Friday, July 1, 2011

CCS's Role in Our Evolving World

Fareed Zakaria's book, The Post American World, 2.0 (2011, W. W. Norton Company), discusses the following:

Soon, the United States of America will no longer lead the world in the number of patents or citations in scientific journals. Countries like Germany, with a population of nearly 120 million fewer people than the USA, exports more goods than we do. The world’s tallest building, fifty largest factories, highest ferris wheel, and biggest economy will reside in Asia.
(hear more at: Our aging infrastructure of bridges, power, and transportation, along with our lack of internet access and our government's declining investment in discovery industries and education are putting us behind.
The good news is that our population is growing, unlike many other countries in the world. This, in large part, is due to the fact that we allow immigrants in, which many other countries do not. Population growth means that many young people will continue to enter the work force. These people offer great hope for our future.
At the same time, there is a shortage of engineers in the United States. Many jobs are going unfilled. ( In response, President Obama established an Advanced Manufacturing initiative with several companies and universities, including the Ford Motor Company, Dow Chemical, and the University of Michigan (

It seems that we posses the knowledge to lead the world in manufacturing, engineering, research, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, creativity, and design--yet according to Zakaria (2011), we're in danger of falling out of this dominant role.

The Clarkston Community Schools can and should lead the way in preparing our children to meet the needs of the future. What do you think? What is our responsibility? What are the possibilities?


  1. CCS should strive to give students the tools that they need so that their options are open in life. This means that the emphasis should be on (1) math; (2) foreign language; and (3) analytical reasoning. Students who graduate and are not proficient in advanced math and a foreign language simply do not have the educational and career options of other students. This also means that CCS should be emphasizing these areas in elementary school (as opposed to worrying about how students perform on these absurd standardized tests.)

    One lesson of the past few years is that no career, including engineering, is immune from an economic downturn or the transition to a world economy. One recent article said even careers which people think are “safe” from foreign outsourcing, such as radiologist, will be outsourced in the future. A radiologist in India can just as proficiently read a result as a radiologist down the hallway. Students who can do advanced math, speak a foreign language and can do analytical reasoning will have the skills a world economy values and will be able to adapt to the changes that will happen over the course of their career.

    As an aside, my fourth grade daughter participated in the “Rushing Girls to Engineering” camp at CHS two weeks ago. It was an excellent experience with fabulous, enthusiastic staff. However, there were very few girls who enrolled in this program. Perhaps if there were more exposure in the regular classrooms, there might be more enthusiasm both for girls to pursue these enrichment programs and to understand that math does have real life applications.

  2. I agree with a lot of what R A B wrote. I would like to add to the comment of "emphasizing these areas in elementary school". I have a concern that we are trying too many top down programs. We seem to be concentrating on High School as the way to meet the "mission of cultivating thinkers, learners, and positive contributors to a global society".

    While high school curriculum is extremely important to the process of preparing students for their future, whether it is college or some other path, many students come into high school with their attitudes already fix on where they see themselves going. Many don’t know what they want for a career but they know they want to go to college. Some have already set upon a vocational path or the military. And finally some just want out of school and are at risk of not even graduating.

    I applaud Clarkston Schools’ desire to have opportunities for students who often learn differently to choose a path that best suits them. I have concerns about making sure we do not spread ourselves too thin by having so many programs that we do not have the resources to achieve excellence in what is offered.

    Making changes from the bottom up requires time and patience to see the results of these efforts. If we emphasize what R A B suggested “(1) math; (2) foreign language; and (3) analytical reasoning” I believe it would reap many rewards as these students move from Elementary to Middle School to Junior High and finally High School. I would add that a better program for grammar and reading comprehension that did not stop at Elementary School but followed the students to High School would also help students achieve success.

    I have two children who have or will graduate from Clarkston in the near future. They have excelled in their studies and although you can always look back and see where things could have been improved I am in general very happy with Clarkston Schools. I will say however for good or bad, their experiences in Elementary and Middle School had a big effect on shaping who they are and what they are choosing for their path.

  3. See:

    Education for Innovation: A Digital Townhall with The Aspen Institute's Walter Isaacson and NYT's Tom Friedman

  4. And, even more of a wake up call:

    Thomas Friedman on "That Used to Be Us: How America Lost It's Way in the World it Invented and How We Come Back"

  5. How to raise a global child:

  6. I totally agree that we need to get kids off to an early start with foreign language learning, analytical thinking, and math. There's nothing more important than a strong start.

    We're embarking on some new "thinking" work this year with Harvard University. We think it's going to build the thinking dispositions that kids need so that it is not just about the test. I'm excited about the possibility of piloting some foreign language opportunities in preschool and elementary with an eye on expansion in the coming years. It can't happen fast enough.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me.

  7. I would like to know why all the late starts and professional development days for Clarkston? I guess Clarkston really values its teachers because it allows them to have meetings during instruction time. I am a teacher in another district and this puts a huge burden on our family as I cannot take off any day contiguous with a scheduled holiday per my contract. I am constantly trying to get help from people to look after my kids while I teach. In my district, we have to stay after school if we need to meet with colleagues. We only have three full professional development days during the year.

    In today's economy, many families have two working parents. Your professional development is not family-friendly! I know you have Kids Connection for the younger ones, but that costs money! Also, I have a middle-schooler. Do you expect me to go off to work and hope my child gets on the bus all by himself on late start days? I guess you do. I'm sorry, but I think kids should be in school more, not less.

    I will be expecting WONDERFUL things from the Clarkston teaching staff with all this professional development!

  8. Peggy,

    I agree with you.

    I brought this up at a school board meeting this spring when it was being discussed and before it was voted on. I advised that when my daughter was in kindergarten in 2002/03 that there was a similar developmental day schedule and that many parents complained that it was difficult for working parents. I also said that the district changed the schedule in subsequent years and that the district should take heed of past experience and reconsider the change in the schedule.

    I found out later that the CCS teacher's union had requested this "family unfriendly" developmental day schedule. I still don't know why they wanted it.

    However, Dr. Rock and the four school board members who back anything he proposes (Hyer, McGinnis, Bomier, and Egan) refused to reconsider it.

  9. Peggy and Dawn:

    Thank you for your comments. We certainly work very hard to meet the needs of families and we realize that this change will inconvenience some families. We're offering a number of options to offset these inconveniences, including Kids Connection (which is free to those who qualify), enrichment opportunities through community education, and even personalized offerings in specific situations.

    Our purpose in moving to delayed starts is to enhance student learning. Learning Forward's (formerly the National Staff Development Council) Standards for Professional Learning state:

    "Professional learning within communities requires continuous improvement, promotes collective responsibility, and supports alignment of individual, team, school, and school system goals. Learning communities convene regularly and frequently during the workday to engage in collaborative professional learning to strengthen their practice and increase student results. Learning community members are accountable to one another to achieve the shared goals of the school and school system and work in transparent, authentic settings that support their improvement."

    (More at:

    These are the standards that inform our professional learning for teachers, whether in the form of delayed starts, development days, or learning opportunities outside of CCS. We're striving to give our teachers a consistent time to meet together, look at students' work, and ask themselves, "What do we need to do differently to get the work we would like from our kids" (Sparks, 1998).

    We will continuously monitor the effectiveness of this time. We will also, as always, seek, hear, and carefully consider the feedback we receive from parents and the community.

    Thanks again for your comments,
    Rod Rock