With the release of “Waiting for 'Superman,'” the topics of education reform and the quality of U.S. public schools are getting mainstream attention. A lot of news headlines and opinions abound about what are the right and wrong solutions to fixing our classrooms and raising student outcomes and who to blame for the problems. It’s what the education community has been talking about for decades, and I’m pleased to see that the importance of education has finally elevated and entered the national dialogue.

At Microsoft, we believe every child has a basic right to an excellent education. The challenges of education are too big for any one institution to fix. We believe it will take a broad range of private and public partnerships to contribute to this effort and Microsoft is committed to doing so. As a business leader, our future is dependent on a competitive workforce, equipped to succeed in the 21st century.

Across the company, we are invested in improving education in a variety of ways. We empower, train and connect innovative teachers and schools through our Partners in Learning program. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into state partnerships across the country to not only bolster innovation, but to help those organizations working on curbing the drop out epidemic. And with programs like DigiGirlz, Imagine Cup and EduConnect, we are providing opportunities for kids to learn about careers in technology, to get interested in STEM, and for our own employees to volunteer in local schools.

This week, Microsoft is one of the sponsors of NBC’s Education Nation and rolling out a number of vehicles that foster the dialogue on the remedies to the current quality disparity in education across the United States.  Our hope is that millions of people will come together to discuss the challenges schools are currently facing, learn about best practices and then, finally, engage people to take action.

  • New Teacher Map App. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the launch of a new teacher resource, http://www.teach.gov, the Bing team is showing off the Teach Here map app that provides a simple way to search for teacher prep programs, teaching-related scholarships, certification offices, and local job opportunities. Learn more about it here.
  • Ask Arne. On Friday, October 1st, MSN.com and Whitehouse.gov will be hosting a live webcast with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to encourage the national conversation around education reform. Anyone who cares about the state of education in America is encouraged to submit a question and vote on the questions you want Secretary Duncan to answer at ask-arne.msn.com.
  • Our School Needs. Starting today, schools across the country can begin to submit their entries in the Bing “Our Schools Need” contest. Whether your school needs a new gym, new laptops, or a new photo lab, the finalist will win the grand prize of $100,000. In total, Bing is donating over $500,000 to schools in the form of prizes and donations to DonorsChoose.org.
  • MSN Tastemaker on education. During the weeks of Sept.27 and Oct 4, contestants in the MSN social reality show “The Tastemaker” will be creating—and inspiring their social networks to create—Public Service Announcements in favor of education reform. The contestants will be judged on their ability to rally the web, and one of those audience-generated videos will be chosen by Viacom for distribution across its properties.

This week, the Microsoft News Center will also feature a daily Q&A series called, “The Education Community Speaks Out,” where we will hear from representatives from different parts of the education community to understand their perspectives, frustrations and hopes for the future. You can read the stories here.

And don’t forget to join the conversation at www.bing.com/redu and to learn more about the education transformation movement in the U.S. and see how you can get involved and bring long-term meaningful change to our local schools.

You can give us feedback and read more about what Microsoft is doing in education on my Education Insights blog.

Anthony Salcito
Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Education