Keynote: Embedding Math and Science Partnerships in Community Collaborations

Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York System

Let me say a few things by way of introduction. Thank you, this is working already. I-- Over the years of my work in higher education have so admired Judith Ramaley.
And Elizabeth and I were talking about Judith's leadership at Portland State and how true to her vision that institution and that community continues to be.
And I had the very great privilege as well working with Cora Marrett in Wisconsin when she was Vice President and Chief Academic Officer for the University of Wisconsin System.
So I know their legacy and their careful eye watches over these Math Science Partnerships. And Elizabeth, as Project Director for the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public Schools allowed me to re-bond with my friends and colleagues at Milwaukee. And I've already given them total privilege to correct anything I say or overstate about Milwaukee. But it's a real good example of what, what I think is possible. I'm also here with my editor and colleague who helps me with Power Points, and that's Alice Oldfather. So I just want to thank all of you and congratulate you and set the stage for my message.

I-- I have had a great deal of experience in linking higher education to elementary and secondary education, and that may be in part because I began my teaching career in a one-room school somewhere between my masters and my doctoral work. And I was so amazed when I arrived at Ohio State for my doctorate that what I had been doing in a one-room school was something like the British informal model. But, you know, in the foothills of the Ozarks, we didn't have the proper nomenclature. We didn't know how clever we were about student learning and project-based learning and cooperative education and all those wonderful things that mix up a classroom when you have grades five through eight in one room in a building where the garage door separated me from the first through fourth-grade teacher. So I've always lived with a foot in both worlds, and I continue to think this is an incredibly important picture we must draw. And, as a university president learned that once you find your way to that office, the obligation to create and enhance partnerships just increases with the leadership potential of the president. So even though I was a dean of education for six years at Ohio State and worked daily with the Columbus Public Schools and actually 16 school districts across the county in which Columbus in embedded, it never really materialized until I got to a place where as president or chancellor, whichever the institution designates you as, I had the opportunity to begin putting things together.

So this is one part story, one part theory of action, and one part call to action today. So let me-- Let me begin by reflecting-- Now I pushed a button that I thought would bring the next slide. So now I'm going to-- That's the one I wanted. Now I know how these slides work. I want to start with three propositions, the first of which is so obvious to all of us. This slide on the far left is really a leaky pipeline based on a number of ten, ten ninth-graders followed through the system. I like to use 100, because it just really highlights the challenge. So when I lived in Cincinnati and across the river from what's called or referred to as Northern Kentucky, the statistic was this: of 100 ninth-graders, if 70 graduate from high school, only 38 will make it to a college door. And of those 38, only 28 will be there for their sophomore year. And of those 28, only 17 will actually graduate from a four-year institution in six years. That was Ohio's statistic. Across the river, Kentucky started with the same 100 ninth-graders, and by graduation date, only 11 had crossed the line. And the real crisis behind all of this, which was written so aptly in "Crisis in Our Cities", is that really, beneath the assumption that we are graduating about 70 percent of our students from high school, the real truth of the matter. And you know this because you live this, is that only 40 to 50 percent of our urban youth, youth served in high-need schools are actually making it to the high school finish line. So our pipeline is leaking. And it is leaking well before we start to keep book in the ninth-grade. The middle slides suggests that we haven another leaky pipeline, and that's our teacher pipeline. And as a teacher educator, this statistic, this style, has not moved in a decade. Of all the teachers we prepare, in five years, 50 percent will no longer be there. And for urban settings, it's a shorter timeframe. In three years, 50 percent of the teachers we graduate at university will no longer be in the teaching profession. So in framing my remarks, we know the student pipeline is leaking. We know the teacher pipeline is leaking. And if I had known how to take the graphic in the far-right box and apply to it a big, round, red circle with a bar through it, it would have said, "No system of education." This graphic, which is in all the materials for the math-science pipeline, is the desired effect that K-12 and higher education are united and served as well by a host of community organizations, business and industry, and philanthropic organizations. It is the ideal, it is really not what exists in most cases.

