Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Business Roundtable - 1/20/99

Good afternoon. Thank you very much for inviting me here today.

This group has gone a long way in organizing efforts to reform education. You have also helped the state put a spotlight on the need for education reform. So I want to congratulate you for all of your efforts on this important issue.

It's been a while since I've been on a football field, but I have been thinking lately about a line one of my old coaches used to inspire our team.

That coach used to say, "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you always got."

I can think of a few of my favorite teams - no names mentioned, of course - who could have used that kind of inspiration this season.

But I think that motto can apply to many other situations, such as public education in California.

The reality is, we can't just sit in our individual offices and let business continue as usual. If we all keep doing exactly what we've been doing, we're only going to get more of the same.

In order to achieve any kind of improvement, each of us must work harder on this than ever before.

I believe that we have to begin with the acknowledgement that all of our work is interconnected.

For example, when we talk about K-12 reform, what we really mean is K-16 reform.

And when we talk about school reform, we are really talking about an effort that will involve the whole community.

That's why I believe that the CSU must begin its work on this process by focusing on improving the public schools. By reforming our K-12 schools, we will reform ourselves.

I'd like to focus my remarks today on three areas: What the CSU must do to improve, what the K-12 schools can do to improve, and how the business community can participate.

First, what does the CSU need to do to begin this K-16 reform process? Three words: Train better teachers.

Simply put, the research shows us that the teacher is the most significant factor in student achievement.

  • The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future reported that when comparing high-achieving and low-achieving schools with similar characteristics, teacher qualifications accounted for over 90 percent of the difference in achievement levels.

  • The Commission also reported that in a study of over 1,000 school districts, every additional dollar spent on high-quality teaching resulted in greater improvements in student achievement than any other use of those resources.

  • The Education Trust has found that students with high-performance teachers did consistently better than those with low-performance teachers. In fact, even above-average students fell behind after having several low-performance teachers.

Yet in this country, we have tried just about every strategy for education reform (decentralizing, restructuring) EXCEPT focusing on the teachers.

And in California, we clearly haven't put enough emphasis on training our teachers:

  • About 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years.

  • In 1997-98, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing issued nearly 30,000 multiple and single-subject emergency permits.

Given how important it is to have a good teacher in every classroom, all of that needs to change.

So - Here's where the CSU will begin:

  • Making teacher education programs more accessible - short-term, night, evening, weekend, and summer classes.

  • Making better use of technology and distance learning, especially in our new effort with the British Open University known as TeachNet.

  • Helping California's emergency- permit teachers get access to training.

  • Offering earlier classroom experience to prospective teachers.

  • Sending out graduates with a warranty. If they need help in the first two years, they can reach our faculty through an 800 number or e-mail help line.

  • Working more closely with school districts to develop teacher training programs.

  • Offering more support and professional development opportunities to teachers.

By improving teacher education, we will take a great step forward in improving the K-12 schools. Those benefits will come back to us in the form of better prepared students.

That will allow us to shift our focus from remedial education to giving each student a solid baccalaureate education that will prepare them for the workforce.

Second, what do the K-12 schools need to do?

Last week, the education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond spoke to a group of Oakland educators about the importance of having high-quality teachers. She gave them a few valuable suggestions about what they could do to improve their schools, such as:

1) The single most important thing they can do for their classrooms: Invest in hiring high-performance teachers.

2) Invest in and make time for high-quality, long-term professional development for teachers.

3) Help teachers on the job - especially the newest ones, who get the toughest assignments - by giving them quality time with a mentor.

I would add a few more items to that list:

1) Teach reading all through 12th grade.

2) Begin algebra and geometry as early as 7th or 8th grade - forget the "almost" math or the "nearly" math.

3) Join up with a local university and start TALKING to each other.

Third, how can the business community help out in this process?

I should begin by congratulating all of you for what you have already done - especially for seeing to it that there are new and higher standards.

But to paraphrase Bill Hauck, setting the standards is only five percent of the work. The real work is getting students to meet those standards. So we still need to roll up our sleeves for the long haul.

The National Alliance of Business has offered up some ways businesses can get involved in public education reform, such as:

  • Speaking frankly about the gap between company needs and student preparation.

  • Conducting an audit of the costs incurred by lax standards.

  • Using the firm's leverage in hiring decisions and philanthropic decisions to spur reform.

  • Ensuring that education is viewed as an investment in human capital.

I have a few additional suggestions of my own about what businesses can do:

  • Have your employees get involved in the public schools. Adopt a school and work with its teachers and students.

  • Help local educators understand what skills you need from their graduates.

  • Support higher pay for K-12 teachers.

  • Serve on your local school boards.

  • Demand accountability - such as public reporting of school achievement levels.

  • Help schools identify "best practices."

The business community can also help by spreading the good news about working with public schools.

Instead of bragging about what your local university has done in cloning or computer research, brag about what they have done in the local K-12 schools.

Above all, don't play "ain't it awful." That's not fair - that's too easy. We all know that our schools need help. So ask yourselves, "What are we going to do about it?" - instead of saying, "We're just doing what we've always done."

Because once again, we don't want to keep getting what we always got.

Members of the business community don't have to be the first in line to help the schools - but they should be the NEXT in line.

Finally -- a word on Governor Davis:

  • He's clearly got the right priorities.

  • There is optimism right now for improving education.

  • He has the bully pulpit, so he can lead the way AND put the resources there.

But one thing I know from working in a governor's office is that you always hear complaints, but don't always hear support. So if you support his priorities, please let him know.

A simple thank-you note will go a long way.

I will close my remarks by thanking you once again for taking the time to work on our state's educational issues.

Turning back to football once again, I want to leave you with some words by the great coach Vince Lombardi.

He once said, "Any man's finest hour is when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."

I hope we can all join together in the battle to improve our schools.

Our victory will occur in the classroom.

Thank you very much.

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