Panelists outline today’s educational challenges, trends and aspirations
Friday, May 03, 2013
The panelists were Richard Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education; Alan Ingram, Deputy Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; and David McGrath, the Deputy Commissioner of Early Education and Care, all of whom addressed the Friends of Lesley and other Lesley community members in Washburn Hall on Lesley’s Brattle Campus on Thursday evening. Lesley University President Joseph Moore and Dean of Lesley’s Graduate School of Education Jack Gillette moderated the discussion and posed questions to the panelists.
The three speakers, who each bring a wealth of experience to their current posts, offered insights and opinions on the current priorities and challenges across higher education, K-12 education, and early childhood education. The panelists addressed the changing demographics in Massachusetts and corresponding impact throughout all levels of education.
Freeland noted the steady student population growth in public higher education in Massachusetts that is conjoined with a growing challenge to provide an effective education and ensure college success to an increasing population of diverse and underserved students.
“It’s worth noting that even though our enrollments are growing, the overall population in Massachusetts in quite stagnant,” Freeland said. “In fact, if not for immigration, Massachusetts would be losing population. … On the one hand, we have a student body that is growing, but as it grows, it represents additional challenges in terms of college attainment and degree completion.”
In relation to that, Ingram painted a picture of two distinct narratives in K-12 education and the need to set high expectations for all students. He pointed to Massachusetts’ leading test scores, high school graduation rates, and low dropout rates, but he cautioned that those statistics don’t hold true for all students.
“We celebrate a lot of success in our K-12 educational arena across the Commonwealth,” said Ingram, the former superintendent of the Springfield schools. “But there is another narrative, and it’s the narrative around the high needs students,” he said, describing children who live in poverty, speak English as a second language, and who are often mistakenly identified as special needs.
“Everybody who shows up gets to come in, and it’s our responsibility to educate all children,” Ingram continued. “(We need to) make sure we have a system in place that looks at practice,” he said, emphasizing the importance of effective teaching that reaches all children.
McGrath said there also needs to be a focus on quality education for young children, ages three to five, at a stage when brain development is critical and lays the foundation for children to become successful students and adults.
“The investment of $1 in early education will result in saving $10 later on,” McGrath stated. “It’s a lot easier to invest than to remediate.”
The discussion ranged to include issues around college affordability, the lack of civics and citizenship in education, and education funding.
And just as the conversation examined issues spanning early childhood through college education, Lesley’s president concluded that it’s wise for education professionals at all levels to view education holistically.
“From my sense, the future belongs to people who are boundary spanners,” said Moore, referring to those who are in their niche but are also actively engaged in and knowledgeable of the big picture, which Lesley tries to achieve, he said.
See more photos from the panel discussion on "Current Trends in Education: Implications for Early Childhood, K-12, and Higher Education."
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