Capitol Ideas Sept/Oct

In early July, one unusual item came up for bid on the online auction giant eBay. The listing read, “One Slightly Used But Extremely Successful Pennsylvania Public High School.”

The high school in question was The Learning Center, an alternative school in the Neshaminy School District. The district, faced with a $14 million deficit, considered closing the school, according to news reports. The eBay listing—which had bids starting at just under $600,000—offered one lucky buyer naming rights, a large pizza, a coffee mug and the chance to deliver the commencement address.

Story by: James Applegate

Perhaps, as the saying goes, there are no silver bullets in life.

Today, however, the data clearly tell us that the closest thing a state has to a silver bullet for creating a successful 21st century economy and an improved quality of life—better health, lower crime, citizens who contribute—is a dramatic increase in the number of college educated people in its workforce age population. The connection between states with a more educated population and increased per capita income, tax revenues, public health, and citizen engagement, as well as lower crime, smoking and obesity rates is clear.

Focus Gives Students Ownership of Their Work

It began with a sticky problem … literally.

Danville, Ky., High School physics teacher Danny Goodwin gave his students the following assignment: Create from scratch a substance so viscous it would hold in place a 500-gram weight on one end of a two-foot-long board when raised to create a ramp.

Students did not receive a how-to guide. Through trial and error they created their gluey concoctions and lathered them on their boards, then elevated the boards as high as possible before the weights slowly pulled loose and slid down the incline.

Article Authored by Bill Gates

Growing up, I was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged their students to explore areas of learning they were curious about. Having the freedom to try things out allowed me to develop a passion for computing—which eventually led me and a fellow student, Paul Allen, to start Microsoft.

Being lucky enough to have great teachers also nurtured a love of learning that has stayed with me ever since. As I told school leaders recently at the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools, my own experience in school is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the work our foundation is doing in education.

Georgia legislators passed a bill this year to encourage every student to take an online course during their middle or high school career.

Rep. Tom Dickson, a former school superintendent, said students need to be familiar with technology, since many jobs of the future will require a level of technological literacy.