Stanley Litow is a Professor at Duke, Trustee of the State University of NY and columnist at Barron’s. He previously served as President of the IBM Foundation, Deputy Schools Chancellor for New York City, Founder and head of Interface and Executive Director the Urban Corps. He organized and led 3 National Education Summits, served on two Presidential Commissions and helped found P TECH schools.
Solutions to the crisis that education is facing as a cause of the pandemic.
Unpack the demands leaders are facing from the decline in the achievement rates, high school graduation, college enrollment and teacher recruitment and retention.
The essential step to addressing student achievement.
The P TECH program provides a clear pathway from school to college, to career.
Be part of the solution at the upcoming National Summit on Pathways from School to College to Career in Washington DC this March.
Overcome the doomsday data facing education leaders.
The big tent approach for Ruckus Makers to make systemic change.
Stanley’s Resources & Contact Info:
- Breaking Barriers: How P-TECH Schools
- Stanley Litow
- Link to the event here: https://nationalpathwaysinitiative.org
- The 2023 National Pathways Initiative Summit will be designed and structured to advance a clear vision for a new educational system that will incorporate a fundamental shift in the paradigm that has long guided U.S. education and enhance the pathways from the classroom, to college to a career.
- To bring this initiative to life and marshal the support of federal policymakers, we are forming a diverse National Pathways Coalition composed of prominent leaders in sectors vital to this effort, including business, education, government, the civil rights community, nonprofits and students and young adults.
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Read the Transcript here.
How to solve the crisis in education
You’ve heard the quote about the hammer and the nail.If all you have is a tool, is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, that’s a problem. Especially when you are facing big challenges. Today’s show, I talk with my guest, Stan Litow, and it’s his second time on the show. We talk about really the crisis that education is facing as a cause of the pandemic. And it could feel overwhelming, like insurmountable. It could feel very scary. You might not even feel, as one person, that you can make a change, but you can. Maryanne Williamson talks about “how our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And later she goes.we ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous.
That’s putting an upper limit on yourself. That’s small thinking. Maryanne says, who are you not to be? I’m encouraging you to step up Ruckus Maker to be a part of the solution. One thing that I really admire and appreciate about Stan is that he always fires me up. He’s such a connector and a generous guy and a big thinker. His approach to solving this education crisis and getting all the voices around the table is inspiring. Last thing I’ll say is.give the show a listen and you really enjoy it. At the end, there’s an opportunity to come to this national summit happening in DC in March. And the registration url, will be in the show notes and on the website, and I’ll also.record it into the podcast. It’s just a great opportunity to be a part of the solution.
Last thing I’ll say, as a Ruckus Maker, you do three things. You invest in your continuous growth. Yes, you challenge the status quo. And then the third part is you design the future of school. Now, the biggest critique, and it’s annoying to me.Oh, school hasn’t changed for 200 years and easily evolves and blah, blah, blah. Well that’s fine. And they’re right. Honestly, they’re right. The critics are right. But what’s the solution? Part of the solution is being a part of the solution.Being a part of discussion happening at the table, connecting all the partners and the stakeholders and the community members, and getting education out of operating as a silo and through a more integrated and aligned experience. Hey, it’s Danny and welcome to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast to show for Ruckus Makers. We’ll be right back after a few messages from our show sponsors.
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Hey there, Ruckus Maker. Guess what? We have Stan Litow back with us for the second time, which is pretty cool because there’s only a handful of guests that have been on the show more than once and Stan has broken through that barrier in the short amount of time I’ve known him. But it’s because he is so amazing and he has so much to offer and I can’t wait to get into today’s conversation. Now Stan is a professor of the practice at Duke University, where he also served as innovator in residence and also teaches at Columbia University. He previously served as Deputy Chancellor of Schools for New York City and as president of the IBM Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs at IBM. At IBM, he helped create pathways in technology, early college, high school, otherwise known as P Tech, an innovative grade nine to 14 school, connecting school to college to career. And the last time he was on the show, we spoke about the book he co-authored, which is called Breaking Barriers, how P Tech Schools Create a Pathway From High School to College to Career From Teacher College Press. I highly encourage Ruckus Makers listening to check out that book. Stan also serves as a trustee of the State University of New York and where he chairs the Academic Affairs Committee. Stan, welcome back to this show.
Thank you so much for inviting me. I appreciate the opportunity to share information with your audience.
The pleasure’s all mine. Let’s start off with the education crisis.resulting from Covid. You were telling me in the pre-interview that student achievement levels and high school graduation rates are declining as well as college enrollments are in decline as well. Teacher recruitment and retention rates are at the lowest rates ever. So this sounds like doomsday sort of data. How are you thinking about it and what can we do?
