By Rex Arul
For the Journal-Constitution
Monday, December 08, 2008
I had my entire schooling and undergraduate education in India and came to the United States to pursue postgraduate study. What fascinates me as an observer is how quickly education “experts” here want to eviscerate traditional subjects and methods of teaching. In countries such as India, China and Singapore, there is a clear tendency to inculcate and periodically upgrade those very topics in their school curricula. It’s ironic that the United States leads the world in higher education while foundering in elementary and high school education.
The difference between these countries and the United States is particularly evident in the debate over calculus in high school. In Atlanta and elsewhere, some have suggested calculus should be relegated to the status of an elective, while putting more emphasis on so-called consumer math deemed to be more practical. The argument goes that calculus lacks significance in everyday life, while all students should know how to balance a checkbook.
U.S.-educated academics are increasingly returning to teach and spearhead special programs
By MARA HVISTENDAHL
As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in the 1990s, Yusheng Zheng used to get together with other Chinese scholars and dream of going home.
There were few Chinese business professors in the United States, and they formed a small, closely knit, and successful community. Still, Mr. Zheng and his friends felt their talents could be put to better use elsewhere.
"We would say, 'Why can't we start a business school in China?'" he recalls. "China was developing so quickly. There were so many things to study, and business education was not very well developed. We believed we could make more contributions there."
In 2002 the scholars got their chance when two Chinese administrators showed up to recruit them back — en masse — to lead a new business school.
Mr. Zheng had been in the United States since the 1980s, when he left China to pursue a Ph.D. at Columbia University. But he didn't have to consider the offer long.
Returning to his native Shanghai, he became associate dean of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, where today 27 of 35 faculty members are Chinese academics educated in the United States.
The Graduate School of Business is one of three ambitious programs established by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing to improve the quality of Chinese higher education, in part by drawing back some of the thousands of Chinese scholars who have left since China began opening up in the 1980s.
The Cheung Kong schools are the most extreme example of an aggressive recruitment scheme that has resulted in what is sometimes called China's "reverse brain drain." In a remarkable about-face from early Chinese policy on overseas study, government programs and individual academic departments alike now offer competitive benefits and salaries to candidates interested in returning from abroad.
Combined with China's rapid economic growth, the programs are attracting an increasing number of sea turtles, as they are known. (The Mandarin word for "sea turtle," haigui, is a homonym for "returnee.") Between 1978 and 2005, 770,300 students went abroad, and less than a quarter returned. But the majority of those who did return came back after 2000, with 35,000 coming in 2005 alone.
Returnees tend to assume positions of leadership, with the power to introduce new teaching methods, direct research, or oversee curricular reform. In contrast to the sense of longing that shaped his 1990s gatherings in America, Mr. Zheng describes a palpable excitement among his Cheung Kong colleagues.
"In the U.S., you're one of thousands of people who end up there," he says. "In China every one of us chooses to be here."
The flow of returnees back into China is now so noticeable that it has prompted a backlash. Cultural conflict, resentment from locals, and even infighting among returnees are common.
But these issues are growing pains, most say, that will disappear over time — if the academic environment in China continues to improve.
Serving the Country
The Chinese government didn't always see foreign universities as talent incubators. In the 1980s, as China's brightest students fled to the United States, officials at the State Education Commission, now the Ministry of Education, grew concerned. In 1988 they backed passport controls that required many Chinese studying overseas to return to China upon completing their studies, making it impossible for them to gain meaningful experiences and contacts abroad.
The following year, the Tiananmen massacre made the remaining overseas Chinese even more reluctant to return.
But as talent continued to drain out of China over the next decade, the central government changed its stance. Officials unveiled a series of welcoming slogans, proposing that students "serve the country" from abroad.
To sell skeptics on their homeland, the education commission's foreign-affairs bureau financed short lecture and research trips to China. The hope was that scholars would gradually strengthen ties with China, returning when the right opportunities presented themselves.
Homesick scholars found their chance in 1998, when the central government unveiled a project designed to channel millions of dollars into a handful of elite universities in an effort to bring them to international prominence. It gave nine top universities the equivalent of $120-million each in grant money and stipulated that 20 percent go to hiring from overseas.
Private donors contributed as well. In addition to financing the Cheung Kong universities, Mr. Li's foundation bankrolls the Cheung Kong Scholars Program, which provides annual bonuses of up to 100,000 yuan ($15,000) for recruitment of public-university professors from overseas. Since 1998, more than 800 foreign-educated professors, most of them returnees, have taken positions through this program.
Today, individual universities lead their own recruitment drives, says David Zweig, director of the Center on China's Transnational Relations at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the author of several papers on the reverse brain drain. To boost their positions in international rankings, he says, universities "want people who can publish in Western journals." That is easier for researchers fluent in English.
