Improve School-College Links To Foster Learning, NASBE Says
The nation's changing economy and social fabric demand greater cooperation and coordination between schools and colleges, argues a report released last week by the National Association of State Boards of Education.
"Today's learning centers include workplaces, community-based organizations, libraries," and programs for young children and their parents, the report says. "Educators and policymakers will have to work together and insure that the linkages across sectors foster collaboration that will promote opportunities for learning, wherever and whenever needed."
Unlike many other commissions and blue-ribbon panels, the NASBE study group issued just two major recommendations.
First, it called on states to develop commissions that would connect state K-12 and higher-education boards.
The group recommended that the coordinating commissions be "endowed with real authority and held directly accountable for results."
Second, the panel recommended that K-12 and higher-education boards cooperate to strengthen the workforce, through better pre-service teacher training and continued professional development.
"This is the first statement from a national K-12 organization that acknowledges the critical role that higher education plays in whether elementary and secondary education can improve," said Kati Haycock, the director of the Education Trust at the Washington-based American Association for Higher Education.
For each of its recommendations, the study group identified six priority areas for states.
State coordinating commissions, it says, must help K-12 and higher education cooperate on the following issues:
- Agreeing on a shared vision of education;
- Establishing telecommunications networks;
- Integrating school-to-work and adult learning into broader education-reform efforts;
- Aligning programs, standards, and assessment at all levels of schooling;
- Enhancing educational opportunities for underrepresented groups; and
- Allocating limited resources.
To improve the quality of the school workforce, the report says, states must encourage schools and colleges to work together to:
- Agree on a shared vision of the teaching profession;
- Align standards and assessments for educators with those of students;
- Improve the quality of teaching;
- Create incentives for faculty exchange between K-12 and higher education;
- Cultivate a diverse workforce; and
- Set a joint research agenda.
"As far as I'm concerned, this strategy does get at two of the most critical roles for higher education: one, developing standards for student performance, and two, improvement of teacher development," said Ms. Haycock of the A.A.H.E., an organization of higher-education faculty members, administrators, and students that is working with cities and states to develop "K-16" councils.
However, she added that she was concerned the report "let higher education off the hook too easily," by focusing primarily on what happens in schools and colleges of education, and less on the responsibilities of the higher-education system as a whole.
"There seems to be a lot of consensus ... about the necessity of this linkage," agreed John I. Goodlad, the director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington.
Mr. Goodlad has long advocated the "simultaneous renewal" of schools and teacher education.
"The big problem is how money is going to be brought down to support this," he said, "because money comes down to the school by one formula, and comes down to higher education by another formula and another set of bodies."
While private funding is critical "to get this thing started," he said, "ultimately this combination of schooling and higher education is going to require a different way of delivering the financial support."
Copies of the report are available for $11 each from NASBE Publications, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va. 22314; (703) 684-4000.