Having lived now in three states where I have worked tirelessly to better communicate State Department of Education with Commission of Higher Education, Board of Regents by whatever name,
I know and you know what a challenge it is to link those two administrative and regulatory bodies. They are not linked statutorily. And they're not linked statutorily at the federal level. Most of you know the pain and agony of getting the Higher Education Act reauthorized, I don't know, eight years? I lost track of how many years it took to get that act reauthorized. Now with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will encounter the same ebbs and flows and bobs and weaves until we get that act. And, frankly, between those two mega regulatory acts which govern higher education and K12 education, there is very little crosswalk. I compliment the National Science Foundation. Because what crosswalk there is between K12 and higher ed in those two mega bills largely occurs around Title 2 and the kind of work that NSF does with the Department of Education, which has always brought me to a very curious point. And remember, I'm just context setting here. We have in Washington a higher education secretariat. It is composed of about 40 trade associations that represent those of us in the academy. It would the Land Grant Association, the independent colleges, the state colleges, the AAU, the ACE, which is really the convener. There is, just down the street, another organization called the Learning First Alliance. And it is composed of the NEA, the AFT, the Superintendents Association, the School Boards Association, the Principals Association. And about the only thing the two groups have in common is the American Council of Colleges of Teacher Education because in some vague distant moment it was figured out that teacher education is both the operative of K12 and higher education. To my knowledge, those two mega trade organizations have never found an occasion to meet. So if you're feeling like, on any given day, you're kind of caught in the crack because you're doing something that isn't regulatory, that isn't really codified as systemic because of the regulatory disconnect across, not only Department of Ed and our K12 organizations, our higher ed organizations, but we have education and training going on in labor, going on in energy, going on in other of our department agencies, in defense. And I defy you to try to connect those dots at the federal level. I do believe that we have an administration that gets it and will work tirelessly to begin to connect those dots.

So if that's the problem-- I just have to learn. I'm practicing. Go back. Here are a couple of solutions. And this is the story part of my presentation. I simply couldn't resist telling you a little bit about the so-called Milwaukee Partnership Academy. So I'll begin there with the sense that this was an idea that evolved from a big idea. Sometimes I-- Well, I must confess a lot of times I use the big hairy, audacious goal of Collin's and Porras's book Built to Last to say that what ails us in our leaky pipeline, be it students or teachers, in our disconnected systems, we need a very audacious idea to move us forward. And in this case, it was getting every child in the Milwaukee Public School performing at or above grade level in reading, writing, and mathematics. It didn't happen overnight. It didn't happen quickly. It didn't happen because everybody agreed with everything. Actually the stimulus for this partnership was a big, federal grant encouraging communities by the Department of Education to work more collaboratively to solve the leaky pipeline. One of the things that Milwaukee did once it got itself together, provoked, I must say, by the opportunity to get a $20-million-dollar grant, is to develop five strategic activities to move the dial for every child in reading, writing and math. These are common strategies I'm sure for you. But we decided to build this partnership around literacy.

We thought we were talking about communication and literacy. Happily, for the Math Science Partnership, we began to call math a literacy function, which you had done for years of course. But it fit nicely. And this notion that we would create a literacy framework and actually organize teaching leaderships teams at the school level and weave our professional development around literacy is what evolved as our big idea. Now don't underestimate a thing called The Balanced Literacy Framework. This was on the tail end of the reading wars. In most school districts, there's lots of dissention about how best to teach reading. And even at Ohio State where reading recovery was one of the preeminent models for reading instruction and reading recovery, it had many detractors. So this partnership between the Milwaukee Public Schools and the higher education institutions in the communities actually allowed us to demystify the teaching of reading. And we did it by developing a very comprehensive literacy framework.

And I dare say, if I were better up to date about the Math Science Partnership in Milwaukee, I'm guessing that you have a math literacy framework. It follows on this kind of thinking.
So in Milwaukee, we were able to put a literacy coach in every building, was a major decision on the part of the school district, a school learning team composed, here's the key, of teacher leaders, principal, parent leaders and university faculty members, so that these school learning teams could help move the learning goals of that building, assistance in professional development and also assessment and measurement. Those notions in Milwaukee are pretty much alive today. They have survived the change in president of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, although I think I was called Chancellor. They have survived two superintendent changes. And I'm to learn that we have a new superintendent coming to Milwaukee. But still in some remnants, the Milwaukee Partnership Academy continues as an all-district partnership to improve learning to advance outcomes, and in which the Math Science Partnership is nested. It's not-- Oh, I wanted this particularly. You notice that no one's smiling there. Because one of the theories of action of the Milwaukee Partnership Academy is every Monday afternoon, without fail, members of the university, members of the school, particularly directors of curriculum, members of the union, particularly those engaged in professional development, and to a lesser extent, members of the business community and philanthropic community met to ensure that the literacy teams were working, that the literacy coaches were performing, that the literacy framework was still secure and the focus of our work. And I will say more about what it means when you have a devoted group of individuals meet consistently over time.