C.S. Kiang, dean of Peking University's College of Environmental Science, was one such recruit. In 2001 the Taiwanese-born Mr. Kiang was on the verge of retiring from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he had taught in and directed the atmospheric-sciences program, when he flew to Beijing to help the city work on cleaning up its air for the 2008 Olympics.
Rubbing shoulders with Peking University administrators, Mr. Kiang ended up on the steering committee for the university's effort to merge three departments into a central college.
Lacking what he calls the "personal baggage" of locally educated intellectuals who earned enemies during the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Kiang unified a divided faculty around the project. "You were the one who made it happen," he recalls Xu Zhihong, then president of Peking University, saying later. "Why don't you just be dean?"
When he assumed the post the following year, Mr. Kiang was given a mandate to shape the outlook of the new college. He introduced a program he calls, in English, the Four I's: internationalization, interdisciplinarity, integration, and innovation. Even the college's name was his idea, he says.
There was one complication: Mr. Kiang's salary was 10 to 20 times higher than what local faculty made. He tried to turn it down, he says, but university administrators, eager to broadcast their generosity to other potential returnees, insisted. (Mr. Kiang ended up donating part of the money to an environmental fund.)
The strategy worked. Mr. Kiang was Peking University's first foreign-educated dean, but today he has been joined by the Engineering Institute dean, Chen Shiyi, formerly of the Johns Hopkins University, and Yi Rao, dean of the School of Life Sciences, who was recruited from Northwestern University. Prominent returnees at rival Tsinghua University include the University of California at Berkeley economist Qian Yingyi, dean of the School of Economics and Management, and Shi Yigong, vice director of the Institute of Biomedicine, who was hired from Princeton University.
Mr. Kiang, meanwhile, has used his post to create a jet-setting career that includes regular appearances at World Economic Forum and Club of Rome meetings, along with an advisory position with Nelson Mandela's Global Elders, a group that includes the former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa, and the British businessman Richard Branson."I've gotten tremendous exposure globally, the way I wouldn't have been exposed at Georgia Tech," he says. "People go to Beijing. They don't pass through Atlanta."
On December 12, 2008, I was introduced to the BASIS Charter School audience by Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel and an advocate for school improvement.
The BASIS Charter School in Tucson Arizona is a hidden gem of educational excellence in America - one of the very few glimmers of hope that average American kids, in an average American town can achieve extraordinary academic results in an average facility populated with way above average teachers.
Ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the Top 100 for college readiness, BASIS Charter is considered the 13th Best High School in the nation. This achievement is all the more remarkable because the school is only 10 years old, has no Foundation or wealthy benefactor and draws its students from Tucson - a city of a half million with 20% in poverty and the average wage 25% below the national average.
As in India and China, BASIS teachers are all domain experts - so if one teaches physics at BASIS one has at least a BS and an MS in Physics. On top of superior domain knowledge, each teacher is recruited for their passion for teaching and trained in how to effectively teach.
It can be be done in America - with the freedom to choose a school with strong leaders, with highly qualified teachers, a rigorous academic curriculum, supportive parents and the will to succeed.
And it can be accomplished at a cost less than U.S. Government public schools.
American children in every city deserve at least one school like BASIS where they can learn on a level comparable to academically top performing nations.
GRAND RAPIDS -- No Grand Rapids high school students will find failing grades on their report cards when they arrive this week.
Instead, students who performed poorly will see an "H" for "held" and an opportunity to make up the work and earn a passing grade by the end of the next trimester.
Teachers union leaders argue the change is another late-marking period scramble to boost sagging scores and undermines their ability to get students to show up and work hard all trimester.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor said the plan gives students a second chance to overcome problems and be successful.
"We are not watering down standards or lowering standards," Taylor said. "We're giving people the opportunity to meet standards when they go astray."
Taylor said the move is part of the district's evolving "Success Only Option" that calls for offering students multiple opportunities and methods to demonstrate they know class material.
Late in the spring semester, administrators offered students a chance to improve scores by handing in missing work. Then, in the last days of the school year, teachers were prohibited from docking points for excessive absences or poor behavior.
Administrators this week are telling teachers about the latest change, which comes as they are turning in grades for the recently completed trimester.
About 2,400 failing grades were converted to "held" grades for the trimester. Students will have the option of repeating the course, taking it as an online class on Saturdays or evenings and working with tutors.
Students who have an "incomplete" grade can turn in missing assignments.
Grand Rapids Public Schools are not issuing failing grades for high school students this trimester, but reporting an "H" for "held," giving students more time to pass.
• Number of students: 4,186
• Number of classes taken: 20,930
• Number of "holds" issued: 2,364
SOURCE: Grand Rapids Public Schools
The work has to be made up by the end of the new trimester. Students also can decide to accept the failing grade.
Taylor said people have three chances to get their driver's license, and lawyers in some states can keep taking the bar exam until they pass.
