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June 6, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Public Education: U.S. vs. China

  |   Video
  • After visiting more than 20 public schools in China and India, San Diego school teacher Keith Ballard, a 2003 Milken U.S. National Educator of the Year, launched a public awareness campaign to improve public education. Ballard talks about the campaign and what he’s hoping to accomplish.
  • Keith Ballard - 2003 Milken U.S. National Educator of the Year
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, public, US, China, ,

View Transcript
VIDEO: What do you want to be? Engineer?
What do you want to be? Software engineer. What do you want to be? Farm service. What do you want to be? A doctor. Great. How about you?
Civil engineer.
I want to become a scientist.
You want to be a scientist.
I want to be a doctor.
What do you want to be?
Civil engineer.
What do you want to be?
Become a doctor.

Ted Simons: Those are a handful of students interviewed by San Diego school teacher Keith Ballard during his recent trips to India and China. He visited more than 20 schools and now he's traveling across America talking about what he found and what it will take for American students to become more globally competitive. Joining us is Keith Ballard, recipient of the 2003 Milken national educator award. Welcome.

Keith Ballard: Good to be here.

Ted Simons: When you went over there, what were you expecting? What did you find over there?

Keith Ballard: I did about 400 hours of research before I went and I knew it was really good. Once I got there it was so much better than what I read. But if I can just quickly -- the analogy I would use to Americans to describe this is that -- let's talk about in terms of football. The Chinese public educational system is so good it's something like the NFL whereas our American public education system I got to say we're playing no better than high school football.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, why are they the NFL and why are we still high school football?

Keith Ballard: Well, there's so many reasons, but just to give you an idea, they do approximately 230 days of school per year. We're doing about 185, maybe 175 depending on where you're at. They do about three hours more per day. They start kindergarten at age two and we're starting at age five, maybe 25% of our kids start at age six. So at the end of what it's going to look like by graduation from high school they are going to be about six years ahead conservatively. Listen, I was in ten schools in China K-through-12, ten in India, in schools up to 4,000 kids. I saw absolutely no discipline problems over there. Never met a disrespectful student. I couldn’t say the same thing here in the US.

Ted Simons: That brings up an important point, I think. That is the concept of cultural differences. Can you compare what's happening in China and India? We saw the tape of those kids. Are those American school kids? American school kids have that kind of mind set? You mentioned the NFL. It's almost like a boot camp it sounds like what's going on over there. Is that what America wants in terms of education?

Keith Ballard: I don't know if America wants that, but the problem is that business has choices and business is exercising those choices. More and more business is going to China and India. Do we have to do it exactly like that? I don't think so, but we have to do a whole lot better than what we're doing because I work as a public school teacher. I'm in the trenches. In my opinion, in a lot of teachers' opinions we're not doing a very good job.

Ted Simons: From what you saw over there what are they learning in are they learning to take tests, rote memorization, are they learning to be creative, innovative?

Keith Ballard: You probably know about the program for international student assessment. China's Shanghai region decided to try their luck to see how they did. 24 million kids, they measure 15-year-olds. This test is the test that our government says is the number one to determine nature to see how our kids are doing in comparison with the rest of the world. China, Shanghai, first in reading, first in math, first in science. America, 31st in math, 23rd in science and 17th in reading. Real quick, this test not only measures academic learning but it measures -- can they apply it. All the questions are based on application. So according to our government, you know, this is a great way to determine who is going to lead in the future. I talked to a lot of different people. They say, China's system doesn't promote innovation. I'm thinking they don't have any nobel prize winners yet, but they are getting there. Don't count China out. Everything that they have going for them says that they’re heading that way.

Ted Simons: How does America head that way? What do we need to do?

Keith Ballard: We're going to have to increase the school day. In the lowest amount of -- in the Asian countries they are doing about 205 days. We're going to have to kick it up at least another month. Starting earlier, taking advantage of that early brain stimulation by age 4 about 90% of the brain is formed. We're not doing that. So starting earlier. Possibly more school days. More investment but investment in the right way. In many cases we throw money into a system that's bottomless pit.

