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In this document:

I.            The transcript of a video message to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Mss. Betsy DeVos (based on a letter sent to Mss. DeVos)

(the video is available at: https://youtu.be/-IElm7UjVKg).

II.        A letter sent to Mss. Betsy DeVos.

III.     A publication which was the reason for writing a letter.

I.

Hello.

I’m Dr. Valentin Voroshilov.

I’ve been in the field since 1989.

I believe that education should be above, or beyond politics, because education represents the most important human practice.

Without education we still would be living in caves.

Mss. DeVos,

I want to congratulate you on becoming the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Some people say the U.S. does not need this department at all.

I say, this department is as important as never before.

Let me read some quotes.

“75% of employers say that it is difficult to find people with the right skills to hire.”

“The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering fell 5 percent from its peak in 2008. At the same time, the number of students on temporary visas earning the same degrees soared by 35 percent.”

“Nearly a half of PhD aerospace engineers, over 65% of PhD computer scientists, and nearly 80% of PhD industrial and manufacturing engineers were born abroad.”

It is one thing, if you have 100 vacancies, and you have 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 100 “domestic” applicants. In this case businesses are searching for the best talent between competing professionals of a different origin. But when you have 100 vacancies, 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 0 qualified “domestic” applicants – it is a clear sign that the system does not work the way it should.

The numbers say that the U.S. system of education basically does not produce any more neither scientists nor engineers, except people who came from abroad.

The Country has become dependent on foreign intellectuals in the way it used to be dependent on foreign oil.

Today America still imports oil, but it is not addicted to foreign oil, like it was in the past.

Today America has become addicted to foreign intellectuals.

What would happen if the countries from where we import students and professionals, placed some restrictions, and started using their people as a bargaining chip?

Everything what is happening now in the Middle East can be traced back to the American addiction to oil.

We don’t want to repeat this experience because of a new addiction.

I’d say, the main strategic goal of the U.S. Department of Education is to make the Country intellectually independent from importing foreign professionals.

To achieve that goal, we need to start treating intellectual health of the Country with at least the same level of urgency we treat the physical health of the Country.

Mss. DeVos,

as the head of the Department, you will have to address numerous issues.

My experience tells me, that the central problem which must be addressed as soon as possible, is the quality of teacher preparation.

Maybe in the future, due to advancements in artificial intelligence and technological breakthroughs, our schools will not need any more highly qualified teachers. But until then a teacher will remain the central figure of the whole educational system.

If all our teachers were doing an excellent job, all our school graduates would be able to compete with the foreigners.

And we do have excellent teachers. But, evidently, less than we need.

Now, imagine for the moment, that the number of good teachers remains constant.

In that case, it does not matter where those good teachers work, in a regular public school, or in a charter school, or even in a private school – they still will be able to teach roughly the same number of students - just at different locations.

If we are going to make decisions which only affect a distribution of teachers, redistributing good teachers between different entities of the system without increasing the number of good teachers will not solve our current problems in education.

Similarly, if we are going to make decisions which only affect a distribution of students, using vouchers or other instruments, without increasing the number of good teachers, that will not solve our problems as well.

That is why when considering various decisions, they all should be probed by questions like: “How does it help to advance teacher professional development?”, or “How will it help to increase the number of highly qualified teachers?”.

Well,

Thank you for your time,

Mss. DeVos,

and good luck.

II.

To: Mss. Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos,

I have been teaching for many years and my only goal is to help making positive changes in the current state of education in the U.S.

I hope your agenda has not been yet completed and leaves some room for suggestions.

Please, consider at your convenience the following propositions.

I. We must make U.S. intellectually independent from importing foreign professionals. We need to treat intellectual health of a country with the same level of urgency we treat physical health of the country.

Comments:

When President Trump issued an executive order to freeze immigration for certain countries, many industry leaders expressed a strong opposition to it. It is not difficult to understand the worry the businesses and companies have, because a large part of the employment force they have comes from graduates who have foreign origins.

However, when the industry leaders say, that all they want is to be able to have the top talent from all over the world, they do not say the whole truth.

Let’s move the politics aside.

The truth is that currently a large part of the U.S. industry is not just looking for the top talent, but is “addicted” to professionals with a foreign origin, in a similar way it – the industry – was not long time ago addicted to the foreign oil. The truth is that without professionals with a foreign origin many industries would be on a brink of collapsing, or at least of a severe downsizing.

