best in the world. However, the evidence shows that the rest of the world has caught, and in many cases, surpassed us in educational performance. This discussion will focus on the need to raise the level of expectations for K-12 students to ensure that they emerge from high school prepared for success in higher education and in the modern workplace. In particular, the session will focus on state efforts to work together to improve standards, proposals to create model national standards, as well as views from key leaders in higher education and the business community on the high costs of remediation and re-training.

To view the complete discussion, go to

* Moderator: David Bradley, Owner, Atlantic Media Company
* Vicki Phillips, Director, College Ready Initiative, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
* Gene Wilhoit, President, Council of Chief State School Officers
* Michael Ortiz, President, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
* William Green, Chairman & CEO, Accenture and Chairman Business Roundtable’s Education, Innovation and Workforce Initiative

Excerpts from the discussion:

Vicki Phillips:
“We remain hugely committed to all kids being college ready. Three lessons learned:
1. The interaction between students and teachers make all the difference in the world. Assessment data is where we see the most change.
2. We already know what works but we can't seem to make those strategies travel well across this country. How can we take on things that don't have national definitions?
3. We must have a deep sense of urgency.”

“Many foreign governments have more clarity than we do on assessments, standards, etc., as well as in areas where we don't even have national definitions yet. We are not keeping pace with the global community.”

“We are complacent when it comes to education.”

“Standards and data systems are paramount to having and accessing our success.”

“We sometimes forget that our 50 states accomplish quite a lot when they're inspired. How do we create a better assessment system? How do we come to consensus to create national standards?”

“The majority of states seem to want national standards so I am feeling cautiously optimistic.”

Gene Wilhoit:
“Many governors now say they are education governors. Every governor has tied education to economic development, and to competitiveness. They're driven on a short-term agenda. It's around standards, developing data systems, accountability.”

“Chinese leaders told us last year that their students were competitive at the American student level. Their goal is to do as well and surpass the United States. They're making investments at various levels of reform and getting results.”

“We're seeing more and more of the foreign students who come here to college are now going back to their home countries because there are more economic opportunities there.”

“We need to get by this debate of federal, state and local standards. We need one set of standards. Sixteen states have decided to agree to one set of standards. The standards need to be put in a form that the public and the business community understand.”

“We have to benchmark our work against other countries, not against other states.”

“There is great disparity among states on expectations. There was a tremendous resistance to federal expectations – Bush’s idea may have been an idea before its time.”

“We have done a fairly good job with those schools on the margins but not with the failing schools.”

“Since the development of NCLB, all states now have standards. The states are now being strategic about what they need to do compared to pre-NCLB.”

“Federal standards…negative reaction originally but there is an alternative. We need common standards. States have decided to move towards common standards; 44 states in the process.”

“The politics of education is essential to economic growth.”

“Still a sense that we still have a country to be admired but this is a more historical view of our society and not the view of the contemporary society.”

“Standards must be in the form that people understand. Standards must make students college ready. Standards must be internationally benchmarked. Standards must be based on student performance.”

“Congress could play a role in supporting the States in raising and meeting the newer, higher standards.”

William Green:
“We need talent to compete. The company with the best people wins. Competition is global. To have a competitive company, we need competitive institutions, the competitiveness of a workforce is important to all CEOs.”

“Globalization is here to stay and we have to be ready to compete.”

“Business has a huge stake in improving public education. At the Business Roundtable we desire a competitive economy, competitive companies, a competitive nation and a competitive and innovative workforce. This requires a highly educated and skilled workforce.”

“In India, parents steer their children to math and science. China is the same way. We have to raise the bar here in the United States. Parent engagement is crucial for success of student. Attracting and retaining talent is what companies think of and more and more, we tend to think of talent globally.”

“When China decides it wants to raise the bar in education it does it institutionally and nationally. We need to do the same if we are to remain competitive economically. If we do not set the bar, it will be set by our competitors.”

“The average time a CEO is on the job is 3.5 years so we have a sense of urgency concerning establishing lasting reform.”

“What we're attempting to do in CA is use the high school exit exam, taken in 11th grade, to determine if students are college ready. We added 15 questions to the exit exam, and this Early Assessment Program has shown us which students need remedial education to enter college.”

“California measures the difference between what the students need to graduate and what the colleges expect the students need to know to be college ready.”