Ted Simons: What about the idea, I can hear some parents saying, I don't want my kid going to school at two, three, four years old. I want my kid to be a kid and then prepare for school. How do you respond?

Keith Ballard: I have heard this argument too. I'll say the great majority of kids are baby-sited in their first two years in front of a television. The American pediatric -- the American pediatric association says zero television in the first two years. If their parents are working with them, not out working, great, but at least those kids in China are in schools getting an immense amount -- I was in some of the kindergartens. By age three they are singing the A, B, Cs. It's scary to watch what's coming down the line.

Ted Simons: When you were interviewing, most of them seemed to have a pretty good idea what they wanted to be. Very young. The concept of school to career, we talk about vocational Ed, all those things, on this program. One of the criticisms of that is that a lot -- old thinking for education is that you teach a kid how to read, thousand write, how to think so they can choose when they become an adult what they want to do. Do we want a 14, 13, 12-year-old deciding what to do with their lives?
Keith Ballard: Well, here's the other side of it. 50%, we have a 40 to 50% dropout in African-americans and Latinos. I work in this type of school. I work with very poor kids on the border, so I'm right in the fringe. I can tell you if there were vocational programs offered to many of the kids they would not drop out. So do we let them drop out or give them options? Here’s the way I look at it. You don't like spinach. I'm going to force it on you until you eat it in elementary school. In Junior high you're eating less. In high school you say, I don't have to eat that. I'm bigger than you now. That's the analogy. That's what happens and the kids walk out the door. If we could recover a broad spectrum of education as China does and they do it really well, I think we would be a lot better off.

Ted Simons: Do they offer vocational education to train in the sciences or are they -- in Arizona we have some programs now, very successful, where yes, you learn how to be a doctor, mechanic, scientist, but in learning that you also learn general education principles.

Keith Ballard: That's the way their vocational systems are set up. Maybe half day they are learning to be a full-fledged mechanic. The problem with so much vocational education here in the United States generally, I know there's my understanding a really good vocational program in east Mesa.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Keith Ballard: But generally, little funding with them, they don't prepare kids for anything and they kind of -- I used to be at a high school where they gave the auto mechanic, the teacher, $800 a year for a budget. Everything was broken and all the tools were ripped off. All the kids knew it was a joke and they quit. But if it's a high powered program where a kid doesn't have to spend $40,000 after high school to learn what he could learn in high school, you know, I think it would be a great thing.

Ted Simons: I gotta tell you, ever since I was in school, that's a long time ago, I have heard that American education system is failing. It's not keeping up with the rest of the world. We're failing our children. Decade after decade I have heard this, yet America is simply a powerhouse economically, in terms of the military, in terms of creativity and has been for decades -- it's almost as if we're obviously China, India, Brazil, up starts of the world are catching up to a certain degree, but if things are so bad why are we such a powerhouse?

Keith Ballard: Well, I guess I'm might disagree with you on that. If we're borrowing 40 cents on every dollar I don't call that a powerhouse. We're 15 to 16 trillion in debt I don't call that a powerhouse. We cannot maintain this large military over time if we don't have a robust economy and in order really to have a robust economy we're going to have to have a great educational system which feeds that robust economy which pays for that. I look at it as we can't sustain those programs.

Ted Simons: Yes or no, are you encouraged?

Keith Ballard: I'm encouraged that possibly America may be wanting to listen now. Five years ago, I don't think so, but just maybe they will listen.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Keith Ballard: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Tempe Mayor-Elect Mark Mitchell

  |   Video
  • Newly-elected Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell previews his goals and priorities for the city and talks about the hotly contested election he won with fewer than 200 votes.
  • Mark Mitchell - Tempe Mayor-Elect
Category: Government   |   Keywords: tempe, mayor, mark mitchell, goals, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A Maricopa County judge ruled today the Phoenix police department must temporarily stop the practice of paying officers to perform police union act I was. Judge Katherine Cooper issued the injunction citing the likely Vailation of the constitutional ban on government donations to private tenty tease. The injunction applies to the current contract between the city and Phoenix law enforcement association which expires at the end of the month.

