Ed Talks Wisconsin an effort to start constructive dialogue about public education

March 7, 2013

Interested in public education and becoming more informed about the range of often contentious topics that are grabbing the headlines?

Ed Talks Wisconsin offers a unique opportunity to listen to diverse views and engage in debate and dialogue on issues from closing the achievement gap and the politics of school choice, to teachers unions, the transformation of higher education and more. The event, to be held on the UW-Madison campus March 12-22, is free and open to the public.

"This is a classic Wisconsin Idea sort of effort — using university resources and scholarship to inform public engagement on a big issue of public policy," says Joel Rogers, a professor of law, political science, public affairs and sociology and director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, who is organizing the event. "Everybody should have the opportunity for a good education. That means making the public system work. This discussion is about what that requires today."

Whether one is a student, parent, teacher, researcher or interested citizen, all are invited to join in the conversation.

"There are so many important conversations happening in and around Wisconsin regarding the future of public education, and Ed Talks Wisconsin represents an initial effort to try and pull them together into a cohesive dialogue," says Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology who is helping organize the event.

Some of the Ed Talks Wisconsin highlights include:

  • The March 12 kickoff event, "From K-12 to Technical College Degrees: Toward Stronger Connections and More Student Success." The presentation will feature Morna Foy, the new president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, and be moderated by Julie Underwood, the dean of UW-Madison's School of Education. It begins 7 p.m. in room 159 of the Education Building.
  • The discussion March 13 centers on the hot-button topic of the achievement gap, and will feature a range of educational experts and key local stakeholders, including Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, James Howard, president of the Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education, and Michael Johnson, chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. This event begins at 7 p.m., also at the Education Building.
  • A presentation March 15 will focus on the rapid advancement in online learning opportunities and "The Coming Transformation of Higher Education." Anya Kamenetz, the author of several books on the future of education and a senior writer at Fast Company magazine, where she writes the column "Life in Beta," will take part in the conversation, as will UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross, who is helping lead efforts to launch the UW System's Flex Degree program. This talk begins at 7 p.m. at the Education Building.
  • On March 18, a panel will examine the "Politics of School Choice in New Orleans and Milwaukee." Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is proposing an expansion of the school choice program, which uses public funding to allow students to attend private or religious schools. Two authors with new books on school choice (Sarah Carr and Barbara Miner) will participate in an event moderated by UW-Madison's Gloria Ladson-Billings, the Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and a professor of curriculum and instruction, and educational policy studies. This event will take place at 7 p.m. in the Varsity 3 room of Union South.

The final two days of Ed Talks Wisconsin, March 21-22, are also part of the UW-Madison Department of Educational Policy Studies' annual conference. This year's 10th annual event is titled "A Nation at Risk? Reflections on the Past and Future of U.S. Public Education."

"A Nation at Risk" is a report that was released in 1983, jump-starting decades of often critical talk directed at public schools. The report was a driving force behind a series of reforms, including the Bush administration's 2002 No Child Left Behind law that pressured schools to improve students' test scores or face increasingly harsh sanctions. These events, all in room 159 of the Education Building, also are free and open to the public.

To view the full schedule of events and for additional information, visit the Ed Talks Wisconsin website.

Ed Talks Wisconsin is being organized by: UW-Madison's School of Education, Department of Educational Policy Studies, Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education; the Madison Mayor's Office; the Teaching Assistants Association; United Council of UW Students; the Wisconsin University Union; and Wisconsin Union Directorate.

—Todd Finkelmeyer