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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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If you were to give advice to a school board or district that was looking to connect with business, how do we go about that? How do we make this connection?

BRYANT: Well, I think very important is the sitting around the table and understanding what each can bring. And being very clear, whether it is a business reaching out to the school board and the superintendent team, or whether it is the opposite. That we are about student learning and we are about innovation and we are about making learning more relevant to kids. And we are also about increasing science and technology and STEM capability. But we are also about creativity. And we are also about other 21st-century skills. So, I think it is defining what it is we are after and then having clear benchmarks about how we judge this new partnership. And it has to be from the get-go between the district and the business and then, of course, bringing in the high school if we are talking about secondary education.

FLORES: I would say, give the youth a chance. Give them an opportunity to see, to learn, to know about something for which they do not. We, all, everywhere, still spend lots of time and money with students about career, vocational, educational opportunities and helping them to try to understand. And again, there are lots of opportunities for them to search on their own, but here are—again, in their neighborhood or somewhere nearby—especially students in urban areas who may not ever know that these kinds of jobs or these other opportunities exist. And then connect it to "And what do I need to know in order to do that?" "How am I going to apply this learning?"

I would love for there to be more internship possibilities. We are moving towards student-oriented or -generated learning. So whether it is in some project learning or whether it is in some modeling or, again, some credit or value placed upon that relationship that the student has with the business, and they garner something valuable that we are going to give it—again, a score, a credit, whatever the system might happen to be—we are moving towards that. I would like for us to do it more rapidly. In order for that to happen more rapidly, we need the doors open for our youth.

ZELMAN: I would say that the business-district partnership really has to be strategic. It has to be tied to the district's sort of school-improvement plan, ways in which we can get these 21st-century skills to our students, and that it should be, again, not sort of random arrows or disjointed programs but very strategic to the district's plan, as well as the school's plan.

SWOPE: You know, in most of these, it is really being really clear on setting expectations on goals. And most of the time, when I watch stuff work, it is because the team has got together and agreed on the goal they were trying to accomplish. And the more disparate those cultures are, the more important it is that you are very precise on the goal that you are trying to achieve.

More From the Education Summit:

  • The Future of High School Reform
  • A Conversation With NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein