LINKING SCHOOLS TO THE I-WAY: PARTNERSHIPS ARE THE ANSWER,
SAYS BELL ATLANTIC CHAIRMAN
Philadelphia, Pa. -- Business, governments and families
working together can meet President Clinton's challenge to link every
school to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000, according to
Bell Atlantic Chairman Raymond Smith.
major policy speech to the World Affairs Council,
Smith called for increased public-private partnerships to deliver new
technologies to the nation's classrooms in the coming century. He based
his convictions on Bell Atlantic's experience in more than 70
educational technology programs throughout the mid-Atlantic region, as
well as his own service on Vice President Gore's National Information
Infrastructure Advisory Council.
"The keys to applying newfangled technological solutions to
educational problems are surprisingly old fashioned," Smith told his
audience. "The most successful applications of state of the art
technology reinforce the fundamentals of a healthy educational culture:
student engagement, teacher commitment, and parental involvement."
"I reject the notion that whole groups of people are
destined to be consigned to the second-class citizenship of being
'information have-nots'. Money is not the only, or even the most
important barrier to the appropriate use of technology to improve our
Household accessories and services Americans consider commonplace
today were developed not through a series of federal mandates and
entitlements, but through
the push and pull of consumer demand, Smith noted. The same open-market
approach that sped the introduction of VCRs, cellular phones and cable
television into the nation's homes should be used to bring new
technologies to the classrooms, he said.
Smith noted that no school system, no industry, no government
agency should be required to bear all these costs by itself. "The
most successful programs are the result of a partnership between the
school district, the local government, civic associations and the
business community. This local involvement is crucial because no single
solution works for every community," he said.
Smith pointed to Christopher Columbus Middle School in Union
City, N.J. - once a takeover target by the New Jersey Department of
Education - as a textbook example of one successful public-private
educational partnership. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents
launched Project Explore in 1992 with Bell Atlantic to fight low test
scores, high drop-out rates and an academic culture based on failure.
First, the school district began to retool the curriculum. The
city passed a bond initiative to refurbish crumbling facilities and the
state invested in technology and new equipment. Bell Atlantic funded a
research project which placed computers in the school's classrooms, and
in the homes of 135 7th graders and their teachers.
Through extensive teacher training and parent workshops, families
became increasingly involved in the academic lives of their children, and
achievement test scores rose dramatically. Attendance increased and
dropout levels fell.
Smith recognized Luciano and Ana Calles of Union City as two
particularly dedicated parents who participated in Project Explore. src = "/sites/default/files/imported/images/family.gif" alt = "" align = "right"> The
couple, natives of El Salvador, worked side by side with their sons Juan
and Danny to master the new technology, interact with teachers and
build their English language skills.
"With parents like Mr. and Mrs. Calles, and strong partners
in government and in education, we'll help meet the challenges of linking
schools to technology. We are, and will continue to be part of the
solution wherever we can," Smith concluded.
Bell Atlantic Corp. is at the forefront of the new
communications, entertainment and information industry. The
Philadelphia-based company provides a full array of local
telecommunications services throughout the mid-Atlantic region and is
majority owner of one of the nation's largest cellular carriers. Bell
Atlantic is a partner in leading national alliances that will offer
wireless communications, as well as video and interactive programming.
Bell Atlantic also has substantial holdings and operations in
international markets and provides services for customer-based