• Prose and Purpose

    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.


We Need to Talk

Thinking about the lack of communication between higher ed and K-12.

May 5, 2013

At this time of year, I’m always reminded of the spring a few years ago when I had University related events for 27 nights in a row in addition to all the normal day activities.  Just as this period was ending, I bumped into a senior faculty member, now retired, who wanted to tell me that he was certain that the Provost was a glamour job and that he couldn’t imagine anything more fun to do in higher education.

Perhaps glamour and fun are not the most accurate descriptors. But the provost position provides an excellent vantage point to see clearly what is going on, on a college or university campus.  And what I see clearly this time of year by going to honor society inductions, or our Latin Honors Recognition Convocation, or technology competitions, or distinguished faculty lectures, or senior athlete dinners, or recognition of Provost Scholars (who are straight A students), or graduations is all the excellence that is present on a university campus.  We are fortunate to have so many students who have accomplished so much. And we are fortunate to have them taught by such an excellent faculty. It is actually a validation of all the good work done by faculty and others to see how much the students have accomplished.

While all the end of the semester activities are taking place on campus, this is the time of year that my school board related activities also increase.  We are advocating for the budget we are recommending, we are preparing to ask the community to support a bond issue and we are also about to recognize all the student accomplishment that has taken place during the K-12 years of school.  The schedule is such that just as the recognition events end on university campuses, they build up and peak at our elementary, middle and high schools.  Once again it is terrific to see at the K-12 level all that our students have accomplished and once again it is the excellent work and dedication of the teachers that has made such a huge difference.

What doesn’t seem to take place at this time of year or, for the most part, at any other time of the year is the communication between K-12 education and higher education that could strengthen education at all levels.  In a college or university, we work with the products of K-12 education.  We know what works well and what needs to be enhanced and we know it on more levels than just standardized test results. But we rarely share information with our K-12 colleagues. In K-12 education, teachers know what would enhance the chances of success in higher education but here too the information is rarely shared.

My message is very simple: we need to talk.

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