Event ties schools, industry

Businesses asked to help with education

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

The State Board of Education's executive director said she wants the community and university to collaborate with her agency to improve learning in public schools.

Pam Tackett said that people involved in industry should pay more attention to problems public schools are facing, such as teacher shortages and lack of support for teacher training.

"Teachers matter and teaching matters," she said. "We must continue to convince people of that."

The School of Education, Texas public school officials and corporate leaders gathered here Thursday for a luncheon and symposium titled "Connecting Education and Community."

Tackett said there are currently 40,000 teaching vacancies in Texas. Because of the shortage, she is looking for business leaders and workers to help by teaching a subject related to their work experience.

She said that when business people retire, they could bring a lot of knowledge to the public schools. She said they will be revising certification procedures to measure what business people know. That experience may be used as a substitute for additional teacher certification, she said.

"We will establish standards of knowledge and experience with children," she said. "Teachers must have a deep, rich understanding of content of what they teach."

Tackett also said that schools need more grants to develop opportunity for training. She said teachers with more education will produce more successful students.

She said that the schools need to develop a way to identify teachers in the system to participate in such programs.

Local school taxes have been raised across Texas for teacher funding, Tackett said, but it isn't enough.

"We need to look to other places for support for teachers," she said.

She challenged corporations to support the profession of teaching.

William Sanford, Texas Higher Education Board assistant commissioner of education partnerships, said local businesses need to support teaching by providing scholarships for education training. He said they should also talk to their politicians and ask for higher pay for teachers and get qualified employees to go to public schools to teach a class one day a week.

Dr. Sanford said that by having workers teach, the schools will produce better students, and therefore a better-educated work force from which to choose employees.

"You will see that effort coming back to you," he said.

School of Education Dean Jeanne Gerlach said the symposium is a first step in encouraging this kind of collaboration for school improvement.

"Here at UTA, we've been really working for the past two years to collaborate with public and private schools, set up articulation agreements with junior and community colleges and leaders in industry," she said. "Our governing agencies are telling us that we have to do these things."

She said it does "take a village" to train successful teachers and produce successful students.

Gerlach said the meeting was informative and she is looking forward to meeting with industry leaders and educators in smaller groups throughout the next eight months and implementing the ideas presented at the symposium.


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