I recently sat down to talk to Lucille E. Davy, New Jersey commissioner of education, about the crucial task of educating our state’s 1.4 million children. A major focus of our chat was the state’s high school “redesign” plan, which will be phased in starting this school year. Following are highlights from the interview.
Steve Adubato: What does it mean to prepare students for the 21st century?
Lucille E. Davy: The kinds of jobs that were available 20 or 30 years ago are vastly different today. Driving on the toll roads, for example, we use E-Z Pass now so there are far less toll collectors. When you go to the doctor’s office, your records are done by computer. New jobs are created, but these are jobs that require a much higher level of skill. We are talking about critical thinking, problem solving, and being able to work in a group to solve problems together. So a lot of it is technology-based and infused … You have to know how to use the technology.
Adubato: How are schools responding to these needs?
Davy: They are using technology differently. They are having children write essays on the computer and do research on the Internet. Back when you and I went to school we used to go to the library and pull books off the shelf. Today, young people go to Google and do their search. The challenge now is not to find the information, but what are you going to do with it and how do you know if the information really answers what you have been asked.Governor Corzine talks about redesigning schools.
Adubato: What does that mean?
Davy: It is really about secondary schools, and high schools primarily, recognizing that the 21st-century world demands something totally different of children who are exiting high school. They need to be prepared with these higher skills to enter the workforce and they need to be ready if they want to pursue college. What we are learning is that more and more people are going to need a two-year or four-year college degree in order to even enter the workforce.
Adubato: How do we know this?
Davy: Business is telling us… they are saying that the jobs in the future are going to require higher-education degrees. It may even be an advanced certificate, say in computer programming or a technical or trade program.
Adubato: Can you give us an example of a change that is part of the redesign?
Davy: Right now we specify that a child must take three years of math, three years of science, and four years of English to graduate and we don’t specify what that has to look like. Therefore, the child might be taking watered-down classes. That is not enough. We’ve worked with the business and labor communities as well as colleges to determine what skills children need. For math, for example, we are now requiring that students take algebra I, then moving on to geometry, and eventually adding algebra II to that skill requirement.
Adubato: How is this different from the No Child Left Behind Act?
Davy: The No Child Left Behind Act expects that every child needs to get to the floor. We are talking about something higher than the floor. We want our children reaching for the ceiling. We want to take it to a higher level in order to make sure that our children are competitive globally… Children must be taught to be learners and problem solvers and determine how they can take information and use it to answer questions and solve problems.
The complete interview can be seen September 7 at 8:30 am on NJN and at 10 am and 5 pm on CN8, the Comcast Network, and as a webcast at njmonthly.com.
Steve Adubato, PhD., is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and a media analyst and columnist for MSNBC.com. He provides commentary on talk radio station 770-WABC. He is the author of the book "Make the Connection", as well as the soon-to-be published book "What Were They Thinking?", which examines highly publicized and often controversial public relations and media mishaps. For more information, log on to www.stand-deliver.com