When City Hall started using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to track all kinds of statistics, it opened an avenue to improving all kinds of policy analysis. Most people have only been online in the last 20 years, and for the first few of those years it was only when they were at work.
Now we are all online, all the time. We carry the Internet with us. There is no question that what needs to be stressed in our public schools are STEM courses, and part of that technology has to focus on what employers want to see. One of those skills is to be proficient in GIS.
GIS is basically a mapping system, and the city has one that you can look at online to see things like where there are capital projects being planned or where business improvement districts exist. Maybe these types of things are not relevant to high school students right now, but we want them to know to create those maps and use these tools.
We want them to know how to design those platforms. It is not enough to simply rely on the skills of others. Technology, such as GIS, is useful in all kinds of city planning and urban policy matters. It is no longer relegated to solely stopping crime, although that is a big plus for the city.
Programs like GIS and Excel are still taught more at work than they are in school. That’s too bad, because these are the skills that make people employable. It’s also a good way to teach other aspects of a STEM criteria. People who use Excel on a daily basis often find themselves using math – a subject they may not have thought they needed.
Many colleges do not teach this, either, and it’s unfortunate. But these are the things that people are going to need when they look for work in the modern economy. We can debate Common Core goals, but having a useful skill like this is a big advantage to students.
Buying the software is usually too expensive for one person, which is why it is better for schools to invest in it. New York City took the lead in utilizing this technology, now it needs to take the lead in teaching how it works.
Gubernatorial Control in Annapolis
We’ve heard a lot about mayoral control when it comes to our school system in New York City. Although Baltimore has been in the news for something else recently, that city is going through a shift of power in regard to educational control as well. In this case, it is about gubernatorial control, not mayoral control.
Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, has to fill appointments to the Board of Education. The Republican governor has a lot more slots to fill than previous governors due to a change in the state’s primary system. In other words, it was not a power grab by Hogan, but more of a circumstance due to timing.
The fact is, Maryland can now put accountability in one place, just like New York City does with the mayor’s office when it comes to education policy.
While mayoral control is something many New Yorkers like, the city government in Baltimore has not been extremely steady all the time. For example, their last mayor was indicted. Maybe these appointments from a conservative Republican governor are not traditional for a blue state like Maryland, but we know in parts of the state, change is needed.
Education has to muscle up in Montgomery and Baltimore Counties. At least in this case, the state can look to one place whether it fails or succeeds.