Bay County should take the lead in educational innovation

by May 5, 2008 • 0 comments

JuliannBy: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or

With the dismal state of primary and secondary education around the country, Bay County has a tremendous opportunity, if we are willing to lead.

According to Michael Hodges in Dangerous Erosion of Education Quality and Productivity, the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) * shows advanced US high school seniors continue to score poorly in international science and math comparisons – near the bottom of all the countries tested.  In addition, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) * shows the general US student population scores well below the international average in math and science.  And worst of all, this trend has continued for many years.

To lead, we must admit that most primary and secondary schools in Bay County have the same quality and performance challenges that schools have everywhere else in the US.  Admitting we have a problem may be difficult to stomach, but it is probably easier than believing we can be a catalyst for significant change.  After all, large cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York have been unable to turn the tide.

It might make sense to change our viewpoint.  Almost all innovation occurs in small places.  Steve Jobs developed the first personal computer in a garage.  When he approached Hewlett Packard about a job for himself in exchange for the technology, he was rejected.  Then he went on to found Apple Computer to produce his product.  This company completely changed our way of life.

So what is holding us back?

Perhaps is it fear that admitting inadequacies might make economic development difficult.  In the case of education, the opposite is probably true.  With all the press about problems with US education, most parents know quality is a concern and most would prefer honesty rather than platitudes.  What a refreshing change it would be to hear: 1) this is the current state of education in the US, 2) this is the current state of education in Bay County, 3) this is our plan for improving education in Bay County, 4) this is how we will track our performance compared to foreign countries and 5) this is how you as parents will be able to know the quality is improving.

Many people in large US cities are so dissatisfied with their educational options, that an honest plan to correct the problems would make them interested in moving to an area.  Then if Bay County could deliver, there would be national interest in our county.

So let’s believe we can lead, embrace change and watch people flood to the area.

*If you click on the links, please make sure to click more or scroll down the page to see the graphs.

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