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Live From The Georgia Technology Summit

I wanted to spend a bit more time reviewing the materials on the education plans recently released by the federal government, mainly so that you, my readers, get a blog post that is thorough and clearly communicated versus something "cobbled together." 


In the interim, my colleagues at the Technology Associaiton of Georgia invited me to blog from the annual Geoargia Technology Summit.  This will be my first live blogging assignment, and hopefully, there will be innovative ideas being incubated n the Georgia technology community.  I will try and offer at least two blog posts from the morning sessions.  The event is themed "Innovation:  Economic Transformation," and most certainly, Georgia, like most of the states in our nation, will depend on technological innovation to jump-start the economic recovery.  And with Georgia lagging in the overall turnaround, technological innovation is even more critical to Georgia. 


Stay tuned!


Musings on a Myriad of Education Topics

We're certainly in a hard news cycle when it comes to education.  I'm finding that in recent days, there has been a surge in what I would call "incendiary topics."  A few articles of interest:


  • Article in yesterday's Education Week about boys trailing girls in reading proficiecy across the United States.  There are some blogs as well as college professors who are researching this very important topic.  Why are gender differences in academic achievement becoming more pronounced?  Today, instead of offering a detailed perspective, I'd like to let my readers weigh in on this area.  What the article does not disclose is that there is also a rapidly declining percentage of male teachers these same schools.  Boys and girls, at a certain age, also begin to have diverging media consumption habits.  With some of these variables taken into account, I'd like my readers to offer their perspectives on this important trend.
  • The Textbook War Brewing In Texas:  this one really caught my eye. You must watch this video and then decide if Texas is setting the right example for how U.S. history is taught in America.  Again, you (my readers) weigh in on this "lightning rod" topic.  I was particularly astonished by the recommendation to reduce the emphasis on Thomas Jefferson and expand the supposed "contributions of religious leaders like Moses to American ideals."  As a Jew, I'm proud of the story of Moses, but I firmly believe that religion has absolutely no place in our public schools. We should respect everyone's spiritual beliefts, but those beliefts can be reinforced in houses of worship, not in public schools.  It will be interesting if these raises any constitutional issues (or not).
  • An Op-Ed piece on CNN.com by KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg:  He claims that students benefit from longer school days.  Lets just say that this was the first time I ever posted a comment on cnn.com because I was so enraged, I  needed to leave my house and take a walk to blow off some steam.  We don't need longer school days.  Kids need to be kids.  They need to play, socialize, and do extracurricular activities.  What we need to do is to improve the quality of the learning experience during the hours they're in school, not more mediocrity.  Enough said.  I'm sure there are people that support this, and of course I respect all points of view, so long as positions can be defended with sound rationale.


Over the next few days, I will be pulling together my thoughts after reviewing the President's Education Technology Plan, released last week.  It's a 114 page document, and I have some thoughts I'd like to share with my loyal readers.  In the meantime, I look forward to your reaction to the three topics outlined above.


More School Closings in Urban America, but is it a Bad Thing?

So today, I'm sure many of you have seen the news that Detroit will be shuttering 44 schools.  The adverse economy is really battering the urban schools at an alarming rate. 


Today I'd like to be a bit provocative.  Maybe this isn't such a bad thing for our education reform efforts. Let me offer my evidence and you, the jury, can weigh in, deliberate, and decide:


  1. Many of these schools are broken, not only from poor physical infrastructure, but broken from the lack of academic performance resonating from their learning environments.
  2. Of course, in the short-run, this is going to be very, very painful for these communities, the laid off adminstrators, teachers, and most importantly, the students and their families.  But in the long-run, perhaps starting over with a new school design will have a higher probability of success compared with trying to re-engineer an existing institution.  Consider this analogy, which may be a bit oversimiplisitic: isn't it easier to sometimes start an essay or letter from scratch than trying to edit an existing one, which could have been written by another person and in another person's unique writing style?


I know what you all might be thinking.  I'm not cold-hearted when it comes to our children.  But analyzing through the eyes of a strategist, it is my fiduciary responsibility to present this as a viable, necessary ingredient in systemic change.  Maybe we're at the beginning of the "bottoming out?" Maybe not.  But either way, it seems clear to me that we may be reaching a "defining moment" in our journey to reinvent educaion in our country which may or may not win a lot of accoldates.  Is this situation a necessary or "logical" consequence of the times? Or are these distressing decisions being made ones that could have been avoided?


I have asked my friend and colleague, Michael Horn, who is far more revered and credible than this author, to provide his insights on the evolving school consolidation underway across the country.


My next post will address another interesting article that hit today's press about the continuing emergence of gender differences and the lower male performance in schools.


Education in Georgia: In Crisis Like The Rest of America

I have not been able to blog regularly in recent months, but I just had to post today based on this very troubling article posted in the local Atlanta Journal Constitution on Friday. Another article talks about the fact that these problems are not hapenning solely in the Atlanta metro area, but in other counties across the state as well.


This is a very alarming trend, that schools are having to cut critical programs that will harm the learning development of today's students.  The arts are, in many ways, as critical, if not more so than STEM subjects.  Lets not let Sir Ken Robinson's vision (which this author agrees with) linger in this country, that our schools are stifling the creativity of our children.


This country can do better!!!


The Challenges of Building An Innovation Ecosystem in Atlanta

I respected colleague of mine recently asked me to author a blog post about the challenges that innovation faces in my own community. This is a timely post because a rather small, immature venture market just got hit by a Category 5 Hurricane:  the official (although expected for some time) announcement that Imlay Investments, the conductor of the Atlanta startup train for many years, was winding down.  Regrettably, this has material implications for a market trying to lure entrepreneurs, early-stage investors, and people talent. In most cases, other early-stage investors and angel networks have said "we'll only invest if Imlay invests."  Who will take over as "lead investor" for the Atlanta startup market?  I'm afraid that replacing this fund won't come easily.


Recently, I blogged about a very eloquent presentation that Shirley Jackson, Ph.D., President of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, made about the critical ingredients to a sustainable innovation ecosystem.  They are:  strategic focus, idea generation, translational pathways, and financial, infrastructural, and human capital.  Not to pick on Atlanta, but it appears that the community has to solidify each of these areas before it can even suggest it possesses a viable ecosystem. 


I talked recently about extrapolating this premise to the education industry.  People are suggesting that the best approach for systemic change in education is to go straight to the student and disintermediate the other stakeholders.  I'm afraid this is only wishful thinking, not reality.  People are also saying that providing tax cuts for investment in areas such as education are just padding the pockets of the rich.  Again, this is naivite at its finest.  These tax cuts are not like capital gain tax cuts.  These are being steered towards innovation and job creation, two elements this country badly needs at this time.

"Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained."  - former president James Garfield, July, 1880


A Georgia Tech professor, Dan Breznitz, last year released a study that sheds light on the root cause of Atlanta's inability to retain companies that were incubated inside its borders.  Many of the same ideas were echoed in his report.  He talks about entrepreneurs' lack of "deep-rooted networks" in Atlanta, which is the same thing as not having "translational pathways."


Education is the foundation of our democracy, but we must be courageous enough to admit that we don't know everything, and that it's ok to learn from other countries.  This humility would be a major step in ensuring that our children will be able to compete for the jobs that haven't even been created yet.