A continuation of the TWO MILLION MINUTES documentary film, this blog offers deeper insights into education in China, India and the United States, and the challenge America faces. Now you can join a dialog about what governments, communities and families should and are doing to best prepare US students for satisfying careers in the 21st century.
Front page of the May 26, 2009, Memphis Commercial Appeal: Whitehaven millionaires club: Teacher prepares students for scholarships
On the power of its brains and the strength of its will, the 400-some member senior class of Whitehaven High School this year blew the top off the school record for scholarships, earning a collective $13.7 million.
Gene Robinson, Karlyn Washington, Vicoria Young with calculus teacher Sparks
At the head of the WHS money heap -- graduation was Saturday at Cook Convention Center -- is Victoria Young with a cool $2.3 million, including the prestigious Gates Millennium prize, a full ride to Duke University and scholarships to 30 other schools.
No. 2 is Karlyn Washington, salutatorian, with $1.2 million; Gene Robinson, No. 3, headed to North Carolina on a full athletic scholarship, racked up $1.2 million.
Before you write them off to a random streak of brilliance, consider the power of well-intentioned math geek and calculus teacher James Ralph Sparks -- who some time ago zeroed in on the power of the ACT.
“The more math they get, the higher their ACT scores,” observed calculus teacher James Ralph Sparks, “the silver lining is, they get more [scholarship] money."
In 2002, he started the 30+ Club, an exclusive roster of students who've earned ACT scores of 30 or more. Their pictures are arranged in two big frames by the school office. College acceptance and scholarship letters for this year's class line the hall 100 yards on either side.
To make the connection between ACT scores and free rides to college, Sparks started the Fortune 500 Club two years ago. To get in, you have to have at least $100,000 in scholarships. (Sparks insists on signed letters from the colleges as proof.)
"It's actually infectious. I publish a monetary standing every week and give it to the kids. They say, 'Wait a minute, I can get higher than you.' They go crazy," Sparks said.
"We started out just trying to beat last year's class," Young said, nodding to the banner at the front of Sparks' classroom that boasts earnings of $10.8 million. Eleven seniors earned 30 or more in the English portion; five more made the mark in reading.
When new principal Vincent Hunter and Sparks began "co-conspiring" in 2005-2006 with ACT tips in the daily announcements, awards went from $4.2 million to $6.9 million in a year.
The marquee in front of the school serves as the community scoreboard.
"Every time we get a new total, we put it up there," Hunter said.
More than 62 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch, the federal guideline for at-risk students.
Governor Mitch Daniels is one of the few national political leaders who recognizes that America must change its culture to recognize and reward academic achievers as much as we do athletic achievers.
For the second year in a row, Governor Daniels has awarded the Mr. Math and Mr. Science awards to Indiana's two top young male intellectual achievers. (I trust the women will be named soon).
Here's the press release:
May 18, 2009- Governor Mitch Daniels made a surprise visit to Terre
Haute South Vigo High School today to announce that students Sachin
Dilip Shinde and Raj Anand Bhuptani are "Indiana Mr. Math" and “Indiana
Mr. Science,” respectively. This is the second year for the annual
Hoosier High School Math and Science Awards Daniels created to
recognize Indiana’s top high school talent in math and science.
“Our best math and science students are
vastly more important to Indiana’s future than our best athletes,” said
Daniels. “We will know that an important shift has occurred when more
people can remember the name of Mr. Math or Miss Science than the name
of Mr. Basketball.”
Shinde, a junior, is the son of Dilip
and Pratima Shinde. He scored a 800/800 on the SAT math portion, 5/5
on both the Advanced Placement Calculus BC and Statistics exams and
earned no grade lower than an “A” in any of his math courses at South
Vigo. He is currently enrolled in a Calculus III course at Rose-Hulman
Institute of Technology. In college, he hopes to study bio-medical
engineering and medicine, and aspires to become a cardiothoracic
Bhuptani, a senior, is the son of Anand
and Trupti Bhuptani. He scored a 800/800 on the SAT II Physics,
Chemistry and Bio M tests, a perfect 5/5 on the Advanced Placement
Biology, Chemistry, Physics B, Physics C (Mechanics) exams and earned
no grade lower than an “A” in any of his science courses at South Vigo.
