We hear it every day: ‘The success or failure of our education system directly correlates to the success or failure of the U.S. economy.’ We know that learning and mastering essential skills, such as writing and mathematics, in K–12 and postsecondary schooling is crucial to landing a job and excelling in the workforce. Yet, it’s also known that American public schools are failing across the board.
This week, as leaders gather in New York City for the third annual Education Nation summit to talk about education solutions, out in the trenches, the battle continues over education basics. The first teachers' strike in 25 years in the Windy City garnered national headlines as union leaders fought to minimize school accountability. In a district where only one in nine African American students are meeting state standards in reading and math and only half graduate from high school, educators vigorously resisted measuring teacher effectiveness in the classroom and giving students more instructional time.
Sandra Westlund-Deenihan’s biggest work worry isn’t making payroll or increasing international sales of her metal float balls, valves and assemblies. It’s teaching her entry-level employees how to use a simple ruler. Westlund-Deenihan, president and design engineer of Illinois-based Quality Float Works, spoke during a roundtable discussion on the skills gap at the U.S. Chamber Institute for Competitive Workforce’s (ICW's) Help Wanted event on September 20. The event brought together business leaders, policy makers, and innovative education leaders to discuss what businesses can do to better align the nation’s workforce needs with higher education.
As someone who trained as a professional boxer, Overstock.com Chairman and CEO Patrick Byrne can certainly take some punches. He started his speech at the U.S. Chamber by noting that he is public enemy number one, according to the National Education Association. It’s a distinction that the outspoken supporter of school vouchers and education reform is quite proud of.
On August 22, ACT released, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012. The annual report focuses on the scores earned by graduating seniors who took the ACT college and career readiness exam-this year a record 52 percent of the U.S. graduating class. More than a fourth (28 percent) of ACT-tested 2012 graduates did not meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading and science, suggesting they are likely to struggle in first-year college courses in all four of those subject areas. Another 15 percent met only one of the benchmarks, while 17 percent met just two.
On August 12, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced it had finalized the application for the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition, which will provide nearly $400 million to support school districts in implementing local education reforms. According to the department: “The program sets a high bar to fund those districts that have a track record of success, clear vision for reform, and innovative plans to transform the learning environment and accelerate student achievement.”
Let's be honest with ourselves, education reform can seem a little "wonkish" at times. One of the toughest challenges for the education reform community is engaging the general public to take action. News stories riddled with policy jargon about teacher tenure, school choice, school governance, and student tracking aren't necessarily 'above the fold' headlines. However, cinema has the power to attract a broad audience and stir emotions that policy-laced news stories rarely reach.
In September, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will embark on his third annual “Back-to-School” Bus Tour to highlight education success around the country. However, based on the lackluster state of student achievement around the country, Secretary Duncan should address the following “failures” instead of “successes:”
The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) recently announced its effort to meet the state’s industry needs by consolidating 80 curriculums down to 32 as part of the college system’s Code Green Super Curriculum Improvement Project (CIP). The State Board of Community Colleges worked with area employers to identify five fields critical to advancing the state’s economic growth: energy, building, environment, transportation, and engineering technology. The Board and college system leadership believe that grouping like majors together will allow students to gain a solid foundation of general skills before they move on to more specific coursework that will prepare them for the workforce.
The Central Florida Education Summit will be hosted by the Central Florida Partnership and sponsored by the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association, in partnership with the National Chamber Foundation, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, and the Central Florida Public School Board Coalition.
U.S. News STEM Solutions 2013 will bring together business, education and government leaders who have long recognized the need to connect the dots between STEM education and careers. Adding to last year’s successful conference format, the second edition will give more dedicated time for these leaders to interact and collaborate.