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Are Students Being Prepared Properly For Higher Education?; Evaluating the Role of Standardized Tests in Education; How to Raise a Future Leader; Top Five Spots For Jobs in America

Aired August 20, 2011 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST: We're taking on loads of college debt, but are students prepared for higher education, and should it be measured by standardized tests?

Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

Plus, America's future leaders, where will they come from and how do you raise one? We go straight to Deepak Chopra for that answer.

And find out the top five spots for jobs in this country.

Let's get to it. LZ Granderson, a columnist and Steve Perry is an CNN education contributor.

The latest act scores show only one in four high school graduates is ready for college. The test used for college admissions shows only 66 percent of the 2011 class met the benchmark for English; 45 percent for math; 30 percent for science.

So, Steve, do these figures accurately reflect student preparedness?

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: It absolutely does reflect how prepared students are because if it were the ACT in and of itself we may be able to write it off. But what we see is that at least one third, one third, of children going into college are taking remedial classes. In addition to that, we also can look at the state standardized examinations, in addition to some of the internationally normalized standardized examinations. And what we're finding is that American students are simply not prepared for college.

ROMANS: LZ, as students are preparing to go back to school, then, I mean, if teachers are not, an especially brutal budgeting season this summer has left most of America in pretty education dire straits.

I want you to look at this map. At least 34 states and the District of Columbia, cutting aid from K to 12 schools and other programs. It gets worse with higher education, 43 states are cutting budgets there. The list goes on and on for states laying off teachers.

LZ, we just saw the ACT studies that wow, we need to be doing more, but we're going to have less to do it with. As a parent does it make you want to pull your son's education out of Uncle Sam's hands and put him in private school?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN.COM COLUMNIST: It absolutely drives me crazy that we just don't seem to get it. The correlation between poverty and testing and scores and academic, they are all connected. If you look at the top four or the top eight states with the lowest ACT scores they also happen to be some of the poorest states we have in this country. So, I don't understand why we don't seem to use this information that we're getting, connecting poverty with education and academic achievement. It just absolutely drives me crazy.

ROMANS: So, guys, here is a double-whammy for students, then. While funding for their education continues to go down, their debt to get a college education that they need to compete, is going up. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt has increased 25percent just since 2008.

Steve, look at this chart here. You can compare student loan debt with all other debt and you can see, look at that top line, that's student loan debt. Everything else we're either cutting back on, or can't get any more of. We are piling on to the student loan debt. It seems as though you just can't win, Steve.

PERRY: The colleges are working to create a more compelling academic experience, academic and social experience. They're constantly building. If you've been to your alma mater lately, you'll see that they are constantly building. Unfortunately, they don't have the money to do so. So they're passing those expenses on to the children. And the children, who are most in need, cannot afford it.

ROMANS: You know, LZ, let's talk about community colleges. Let's talk about maybe getting preparation at community colleges for some things you're weaker in before you go to a state school or private school. People really have to be strategic about getting that degree. And remind me, we love the degree, right? The degree is going to mean a 4 percent unemployment rate as opposed to a 9 percent unemployment rate?

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. But you're going to have to start looking at-I've been harping on this for some time now-there are a lot of 200 and 300 level courses that you can take at the community college level that are transferrable that cost significantly less. You have to stop looking at school as a four-year rite of passage and more like a six or maybe even a seven-year investment, which means you have to be smart with your money and smart with your time and decision making.

ROMANS: You know those CLEP tests, and the AP credits, and I'm sure Steve, you've probably counseled your kids, right, at school to try to get credits even before they get to college.

PERRY: As a matter of fact, we're a early college high school. So, in fact, most of our students leave with anywhere from 15 to 30 college credits and makes them a more interesting student to the college. And it makes them a more well-rounded student who's already prepared. In fact, specifically we take out some of those introductory courses that really hurt children while they're in their first year, take out the English 101 and some of those bios and some of the early low-level classes that many of them don't have much interest in, but are prerequisites when they get into college.

LZ Granderson, Steve Perry, thanks both of you. This conversation continues every week. But I mean, geez, cutbacks on the state level, and same time piling on all this debt. Something we'll keep talking about.

Get ready to be inspired. Coming up, you're going to meet some of the future leaders of this country and when Deepak Chopra speaks, people listen. He'll speak to us next.


ROMANS: Where's the leadership in Washington? Our long-term debt is becoming the next generation's problem. But with a lack of leadership at the very top, how do you inspire future leaders to solve these problems? Let's ask someone who teaches leadership. Deepak Chopra is the author of "Soul of Leadership" an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Deepak, welcome to the program.