He currently is taking courses in differential equations and physics at
Rose-Hulman, and he volunteers as a science tutor at a local community
center. Bhuptani plans to attend Harvard University where he will study
The awards were developed with input
from the Indiana Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (I-STEM)
Network, the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. (HASTI), the
Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) and the Indiana
Association of Public School Superintendents.
Today, I had the opportunity for an in-depth visit to an urban New Tech High School in Indianapolis, IN. Indiana is aggressively adopting this new model for high school and I wanted to understand the model and make my own assessments about its value.
Brief Explanation of New Tech High School
New Tech High School(NTHS) is a different way of approaching high school education. It started in Napa Valley, CA in 1995, initiated by the local business community out of frustration with their new, young employees – a lack of relevant knowledge, no technology skills, an inability to work in groups, a lack of confidence and leadership.
That frustration led to the creation of the first NTHS with goal of preparing students to excel in an information-based, technologically advanced society.
The National NTHS Mission
NTHS’ mission is to re-invent teaching and learning for the 21st Century by offering a proven model and a fully integrated suite of tools designed to facilitate the creation and management of a relevant and engaging 21st Century education. At the beginning of 2009, there were 40 NTHS in 10 states supported by the New Technology Foundation.
Indiana’s Arsenal New Tech High School - In Brief:
Most of these students will be the first ever in their families to graduate from high school - 77% of them come from low-income families. Of the 170 students (all freshman and sophomores now) 55% are African-American, 39% Caucasian, 6% Hispanic. 19% of the students have special needs.
The school is part of Indianapolis Public Schools district-wide Magnet Program. The staff consists of 11 classroom facilitators (teachers), one guidance counselor, one student affairs assistant, one Director. Their Web Site...
What did I see at Indiana’s Arsenal NTHS?
A very passionate, charismatic, and inspiring Director, Scott DeFreese
A small group of highly engaged, energetic and motivated teachers – ranging from one with 40 years as a teacher to several new teachers and one Teach For America Corps member.
Unique physical facilities – very large, open, high ceiling classrooms
NO TEXTBOOKS – every student has a laptop, all courses are delivered online and work is submitted electronically
The courses are presented predominantly as interdisciplinary, group-based projects with the students working in teams, both assigned and self-selected
A high degree of open dialog and stand up presentations by the students
Large class size (40+ students) and two teachers with complementary expertise – History and English, Algebra and Physics, Biology and Digital Technology
I liked A LOT of what I saw at Arsenal NTHS and how the students were learning. Harvard’s Tony Wagner has correctly identified the key skills students will need, beyond core knowledge and strong cognitive ability, for success in the 21st century in his new book The Global Achievement Gap:
* Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving * Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence * Agility and Adaptability * Initiative and Entrepreneurialism * Effective Oral and Written Communication * Accessing and Analyzing Information * Curiosity and Imagination
Using the 7 Wagner Skills, I Contrast Arsenal’s NTHS students to peer students in other inner city high schools
NTHS students have an intellectual self-confidence not typical of urban students.
They are very much at ease speaking to an individual or a large group of adults. Their oral communication skills are vastly superior to most inner city students. See short video1. See short video 2.
The students are very comfortable working in groups and enjoy collaborating to bring a project to fruition. They also assess their own and others’ performance regularly – so they learn to give and receive constructive criticism. See short video.
The interdisciplinary projects require the students to be more adaptable and to integrate multiple concepts into their multi-dimensional project presentations.
The students use the Internet and are able to explore way beyond a textbook and the teacher’s knowledge.
The students were clearly more creative and inquisitive.
There is obvious respect among the students and by the students toward the teachers. See short video.
The large rooms and highly interactive setting makes for a lively learning environment – I’d prefer it to a standard classroom!
Open questions about NTHS:
In general, I would say the NTHS is absolutely superior to traditional U.S. high school. My questions/concerns about NTHS as the 21st century high school model are these:
Curriculum level – Indianapolis’ NTHS is teaching to Indiana’s Core 40 standards. While those are higher academic standards than in the past and higher than many states, they are well-below Global Academic Standards.
Core Knowledge – the students at NTHS are much better prepared for the 21st century using Tony Wagner’s skill list, however, I’m uncertain how well they have absorbed specific knowledge. I hate to be critical, because I was impressed by so much, but although the students are self-confident in their speaking, their grammar was frequently incorrect.