It is not a news that businesses are in a great need for a highly professional workforce. “According to a 2016 survey of 400 employers from across Massachusetts, 75% said that it was difficult to find people with the right skills to hire in Massachusetts.” “Respondents find deficiencies in the readiness of new hires, not just in “applied skills” like teamwork, critical thinking and communications, but also in simple reading, writing, and math.” These were quotes from a 2016 MassINC Polling Group report, done for Massachusetts Business Roundtable (http://www.mbae.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FINAL-Report-2016-MBAE-Employer-Poll-for-web.pdf).

Businesses have to turn to graduates with a foreign origin simply because U.S. colleges do not produce enough graduates with degrees in STEM-related fields.

“The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering fell 5 percent in 2014 from its peak in 2008. At the same time, the number of students on temporary visas earning the same degrees soared by 35 percent” (from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-17/more-stem-degrees-going-to-foreign-students).

This explains why many industry and business leaders are looking for the ways to lowering barriers for graduates with a student visa preventing them from staying in the U.S.

However, there is no similar attention to the root of the problem, i.e. the low number “of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering”.

It is one thing, if you have 100 vacancies, and you have 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 100 “domestic” applicants. In this case – yes – you are searching for the best talent. But when you have 100 vacancies, 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 0 qualified “domestic” applicants – it is a clear sign that the system is broken.

We need to set a goal: to break the U.S. dependence on the foreign intellectuals (in the way the U.S. has become practically independent from the foreign oil). Only then we can say that the U.S. companies truly search for the best talent.

II. We have to reform the way education has been and is being reformed for the past decade.

Comments:

It is one thing, if you have 100 vacancies, and you have 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 100 “domestic” applicants. In this case – yes – you are searching for the best talent. But when you have 100 vacancies, 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 0 domestic” applicants – it is a clear sign that the system is broken.

And its’ not like this is a new problem.

Since 1957 (i.e. since the launch of the Sputnik 1) the U.S. system of education has been in a state of a permanent reformation.

Obviously, we have to make a conclusion that so far the methods used at all levels of the government to reform education have not worked. If those methods have not worked for such a long period of time, there is not much of a hope they will miraculously start working tomorrow.

The Government spends hundreds of millions of dollars to reform education. But the fact is that many countries which students outperform the U.S. students spend less per a student than the U.S. does.

Hence, to reform education we need to think beyond the amount of money spent on it. We need to analyze the effectiveness of the distribution of the available recourses.

In particular, if you browse through the NSF awards, you can find many grants awarded to do a “research” in education, which do not go beyond answering questions with obvious answers. Maybe, those funds could be redirect to advance data driven approaches to a science of education, or to advance the system of teacher professional development?

III. The central problem to be attacked is the quality of teacher professional development.

Comments:

Maybe in the future, due to advancements in artificial intelligence and technological breakthroughs, our school will not need any more highly qualified teachers. But until then a teacher will remain the central figure of the whole educational system.

We know that there are many good teachers in schools. But there are also many teachers who are not so good. Imagine that the number of good teachers remains constant. In that case, it does not matter where the good teachers work, in a public, or a charter, or a private school – they will be able to teach the same limited number of students (but just at different places).

If we make decisions which only affect a distribution of teachers, redistributing good teachers without increasing the number of good teachers will not be able to provide a high-quality education to all students.

This is why when considering various decisions, they all should be probed by questions like: “How does it help teacher professional development?”, or “How will it help to increase the number of highly qualified teachers?”.

Currently there is no systematic approach to teacher professional development. The field of teacher professional development is in a state of a chaos. Well, we do not actually even know the state of this field. When the system of teacher professional development will begin functioning effectively and efficiently, the central problem of reforming education will be resolved.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Valentin Voroshilov

Boston University Physics Department

617-918-3656

valbu@bu.edu

TeachOlogy Consulting LLC

www.GoMars.xyz

III.

What would businesses do if no foreign students could come in the country anymore?

57percent.jpgIn the 02/10/2017 issue, the Boston Globe printed a piece about prospective foreign students and the change in the mood they started to have (see the picture).

As soon as the ban was issued, many industry leaders expressed a strong opposition to it (e.g. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinanderton/2017/02/07/the-businesses-against-president-trumps-travel-ban-infographic/#1513a0353867).

