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Polk schools put focus on globalization

Polk County Schools efforts to better prepare students for the global economy are gaining momentum.
In December, Polk County administrators joined a delegation of educators from across the country on a trip to China aimed at building a cooperative relationship on education. Polk hopes to learn soon whether it will be part of a future exchange with a Chinese school district.
In April, four Polk County teachers will participate in an international study visit to India (see story page 6). To prepare for the trip, the teachers will attend a “South Asia in the Global Economy” workshop at Duke University next week.
Polk County Schools also recently made the global economy a focus of its system-wide staff development day.
Neil Bolick, who is Associate Director for World View, was the opening speaker. He provided information to the staff members about the Global Economy and how this relates to Polk County Schools Strategic Plan for preparing students for a new globally-based job market.
World View was established in 1998 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to help K-12 and college educators anticipate and respond to the challenges of a smaller, more interconnected world.
Bolick has a B.A. in English from UNC at Chapel Hill and holds a Ph.D. in Chinese Language and Literature from Indiana University. He has taught English language and literature in Taiwan, Chinese literature in the US, and ran a consulting firm for international business.
He lived in Taiwan and China for five years as a student, teacher, and Fulbright scholar. As an international business consultant he traveled regularly to Asia, South America, and Europe.
Polk County Schools has developed partnerships with World View and other globally centered education groups in an effort to embrace and better understand other cultures, global issues and how to prepare their students for a new global economy.
During the staff training day, Polk County Schools Supt. Bill Miller and Director of Accountability and Technology Dave Scherping also provided training on their recent trip with the China delegation. Miller says other teachers have requested they provide the training for their classes too.
The Polk superintendent says the districts recent focus on globalization has been received well by teachers and many are excited about incorporating it into their instruction.
Miller says the school district hasnt outlined exactly how it will provide more instruction on the global economy through each individual subject.
As one example, he says math teachers might use exchange rates as the basis for a lesson. He says hes confident teachers will come up with many more ideas.
“I think theyll find all kinds of ways to integrate it into the curriculum,” says Miller. “I think step one is getting people aware of whats going on in the global economy.
“We all do need to learn more about this and help our families understand how globalization is going to affect job opportunities and business. All of that is vitally important.”
Miller notes that the states budget cuts for education come at a bad time for expanding training for globalization initiatives. The state eliminated funding for staff development in the current fiscal year, so school districts have to be creative to use time in school to offer some training.
The staff development funding may be left out of next fiscal years budget too, says Miller, considering the states budget picture is not expected to improve greatly. Fortunately, he says, Polk teachers have access to Slater grants through the Polk County Community Foundation, which help teachers obtain additional training.