A report out today from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) says that business must get more involved in education reform if we want to achieve the dramatic change that is needed to ensure that every child gets a quality education. The report, Partnership Is a Two-Way Street: What It Takes for Business to Help Drive School Reform, by Frederick M. Hess and Whitney Downs of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), uses the work of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education as an example of the leadership role that business can play.
Specifically, the authors examined the pivotal role that MBAE played in the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards. A rigorous, independent study commissioned by MBAE provided the critical information that was lacking in the debate over the standards. It gave the business community the data it needed to determine whether the Common Core would advance their education goals and deserved support. The adoption of the standards was key to the state’s winning of the Race to the Top competition.
MBAE’s core work of improving public schools by influencing state policy is driven by the business community’s commitment that students graduate prepared for success in college, career and citizenship. The leadership role that we have taken has helped the state achieve dramatic gains in education. But our work is far from done.
Although Massachusetts leads the country in many measures of student achievement, we continue to face chronic racial and socio-economic achievement gaps and unacceptable high school drop out college completion rates. Employers play a pivotal role in bringing about the change that is needed to address these significant challenges, providing a unique perspective on how to drive improvement and get results. The business community is also a primary stakeholder in a quality education system. If Massachusetts companies are to compete and win in a worldwide economy, they will need a well-educated workforce.
The authors of the report point out that while volunteer tutoring and college scholarships are beneficial, this kind of involvement does not bring about the kind of systemic change that is needed.
“American K–12 schooling is in need of major improvements, and business can play a valuable role in retooling school systems for the new century,” says coauthor Hess. “Business can provide the leverage, expertise, and leadership that will help educators and public officials make tough decisions and take hard steps they might not take on their own.”