On February 5, 2017 several large tech companies filed an Amicus Brief (https://app.box.com/s/09dvucfviag1zlwzekupts084xzc8j5g), which says, in part, that the ban: “makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees”.

It is not difficult to understand the worry the businesses and companies have, because a large part of the employment force they have comes from graduates who have foreign origins.

However, when the industry leaders say, that all they want is to be able to have the top talent from all over the world, they do not say the whole truth.

The truth is that currently a large part of the U.S. industry is not just looking for the top talent, but is “addicted” to professionals with a foreign origin, in a similar way it – the industry – was not long time ago addicted to the foreign oil. The truth is that without professionals with a foreign origin many industries would be on a brink of collapsing, or at least of a severe downsizing.

It is not a news that businesses are in a great need for a highly professional workforce. “According to a 2016 survey of 400 employers from across Massachusetts, 75% said that it was difficult to find people with the right skills to hire in Massachusetts.” “Respondents find deficiencies in the readiness of new hires, not just in “applied skills” like teamwork, critical thinking and communications, but also in simple reading, writing, and math.” These were quotes from a 2016 MassINC Polling Group report, done for Massachusetts Business Roundtable (http://www.mbae.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FINAL-Report-2016-MBAE-Employer-Poll-for-web.pdf).

Businesses have to turn to graduates with a foreign origin simply because U.S. colleges do not produce enough graduates with degrees in STEM-related fields.

“The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering fell 5 percent in 2014 from its peak in 2008. At the same time, the number of students on temporary visas earning the same degrees soared by 35 percent” (from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-17/more-stem-degrees-going-to-foreign-students).

Another report states that “nearly half of PhD aerospace engineers, over 65% of PhD computer scientists, and nearly 80% of PhD industrial and manufacturing engineers were born abroad”

(http://www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/upload/POPASTEMReport.pdf).

This explains why many industry and business leaders are looking for the ways to lowering barriers for graduates with a student visa preventing them from staying in the U.S.

However, there is no similar attention to the root of the problem, i.e. the low number “of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering”.

Imagine just for the moment that the Trump administration did find a way to close the borders in such a way that many prospective foreign students got scared and decided not to go in the U.S. Imagine the worst-case scenario; we all know that despite the best efforts there is a chance for a terrorist to conduct a terror attack on the U.S. soil. If that would happen, the general mood in the country could quickly swing toward the toughening all restrictions for crossing the borders.

Without an access to a pool of graduates with a foreign origin, industry and business leaders would have turn to U.S. citizens and permanent residents for filling up many empty professional positions. And then they would find out that U.S. colleges and universities just do not produce the sufficient number of graduates!

And its’ not like no one knew the problem.

Since 1957 (i.e. since the launch of the Sputnik 1) the U.S. system of education has been in a state of a permanent reformation.

The question which industry and business leaders should ask: “Why the Hell after 60 years of reforming education we still cannot rely on our own graduates?” (clearly, in this sentence, to stress my point I used an exaggeration).

It is one thing, if you have 100 vacancies, and you have 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 100 “domestic” applicants. In this case – yes – you are searching for the best talent. But when you have 100 vacancies, 100 applicants of a foreign origin, and 0 qualified “domestic” applicants – it is a clear sign that the system is broken.

Obviously, we have to make a conclusion that so far the methods used at all levels of the government and philanthropy to reform education have not worked. If those methods have not worked for such a long period of time, there is not much of a hope they will miraculously start working tomorrow.

Maybe, industry and business leaders should not wait until the hypothetical border tightening becomes real, and start rethinking their strategies and approaches related to education, because otherwise the shortage in the highly professional workforce can bring a heavy damage to the U.S. economy.

We must make U.S. intellectually independent from importing foreign professionals. We need to treat intellectual health of a country with the same level of urgency we treat physical health of the country. We need to set a goal: to break the U.S. dependence on the foreign intellectuals (in the way the U.S. has become practically independent from the foreign oil). Only then we can say that the U.S. companies truly search for the best talent.

IV. Good education is the core, the nucleus of a successful society.

If a society has run into serious economic or political problems, it is a sign that education has fallen behind the needs of the society.

Catching up is never easy. Old models do not work anymore, but most of the people in the field still hold on the old paradigm. The qualitative jump, the leap in the progress requires new ideas, new vision. That is why we have to reform the way education has been reforming. We have to reform the reform (http://gomars.xyz/mbae.html).

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