First of all, it is a crisis. No question about it. I think what the pandemic did is it deprived a very large number of young people all around the United States of an in-person learning experience for a very long period of time. And there was a lot of discussion about online opportunities and remote learning. And that kind of an opportunity really apart from large numbers of young people not having broadband and not having vices, what they were participating in was nothing like what an in-person learning experience is like. As a consequence, large numbers of young people have seen their achievement levels decline. And the decline has been largest for low income students of color who did not have the support at home. We also saw an increase in mental health and social services issues that affected large numbers of young people.
We saw this big decline in student achievement level. And then for those students who were approaching high school graduation for the first time in decades, we saw a decline in high school graduation numbers. And then we saw a big decline in students going into post-secondary institutions. Again, especially for low income students, especially for students of color and especially in our community colleges around the United States. So that demonstrates that the pandemic had a serious effect on student achievement levels. But don’t think that it’s just something that had affected people over the two year period of the pandemic. There were young people who didn’t have an opportunity to have an education experience in kindergarten, first or second grade, or were having difficulty in their middle school years. So this problem will exist for a fair long amount of time on student achievement levels. And then you mentioned the fact that a very large number of teachers are thinking of leaving the profession before their retirement age.
A lot of it has to do with the pressures. Of their teaching experience. The change in the population, the increase in mental health problems, and all of those problems have made the job of a teacher more and more difficult. More and more teachers are leaving the profession. We’ve seen a decline in the number of people interested in a teaching career. All of these things put together are a perfect storm. And it really requires us to seriously address these issues in a very serious way. And we know that there was a small amount of resources that were added so that school districts could cope with the pandemic. On the other hand, over a longer period of time, we’re gonna have to think about more reform efforts that are gonna have an opportunity to address the mental health challenge, address the achievement issues, address the problem of teacher retention, teacher recruitment, and do it in a way that is integrated and coordinated.
And one of the things that I really very much believe in is that our systems are very siloed. Our K12 system, and then we send people into post-secondary, but we’re not two separate systems. They need to be integrated. And the opportunity for employment is something that we really have to discuss because as you probably know, employers all around the United States are talking about the difficulty that they’re having in finding employees who have the skills to connect to the jobs that are available in the workplace now. And they’re in areas where there’s real opportunity, whether it’s technology or healthcare in a variety of different areas. We need young people with the right skillset. We need to connect these institutions K to 12 post-secondary, the employer community in a pathway from school to college to career.
I’m curious what you might say to the Ruckus Maker listening. He or she, they’re most likely a principal in a school, maybe AP, maybe instructional lead, something like that. But the majority of listeners for sure, either a principal or assistant principal. What you’re talking about to me is like systemic change.And you’re talking about, okay, the high school connected to post-secondary connected to jobs and this, it could, I’m anticipating it could feel overwhelming for the Ruckus Maker listening. What would you say to him or her? Like how can they be a part of the solution without just putting their head in the sand and hoping or praying that this goes away?
One thing is to understand that this is not just their problem. I don’t think we need to point the finger at school leaders, whether they’re principals.Or assistant principals and say, Hey guys, we’ve got a crisis. Why don’t you solve this crisis? I don’t think that’s the way that you solve a problem. Like the ones that we’ve described in K to 12, that’s something that all citizens in the United States need to get behind are political leaders, governors who are the CEOs of their state. And largely education is a state function. Governors need to be engaged and involved in a solution. The employer community can’t just say, give us a population that has the skills that we need to be able to employ. They have to be engaged and involved in the solution as well. Our civil rights organizations, our parent groups, our not for profit organizations, we really need to get everyone together.
This requires a big tent approach. Not pointing a finger at some people, but engaging everyone to get agreement that if this is a problem that we need to solve, we need everyone on board to be part of the solution. And by the way, I believe there are certain policy changes that could significantly affect the challenge and the problem that we have. Let’s start with the fact that how do we get more young people to understand that a post-secondary degree is critically important to their economic success? Let’s look at the data over a lifetime. Somebody with a post-secondary degree versus somebody who goes into the workforce, only a high school diploma is going to earn more than $1 million more over their lifetime. We’ve heard a lot of people who say college doesn’t matter. You’ve probably heard that phrase, college doesn’t matter.
It matters to the individual who doesn’t have a post-secondary degree. Now how do we do that? One way that we can do that is by giving more students who are in the high schools the opportunity to take credit-bearing college courses. The data demonstrates that young people who do that are more likely to attend postsecondary and complete postsecondary. There was a recent white paper that was done about the crisis in community college enrollment across 100 community colleges in California. It demonstrated that the only thing that led to increased enrollment in college was early college opportunities. And that demonstrated an opportunity to expose young people to credit bearing college courses while they’re on the high school register. But that has a cost. The tuition cost and the early college programs and the PTAC programs that you mentioned that I started, means that localities have to cover all of that tuition cost.
