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The Role of Businesses in High School

A panel discussed the topic at the U.S. News Education Summit.

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But thinking about how these math concepts or actual applications are used in everyday life and in businesses [is] really important. So it's not just the open house for students who come in to see how does an adult actually use this education. It actually opens their awareness beyond doctor, lawyer, engineer. And if I'm not good enough to do that, maybe I'm a banker or maybe I'm an actuary because I can calculate really well.

SUSAN ZELMAN, senior vice president of education and children's content at PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: I would say that we've learned that educators alone can't do it. And the reality is, if we want—you know, the reality is that in this new economy, it's not only a knowledge-based economy, but it's going to be a creative, innovative economy. And so, academics alone won't do it. Our students really need the partnerships with the business community to learn how they apply their knowledge to the real world.

In the theme of what works here, I would love to be as specific as we can get here and look at a few case studies. Tell us about some of yours.


BRYANT: Well, I've got loads of them, but I'll tell you my two favorites. They're both actually from Pinellas County in Florida. Tarpon Springs High School has a culinary arts program. And it was started by a very well-to-do individual who sort of challenged their local education foundation, another key piece. The public school district has an education foundation. Publix, which is a big supermarket chain in the South, all coming together to build a culinary arts program. The math and the science and the technology behind it are the academic pieces. But these kids are thriving, and they are getting hired by restaurants, by hotels, motels, Disneyland, all over the place—Disney World. But I think again, what's important is that Publix and their corporate partners are now using the facility for their own uses. So, in other words, the school day is 24-7 for that partnership. And I think that's a really important piece.

The other example, East Lake High School, is in engineering. It was started—the idea for it—was two teachers, trigonometry and physics. And they called it Trisics Group, a new science. But with NASA and Honeywell as partners, they have built East Lake High School, which literally is focused on trigonometry, physics, and NASA and the whole space arena. So, it's two examples. And they happened because they were partners from the get-go.

I think one of the pieces is—and I think you raised it in your introductory comments—is it kind of corporate takeover? None of this is corporate takeover. All of it is how can we work more effectively together. How can we plan this together? How can we create the benchmarks for success together? And meanwhile, by the way, these children—these students—are engaged. They get jobs, or they go on to higher education.

Why isn't it corporate takeover, Will? I mean, why not? I mean, you're spending all this money. Why not just get in there? You guys must be dying to get the return-on-investment numbers and really make sure that you're getting your money's worth. Is that how it works?


SWOPE: It just isn't about business. If we want to make this about business, we have much better uses of our money. This is about trying to actually make a difference. Let me give you just two examples. Intel employees volunteer, right? This is our 40th anniversary this year, founded in '68. This year, we're going to hold a party, and we're giving the presents. And we made a challenge to our employees as to whether or not they could volunteer a million hours around the world. We're at 870,000 hours as of yesterday, so we'll probably make it. And last year, 550,000 of those hours were in secondary schools, all right? Whether it be helping a teacher, whether it be doing mentoring, whatever it is, it's fundamental to the way we think about it.

There's no corporate takeover. This is a matter of individual people helping kids in science and math. It's a matter of helping them with basic reading skills. It's just work that we do K through 12 that is really a very big deal to us.