The Cycle | August 17, 2012
>>> a new study by georgetown university found that the current recession has widened the economic gap between educational haves and have nots. about 80% of the jobs lost during the recession were held by those with a high school diploma or less. and while college grads have seen job gains in the past two years the losses have just continued for educational have nots. it's becoming increasingly clear that a high school diploma alone is not enough to survive in today's economy. budget crunches plus a nationwide epidemic of failing schools make for some tough math when you're investing in public education . our next guest might just have a solution. chet litton is the ceo and president of the school improvement network. his company is dedicated to improving student achievement through teacher training and chet says the public and private sectors have got to come together to help our students out. thanks so much for joining us, chad.
>> it's an honor to be here, crystal. thank you.
>> i wanted your take. obviously we have many educational challenges across the country. what do you see as some of the biggest challenges and where are the opportunities? what can we do here?
>> well, i think you hit some of the big challenges. we see high drop out rates, teachers struggling to meet the needs of all their students. the reality is there are great things going on and the school improvement network is one thing we're focused on is what are the innovations really working with kids and helping teachers to be impactful and successful with them? there are a lot of things going on across the nation but few people ever hear about them. we usually hear the headlines that scare all of us. the reality is there are good things happening and our objective is to capture those things that teachers can help every student be successful and be prepared for college and career.
>> so, chet , the school improvement network is a for profit private company and actually you used to work in the educational technology space. one thing that concerned me is when you have a private company operating in the education space a lot of times they're putting profit first rather than the best education for our kids. how do we distinguish between companies that are really doing a good job helping make our education system better and those that are just out for a quick buck?
>> i think there are a lot of us that are very dedicated to a cause. for us it's all about increasing student achievement and making sure every student is college and career ready. for us that's the cause. we found that being a for profit organization enabled us to reinvest in the innovations that states and school districts simply can't do. so for us, i think the way an organization usually looks at us is a strategic partner and we're very transparent with school systems. they see what we're about and know what we're about and that helps. there are organizations that just want to make a big buck because they hear all the problems but they don't get the results either. we see reading scores double in schools that use our resources. we see math scores triple. these are against district averages. so i think that is probably one of the best determiners.
>> i just love private sector solutions to problems. i am wondering though, was this philosophical or a financial consideration? put another way, you know, bringing private sector solutions to public education , was that because you think in part privatizing education will lead to better education or because in tough times you have to get creative with funding?
>> you know, i think we hear a lot of the sound bites about both but the reality is that states are forced to get creative now. budgets have been cut so much because of the economy that states don't have the people to 'vette resources or design resources and many states and districts that design their own ended up chucking those things that they did and are now saying we need strategic partners that can help us and are looking to the private sector to help out. because we're investing and we're very focused on looking at things nationally or even globally that have the greatest impact. it is very difficult for states to do that.
>> what would you tell a school district that maybe, you know, is facing a tough budget and the idea of maybe bringing you guys in a lot of what you do seems attractive. what would you tell them? a tight budget and you know maybe they're looking at cutting programs that don't really relate to test scores like art programs, music programs, things of this nature and they can maybe spend the money there or spend the money on you guys. what would you tell them?
>> we actually sit down with systems and look at what they're trying to accomplish. you know, art and music and some of the other -- those programs really impact learning positively and there may be other areas they need to look. and at cutting. the reality is that many systems have got professional development programs they've typically done that haven't got results. we like to look in those buckets or find those places where they can look to a resource like ours that is scaleable, much more cost much more cost effective , maybe a few hundred dollars per teacher.
>> one of my pet peeves with the educational system is that we don't talk to students about financial literacy . we teach them a lot of things. we don't teach them things like balancing a checkbook, just the things as adults we need to deal with the money we make. what do you think about introducing that to the education system ?
>> it's really critical. it's an important fact. i think one of the things that has come out of the recession in a tough economy is that systems are now focusing very much on financial literacy . that's something that needs to be included. i think over the next couple of years, you'll be pleased to see what schools are actually teaching as it relates to financial literacy and many are now.
>> well thank you so much for joining today. sorry about butchering your name.
>> no problem. it's an honor