If students taking their college courses while on the high school register were eligible for financial support under a Pell Grant, that would give the opportunity for tens of thousands of young people to take their college courses with the federal government paying it for it with a Pell Grant just like they do for students who are on the college register. That would be an easy change that would benefit tens of thousands of young people all across the country and address the college enrollment challenge. The second thing is we have large numbers of young people perhaps, who have not been exposed to the workplace. They don’t know what it means. They don’t know why they need to learn and earn their degree because they don’t understand what it means. We know that giving more young people experiential learning opportunities would be significantly helpful if a young person had an experiential learning opportunity working for you, or working for a not-for-profit organization or working for government or working for a private employer while they were in high school, that would help them understand why education is actually connected to a work opportunity.
Now in the mid 1960s with support across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, they approved the piece of legislation called the Federal College Work Study Program. And with federal money, it subsidized employment opportunities where students were able to earn the wage that they needed to pay their tuition costs. We could make that opportunity available for students in high school. We could give them an opportunity with a federal subsidy to have experiential learning opportunities while they’re in high school. And they would be able to understand not just how to earn money, but the skills that are important to be able to get a living wage in their career opportunity. And they would understand why education is connected to work. We could do that relatively easily. We could get support across the aisle and opening up federal college work study opportunities with subsidized experiential learning, again, would benefit not just tens of thousands of young people, but hundreds of thousands of young people and lead to higher levels of college completion, higher level of earning in the workplace.
And by the way, they would also pay more taxes and we’d have to spend less on the social safety net. Those are just two examples of things that could be done on a policy level that would benefit all young people and making, and make the work and job of teachers and principals easier. I’ll give you one third opportunity is.we have an apprenticeship program in the United States, but the average age of somebody in the apprenticeship model in the US is 28. If we look at the apprenticeship model in a lot of Western European geographies, it starts much earlier. So you give the opportunity for more young people to Mel to work and learn together as part of an apprentice opportunity. We don’t do that in the United States, but we could, and it would have the support of the employer community, it would have the support of labor unions, it would have support across the aisle.
And those are just three examples. Now, if we could get all American citizens together to say we’ve got a crisis, and we know when we’ve had crises in other industries, just recently the crisis in the chip industry has led to the federal legislation to support microchips. When we thought we had a problem in 2008, 2009 that the automobile industry was gonna tank, we came up with a solution. Our education industry is in a crisis. It needs a solution. We don’t need to ring our hands. We can come up with the kinds of policy changes that I’ve talked about. And with those things enacted and the federal kinds of support filtering down to the local level, we could make the job of principals and teachers a lot easier. Imagine if students had the support to take college courses, experiential learning apprenticeship programs. It would alleviate a lot of the challenges that are currently put on our schools. And it would allow them to use their resources in a way that would lead to higher achievement levels and a population that could move into the workforce and take the kinds of jobs that are in high demand.
I think that would at least address some of the issues with retention too.By alleviating some of that stress, what you’re talking about when it comes to policy or the experience that the student has connecting the dots from what they’re doing in school to college, to the workforce. That makes me just think of alignment.Everything’s online integrated was a word that you used quite a bit. And believe it or not, there’s some people who might not have heard our first episode.shame on them. But welcome to the show. I wanna invite you, Stan, to maybe just give a quick overview of P Tech or maybe describe some of the things that makes that program unique so that students do have that aligned integrated experience. It really is very interesting and powerful what you’ve created.
It is a redesign of the high school model to create, instead of grade nine to 12 high school, a grade nine through 14 high school community college where a student begins in grade nine, they have an opportunity to take their high school classes, their college classes through dual enrollment. They lead to a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a competitive area. It could be cybersecurity, it could be biotech, it could be engineering, it could be business, it could be a variety of different areas where a student would get an, they wouldn’t just walk out with a high school diploma, enroll in community college, but their high school and community college would be connected in an integrated six year program. And it would be totally connected to an employer employer opportunity because an employer as well as the community college and as well as the high school, would be integrated so that the students who complete their associates degree would be first in line for any available job with a business.
This program began in one small high school in Brooklyn in 2011. It has now grown to over 350 schools across 28 countries, 13 states in the United States. And students have the opportunity to get their high school degree, their community college degree, and a clear pathway from school to college to career employers commit to providing mentors for the students. Employers commit to provide employer visits, workplace visits to the employer location, paid internships. And the opportunity is to integrate career opportunity with high school and community college opportunity together and unite the three silos of school, college, and career. And we have seen hundreds of employers involved in this program. When I was at IBM, IBM sponsored a number of P TECH schools, but now employers like Thomson Reuters in the communications industry, employers like Global Foundry, there’s like Tesla are all engaged and involved in the tech model.
And what they’re getting is a population that is school and career ready that have the right skills, they have the right degree. And the other interesting thing is it’s also addressing the challenge of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Because a lot of the students in many of the PT tech schools are overly represented by low income and students of color and they’re getting these opportunities. It was interesting because there was a recent article in the New York Times on the front page of their business section and they highlighted one of the PTECH students who graduated from this program and is now making six figures in cyber security at age 19. Now that’s an interesting opportunity, but it’s an opportunity that can be provided to larger and larger numbers of students. And as you know, in the book that I wrote Breaking Barriers, I highlighted a number of students who completed their two year degree, then went on and got a four year degree, then went on to medical school, went on to get graduate degree at PhDs, you name it. Because the opportunity is there for the students if you give them the support.
I love that the opportunity is there for the students if you give ’em the support. The three things I just wanna reflect back.to you and for sure, definitely for the Ruckus Maker listing. Hopefully you’re excited, you can hear the passion of Stan’s voice and this model is really cool. I wanna encourage you to pick up his book Breaking Barriers, how P Tech Schools create a pathway from high school to college to career. Second thing I wanna highlight just has to do with the breakdown of silos. Integration alignment and we’re talking about high school, college career, but let’s say.you’re a Ruckus Maker. You’re in high school or middle school, whatever, like how are you aligning to the elementary experience or how are you aligning from high school down to middle school? There’s a lot of silos that exist even within a local school, between departments.
I don’t know the answer for you, but the challenge, the reflection question is how to create a more integrated experience on your campus. And then the third thing I just wanna reflect back and this goes to our earlier start of our conversation, instead of pointing the fingers at just schools or school leaders and it’s about.policy and this kind of thing. I really, what you helped me see Stan, is just connecting the dots between school, between industry, between policy makers, you said CEOs, the.the governors, CEOs of their states, getting everybody at the same table saying, this is our challenge to solve. And so for the Ruckus Maker listening, how are you bringing all your stakeholders to the table as well? Just to build a better experience.for the students you serve. Thank you for that high level summary and overview of the PTECH experience. Anything you wanna add?
The last thing I would say is that we’re working to bring together all of those key constituencies at a national education summit meeting. We’re scheduling it this March in Washington DC. We’ll have an invited guest list, but we’ll also have an opportunity for people to participate once we have the location and the date. And it will promote it and give people an opportunity to learn about it. But we’ll bring together governors, both Republican and Democrat CEOs from major companies, school leaders, union leaders. The principal’s Union is engaged, the teacher’s union is engaged. Civil rights organizations and student leaders, student government leaders from all the higher education institutions around the United States will be involved. And we will talk about how we can collectively address this crisis together. And there’ll be a specific set of policy decisions that can be made, such as the ones that I just talked about, whether it’s PE or study apprenticeship and other things.
And we’ll try to get everyone to sign on to a common policy agenda and then walk out of that summit with agreement from all the various key stakeholders so that the life of people at the school level, students, teachers, school leaders can be made easier by bringing this big tent approach and say.we’ve had a lot of education, institution education decisions that have become very divisive.Where had everybody supposedly on the same page about the need for higher education standards and then common core became divisive. We like the idea of coming up with innovative models in education and the charter schools and it too became very divisive. The issue of testing became very divisive. But I think it is possible to bring people together because there’s not a lot of disagreement on the importance of school to college to career and creating this kind of a pathway. We can get everyone on the same page, we can get a common agenda, we can unveil it in a March meeting, a national education summit, and then we can get the opportunity for everyone to be on the same page and perhaps get these changes over the finish line that will make the job of educators a lot easier and will make success and the opportunity for real career success available for many more young people.
That’s an exciting opportunity. This summit is happening in DC in March, and we will get all the information for Ruckus Makers who’d like to stop by and attend. We’ll get that in the show notes and I’ll probably record something in as well because we are just behind the scenes. We’ve recorded this prior to knowing that information, but we’ll get it to you for sure. Thank you. Oh, it’s my pleasure. I really appreciate connecting with you again. Stan.we’ve covered a lot of ground of everything we discuss today. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker listening to remember?
The one thing I would say is, and having been Deputy Chancellor of schools in New York City, the largest school system in the United States, worked in the private sector, worked for a mayor back in the day, worked in the non-for-profit community At this juncture, I don’t think that there’s an issue that’s more significant and important than education, but it can’t only be solved by educators. This is something that we need to get every American involved in. And not just to say what could we do, but give them a very concrete and specific agenda where our investment and it’s gonna take an investment, but done in an innovative, creative and different kinds of ways can produce real meaningful change. And I think it is definitely possible.
Absolutely. And now sign up the Ruckus Makers, we’re on board. Thanks Stan again for visiting the show.
Thank you Ruckus Makers, we appreciate you.
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel better leaders better schools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @Alien earbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at @alienearbud, and using the hashtag #BLBS. Level up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
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