Panel Discussion Three: A Matter of Will…Can We Sustain Our Commitment to Excellence for All Children?

Despite broad support for taking action to improve our schools, there has been a significant push back against the core elements of effective reform built on accountability for results, transparency on performance and high expectations for every child. Influential educational leaders will discuss why the broad-based support for these reform principles at the national and state level has been difficult to translate into sustained buy-in at the local level for making the tough decisions necessary to improve educational effectiveness. NCLB passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support six years ago. What have we learned since the law began our path toward a national commitment to accountability for improving the academic performance of all children?

To view the complete discussion, go to

* Moderator: Ron Brownstein, Atlantic Monthly
* Kati Haycock, President, The Education Trust
* John Deasy, Superintendent, Prince George’s County Schools (MD)
* Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
* Beverly Hall, Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools

Excerpts from the discussion:

Kati Haycock:
“As we visit with teachers around the country, it is painfully obvious that we haven't gotten the support part right.”

“NCLB has not changed the fact that we're assigning our weakest teachers to the neediest students. There are still high inequities in the funding for school districts. Looking at Dayton public school funding last week, there was about $450,000 funding difference between a low-performing school and a higher-performing one across town.”

“Having spoken with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, I am confident that Congress is going to stick with the core principles of NCLB.”

John Deasy:
“Students and parents must develop a better understanding what is vigorous high performance. NCLB provoked schools to engage parents. We need to do a better job of helping parents understand of what high-performing science, math, etc., looks like.”

“The accountability provision of NCLB has changed focus from the compliance to performance.”

“If performance does not improve, we should have the option to ask that teacher to leave our system.”

“Professional development allows faculty to clearly master practices and bring these back to the classroom. I don't know of many Fortune 500 companies that would still exist with just one percent of their budget being R&D.”

“We need an accountability system that holds the next president accountable for improvement.”

“Must re-think HR, re-think resources, re-think systemic changes.”

Randi Weingarten:
“We've learned that focus matters, accountability matters, transparency matters. What we need now is a shared definition of standards.”

“When we see great schools, we see a real investment in teachers in those schools.”

“Focusing on kids, standards, measurements are essential. This urgency is not about incremental growth. It has to be about helping all kids.”

“There needs to be consensus on an accountability system that is fair to all. There needs to transparency between state data. We need to have standards and accountability but this needs to be a shared responsibility.”

“There is no one I know who is not committed to fair accountability. Obama’s speech last week went beyond NCLB. The national discussion is just concentrating on NCLB. How do you help bring parents into the discussion in poor neighborhoods? How do you ensure health care for all children?”

Beverly Hall:
“Leadership is as important as is teacher quality.”

“We told schools if they met accountability targets, everyone gets rewarded, which improves their practice. One of the things that NCLB did is allow schools to know what they need to do because of data.”

“We told our people to continue focusing on teaching well. We try to give our teachers quality teaching development.”

“You really need to have support on the ground -- have coaches working with teachers. It's a resource issue to do this well.”

“Need other ways to test ELL and special needs children. We want accountability for these children but we need flexibility. I believe we need national standards. I volunteered for the NAEP assessment because I wanted verification that children are learning. Higher Teacher quality is very important.”

“It is a challenge to replicate successful programs. A lot of research has been done on what makes schools effective but the issue is replicating this.”

Panel Discussion Two: Educational Performance…What are the Implications for the Nation’s Economy, Global Competitiveness, Security, Healthcare?

For many individuals, the problems facing our education system appear to have little relation to or impact on their daily lives. However, our nation’s health and prosperity depends on a highly skilled and innovative workforce, vigorous civic institutions, and fully engaged citizens—all of which require first-rate education. For example, high school dropouts are more likely than graduates to suffer from health problems that drive up health care costs, more likely to be involved in criminal activity, and less likely to vote and take part in civic affairs. During this discussion, prominent leaders from the economic, national security, health care and civil rights arenas discussed the importance of an effective education system to these and other areas of our national life most often cited by voters. To view the complete discussion, go to

* Moderator: Walter Isaacson, President & CEO, Aspen Institute
* Tommy Thompson, Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
* John Engler, President, National Association of Manufacturers
* John Podesta, President & CEO, Center for American Progress
* Byron Auguste, Chairman, Hope Street Group
* Janet Murguìa, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza

Excerpts from the discussion:

Tommy Thompson:
“We must have up-to-date data to make decisions. Must have strict accountability and it must be enforced. Parents need more information about the services available to their children so their children can be brought up to date. We must go to merit pay of some degree for teachers - if you want your school system to work, you must pay your better teachers more.”

