We are ready. That’s the message that the One Region, One Vision initiative sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when the Education and the Economy bus tour stopped in Merrillville, Ind., on Thursday afternoon.
Before Secretary Duncan delivered his message about the need to educate our way to a better economy, the conference organizers showed that they’d already learned that lesson.
In a short video that preceded the secretary’s speech, educators and students from throughout the region explained how they are organizing their work around the goal of preparing all students being to be ready for college and careers.
The students talked about how their teachers help them track their progress toward their academic and career goals starting in 8th grade. Shannon Rostin, who is a high school freshman, plans to attend Indiana University and pursue a degree in education. She knows what courses she needs to take to be admitted to IU and is on the path to earning up to 30 credit hours in a dual enrollment program before she even enrolls at the state’s flagship university.
Shannon, like all of those speaking in the video, ended her story by saying: “I am ready.”
The goal of the One Region, One Vision partnership aligns well with President Obama’s agenda to reform America’s schools. In both Race to the Top and the Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Department has encouraged states to set standards that are aligned with college and career expectations.
In his speech, Secretary Duncan praised the collaboration of educators, business executives, and community leaders for working together for education reform. But he also warned that Indiana – and the rest of the country – faces a difficult task if it wants its students to be competitive in the 21st Century economy.
“The reality is tough: Those countries are out-educating Indiana. Plain and simple, they are doing a better job of promoting educational excellence,” Duncan said.
“I know my message today about Northwest Indiana’s educational system has been a sobering one. But I don’t believe that we do our children or our nation any favors by sugarcoating reality,” he added. “We must deal with these challenges openly and honestly, and with a sense of urgency that has been missing for far too long.”
Duncan praised the region for its commitment to expanding dual enrollment programs and turning around low-performing schools. He also singled out the commitment to college- and career-readiness and the willingness to be held accountable for reaching those rigorous standards.
Those investments in education will yield dividends in the 21st Century economy.