Essential skills and graduation

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Essential skills and graduation

What skills are essential for all graduates? What a great question and it would take a couple hours to answer it. And the short answer is to succeed in college you need to be able to read and to write. One of the problems with this overemphasis, I believe, on standardized testing is that students don’t learn how to read critically and they don’t learn how to write. What they do learn is how to fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice test and things of that nature. I think an essential skill, however, is going off to college with some sense of purpose and maybe you don’t know what your career is, but you have some idea that you want to try and make the world a better place. If we send our high school graduates off to college only concerned about what college they’re going to get into and how they’re going to make money someday in their life, then I think their high school education didn’t really amount to anything terrible important.

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Paul Cummins, PhD

Educator & Author

Dr. Paul Cummins, President and CEO of Coalition for Engaged Education (CEE), received his bachelor of arts from Stanford University, his MAT from Harvard, and his doctorate from the University of Southern California.  In 1971, he co-founded Crossroads School in Santa Monica and built it into one of Los Angeles’s most successful educational institutions and a national model for innovative, independent schools. 

In 1995, Cummins stepped down as Headmaster of Crossroads and formed New Visions Foundation (now Coalition for Engaged Education) to offer opportunities for Engaged Education to all youth. The first venture was New Roads School, a diverse, K-12 independent school in Santa Monica that has a deep commitment to social justice. New Roads devotes 40% of its tuition budget to need-based student financial aid, guaranteeing access to students from a wide socioeconomic array. Cummins has since implemented a number of innovative programs to help children at risk.

Cummins has published four books on education, including Proceed With Passion: Engaging Students in Meaningful Education (2004), and Two Americas, Two Educations: Funding Quality Schools for all Students (2007), both published by Red Hen Press. His most recent book of essays, Why Poetry? Reflections on Poetry, Writing and Culture, was published in 2009 by Xlibris, in addition to two volumes of his poetry and two children's books published in recent years. He is currently finishing Confessions of a Headmaster: My Pursuit of Joy and Justice in Education (forthcoming from Red Hen Press).

Cummins and his wife Mary Ann reside in Santa Monica. They have four daughters and five grandchildren.

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