Ted Simons: Mark Mitchell was elected mayor last month beating his opponent Michael Monti by fewer that 200 votes. We're going to talk about it. Here's temperature me mayor-elect Mark Mitchell. Good to see you.

Mark Mitchell: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: So much to talk about policy. We have to talk about the campaign, the nasty tone of the mayor's race. A lot of long time Tempe-ans have never seen anything like this. Your thoughts.

Mark Mitchell: I have run for office three times and blessed to serve on the city council 12 years. During the three times I did run I never encountered the type of tone this campaign actually took. It was tough. But I think at the end of the day the residents realized that the biggest challenge we have now is to bring the city back together and move Tempe forward.

Ted Simons: you mentioned this was a political smear against you. By whom? Who was behind this?

Mark Mitchell: That's good question. I don't know. But it was interesting to see just the way the tone of the campaign took and it was really unfortunate because the issues that needed to be talked about with the residents were put in the back seat. What one thing I'm looking forward to working with incoming council to talk about the issues.

Ted Simons: For those who say what you did as a young teenager many years ago should be considered, should be a factor, lots of questions still out there. There are a lot of folks who are -- obviously a very close race. To those who say yes, stuff like that should be up for examination, up for consideration, you say –

Mark Mitchell: I mean, it was looked at, the judge looked at it, the County attorney looked at it. He said those issues were false. I think that resonated.

Ted Simons: How do you get folks on your side? How do you represent those folks, have them get confidence in you as mayor?

Mark Mitchell: I have served this community for 12 years on city council. By doing that I have a lot at stake working with the community. I think that I'm going to have to work with those residence. Just as the residents have supported me I'm the mayor for those who didn't support me and have to work with my council colleagues to bring a sense of calm and balance back to the city.

Ted Simons: Your dad obviously long time mayor in Tempe. He obviously had folks who didn't vote for him. Does he -- how do you compare what he went through with opponents and what you're going through here? Again, this was pretty nasty stuff they were throwing around.

Mark Mitchell: It was. It was. I don't think anything can prepare you for it. Knowing you're true to yourself and you're an honest person and let the record speak for itself.

Ted Simons: Most pressing issue facing Tempe, what would it be?

Mark Mitchell: To maintain and improve the quality of life residents expect and deserve. Tempe is an aging community. The biggest challenge because of the funds all municipalities have or lack of I must be able to maintain the quality of life we have now in our community.

Ted Simons: Does that mean property taxes need to be raised?

Mark Mitchell: Absolutely not. We have worked to live within our means. We looked at how we look at the property tax rate. We look at the A. money we collect at what we called a tax levy. We're being fiscally responsible. Being rewarded because we're fiscally responsible. We have a higher rating than the federal and state government. That shows how fiscally responsible the city is.

Ted Simons: there's talk on raising the property tax rate. What would that mean for the average home owner Tempe?

Mark Mitchell: Working with the County assessor's office, depends what the property values are. They have plummeted across the state and valley. Tempe in particular we have held constant but at one point it dropped over 40%. We need to maintain our bond rating and debt service levels. Staff came up with a great idea to look at the money we collect. Rate will fluctuate but we need to focus on the amount we collect so residents and taxpayers understand it's a constant rate that we have.

Ted Simons: Will the money the city collects increase and how does that affect the average homeowner.

Mark Mitchell: Some will see a deduction. Some actually may see a bit of an increase. It's different throughout the city.

Ted Simons: The dam. That's another thing that some folks are concerned about. I saw maybe the possibility of a bond 10.5 million bond to replace the dam there at Tempe Town Lake. Your thoughts?

Mark Mitchell: We all know -- the Tempe Town Lake is the second highest visited attraction, second to the grand canyon, in the state. Everything from girl scout bridge programs to the rock 'n' roll marathon, iron man is hosted there. Even the coyotes had their fan base in Tempe. You say what is the biggest challenge, to maintain and improve what we have. Tempe Town Lake is that asset for us. We're looking at different ways to bridge that gap with the cost of the dam. We're looking at property that we have in the community as well as looking at options to balance it out.

