Tech Alliance’s Susannah Malarkey on Four Things Seattle Could Learn from Boston, and One Big Northwest Advantage

6/29/10

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great school leadership and real commitment to excellence, and really believing that kids can achieve, and creating a climate for kids to achieve, that it really pays off. I mean, we really know that the ‘achievement gap’ between kids of color and white kids is really about the quality of the teaching.”

Although 40 states across the country have charter school legislation, Washington is not among them, a fact that Malarkey would like to see change.

Improving and Expediting Regional Decision-Making

A keynote speech by Harvard Law professor Larry Susskind, entitled “Improving and Expediting Regional Decision-Making” was by far “the most impactful for me,” Malarkey says. Susskind, one of the country’s leading figures in dispute resolution, talked about techniques for participatory decision-making and consensus-building among groups who are often on opposing sides of the bargaining table. The most important elements for reaching a consensus on any issue, according to Malarkey, are having an understanding every interested party, having a truly neutral mediator with no stake in the issue, and inviting all parties to the conversation where common ground can be established. The goal is to ensure that everyone concerned is represented and agrees to enter into a respectful dialogue.

“One of the huge challenges of Seattle is that it takes forever to decide anything,” Malarkey said. “Once people agree to ground rules, and if you’ve got a skilled facilitator who is keeping the discussion on track, you just have to begin to find the areas of commonality.”

Investing in Graduates of Higher Education

Boston, a city with over 40 colleges in the metropolitan area, including the likes of Harvard, MIT, and Northeastern, turns out thousands of bright minds a year—an asset that Malarkey says the city is working hard to be “more strategic about taking advantage of.”

“When you’ve got Harvard and MIT and all those incredible students graduating there, and many of them stay and start companies—MIT graduates have started literally thousands of companies in the great Boston area—I mean, they just have an engine,” Malarkey said. “One of the things they talked about was making it easy for the graduates to stay, helping them get connected to internships and first jobs, because they realize having this brain power in their city is really what’s going to help them sustain their economy.”

And though Seattle has nowhere near the number of institutions of higher education, our own University of Washington is nothing to take for granted, she says.

“Boston is unique in the country for the amount of higher education it has…We do envy them that,” she said. But, she added, “We’re very lucky though that we have … Next Page »

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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  • Jerry Jeff

    Out of all the variables in student performance, why scapegoat the teachers in (economically) poor school districts? With all the variability in the quality of administration, political interference, parental distraction and non-involvement, language barriers, and neighborhood violence I think it’s willfully simplistic to dump everything at the teachers’ feet. Otherwise an interesting article, and I was pleased to see Northeastern Univ cited as the great program it is.