ROMANS: This recent debt debacle, many people are questioning where the leadership is coming from; and whether we have seen the kinds of traits that are going to help us solve our problems.

CHOPRA: I think the only way to tackle leadership is to become leaders ourselves. We need a grassroots movement of leadership, which is based on solid principles. Instead of looking at the problems and asking ourselves, what's the problem, we start to -- we need to start asking ourselves, what's the creative opportunity right now.

We're trying to adjust the economy by tickling things like tax, or adjusting the interest rates, and all those little things, when we actually should realize that America has not lost its creativity, its innovation, all the stuff is still coming out of America. We haven't lost our ability to produce, or manufacture, or provide services. It's psychological. The whole thing is psychological.

Leadership is a psychological phenomenon. We need to take the real principles of leadership right now, see what are the needs. Right now, the needs are America is feeling insecure, America is at war outside and inside. Inside, you know?

ROMANS: Of course.

CHOPRA: We have so much decisiveness in our political parties, and feeling a lack of self-esteem. We think oh, we can't produce anymore, but everything that's right, still exists. These gyrations of the stock market up and down, up and down, we didn't lose anything in one day, and suddenly we lost a trillion dollars.

ROMANS: Deepak, meet a group of kids who didn't think they would have a chance to attend Princeton University, but with the help of an organization that focuses on finding America's future leaders, that's exactly how they spent the summer. Take a look.


ROMANS (voice over): In this debate class the arguments may be hypothetical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came from the projects, or whatever, and I live in the very low-class, low-class neighborhood.

ROMANS: But for most of the students they hit close to home. Demetrius Cooper is one of 60 high school students calling Princeton University home this summer. They come from all corners of the country. They also come from racial and socioeconomic backgrounds considered underrepresented in the national leadership pool.

DUC NGUYEN, LEDA STUDENT: My family is in the chicken farm business and because we barely got in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) don't have a huge loan, so we can't really hire people to help us. So, usually me and my sister go out and help with, you know, the farm work, picking eggs and stuff.

ROMANS: Every summer, the Leadership Enterprise For A Diverse America selects promising students to help them go on to highly competitive universities. Each day, students take classes preparing them for college-level work. There are also trips to New York City and college tours. All at no cost, thanks to board members like Arun Alagappan. His foundation has given more than a million dollars to the program.

ARUN ALAGAPPAN, FOUNDER, PRES., ADVANTAGE TESTING: The best leaders from every group brought together is a very exciting proposition for me, and very much a part of our national DNA.

ROMANS: For Arun, it is not just about financial support. He's become a role model to students like Jesus Franco. After failing the fifth grade, Jesus is now a PEN graduate with ambitions to go to Harvard law school, and he's paying it forward.

JESUS FRANCO, LEDA GRADUATE: I just see the impact LEDA had on me, and having been here at Princeton the past two summers, I always see the impact it has on the students, and the type of relationships and connections that I make with the students. And it's always personally gratifying just to see the whole process all over again.

ROMANS: For LEDA, it's not just about college access, but leadership.

JOSH ROSENTHAL, DIR. OF CURRICULUM & FACILITATION: By the time students are out of here, they really take ownership of their own education. And they will fight for it. Just like anybody will fight for any civil rights cause. But they will do it in a rigorous way, they'll do it in a critical way, and they'll do it in a responsible way, to which they contribute to communities.


ROMANS: To learn more about LEDA you can go to And as always you can find all of this information on our Web site.

I want to bring in Deepak Chopra. What are these young people and programs like this doing right? You say our leadership today is antiquated and it's broken. And that we need a new generation, new way of thinking for leaders?

CHOPRA: I have an acronym I use, L-E-A-D-E-R-S. L stands for look and listen, not just with the eyes of the flesh, but the mind and the soul. E stands for emotional bonding and team management. A stands for awareness. What are we seeing? What are we observing? What are we feeling? What's the need right now? What's the best response to the need?

D stands for doing; Action, orientation, smart goals. E for empowerment. R for responsibility and S for synchronicity. We could talk about this forever. But right now we have to look at what is the immediate need in this country? And these kids are getting the right training, by the way. And that's the kind of training we need our young leaders to take over. You know, not looking outside for leadership, but bringing the leader within you, outside. That's what education means. To bring out what's already there.

ROMANS: So let me ask you about this crisis in America, the self-esteem problem, as you call, it in America. Does it go away with time? Is it something we fix through leadership? Is it something that we fix, Deepak, through ourselves? That we have to face our own personal reality, and figure out how to love the life we have, and live it better?

