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A Few Minutes with Jeb Bush on Education Reform

Sunday, January 01, 2012
 

MetalForming caught up with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush during the PMA Leadership Conference and Annual Meeting, held November 12-13 in Chicago. Mr. Bush addressed PMA members on how future economic growth requires reforming social security, promoting consumer-driven health care, creating stable, cost-effective regulatory rules and lowering tax rates. He also discussed how the U.S. education system must evolve so that opportunities for economic growth are matched by skills of the next generation—that’s where we focused our Q&A session.

Q: Tell our readers a bit more about your work with the Foundation for Excellence in Education (www.excelined.org).

A: The foundation is focused on nationwide systemic education reform. There is no one action alone that will improve student learning. It requires robust accountability, higher standards benchmarked to the world’s best, teacher professionalism, school choice and digital learning, for starters. These reforms require changes in law in all 50 states, and we assist policy makers to accomplish just that.

Q: What are the major challenges facing our education system?

A: Low standards, the antiquated teacher-compensation system, the adult-centered nature of the system and the lack of choices for parents and students are just a few of the challenges we face across the country.

Q: A recent study shows that American manufacturing companies cannot fill as many as 600,000 skilled positions. Our readers tell us many of the entry-level employees lack the basic math, science and technology skills to succeed in manufacturing. How can we bring businesses, educators and policymakers together to address this critical issue?

A: First, we need to have standards that are assessed accurately and recognize that the objective should be students completing 12th grade, and being college- and/or career-ready. Only one third of our students achieve that today. We also need to pay teachers more in the underserved subject areas. We need to reform the schools that do a poor job graduating teachers who are capable of teaching STEM courses. We also need to bring content into the classroom in dynamic ways, through digital learning. And, business must play a more specific role in encouraging and investing in higher-quality STEM learning.

Q: How can the educational reforms that you advocate help the United States compete with other countries?

A: Higher standards, accurate assessments, better content, diverse and rich options for parents and customization of the learning experience will elevate student learning. We have shown that in Florida over the last decade.

Q: How can we reintroduce vocational and technical training programs to our K-12 students?

A: Gone are the many shop classes that once provided children the opportunity to learn more about manufacturing, engineering and design. To reincorporate these important programs into our students’ curriculum, I think hands-on-oriented STEM courses represent one place where states can work to develop K-12 education, particularly in high schools. MF

 

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