President's Corner                                           Page 54


Local Action With a

Global Impact  



 Benny Gooden

In Fort Smith, a small midcontinent city not unlike many cities in which AASA members lead schools, I often am afforded the opportunity to interact with corporate executives who manage local manufacturing plants. Despite the declines in domestic manufacturing seen in many communities, including Fort Smith, I am impressed by the number of local businesses that are owned by foreign parent companies. This number is multiplied many times when you count the number of locally represented domestic corporations with international divisions and operations.

Because these corporations employ many graduates from high schools in the area, our graduates must have the career skills required by these global enterprises along with the ability to interact with people from other cultures.

When Thomas Friedman published his bestseller The World Is Flat in 2005, he challenged educators, business executives and political leaders to think globally. Since then, we in the United States have experienced the impact of economic conditions halfway around the world. As I look at the local businesses and consider their international connections, it underscores the global ties that improved communication and transportation have established. Simply stated, we will never go back to a time in which national borders constrain commerce — or education.

What about our schools? The quest for global comparisons of educational systems has brought real challenges for those who yearn to know how students in the United States measure up with their international counterparts. Critics of these rankings note that the curricular sequencing in some nations differs sharply from those in American schools and that schools in many nations are selective at various levels. They also suggest that the few international tests that are used in the rankings are suspect; they are administered without the statistical sampling of the total school population in each country that would gauge the true performance of all students.

It also is worth noting that some major global players simply choose not to participate in these assessments. However, these comparisons are valuable as we compete in the global environment that Friedman described.

Providing internationally recognized programs that lead to high school diplomas such as the International Baccalaureate afford a reasonable assurance of comparability. Students who complete a validated and accredited program can be certain that the content and relative rigor are essentially the same regardless of the country in which the studies were completed. Unfortunately, this model may not be feasible in every community due to variations in school size or cost. These factors lead many schools to choose the College Board’s Advanced Placement program in an attempt to standardize content and rigor.

Other international standards come from U.S.-based accreditors such as AdvancED, which accredits schools in more than 65 countries. While many overseas schools seeking the accreditation endorsement AdvancED provides are private, more and more public schools under governmental control are attempting to rise to this level.

Comparisons of schools and the relative performance of cohorts and individual students notwithstanding, the local schools AASA members lead are certain to have an increasing global reach in the days ahead. The students who are looking forward to a spring graduation and who are planning for a career with a local corporation may quickly find themselves in China, Sweden or Mexico.

The first step to success in this environment is to be aware of the interconnected business community in which we live and work. The second and more critical requirement is having an understanding of different cultures and respecting those who may not look, speak or think the same as their American associates.

Like politics, schools are local, but their impact is truly global.

Benny Gooden is AASA president for 2012-13. E-mail: bgooden@fortsmithschools.org 



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