Thursday, March 8, 2012

Education in Central Texas: Complex, Changing, Crucial and Our Responsibility

Guest Post by Michele Walker-Moak
February Essential Class at National Instruments
In February, the Leadership Austin Class of 2012 was treated to a day-long overview of our regional education issues. I know, I know. “A day you say? This could take years." But, the LA Class was confident and ready to learn. (In full disclosure, I’m married to an educator and have spent the majority of my community work in the education space.) 

I wasn’t sure what new information I would garner from the session, but found that I was pleasantly surprised to come away from the day inspired and reinvigorated to don my superhero cape and take on the enduring battle of “fixing” the system for our children. The truth is, we all need to dust off the superhero costumes and find our superpowers to ensure that we create a system that bests prepares kids for the future.

Susan Dawson, E3 Alliance, was clear in making her case for “changing the system.” If we all work to close achievement gaps and increase graduation rates, Texas could see an increase of cumulative output of $1.897 trillion by 2030 and one million new jobs. (Susan will be one of the featured speaker at the Leadership Austin fastforward Issues Forum on March 27th. fastforward takes aim at what we can do to improve our education system. If you care about education, you won't want to miss it. Learn more about fastforward and watch a video with Susan in this blog post.)

Our take away: “We cannot afford to ignore this issue.”

Fortunately, some hope and help is on the horizon. Several innovative public school options were showcased to the class: Manor New Tech High School, IDEA Schools, KIPP Austin, Ann Richards School For Girls and American Youth Works High School. These schools are pushing the limits of our definition of “school.” 
They are challenging the norms to create thoughtful students, equipped with 21st Century Skills, who are ready to meet our future workforce needs. It’s a paradigm shift for many— rethinking, re-engineering and reconstructing the classroom of the mind. (Check out Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Changing Education Paradigms”.)

We also heard from teachers, students and superintendents from Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD. Everyone provided insight into needs facing educators and students.

The thoughts were churning in the 2012 Essential Class room. “What can we, as Central Texas leaders, do to help?”

One loud response: “Engage!”

Essential Class of 2012: “But how?”

Here are a few ways to engage, straight from the mouths of superintendents, teachers and the students: 
  • Vote in school board elections 
  • Run for school board 
  • Allow internships at your place of employment 
  • Mentor 
  • Write Op Eds in local papers 
  • Support great educations leaders 
  • Lift up teachers
  • Have a voice with legislators 
There you have it. Brush off your capes!

Michele Walker-Moak is a member of the 2012 Essential Class. She is a program manager at AMD in Austin where she manages community affairs and outreach.


  1. Thanks for this sharing your thoughts here, Michele. This is such a timely issue, and working together for the betterment of our students and our education system is crucial. With our city's leaders becoming more involved in improving education, it will help empower others to do so as well. Together we can make a difference.

  2. My friend is a nurse and the hospital she works in gave her a salary and helped pay for her education while she was in school with a contract stating she would work for them for the following 5 years and she would graduate with a certain GPA and within a certain timeframe. This set up her life for 2 years of school and 5 years working so she didn't have to work while in school and had real motivation to finish quickly and do well. I am currently going to school for education and was wondering if anyone knows of a similar program for teachers? I'll be in the central Texas area and would love a program like my friend's! Any info helps! Thanks so much!

    phlebotomy training texas