CHOPRA: It's both. I think right now, we need to stop complaining, condemning and criticizing and finding whose fault it is. Each of us is here to make a difference. We should ask ourselves, what are my unique gifts, what are my unique talents, how can I put them to use? Who can I hang out with and collaborate with, so we can actually make a difference? How can we be the change that we want to see in the world?, as Mahatma Gandhi said.

I know a lot of people right here in New York City who are doing that, who are fired, who were out of jobs, they found who they were, collaborated with other people. I know a woman who was just fired from a high-tech company. She loves to cook. She started a home cooking catering service. And has employed 10 other people to serve ethnic foods in the city. And she is doing better than most restaurants are these days in this economy.

There's always opportunities. I think the first thing you have to do is change your perspective. Instead of asking what's the problem? What's the opportunity? How can I make a difference? Who are-are there people there and I can connect so easily now with LinkedIn, with social networks, other people who are -- share the same passion, let's get together and make a difference. ROMANS: So interesting, Deepak, because it's connections. I mean, when you talk to the so-called experts about the job market or starting business, the connections are so incredibly important. And connections come with knowing yourself and the people who around you. Deepak Chopra, author of "Soul Of Leadership" and many, many other books, it's always a pleasure to see you.

CHOPRA: Thanks, Christine. Thank you.

ROMANS: The top five spots in the country look for if you're wanting a job is your city on this list? Find out next.


ROMANS: The state of jobs in this country really depends on where you live, what state you live in. And even then it can vary widely from one community to the next. CNN's Casey Wian shows us two cities in California at the top and bottom of the state's unemployment chart where life is very different, and in some ways, very much the same.


CASEY WIAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Delano, California, a mostly agricultural community, has the state's highest unemployment rate. It's visible downtown and at the career services center.

JESSICA ALVARADO, UNEMPLOYED It's very hard looking for work in Delano.

WIAN (on camera): How many jobs do you think you've applied for in the last three or four months?

ALVARADO: Probably like about 20 to 25.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm discouraged, I guess.

WIAN (voice over): Nestled in the hills 250 miles north is Lafayette, with California's lowest jobless rate and a downtown seemingly a world away.

JAY LIFSON, LAFAYETTE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: So you've got a lot of stay-at-home soccer dads, people that can afford to stay home and not be part of the workforce. You have a lot of small businesses here that are individually owned, and a lot of home-based businesses as well. So you add all those together and the unemployment picture looks pretty good.

WIAN: Here's that picture graphically. Delano's unemployment rate is nearly 37 percent, nine times that of Lafayette at 4 percent. The Swansons moved to Lafayette in November, attracted by its beauty, and mostly its highly rated public schools.

LANCE SWANSON, NEW RESIDENT: The great public school system tends to be something that draws a lot of people to the town. RENEE SWANSON, NEW RESIDENT: We felt like if we could live in this community and be able to send our kids to public school, we'd rather do that.

WIAN: Lafayette's location near Silicon Valley and San Francisco and convenient public transportation also help; 20 percent of its residents are retirees. Nearly 20 percent of Delano's 53,000 residents live in its two state prisons. The most here are dependent on seasonal farm jobs. Historically, the family trade for real estate broker, John Lara. His father helped Cesar Chavez organize farm workers.

JOHN LARA, REAL ESTATE BROKER: Since I am the older son, I'd help them carry the bags of beans and stuff that we used to -- my sisters and my mom used to harvest.

WIAN: Now many of those jobs are done by machine.

LARA: Little by little, all those workers that normally would have done that, during their season, now they're being phased out. So cities like Delano, if they didn't prepare for that 20, 30 years ago, now they're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not preparing for industrial jobs, manufacturing jobs.

WIAN: Maribel Reyna is in her first week as Delano's city manager.

MARIBEL REYNA, CITY MANAGER, DELANO: Job creation is number one, truly. And we have some projects currently in the works that will help that job creation.

WIAN: 700 jobs could come from this planned commercial center anchored by a Wal-Mart; 500 more are coming from this citrus packing plant.

REYNA: The city is really trying to take steps forward, yet with the economy and people being in such a mode of caution, it holds you back.

WIAN (on camera): Here in Delano, there are plenty of signs that the city continues to struggle to create jobs. There used to be two movie theaters in town. This is all that's left of the last one. But here in downtown Lafayette, the economy remains strong. Strong enough to support 65 restaurants in a town of just 24,000 people.

(voice over): The city boasts a fiscally conservative local government, that encourages residents to shop locally, and doesn't fix roads unless there's money to pay for it.

