Educators throughout the country are looking at school reforms, ,but the changes are not going far enough to meet the nation's needs, a leader in education reform says.
Donn Gresso, vice president of the Danforth Foundation in St. Louis, said, "We are changing with new titles and buzz words, but we are not doing anything different from the '50s and '60s."The key is developing partnerships between public schools, businesses and universities, he said. "Ten years ago we didn't think a partnership was possible, but it is happening throughout the country."
Gresso and two other leaders in education reform spoke to the state's superintendents and Brigham Young University educators Friday about the challenges in improving public schools.
Hunter Moorman, director of the Leadership in Education Administration Development project with the U.S. Department of Education, and Joseph Fernandez, superintendent of the Dade County School District in Florida, shared their concerns, ideas and solutions on education reform along with Gresso.
Gresso said he has five concerns regarding education, the first being over renewal in education.
"University professors and school superintendents and their assistants don't get much renewal in meeting new problems," he said. "Public schools need to allow internships (with the university) and public schools need to tell the university what research is needed."
Concerns that the community is not taking responsibility for its youth is another subject that must be addressed, Gresso said. Communities can help out by making jobs available for those leaving school.
Equity for minors is also a concern. Thousands of children under 12 years of age are in disadvantaged situations, he said. Schools end up becoming helping agencies, taking jobs that are outside their realm of funding and policy.
Empowering faculty is an important step, he said, asking how teachers can empower students in the school system if they can't even control their own environment.
"I admire what you are doing, but these are things we need to do," Gresso said. "We need to give some insight into what we can do to restructure schools, take the risk and feel good about it.
Gresso directs the Danforth Foundation's program for training school principals. Fifteen major universities across the country - including BYU - have received grants from the Danforth Foundation to help improve the way they train school administrators.
Fernandez, recognized for his leadership in multicultural education, school-business partnerships, school-based management and improving wages for teachers and administrators, gave a few success stories from the Dade County School District.
With 266,000 students and 100 nationalities, Fernandez found he could bring Dade County's education system back up to par by letting the teachers make important decisions.
Faculty from the district, the fourth largest in the nation, help with peer evaluations and have come up with ideas for satellite centers, schools at parents work and night high school to name a few.
"The bottom line is, once you unleash the faculty, they want to get involved," he said. "There is a wealth of information and creativity out there. Once we step aside and let them do these things, I think we are going to see some changes."