I'd like to contrast the Milwaukee experience with my most recent lived experience in Cincinnati. We didn't have the catalyst of a $20-million-dollar Department of Education Grant to move the dialog in Cincinnati. We did have some antagonism. Never underestimate a dose of antagonisms to actually move the partnership dial. Essentially it went like this: As a new president at the University of Cincinnati, I sat down with the superintendent of the district and several of the school board members. And I think I must have said something that sounded an awful lot like, "Hi, I'm your new president. And the university is here to help you." It obviously had fallen on deaf ears for many, many years before my tenure. And as a consequence, the district really said, "No thanks." And I want to say to you that while higher education is often credited for slow-moving, committee-driven bureaucracies, we are met in equal proportion by the resistance of our public urban school districts to share the problem. And I think that's largely because we talk passed each other and we set up a situation that assumes they've got a problem and we don't. I'd like to talk a lot about supply chain management at this point.

Because as a matter of fact, for too long, universities have said, "If you would just send us better prepared students, we would do a better job on our graduation rates until we admit, discover, expose the fact that we prepare the teachers who teach the young people who arrive at university in high need of remediation." So what happened in this knocking on the door, no thanks, we don't need you, a couple of university presidents in the neighborhood, University of Cincinnati, Xavier, our arch rival in basketball, and Northern Kentucky University sat in a small dining room, and said, "You know what, they can't shut us out. Let's find a message that is indigenously ours that we own, but that we need their help on." And, of course, for every university, that is access, success and completion.

So the basis, the fundamental basis of Strive, couldn't call it the Cincinnati Partnership, because Northern Kentucky is Northern Kentucky. Couldn't call it the Northern Kentucky Partnership. Because most people don't identify that as anywhere near Cincinnati. We called it Strive. We wanted to call it Thrive, but Proctor & Gamble was using Thrive. So we decided to use Strive. And we created our own, big, hairy, audacious goal that every student would graduate no exception. The truth of the matter is, of course, we stole that from Bill Gates. But it was so riveting that we thought this action would surely lead to successful students, productive citizens, and thriving cities. Much like the Milwaukee Partnership Academy, this mission of every child graduating no exceptions was driven by five points that every child would come to school prepared and ready to learn, supported inside school and in the community and in their family life, succeed academically, enroll in some form of college. You've heard the argument not everybody needs to go college. We just didn't want to argue that. We wanted to make that the goal by whatever pathway and graduate and enter a career. Hold on to your hats.

I know. It's here though for a reason. This is a road map. If you-- You know, before the GPS, if you ever used a trip tick, that's what this is. And the powerful part of it is that it begins at birth, not K, not even pre-K. And, in fact, we had such a strong partnership with the Cincinnati Children's Hospital that they wanted it to be prenatal. Where does education begin? And where does it end? So even though this road map stops at grade 16, since leaving Cincinnati and moving to New York, they've actually added a further embellishment that is career development and lifelong workforce learning. The reddish part is all about support systems for academics, teaching and learning. The purplish blue part is all about students, their families and their communities. And the big yellow boxes are the gaps in the education pipeline that hold the most danger, but if the corrected, hold the most leverage. So we asked researchers at the University of Cincinnati to document the stops, the benchmarks along students' roadmap to success. And we, in Cincinnati, have been riveted on this diagram now for over five years. And to make it really come alive, we did this. We put boxes and circles around what it meant for every child to come to kindergarten ready to learn.

And this is a big part of the story. Most notably, we rounded up everybody in the community who had a stake in early childhood. It's really one of the best examples of how Strive works today. Because you might not know this, because I'm guessing we don't have too many early childhood educators in the hall today. However, in our community, Head Start didn't talk to Success By 6 didn't talk about Every Child Succeeds, didn't talk with Childcare Deliverers, accredited or not. So we gathered this whole gaggle of people up, and said, "You know what, to make progress in Cincinnati, you guys are going to have to get on the same page. And that is not easy. We were saved by Six Sigma. Now we happen to be in Cincinnati, GE community. That's where they build the big engines for Boeing. Milwaukee is a GE community for medical science. And a very strong tenet of General Electric is the Six Sigma strategy, which I learned, over time, is really the scientific method, as you can tell by the description of Six Sigma. But, you know, it was unique to us. The school district wasn't using it, the higher education institutions were certainly not using this. Imagine having to have a big conversation about how we were now going to go into green belt, white belt, black white, whatever of Six Sigma and learn from another organization. This is just too much. So we actually went into training. We now have 30 to 40 skilled Six Sigma operators. And we said, sticking with early childhood, when you make a recommendation to Strive that you know how to get every child ready for kindergarten, you have to prove it. You have to prove it by data collected somewhere in the world and how you're going to apply that strategy to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and collect data on impact.