“NCLB is working but we must do more with standards and accountability, as well as choice.”

“I agree with the absolute necessity of data but there is a great need for leadership, which has been lacking for several years. We've lost leadership and focus since the governors were called together in the late '80s.”

Audience Question:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“Locking poor children into poor performing schools should be a civil rights issue. We should allow those children and their families choice to go to a school that is performing. Competition-wise, it will bring up all schools.”
John Engler:
“All the data is two-years old at best. We need to get data in real time. The National Assessment Governing Board should be privatized. It could be the NIH of education.”

“15,000 school systems around America. We could save millions of dollars if we standardize information and apply, across the board, lessons that we know work.”

“Business needs to see accountability if they are to get involved. College may not be for everyone but everyone must go into the workforce with a skill set. There is no place for unskilled labor today.”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“If we're to maintain a strong economic base, we need to have a strong manufacturing base of highly-skilled workers (fewer workers but more technology-based jobs).”
John Podesta:
“Where there has been leadership at the local level, we've seen success. The federal government can do more to deal with the dropout problem, high-performing teachers, and create more incentives for reform.”

“We must have fairness in the educator pay system. We need strong data associated with the ability to track what's working and what's not.”

“Politicians are lagging not leading on education. What will it take to lift this back up? There is bi-partisan agreement on how to reform high schools and get kids into college, and importance of pre-school; but it will take pressure from communities because the politicians aren't feeling the pressure to inact immediate education reform.”

“Establishment of national standards and a national test is an important role because of the difference in state tests and data.”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“The values of the United States was based on the dignity of all people and I would hate to lose this. We've become the greatest country on earth because we've valued all people.”

“At the national level, going back to President Johnson we passed Title One, but there's a loophole -- the kids who are the most economically advantaged still receive the most funding.”
Byron Auguste:
“McKinsey did a study on best performing school systems in the world, and the best school systems do things very differently (e.g., class size, local vs. national leadership). All systems retain top-notch teachers. They invested in teacher training and resources and used this information to intervene rapidly in school systems.”

“Teaching is a good job but a lousy career. You're making a huge difference in children's lives. But it's not a great career because of lower pay and people want to be recognized for a good job. If you're a teacher today you're alone for the most part, don't have up to the minute data. Young people today don't see how they can develop a career path in teaching. We need to set the bar higher and teachers need to see large corporations recruit teachers into their companies.”

“In 1965 we were number one in the world in education. In 1975 we were number one in the world in college. It was a huge national effort then and we need a national effort now. We have public data now but it's not timely data.”

“It is very important to get business involved -- for example, what if GE, which has one of the best training systems in the world, worked with teachers on training?”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“If you look at Finland, they have high achievement, including students from all economic backgrounds.”
Janet Murguia:
“We cannot be paralyzed by not knowing how to deal with the statistics. Embracing accountability is the future for Latino kids. We must set high standards but also must have resources to meet the standards. It is important to embrace accountability and standards.”

“We need to continue to embrace NCLB and standards measures. We must look at this in a more holistic way, such as the importance of pre-school education. Hispanic kids still have the lowest participation in pre-school despite one out of four children of pre-school age are now Latino.”

Audience Questions:
We can increase our global competitiveness if we leave children behind -- what are the economic and moral issues involved?

“We need the resources to invest in these accountability systems. We must also focus on kids achieving their best potential.”

“We cannot run NCLB on the cheap -- we all want higher standards and accountability, but the nuts and bolts also involve funding. Some people want to politicize this with immigrant kids -- but 90 percent of kids involved in the education system are American kids.”

Panel Discussion One: The State of American Education...Where Do We Stand

Despite spending more money per child than nearly every other developed country, U.S. students are falling dangerously behind their international peers and just half of all African-American and Hispanic students graduate from high school in four years. Key leaders, with different perspectives, engaged in a frank conversation about the state of American education, underscoring the urgency of our current situation. They discussed how vital it is that we work across party lines, and with all sectors of our society to develop a superior educational system based on accountability and transparency, that serves all of our children well for lives of opportunity and to compete in the global economy. To view the complete discussion, go to


* Moderator: Michael Lomax, President, United Negro College Fund
* Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education
* Roy Romer, Chairman, Strong American Schools
* Joel Klein, Chancellor, New York City Public Schools
* Tom Donohue, President & CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Excerpts from the discussion:

Secretary Spellings:
“What do we do in the real-world to improve schools? Rome is burning and we need to put out the fire.”

