As part of UM’s 75th Anniversary celebrations, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, addressed the nation’s educational challenges to an audience of professors, faculty, students, students, alumni, and representatives of the community at UM’s Storer Auditorium on Nov 13.
Paige, who has served as School Superintendent in the Houston area and was Dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, was invited to UM to speak about the nation’s position on education.
“He has a real feel for education,” said Leonard Miller, Life Trustee of UM, Chairman of the Board of Lennar Corp., and Chairman of South Florida Annenberg Challenge. “His sense of collaboration in the way he brings in the community gets things done”.
“I came because I thought it would be interesting to learn about the field I plan to go into,” said Rebecca Stead, senior in Elementary Education.
Among Paige’s most noted achievements is his involvement in creating the first independent school district in the Houston area, a model for the national charter school concept.
During his lecture, which was hosted by the School of Education, Paige shared a proposed bill by the Bush Administration known as No Child Left Behind.
Among the agenda for the bill is defining curriculum standards; setting clearer academic goals; giving more control and flexibility to local school districts; and expanding parental choice.
“This bill will allow us to educate one hundred percent of our children,” said Paige. “However, this is a difficult task that will require all of us to work together”.
“Magic happens in the classroom when teachers and students come together under these efforts,” he said.
Paige mentioned that all these efforts must be confined to data-based research in order to assure that ineffective actions are not taken based on public opinion. Also, he stressed the importance of including the local community in the schools.
“Currently, 32% of fourth graders can’t read at a proficient level,” said Paige. “This is not an educational system worthy of our great nation.”
“We not only have the capabilities, we have the responsibility to better our educational system,” Paige said.
Paige also said that once the bill is passed, five billion dollars will be dispersed into the nation’s schools in order to aid in the formation of reading programs.
“I am very happy that a significant amount of money will be going towards reading literacy,” said Cindy Amar, Counselor at Claude Pepper Elementary School and Alumni from the UM School of Education. “At the same time, I am opposed to the idea of viewing schools as a business”.
“I think it’s important for the government to talk and get feedback from teachers out there in the field”.
After the speech a Q&A session took place.
Issues of teacher accountability in regards to student achievement, special education, funding for construction of school buildings, standardized testing criteria, and the availability of federal funds for higher education were among the issues discussed.
“I think it’s important to learn the standards of the country as a whole in relation to education,” said Julie Defina, Elementary Education major. “Most of the courses offered here only mention guidelines for the state of Florida”.
In summation of the ideals set forth in relation to the nation’s system of education, Paige quoted the words of our nation’s greatest leaders, Martin Luther King:
“We may have all come on different ships, but we are all on the same boat when it comes to education”.