Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Next generation workforce: Outperformed in math and science

A great interview in Fortune with Intel's former CEO, Craig Barrett:

The problem is our overall expectations have been set so low that it's pathetic. Mainly because we haven't had good teachers who can do more than stay 30 minutes ahead of the kids in the classroom on these topics.

The quality of education depends on three things and three things only. The quality of the teachers. The expectation levels that you set. And … a bit of tension or a feedback loop. The feedback loop helps struggling students, it helps struggling teachers, it pays for performance. It's a little bit of tension to make the system really run. You have to have those three things or you get the U.S. system.

What do you think is keeping the U.S. education system from achieving these three things?

One of the biggest challenges is just saying you will no longer tolerate mediocre performance. Arizona where I reside has an exit examination to get out of high school. It's called the AIMS test. It started out with great intentions as a test which would raise standards by being a difficult test.

When they first tried to introduce it, they found nobody could pass it, so they dumbed it down so that everybody could pass. And that is the lack of political will on the system to say we mean it when we're going to raise our standards.

Do you think major corporations like Intel will eventually just move elsewhere on the basis of finding talent?

They already are. International corporations aren't dumb. And if the talent is not in the U.S., they'll follow the talent. They have to to survive. And this is what has not permeated the U.S. discussion.

When our leaders, Republican or Democrat, get in front of the audience and say, "The U.S. is at its best in a time of crisis. We will rise above all of this. We will show the world that nobody can compete with our workforce," I'm sitting there scratching my head.

Why is it that no one else can compete with us? Okay, we're entrepreneurial. Other countries are getting more entrepreneurial.

On the basics of education, preparation for the workforce, we're in the bottom quartile. What makes us special? What makes us think we're special?

Recruiting top talent in any industry comes at a significant cost. How do you convince students coming out of top schools, likely with loans to pay off, to go into teaching?

How does Wendy Kopp do it from Teach for America? Why is she oversubscribed … for the positions she has?

These are kids coming out of the top schools. They have loans just like everybody else. Come up with a program. Start forgiving loans for the number of years you spend teaching.

I think there is a great capability to attract smart kids if you don't say to the kid, "If you want to be a teacher, you have to go through the mind-numbing experience of four years at a school of education as opposed to being a content expert in some topic and we'll make you a teacher later."


Next generation workforce: Outperformed in math and science

Posted by Fortune Editors

December 8, 2010 3:41 pm

 Subscribe in a reader