“Making the case to the American people is essential.”

“Americans don't understand why they must be concerned about ALL children.”

"Without public will, public support, and public understanding of the importance of education to our economic strength, politicians won't move very far in their efforts to improve public education."

“We're fat, dumb and happy as a country. Without information about public will, public support and public understanding, politicians will feel no urge to scratch the itch. We have to make the case that we all have a stake in each other's kids. This is why the business community is so essential.”

Roy Romer:
"There is a real advantage we had between our economic strength over the past 50 years and the education level of our populace. That is beginning to slip and we are asleep at the wheel."

"We’ve had a massive failure to recognize the disparity between state tests. We're asleep in this country and need a national call for better testing and transparency in data.”

“How do you change the collective will of this country? Have a presidential report card delivered annually to every family about your student's ranking compared to their counterparts nationwide. To keep score educationally, you have to agree to certain things, right now we have 50 states doing 50 different things.”

“I would like to see 30 days after the next president is elected, a call for all 50 governors to gather together and ask 15 of them to voluntarily look at testing and accountability. The feds would pay for the design and administrative cost of the test, and will help pay for teachers.”

“The good news with ED in 08 is that we've touched a movement in this country that knows we need to do better. I am concerned that Americans still don't see the seriousness of the problem. Average families are smart enough to know they can't have kids 25th in math compared to other countries.”

Joel Klein:
“The reason we don't get the traction on this crisis is because people think it doesn't affect all children. Leadership must be on the hook and must challenge entrenched groups.”

"In the absence of real accountability, we will improve very little. The system needs to be based on accountability."

"The most important thing in improving education in the classroom is having a quality teacher in every classroom."

“The federal government should provide incentives to teachers who are getting real results with their students, the federal government can also put more dollar muscle behind changing the quality of teaching – we need real national leadership on this.”

"It will take national leadership to get this done...accountability, quality teaching and meaningful choice for families in high-poverty school districts."

"The real action takes place at the district level but we need a national umbrella to bring all of those efforts together, moving in the same direction. The federal government could reinforce what we are doing at the local level with greater resources."

“Education has to be the civil rights call of this century. We'll never fix poverty in this country until we fix education in this country.”

“All of the knock on the tests is that people want to avoid accountability. The most important thing in the quality of education is the teacher. Our neediest kids are not getting their fair share of high quality teachers. We must use federal dollars to incentivize choice in needy communities.”

“Local and national leadership matter. We should not let mayors off the hook. In New York City, we cluster similar schools and grade them annually. Give the people the information and data and you'll get citizens involved.”

Thomas Donohue:
"We're creating a two-tier society that creates a group of people without hope. With that comes an environment where crime, gangs and other negative aspects in our society thrive. All of this occurs when people don't receive a high-quality education."

"The business community needs to do more than it has done to date. We need to take a more involved approach to improving education and become a more visible, active and aggressive voice in creating lasting reform."

" Every time we leave a child or community behind we're exacerbating the problem. We need to look at education in a more practical sense - where do we get the workers to hold up this country? To take it to new heights?”

“The business community has not done as much as it could regarding education reform - business must take a more serious view, that's why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working with John Podesta (Center for American Progress) and others. Business must become a more visible force - we won't be as successful as we can be unless we get involved.”

“We need real data to enable people and to get them involved.”

“Workforce demographics, global competitiveness, a need for high-skilled employees demand we get going with a plan now.”

54 Years Later, Race Still an Issue

Remarks to the Summit by Juan Williams, Political Contributor for FOX News and News Analyst for National Public Radio

In many communities in America, we are facing a similar crisis to one faced by this nation fifty-four years ago…ensuring that every student, regardless of race, class, or ethnicity, will receive equal opportunities and access to a high-quality education. Far too many minority students are sitting in schools that do not serve them well. They have inexperienced or ill-equipped teachers, are saddled with low expectations, and often arrive each day to dilapidated buildings.