Ted Simons: Not necessarily a bond as yet.

Mark Mitchell: not yet. We're evaluating.

Ted Simons: Is the lake living up to its promise?

Mark Mitchell: Absolutely. As a kid growing up here, you have been here quite a while, you see what you never thought would have been there. It's water. You have economic development around the lake. It's only going to continue to move forward.

Ted Simons: for those who say the city can't afford to maintain this thing you say –

Mark Mitchell: We can. We are. We will.

Ted Simons: Street cars. Even the mayor's race had concerns about, A, a streetcar, should you have one in Tempe, 6 and B, where does the thing go.

Mark Mitchell: Well, should we have a streetcar? Tempe is the leader in multi-modal transit. I have always been a supporter of public transit. The challenge I had as you may know is how to pay for it. We still have a three to $4 million deficit in our transit fund. We're looking at adding additional operational costs. These are things we have to work out. We are in the process of applying for federal grants. If we receive them there's an opportunity for us. We have to make sure we make it successful. That's the will of the majority of the city council.

Ted Simons: How do you make sure it's successful?

Mark Mitchell: You work with your partners. We can look at a public-private partnership with valley metro and with the rest of the city.

Ted Simons: One of the original routes took it down mill avenue to southern. Now another idea is to take it east out to the Tempe marketplace. Which would you prefer?

Mark Mitchell: I think the east because you look at maximizing opportunities that public transportation brings. If there's an opportunity for economic development to occur, largest land user on Tempe Town Lake. With the immersion of the stadium district it bodes well. Plus what Mesa is doing with Riverview and the Wrigley west as they say, there's an opportunity to connect Mesa and Tempe economically with the possibility of a streetcar which would strike economic development opportunities.

Ted Simons: Even more so than light-rail already does?

Mark Mitchell: I think it will be consistent with both. What better way to kick start the private sector side, hey, look, the public is working with the private sector to get a transportation corridor started and it will help jump-start the stadium district with the issue it bodes well.

Ted Simons: The FBI sting operation against Arredondo while he was on the council. Your thoughts.

Mark Mitchell: It's unfortunate. A lot of people were surprised. One of my goals is to work with our council and city staff to make sure that we have some type of looking at our ethics and some of the reforms to help see what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen.

Ted Simons: Internal audit possible?

Mark Mitchell: It's possible. We'll have to work with our city attorney and city staff. I said from the very beginning that's something we'll be looking at with the new council.

Ted Simons: I think some residents would like to maybe hear more of an emphasis on some sort of accountability as far as what's going on on the council. We don't even know what's going on as far as the investigation is concerned. That has to be a concern.

Mark Mitchell: Well, I don't know any more than what you know. All I do know is what we can do moving forward as a community to make sure that we have.

Ted Simons: Last question, lots of folks in office talk about trying to create jobs. Doing the best thing to create jobs and such. Can a city government create jobs?

Mark Mitchell: Absolutely. Tempe is the largest importer of jobs per resident in the entire valley. One thing we value is the quality of life we have. That's very attractive. It helps that we have the university. If we just expand on that front. Tempe has always been a regional leader. It's at its best as a regional leader. Working with the surrounding communities around you. I have great relationships with mayor Smith in Mesa, in Chandler, Scottsdale and their councils. One of the aspects is how we work together regionally. We see that through MAG and other opportunities.

Ted Simons: With everything that happened in that campaign, you're in office. You're going to be the man here in a second. Was it worth it?

Mark Mitchell: Depends. You ask my daughters and my wife. I grew up in Tempe, in a family of community service. The opportunity to continue to give back for the next generation I think speaks volumes. It's an opportunity that hopefully we can shape the future in. I have been a benefactor of what past councils have done for visions because I get to experience it every day with my kids and hopefully future generations.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Mark Mitchell: Thank you very much.