So this became named as our own Strive Six Sigma and really lead to a process where every chunk of that roadmap is divided into a group of likeminded educators or reformers or fixer-uppers who have to come together on a set of key strategies that are evidence-driven, databased, and outcome-oriented. So of all the people working on early childhood in Cincinnati, they are only working against two evidence-based strategies: home visitations for highly at-risk children and high quality, early childhood programs. It has been transformative. And I, of course, am not spending much time applying all this to Math Science Partnerships, I only want you to imagine that all the math and science educators in the community are gathered together, their trained in something like Six Sigma, they have to report our their agreed upon, evidence-based, outcome-orientated strategies before they can move through the Strive endorsement process. And you can't be endorsed for Strive intervention unless you've shown the data, your continuing to collect data and the body that runs Strive accepts your interventions. Okay, Milwaukee Partnership Academy, just a coincidence, happen to live there, happen to work very hard on the big question. Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky Strive, happen to live there, happen to work on the big issues.

What does all this mean about embededness? Well, you could live in Syracuse, and I thought I might have seen partnerships in the Syracuse area. There you wouldn't use the terminology for Strive, you wouldn't talk about, of course, the Milwaukee Partnership Academy. But you would talk about Say Yes. Because it is a very comprehensive pipeline, birth to career initiative that is owned by the entire community. I'm learning more, as are you, about the Harlem Children's Zone, which is another community-based intervention in which Math Partnership would fit quite nicely. I threw in the Ohio STEM Initiative because it's a set of satellite efforts, some of which resemble this look at comprehensive partnerships.

There are a thousand points of light in this country. There are the Math Partnerships. That's the first map to the left where all of you are. There are 40 urban-serving universities, of which Milwaukee has historically been a member, Milwaukee, Temple, Cincinnati, St. Louis, all of the center cities public research universities. So that's another map we could align with.
Of those 40 institutions, about a dozen of them are looking seriously at Strive. Actually, from my way of thinking, I'd like to lay one of these maps on the top of the other map, on top of the other map. Because you know what, there's only so much capacity in each of our communities. And my thesis is that we are a bit too fragmented to actually move the pipeline dial.

But I went back to the framework we used for Strive, and it aligns-- I'll move on because it aligns so nicely with the structure and composition of the Math Science Partnerships.
You apply, you present proposals that reflect partnership. Mostly your partnerships cross walk, arts and sciences colleges with colleges or schools of education, and then to some extent, with K12. I'm only advocating that we strengthen that cross walk. And one of the things I've worked on is a notion of boundaries banners. And we create very easy ways where people from one constituency can cross walk to another and to another. And I'm very proud that in Milwaukee we did have teachers and residents who actually came to live at the university and co-teach many of our critically important courses, math included.

A second notion of the Math Science Partnerships is that it be targeted around discipline and grade level to be more focused. I think you might accuse me of boiling water a bit by taking on this larger issue. But one of the proposals I'm making is that you're only as good as the larger collaborative and the effort to get all kids focused on math and science, and focused on completion. And I think the nature of the institute partnerships and the research and evaluation all fit quite nicely into this larger context. But I thought I ought to leave you with five ways to measure the degree to which your math science project fits into this larger gestalt of sealing the leaky pipeline of students and teachers, and making us a system, a seamless system of education.

Coming from Cincinnati, you might appreciate the five way ingredients of Skyline Chili. It's a rare combination of spaghetti, chili sauce, cheese, beans and onions, flavored with cinnamon and chocolate. You be the judge. But one of the things that's really important about it is if it's five way chili, it all kind of works together. So I used it this way. I, I assume I've made a large enough point about how we have to look at the pipeline, and we have to factor in how the absence of preparedness for kindergarten may be still haunting you when you work with seventh and eighth-graders. And that looking at math science seamlessly from birth to career might be very helpful. I think I've made the point that Strive, and to a large extent, the Milwaukee Partnership Academy, are databased and evidence-driven. I can't tell you what a difference evidence makes to the philanthropic community. What we are trying to do in Cincinnati, and I still continue to care a great deal about the success of that partnership, because it's being replicated in other cities across the country -- and I hope we will be able to replicate it in New York Cities -- is that we are auditare(?) in Cincinnati to convince all the philanthropic organizations that they only fund evidence-based interventions. Not somebody's pet project that they saw somewhere else or their belief system that tutoring is the answer when we have thousands of tutoring projects that don't, in any way, come together, let alone feed what the teachers and the students really need at a given point in time.

