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Collaboration Can Brighten Students' Future

June 01, 2010

Democrat & Chronicle

Op-Ed by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher

One year ago, I came to my leadership role at the State University of New York dedicated to improving education for all learners.  My first order of business as Chancellor was a statewide tour to visit each one of SUNY’s 64 campuses, which gave me an opportunity to see the tremendous assets and opportunities in new York's cities and regions.  

However, many parts of the state face significant challenges, and nowhere are those challenges felt as acutely as in our schools.  Statewide, nearly three in 10 students fail to graduate from high school in four years, and only six in 10 students graduate with a Regents Diploma – a critical indicator of college readiness.  These numbers are even lower in urban areas, where fewer than half of the students graduate at the end of four years – and fewer than one-third graduate with a Regents diploma. At the same time, schools are plagued with serious fiscal constraints, teacher lay-offs, and damaging cuts to core programs.

As the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education, SUNY is in a unique position to lead change. And we have a significant stake in what happens in our schools. Not only does SUNY prepare more teachers than any institution in New York – about 5,000 each year – but we enroll the students who graduate from schools across the state, many of whom arrive without the preparation necessary to succeed in college.

Addressing these challenges and charting a new course for the future of Rochester and our state will require innovative strategies and strong collaboration among partners, and SUNY is taking a leadership role in that effort.

Last month, I came to Monroe Community College to launch our new systemwide strategic plan called The Power of SUNY – a plan that is riveted on driving New York's economic recovery and enhancing the quality of life in our communities.  One of our strategic priorities is the creation of a seamless education pipeline, to improve and expand educational opportunities for all New Yorkers. 

To reach this goal, SUNY is proposing regional “cradle to career” collaboratives with our partners across Pre-K-12, business and industry and community organizations to improve student success and strengthen the alignment between education and workforce needs. 

SUNY is also developing a system-wide cooperative education initiative called SUNYWorks to provide students with salaried, credit-worthy career experiences while they complete degrees, leading to job opportunities upon graduation.

And since quality teachers are pivotal to student success across the education pipeline, SUNY will carry out its responsibility to transform teacher preparation and impact learning through systemic, sustainable and evidence-based reforms, like the new SUNY Urban-Rural Teacher Corps initiative. 

With eight SUNY institutions located in greater Rochester and adjacent counties, SUNY can leverage its substantial resources to move the dial on teacher preparation and student success in this region. By joining forces with local schools and other community stakeholders on this ambitious agenda, we have the power to meet our goal of economic revitalization and a strong future for our students and our communities.

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