Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Full text of audio comments
The following mp3 audio soundbites are available for download on the School of Education Web site at http://education.indiana.edu/audio.html.
IU School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzalez says the Pathways Initiative will help students from areas traditionally underserved by education, and also help IU:
"So Pathways represents a way for a multi-campus research university like Indiana University to engage with high-needs schools to demonstrate how working together in a true partnership we can make a difference in student achievement and preparation for college and ultimately participation and success of students in college. This is important, for obviously the students and the communities where they live, but it's also important to Indiana University, because ultimately, if we're going to achieve our goal for better-prepared students and more diversity, we have to increase the pool of available students. And so we see this partnership as a way to begin to lay the foundations where we can do that."
According to Gonzalez, Pathways will help make the Life Sciences Initiative work:
"As Indiana seeks to transform its economy from the traditional heavy-manufacturing emphasis to more of a life sciences and information-driven economy, we're going to need to have the workers who will then staff those laboratories and technical programs and all the things that are necessary to make that kind of economy work. That means that we're going to have to have students who have at least some level of postsecondary education. And so Pathways in many ways is a complement to the Life Sciences Initiative."
Gonzalez says Pathways will also prepare more teachers:
"And a sub-goal of that, frankly, is we would like to get more of these students, students from these schools, to think about teaching as a career. So the School of Education will have a very special effort, a special role in getting more of these students to think about teaching and prepare them to take the Praxis and to do the kinds of things they'll need to do to become teachers. We need more teachers of color and more teachers who understand the dynamics of the urban setting, because ultimately they will go back to their communities and hopefully teach the next generation of students."
Gonzalez speaks about his own experience. He struggled to adjust to U.S. schools as an immigrant from Cuba, leading teachers to place him in track towards vocational education.
"And so here I am today: dean of one of the premier schools of education at a world-class university. And so the fact that I was tracked into vocational education and people didn't believe that I was college material had nothing to do with academic ability. Once I had the foundations and understood just how important an education is and just engaged in that whole process, I was able to do very well in my courses."
Director of the High School Survey of Student Engagement, Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, says it's important that schools begin engaging students in learning to prepare them for higher education.
"The getting of the degree, the accumulating of credits, which does indicate something: the kids have passed certain classes, they've gotten enough credits, they've gotten their diploma. But that doesn't say anything, I think, about the substantive pieces of education, which is the engagement with the learning environment that's going to make kids want to keep going in school."
Yazzie-Mintz adds that the latest HSSSE survey indicates students may not be preparing for the self-motivated work college requires:
"At some point -- and I would think it's in elementary, middle, high school -- you learn how to be a student. You learn what it means to study. You learn what it means to engage in work. If those skills are not developed at the high school level, then we wouldn't, I wouldn't think we would expect them to be developed at the college level."
George Kuh, director of the Center for Postsecondary Research, says it's very difficult for students from traditionally underserved populations to make it to college and succeed.
"A lot of this goes to family background. If you're born to the right set of parents the chances are astronomical that you'll get in and get through. And we know that family income, for example, is correlated about .92 with SAT score. So just by knowing someone's zip code we can kind of calculate the odds of them going on to college."
Kuh says preparing for college must start early in school.
"There are lots of ways we can connect students to something meaningful or to someone meaningful. But most students, if they don't connect early, never stick around long enough to realize this, to have their dreams become alive, to see how they can in fact use their talents and what they're learning in some productive ways."
Don Hossler, professor of educational leadership and policy studies says simply making coursework more challenging isn't the answer.
"There needs to be rigor, they need to take the right courses, but that alone, without a lot of support and assistance will actually, I think, be counter-productive to achieving a lot of the goals policy-makers have."
Hossler says initiatives like Pathways can help through educating families.
"Don't turn off your aspirations because you think you won't be able to afford it. If you've got the aspirations, you will be able to afford it. I think the other thing is, families, parents, schools need to be a little more knowledgeable about college options. A lot of kids think that college is whatever the nearest college is to them, especially low-income, first-generation."
Paulette Dilworth's Project TEAM is recruiting teachers from underserved populations who may go back and teach in their hometowns. She says that effort, which would be enhanced by Pathways, is very important.
"It's more than just the coursework that they take. You know, it's sort of like building a sense of community around what it means to be a teacher, especially when you talk about teaching in places like East Chicago and Gary where there are a host of complex challenges that it's going to take more than just the school or saying it's the schools responsibility to do it. Teachers need to learn what's really going on in this community that's affecting the school."
Dilworth says teachers with a local background can sometimes be more effective.
"The people who come from those areas I think once they're able to see, 'well, you know, I can be empowered and I can go back and empower others, and we can make this sort of a united effort,' and it's not like somebody from the outside is coming in and saying 'well you guys have problems here; let me tell you how to fix it' -- as opposed to learning how to empower communities to help themselves."