So this endorsement process is likely, pardon my age, good housekeeping seal of approval. If Strive says it's so, then Proctor & Gamble swiftly, I must say swiftly, followed suite by investing in only what was endorsed by Strive, which was evidence-based and outcomes-driven. This can change you life I'm telling you. And this is what I meant by we only have so much capacity in each of our communities. This is a map of blue Ohio and red Kentucky. I think that's a reverse of the election outcomes. But the darker blue line is a river. I often called it, it's just a river, not the Great Wall of China. We do have to work across school districts. I know that. We know that. But in a metropolitan community, you have one United Way, you typically have one YMCA, one YWCA, one Boys and Girls Club, one Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts. My suggestion being, unless we have a community riveted on the success of every child in every discipline, we are not using our capacities well. And so it's a call to go home, take a look, and figure out where the impetus might be for brining this structure together. And I must say that in both Milwaukee and in Cincinnati, these initiatives were driven by a steering committee of many, many constituent groups, organized by an executive committee, typically driven by two or three or four or five co-chairs.

Just because as a president, you are convener, doesn't mean you have to hog the chair. In fact, it means a lot more if you can find a way to co-chair with others who have to have skin in the game. And every executive committee I've worked with worked with an operations committee or an implementation team of those unhappy people, who every Monday, had to show up. And I have lived by the Woody Hayes phrase that 80 percent of the job is showing up. And I have had executives and school superintendents and other university presidents say, I have to show up because I get the feeling that whoever happened to be president of the University of Cincinnati was, she would take role. And you know, that's kind of how I feel about it. I think these executive leaders in your community absolutely have to be at the table. And if a president of a university can come, a CEO of a corporation can come, the head of the United Way can come.
And the only way to get done what we have to get done is to have these people show up and make the kind of decisions that are going to move the dial.

In Cincinnati, we will be publishing our third report card this April. It has 54 variables, 34 of them are moving up, 14 are moving down or not moving. Of the 34 moving up, about 10 of them have moved the dial about 10 percent. So every year we publish a report card. It would include math scores, reading scores, graduation rates, freshman to sophomore retention. And I had to say to Cincinnati, "If I can admit that the University of Cincinnati is only graduating 52 percent of its students, which is not a bad figure, then you can talk about how 70 percent of your graduates are probably not really 70 percent but are more like 50 percent." If you make yourself vulnerable with the data, they have an easier time of making themselves vulnerable. And, in fact, I always add that the freshman to sophomore retention rate at the University of Cincinnati is now at 84 percent. So I'm thinking our graduation rates are going to continue to move up. And that's the way our school district partners think as well. So publishing data, being open about accountability, this is really key not only to the Math Science Partnerships but to districtwide initiatives.

And then finally I have to say to you that the partnerships and the projects you belong to are best lived in the context of a strategic plan where the universities and the school districts to which you belong actually have a vision of the future, a strategic plan, and you can see yourself in it. I did this at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee with massive amounts of input. And we called it the Milwaukee Idea. The Milwaukee Partnership Academy was a big part of that strategic plan. And Cincinnati UC 21 is our strategic plan. And Strive is right there as a part of that plan. And I'm hoping that the strategic plan of the State University of New York, which is under construction, will be a place where we can own these birth through career partnerships. In fact, already New York's strategic plan in unfolding with one of the key themes being the education pipeline.

So as a closer, I always like to take us somewhere that will motivate me and hopefully motivate you. So I go back to The New York Times in February of '09, which was a really, really tough time for our country. And one of the articles that caught my eye was a comment by Nicholas Kristof. He says, "So maybe I was wrong. I used to consider healthcare our greatest national shame, considering that we spend twice as much on medical care as many European nations. And yet, American children are twice as likely to die by the age of three as Czech children. And American women are 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as Irish women. Yet," says Kristof, "I'm coming to think that our number one priority actually must be education."
And, perhaps, that's why in that same month, The New York Times Magazine has its feature story, "The Big Fix". More educated people are healthier, live longer, and, of course, make more money. Countries that educate more of their citizens tend to grow faster than similar countries that do not. The same is true of states and regions within this country. Crucially, the income gains tend to come after the education gains. What distinguishes cities, and there is no mystery about why education would be the lifeblood of economic growth is as following. On the most basic level, education helps people figure out how to make objects and accomplish tasks more efficiently. It allows companies to make complex products that the rest of the world wants to buy, and thus creates high-wage jobs. Education may not be as tangible as green jobs. But it helps the society leverage every other investment it makes, be it in medicine, transportation or alternative energy.

Education, educating more people and educating them better appears to be the best single bet that a society can make. And you are a part of that dream. Thank you.