Scalability of NTHS Model – the NTHS model is more expensive than traditional public schools – the laptops and the physical facilities, for example. The larger question is - can a majority of America’s one million high school teachers can adapt to the NTHS model? It is a far cry from how colleges of education teach teachers. And it requires a teacher to posses unique skills and characteristics to be successful.
In my opinion, the NTHS model is closer to the 21st century than traditional high schools and I believe it is a viable model for communities that can afford it and where the Teacher’s Union will be flexible enough to allow it to flourish. The choice of Director is critical and the Director needs a lot of discretion in selecting and training the teachers.
My one overarching question is - can NTHS academic standards be taken to Global levels and how might the approach need to be modified to ensure Core Knowledge is achieved in addition to the Wagner 21st Century Skills?
Certainly, New Tech High School is a serious move in the right direction. And I applaud Governor Daniels and Superintendent Bennett for supporting it.
While the Journal reporter attributes this to the Great Recession we are now in, I see much broader forces at work:
1- There is a global shift of jobs taking place - the most obvious being the auto industry. GM, Chrysler and Ford are shrinking fast and they will never regain their former dominant position. More cars will be sold in China this year than the US. In addition, Chinese and Indian auto manufacturers will begin to enter the U.S. market in 2010. Ford and GM may survive, but they will be much smaller companies - permanently. Chrysler is gone, I believe.
2- Technology Innovation - this is changing the nature of the high wage jobs. For example, three years ago few companies had Search Engine Optimization jobs. Today, every intelligent company has people focused on SEO, blogging, Twittering, email marketing, voice messaging and social networking. These jobs pay well, but they require more math skills and higher cognitive skills than print advertising, for example. The Class of 2009 is graduating without the level of skill necessary for these 21st century jobs.
3- College Majors Matter - in the 20th century a solid college education - even in majors lacking much math or science - could still prepare a student for a career in business. This century, that is no longer the case. While the high paying jobs of 2015 have yet to be invented, you can be sure they will require high cognitive skills, more mathematical savvy and significant mental flexibility. The History, Medieval Studies, Communication and Poli Sci majors (to name only a few) are not going to have the skills for these higher paying jobs.
4- America is Being Out Educated -the median education level of a population, particularly in math and science, determines that group's ability to compete. The rest of the world is rapidly passing America by in educating large portions of their citizens to ever higher knowledge and skill levels.
I'm sad for the Classes of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, etc, etc. They have been told they are prepared for the economy of the 21st century, but they have been misled.
Even more distressing, while it is now clear we are being out-educated, America's political leaders seem unable or unwilling to muster the courage and political will to meaningfully change our schools. Below is a short video metaphor for America's children:
Tennessee ranks 37th in the nation in educating its children. It is also one of the most restrictive states when it comes to improving education through Charter Schools.
Finally, the Tennessee State Legislators have realized three crucial points:
1- Tennessee has no hope of ever improving its school system,
2- There is a direct correlation between a state's level of education among its citizens and their economic prosperity,
3- Today's Tennessee children will be tomorrow's Tennessee adults and, unable to find meaningful work for financial self-sufficiency, they will have to turn increasingly to crime to support themselves and their families.
To prepare the citizens of Tennessee for that eventuality, the Tennessee State Legislature in a bold bipartisan move has passed a bill allowing handguns to be carried into restaurants - including those that serve alcohol. Public parks will be next to open to gun-toting citizens.
In the words of Republican Representative Brian Kelsey (Germantown - my hometown) "now law-abiding, gun carrying citizens will feel safe in restaurants like Chili's where they serve alcohol." [finally, I can take my family to Chili's in safety]
Or as Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet prophesied after the billed passed, "No longer will a murderer in a [restaurant] know that their potential prey will be unarmed."
A declining education system leads to a declining economy which ultimately leads to a declining community. Even Chili's will no longer be a safe haven.
Only in Tennessee are the State's elected leaders recognizing this truth and are taking audacious steps to protect the few citizens who will have good jobs in the 21st century. Hats off to the Volunteer State!
What gives Tony unique credibility, in my view, is he has been in the trenches of teaching prior to becoming a Harvard professor. He brings the practitioner's experience to his research.
Prior to assuming his current position at Harvard, Tony was a high school teacher for twelve years, a school principal and a university professor in teacher education.
Today, Tony serves as Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group (CLG) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
It is interesting to evaluate whether the skills Tony believes fundamental to individual success in the 21st century are enhanced by Cisco's 21st century New Orleans classrooms.