The Role of Businesses in High School

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


We're not educators. The government is the educator. The teacher is the educator. We're not trying to take that over at all. We're trying to help; we're trying to assist.

BRYANT: What I see is in these partnerships, teachers want to be able to connect to kids. And that's why they go into teaching. And some of the professional development that happens when you have these kinds of business partnerships actually is wonderful because teachers change the way they teach. They become more relevant. They are using real-world examples. They are using skill sets that they are learning through their association with the businesses. So, even if it's not a professional development program, it is literally the interacting with business professionals.

Deloitte, the accounting firm, has a huge curriculum and program that has changed the way math teachers and economics teachers are teaching math. And kids are becoming—they're loving accounting. I mean, I know that's a strange concept. It literally does change teachers' behavior as well.

Let me ask you a little bit about what we touched on—the question of continuity, the staying-power business—and also, you know, it raises, I think, potentially, an equity issue, which is, if you live in, say, Dayton and there's a wonderfully engaged business community and they're doing all sorts of great things, how does that square with people who live on the other side of the state in, maybe, an economically depressed area?

FLORES: There are changes that have occurred in our country—technological changes—that I think make communication much better. We are getting them, no matter how poor we are as a school system. And I mean either the small school districts or the large ones, in trying to scale up technology resources, they are in our schools. And we can communicate that way with businesses, so while they cannot make the trip any longer, or maybe they cannot sponsor the bus for the all-day field trip to the business location, they can still call; they can still, now, videoconference; they can still, now, make connections; they can still E-mail; they can still be available through online tutoring systems. There's still lots that businesses can do to continue the work as opposed to just showing up and saying, "Hi, I'm here," or "I'm sending a bus for you." SWOPE: If you think about trying to reach teachers, then you can direct those funds to places that are more disadvantaged or doing that, and we do that, and other companies do that as well. I was trying to take to heart your comment for volunteering for us. We only really volunteer in places we are. It's very difficult for us to volunteer in places that we're not, so, in that case, that's absolutely true, and that's just one of the—I think volunteering is a fantastic thing, and I'm not going to be defensive about it, but it certainly does favor those sites where we are, around the world, versus those sites that we're not.

This digital divide is one that happens in more than just America. And how this society really wants to deal with this—I was in the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, and the same discussion was taking place. The topic is exactly the same; it's just the people are different. And, in showing up in Ghana and watching what we're doing there, you get the same feeling. So, I don't think society has this one figured out yet. And I don't know if businesses here help or hurt or—I don't think we hurt—but I think there are some very deep issues here of which I think businesses around the world would like to help, but I don't think any of us really have the right formula right now about how to deal with them.

That opens a really interesting area—just the whole question of next-generation technology and whether there's a real leapfrog, leverage opportunity here that works, and I'd love to hear you guys pursue that.

ZELMAN: I think the role of public media in really reinforcing what goes on in school and creating this new notion of a learning day and a learning system for everybody in a community is really key. And I think public media has tremendous potential for reinforcing academics, reinforcing 21st-century skills and really thinking about it as a 360-degree curriculum. You know, looking at what kids see on TV, how that's reinforced by, now, public broadcasting websites using multimedia; how they can take these tools and actually use them as learning tools inside the classroom; how these types of materials can also be used for after-school programs, as well as internships, externships. So, you know, you have PBS kids, you have PBS teachers, you have PBS parents, and you have PBS community supports.