"The only time we insist on failure if you don't get it the first time is with children in high school," he said. "Our children are our precious gifts and, if sometimes they need a little longer for their light to shine, let's let them do it."
He said the state's new graduation requirements require students to gain the needed credits in four years or be tagged a dropout, sparking urgency to turn around failing grades.
Spokesman John Helmholdt said the change was inspired by the district's NovaNet online courses, which does not allow students to progress through a class unless they demonstrate knowledge along the way.
School board members last week learned of the change, which did not require their approval because it is an administrative matter rather than a policy change.
"Too many kids see an F as the end, and we're looking for ways for them to look beyond failure and get back on track,' said Amy McGlynn, who chairs the board's Education Committee.
"And we needed to move quickly. Kids only have one year to take these classes, and they can't wait for us to hem and haw and wait until the beginning of the next year."
But teachers union President Paul Helder said the move reeks of desperation as administrators look for quick ways to improve the percentage of passing students. Union leaders are embroiled in a two-year labor battle with the district.
"We've already told kids they don't have to turn in their work when it's due, and then that they don't have to show up. Now they don't even have to work hard when teachers tell them to," Helder said.
"A lot of people are feeling their profession is losing its value, and that's a tough pill for them to swallow."
Taylor said districts in other parts of the state have made similar moves.
"When others do it, they get a standing ovation," he said. "When we do it, we're accused of lowering standards."
Wyoming has a similar program, with failing students given an incomplete grade. But the policy was amended this summer to give students just two weeks to earn a passing grade.
Superintendent Jon Felske said students last year had until the end of the school year to retake failed tests if it meant they could pass the marking period, and some waited too long.
"Teachers said they wanted a sense of urgency and to get the kids back working on the grades while they're still relevant," he said.
Felske said teachers had a voice in the decision and had three nights of meetings in July and discussions with department heads in August to get the plan in place before the start of the school year.
Academic and professional literature publisher Emerald Group Publishing Ltd., UK, has announced the release of two new journals, the Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship and the Journal of Knowledge-based Innovation in China. Both these journals focus on the subject of Enterprise in China. Published in association with CAMOT-the China Association for Management of Technology, the new releases provide relevant research for both academics and practitioners displaying a commitment to publishing management research originating from the fastest growing economies of recent years.
The Journal of Knowledge-based Innovation in China delivers information relating to the development of knowledge based innovation in the context of China, and firms’ innovation strategies for knowledge creation. Articles published in the journal bring together elements of theory and practice and are critically analysed in terms of science and technological innovation, based on university-government-industry interactions and the development of high-tech knowledge-based enterprises in China. The journal’s objective is to identify good practice in these areas and lead to more appropriate arrangements for addressing crucial issues surrounding the generation of innovation capacities and knowledge economy.
The Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship (JCE) claims to be the first journal to focus solely on qualitative and quantitative research in all areas of China business, entrepreneurship, innovation and entrepreneurial marketing. Governmental and industrial policies that inhibit or stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation will also be addressed. The Journal is currently considering any academic research article in the field of Chinese entrepreneurship.
Editors of both journals are now inviting prospective authors to submit papers for future issues. Both journals are available online at www.emeraldinsight.com.
Despite Little Experience, Teach for America Educators Outpace Veterans in Drawing Achievement from Students
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 27, 2008—Teach for America teachers may be new to the profession, but they are generally more effective than their experienced colleagues, finds a new Urban Institute analysis. On average, high school students taught by TFA corps members performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors. The TFA teachers' effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience.
The study, "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School," is the first investigation of the impact of TFA in high schools. The report's authors, Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, and Colin Taylor, analyzed North Carolina high school data produced between 2000 and 2006, including test scores, teacher characteristics, and student demographics.
Teach for America recruits and selects high-achieving college graduates, many of whom have no prior experience or coursework in education, and places them in needy schools after short but intensive training. Xu, Hannaway, and Taylor found that TFA corps members serving in North Carolina tended to have graduated from more selective colleges and universities and to have scored higher on the Praxis, a teacher-licensing exam.
These data warrant the attention of education policymakers concerned with teacher quality, says Jane Hannaway, director of the Urban Institute's Education Policy Center and the National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER).
"School systems working to improve their neediest schools may find that focusing on teacher selection has a greater payoff in high schools than focusing on teacher retention," she says. "In our study, we don't know whether it was the strong academic credentials of TFA corps members or some kind of special motivation that came with being a TFA teacher that made the difference, but the results were clear: students performed better when they had an inexperienced TFA teacher than when they had a veteran educator at the blackboard."
"Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School" is a working paper produced by the Urban Institute's National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) and funded by the Steven L. Merrill Family Foundation and the Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. The working paper is available at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411642.
|"It is clear from the evidence that Teach For America is bad policy and bad education. It is bad for the recruits because they are ill-prepared. They are denied the knowledge and skills they need, and many who might have become good teachers are instead discouraged from staying in the profession. It is bad for the schools in which they teach, because the recruits often create staffing disruptions and drains on school resources. The schools don't get the help they need, and more lasting solutions are not pursued. It is bad for the children because they are often poorly taught. With their teachers foundering, they are denied opportunities to fully develop the skills they need. They often lack continuity in instruction and are frequently exposed to counterproductive teaching techniques that can destroy their inherent desire to learn. Finally, TFA is bad for teaching. By clinging to faulty assumptions about what teachers need to know and by producing so many teaching failures, it undermines the profession's efforts to raise standards and create accountability. In TFA, no one is accountable for what prospective teachers experience and what they learn--and no one is accountable for ensuring that children get teachers who are prepared to help them learn. As Jonathan Kozol has observed, "Charity is no substitute for justice."|
—Linda Darling-Hammond, Who will speak for the children?, Phi Delta Kappan, Sep94, Vol. 76, Issue 1
America's education system is seriously behind not just that of the developed nations, but as my film Two Million Minutes shows we are also way behind India and China the two largest countries on Earth.
Whether "change" for the better in American education will come during President Obama's administration turns almost entirely on who he names as Secretary of Education, as NY Times writer David Brooks cogently explains:
Who Will He Choose?
As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.
During the presidential race, Barack Obama straddled the two camps. One campaign adviser, John Schnur, represented the reform view in the internal discussions. Another, Linda Darling-Hammond, was more likely to represent the establishment view. Their disagreements were collegial (this is Obamaland after all), but substantive.
In public, Obama shifted nimbly from camp to camp while education experts studied his intonations with the intensity of Kremlinologists. Sometimes, he flirted with the union positions. At other times, he practiced dog-whistle politics, sending out reassuring signals that only the reformers could hear.
Each camp was secretly convinced that at the end of the day, Obama would come down on their side. The reformers were cheered when Obama praised a Denver performance pay initiative. The unions could take succor from the fact that though Obama would occasionally talk about merit pay, none of his actual proposals contradicted their positions.
Obama never had to pick a side. That is, until now. There is only one education secretary, and if you hang around these circles, the air is thick with speculation, anticipation, anxiety, hope and misinformation. Every day, new rumors are circulated and new front-runners declared. It’s kind of like being in a Trollope novel as Lord So-and-So figures out to whom he’s going to propose.
You can measure the anxiety in the reformist camp by the level of nervous phone chatter each morning. Weeks ago, Obama announced that Darling-Hammond would lead his transition team and reformist cellphones around the country lit up. Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford, is a sharp critic of Teach for America and promotes weaker reforms.
Anxieties cooled, but then one morning a few weeks ago, I got a flurry of phone calls from reform leaders nervous that Obama was about to side against them. I interviewed people in the president-elect’s inner circle and was reassured that the reformers had nothing to worry about. Obama had not gone native.
Obama’s aides point to his long record on merit pay, his sympathy for charter schools and his tendency to highlight his commitment to serious education reform.
But the union lobbying efforts are relentless and in the past week prospects for a reforming education secretary are thought to have dimmed. The candidates before Obama apparently include: Joel Klein, the highly successful New York chancellor who has, nonetheless, been blackballed by the unions; Arne Duncan, the reforming Chicago head who is less controversial; Darling-Hammond herself; and some former governor to be named later, with Darling-Hammond as the deputy secretary.
In some sense, the final option would be the biggest setback for reform. Education is one of those areas where implementation and the details are more important than grand pronouncements. If the deputies and assistants in the secretary’s office are not true reformers, nothing will get done.
The stakes are huge. For the first time in decades, there is real momentum for reform. It’s not only Rhee and Klein — the celebrities — but also superintendents in cities across America who are getting better teachers into the classrooms and producing measurable results. There is an unprecedented political coalition building, among liberals as well as conservatives, for radical reform.
No Child Left Behind is about to be reauthorized. Everyone has reservations about that law, but it is the glaring spotlight that reveals and pierces the complacency at mediocre schools. If accountability standards are watered down, as the establishment wants, then real reform will fade.
This will be a tough call for Obama, because it will mean offending people, but he can either galvanize the cause of reform or demoralize it. It’ll be one of the biggest choices of his presidency.
Many of the reformist hopes now hang on Obama’s friend, Arne Duncan. In Chicago, he’s a successful reformer who has produced impressive results in a huge and historically troubled system. He has the political skills necessary to build a coalition on behalf of No Child Left Behind reauthorization. Because he is close to both Obamas, he will ensure that education doesn’t fall, as it usually does, into the ranks of the second-tier issues.
If Obama picks a reformer like Duncan, Klein or one of the others, he will be picking a fight with the status quo. But there’s never been a better time to have that fight than right now.