Friday, October 29, 2010

Super Summary #1

I'm sorry "team E" for the tardiness of this report. I also apologize to any english teachers that are about to read this. - Chad

Section one of the book "The Global Achievement Gap" by Tony Wagner deals primarily with data about the readiness of high school and college graduates to join the workforce. Mr. Wagner combines both personal interviews and hard data to both challenge - and stick up for - schools.

Numerous times Mr. Wagner points out that schools do a good job at what they do. The problem he says - is that schools are doing the wrong things. He believes that schools are not failing. Schools today are little different than that of 50 years ago. The 3 R's (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic) are still being taught by competent teachers (for the most part), but the world students needed to be prepared for 50 years ago is completely different to the world of the 21st century. Schools are still doing a good job preparing kids - but unfortunately - it is for a world that no longer exists.

He also points out that it is not entirely the school's fault. The same business leaders that say that schools are outdated are also partially responsible. They wanted accountability from schools to produce graduates that were ready for the workforce - hence NCLB. Unfortunately, NCLB has caused even what is considered to be the "best" public and private schools to sacrifice the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy in order to "teach to the test." One of my favorite quotes is from an administrator from one of our country's most prestigious private schools: "Why is it that the longer our kids are in school, the less curious they seem?" Even in our "best" schools, the way we teach is stifling students' curiosity.

Mr. Wagner interviewed CEO's of many high-tech companies, as well as managers and supervisors of many "blue-collar" jobs (such as the retail industry and factory assembly line jobs). He quizzed them about what qualities they were looking for in new employees. He expected to get vastly different answers from the high tech CEO's looking for software engineers compared to the "blue collar" supervisors looking for someone to work on the assembly line - but the exact opposite proved true. Both the high-tech CEO's and the assembly line supervisors were looking for nearly the exact same qualities from their employees. These qualities they are looking for Mr. Wagner has dubbed the "7 survival skills of the New World of Work."

I have attached a quote or two from the book (many from the CEO's and supervisors that were interviewed) that I think illustrates each survival skill:

Survival Skill #1: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

"In schools, critical thinking has long been a buzz phrase. Educators pay lip service to it's importance, but few can tell me what they mean by the phrase or how they teach and test it - in part, because, as we will see, critical thinking skills are not tested in any of the new state tests..."
-Tony Wagner
author of "The Global Achievement Gap"
"And so the biggest challenge for our front-line employees is having the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they need to be effective in their teams - because nobody is there telling them exactly what to do. They have to figure it out."
-Karen Bruett
Strategic Business Development Manager for Dell Computer Corporation

Survival Skill #2: Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence

"The "Old World of School" is still run more by command and control than are many companies, as we'll see, and students are accustomed to having teachers tell them what to do. And students almost never work in teams. Hearing these executives talk, I began to understand how ill-prepared today's students are both for working more collaboratively and for exercising a different kind of leadership as team contributors."
-Tony Wagner

"... our schools are not yet producing many graduates who have been taught how to ask good questions, think critically, solve problems, work effectively in teams, or lead by influence - either in our communities or in our companies."
-Tony Wagner

Survival Skill #3: Agility and Adaptability

"We change what we do all the time. I've been here four years, and we've done fundamental reorganization every year because of changes in the business. People have to learn to adapt. I can guarantee that the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills."
-Clay Parker
President of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards

"Our system of schooling promotes the idea that there are right answers, and that you get rewarded if you get the right answer. But to be comfortable with this new economy and environment, you have to understand that you live in a world where there isn't one right answer, or if there is, it's right only for a nanosecond. If you're afraid, you can't think clearly."
-Ellen Kumata
Managing Parner at Cambria Associates

Survival Skill #4: Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

"Leaders today want to see individuals take more initiative and even by entrepreneurial in terms of the ways they seek out new opportunities, ideas, and strategies for improvement."
-Tony Wagner

"... we need self-directed people who ... can ... find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems."
-Mark Maddox
Human Resources Manager
Unilever Foods North America

Survival Skill #5: Effective Oral and Written Communication

"We are routinely surprised at the difficulty some young people have in communicating: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills. They have difficulty being clear and concise; it's hard for them to create focus, energy, and passion around the points they want to make. They are unable to communicate their thoughts effectively."
-Mike Summers
VP Global Talent Management
Dell Computers

Survival Skill #6: Accessing and Analyzing Information

"There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren't prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps."
-Annmarie Neal
VP Talent Management
Cisco Systems

Survival Skill #7: Curiosity and Imagination
" I want people who can think - they're not just bright, they're also inquisitive."
-Clay Parker
President of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards

"The kids who take my intro lab courses today have gotten top scores on all the Advanced Placement science courses in their high schools, but they don't know how to observe. I ask them to describe what they see in the microscopes, and they want to know what they should be looking for-what the right answer is."
-Jonathan King
Molecular Biologist at MIT

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