The issue of class, race, and ethnicity should all be important parts of this Summit’s discussion on improving education for all students. The deeper crisis within the educational crisis outlined today is the appalling achievement gap between minority and white students and the incredibly high dropout rate of minority students. It is the civil rights challenge of the 21st century and should be the political issue of the 21st century. There needs to be a roaring voice in this country demanding better schools that are held accountable, better prepared and effective teachers, and higher expectations for all students. Unfortunately, our political leaders will not deal with this unless there is greater consensus from the public at large.

Voices are being raised by from minority parents wanting to improve their children’s education. However, who will add their voice in support of theirs? We're 54 years past Brown vs. Board of Education and yet we are still fighting this fight. We must act now.

Sometime back I visited with Thurgood Marshall. He told me that there were some who felt he should have concentrated his legal efforts on improving the quality of education rather than on improving equal access for all race. They felt that if he had done so, we would be in better shape now. Marshall’s position was that he wasn't trying to create a Norman Rockwell portrait back then - he was dealing with the politics of white school boards of the '50s and said that's how it had to be viewed.

So, 54 years later, minority and low socio-economic status students are still short on access to high-quality schools. Look at high achievement rates of students, primarily white, in the suburbs of Washington, and mostly low achievement rates of schools in DC, primarily minority.

This era’s politicians more often than not bring attention to the failure of the public school system to deliver quality education for all while they run for office. That same fervor for equal opportunity and improvement isn’t always seen once they are in office. Ironic that many of today’s civil rights leaders and black politicians refuse to acknowledge the importance of this issue and how high unemployment, high incarceration, etc., in the minority community can be linked to the lack of high-quality public education in those communities.

There is no excuse for any of us to abandon poor and minority children. We must be a voice for these children who don't have a voice in American society - we must deal with this issue before it divides us beyond repair. We must deal with this issue with a degree of urgency or future generations will say we took our eyes off the prize.

Romer Calls for the Nation to Face its Educational Shortcomings

Roy Romer, Chairman, Strong American Schools & Former Governor of Colorado, had much to say about the current state of American education.

The political reality is that far too many Americans do not think there is a problem with the schools in their communities so it isn’t a problem for them. They couldn’t be more wrong and we need to do more to open their eyes to the realities and the ramifications of not greatly improving our nation’s public education system.

Take a look at our nation’s most recent ranking among industrialized countries (2006) in mathematics. If we were talking about Olympic competition, we wouldn’t even medal. U.S. high school students ranked 25th in math (out of 30 OECD countries) on international assessments. That’s behind Korea (#2), Japan (#6), New Zealand (#7), the Czech Republic (#11), Germany (#14), France (#17), the Slovak Republic (#20), and Spain (#24) to name a few. We are just ahead of Portugal (#26), Greece (#28), and Mexico (#30). In science we ranked only slightly better, 21st, with many of the same countries positioned ahead of us.

America once had the best graduation rate in the world, but in recent years has slipped to near the bottom (21st out 26 nations) among other industrialized countries. Against two of our economic competitors, China and India, the future looks bleak at our current high school graduation pace. China will have nearly 13 million graduates in 2015. India will have nearly 11 million. The U.S. will produce just over 4 million high school graduates.

This cannot and should not be acceptable to the American public or it’s political leaders.

The next president must educate the American people about the seriousness of our education problem. We need a "Sputnik" moment -- how do we get the American people involved in a national solution?

Improving our educational performance will pay huge economic dividends for our nation. Not doing so will see our great nation continue down this slippery economic slide in an ever-increasing competitive global economy. If America could increase the cognitive skills of its students to the level of the highest performing nations over the next decade, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would grow by an additional 4.5 percent over the next two decades—an amount that is equal to what the U.S. currently spends on K-12 public education.

In my opinion, the key is through the states. The biggest barrier to a national consensus on lasting reform is that states say education is a state issue. What I believe we need is for the states to voluntarily benchmark themselves against the 10 best industrial nations, and for the federal government to provide incentives in support of these efforts. We also must design more authentic tests to measure ourselves against these benchmarks. The feds could provide funds to design these tests.

Beyond the development of challenging benchmarks standards and assessments, we MUST have competent, high-quality teachers in every classroom, particularly in high-poverty, high-risk schools. So much more needs to be done here.

In the end, if we could have consensus on three key areas to reform and improve education, I would recommend these:

• Develop Common Rigorous Standards
• Ensure there are Effective Teachers in Every Classroom
• Provide More Time and Support for Learning