DON TATZIN, LAFAYETTE CITY COUNCIL: We just don't take on things that we don't think we can afford.

WIAN: Though Councilman Don Tatzin helps lead the city with the state's lowest jobless rate, he's been out of work for nearly three years. TATZIN: It's great we have a low unemployment rate compared to other parts of California, but that still means we have 4 percent of people who are unemployed. And they're affected just as much as people unemployed in a community with much higher unemployment rates.

WIAN: And as it turns out Lafayette has something else in common with Delano. It's last movie theater also has shut down, showing even here no job is safe. Casey Wian, CNN, Lafayette, California.


ROMANS: Proving really that location is everything in the jobs market. Beth Fenner, assistant managing editor of "MONEY" magazine joins me now.

Beth, you and the folks at CNNMoney have your "Best Places to Live" issue out. In terms of jobs growth, California doesn't even make the top 25. Not really a surprise, though, is it?

BETH FENNER, ASS. MANAGING EDITOR, "MONEY" MAGAZINE: No, it's not. Overall in the state, the unemployment rate is about 12 percent, when you look at the national rate being a little over 9 percent, that's a big difference.

ROMANS: OK, Beth, thanks. Stick with us because we want to talk about jobs. Where they are. We are going to have your top five job spots in the country, next.


ROMANS: So those 13.9 million still unemployed, how many would be considering moving to find a job? Beth Fenner from "Money" is back with us to tell us where the jobs are, if you think you're ready to pick up, and move to a place that has been growing.

Beth, let's work backwards here. It's broken down by county, so at No. 5, Hamilton County, Indiana, a little over 50 percent job growth over the past decade, right? Tell me what's happening there?

FENNER: That's right. And this is a county that's near Indianapolis. And really, they have two things going for it. One, they have a lot of regional offices of large companies. For example, Schwab has a large office there. And also, a lot of areas in the farm belt; agriculture's doing a lot better than certain industries, like construction, for example. So that's lifting everybody in that range from Nebraska through the Midwest. And that's a big plus for them, too.

ROMANS: So Hamilton County, Indiana. You also have a No. 4, have Douglas County, Colorado. This county, you say, is all about big business.

FENNER: It is. And it's halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs, the two biggest cities in the state. And there are six Fortune 500 companies there and the companies love the fact there's a very educated workforce there. So it's kind of a no-brainer to locate there.

ROMANS: In the No. 3 spot, Williamson County, Texas. Education key here in this county. It's near Dallas.

FENNER: It's near Austin, actually.

ROMANS: Sorry, near Austin.

FENNER: Yes, near Austin. So Dell Computer is a big employer there and Round Rock, which is right in town. So if you're into tech, that's the place to be.

ROMANS: Tech in Texas. All right, Loudoun County, Virginia, 75 percent job growth in the past 10 years. This is 40 miles outside of Washington, so I'm betting there's contractors and government kind of work here.

FENNER: Yes. This is very much about location, location, location. And also, it's kind of known, that area, as the Silicon Valley of the East.

ROMANS: Right.

FENNER: A little tech corridor, Dulles International Airport is there, so easy in and out. It's far enough away that it's not so expensive to the city, but you have the advantages of jobs.

ROMANS: So that's Virginia. And now the No. 1 on the list, Elizabeth, is the county that's close to Dallas. Tell me about this one.

FENNER: It is close to Dallas, it is a very small county, and they have had amazing population growth. It has doubled in the past decade. And so when the population is booming, obviously jobs are often booming as well. Now, Texas has had, the areas around Dallas we found are doing very well. Energy jobs are strong. And it's just, government has been very pro business.

ROMANS: We'll hear more about this on the campaign trail. Rick Perry this week, the Texas governor, trying to use what's happening in Texas, two of the top five are Texas counties.

FENNER: He does like to take credit for it. I'm going to leave aside whether he deserves the credit for it.

ROMANS: Does he deserve the credit?

FENNER: There are some incentives that governments are giving for businesses to come in, and that does have some effect. And taxes, there is no state income tax in the state.

ROMANS: Right.

FENNER: State income tax, so that is, you know, that's relevant.

ROMANS: So we'll be hearing more about some of these places. Very interesting. All of these on our Web site. Beth, you have them all at "MONEY." Thank you so much. Nice to see you. Have a wonderful weekend.

FENNER: Thank you.

ROMANS: That wraps things up for us this morning, but this conversation continues online.

We want to hear what you have to say. Send us an e-mail with your thoughts, questions to You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, @ChristineRomans. The show is @CNN/YourBottomLine.

Now back to CNN Saturday for the latest stories making news. Have a great weekend.