Educational Performance, Economic Success are Closely Linked

In Missouri, we’ve long understood the connection between a strong educational system and a thriving economy. Since 1964, The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has hosted an Education Foundation that works to ensure our state is developing a pool of talented workers we need for the future. We are a state with an established aerospace industry, leading biotechnology employers, national engineering companies, nationally-recognized health systems and a growing tech startup culture. For Missouri to continue to succeed in all these areas, we are going to need our share of the world’s smartest students. Toward this goal, Missouri is in the midst of an effort to improve education in our state. We are aiming to have one the nation’s ten best educational systems by 2020. While this is an ambitious goal, our business community stands fully behind this work. Business leaders here understand that in today’s global economy, success is competitive and growth will only come to regions that compete worldwide. That’s why we’ve worked for decades to ensure Missouri has a friendly tax climate, strong transportation infrastructure, smart incentives and — equally important — a gifted, well-trained workforce. As we look to the future, we believe the Common Core state standards are crucial to helping ensure Missouri, and our nation, remains competitive. Already, studies show our children are lagging behind students around the world. Among 65 countries, U.S. students are 21st in literacy, 24th in science and 31st in math. Working to close that gap, Missouri and 44 other states have adopted the Common Core standards for math and English language studies, which were released in 2010. The standards have already been implemented in over 80 percent of Missouri school districts. The standards were created as part of a project by the National Governors Association in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers. The project was aimed at improving student achievement in response to studies showing that many high school graduates were not adequately prepared to enter college or the workforce. Like elsewhere, Missouri has a small but vocal group of opponents who oppose the standards. This year, our state lawmakers have held hearings on legislation to end Common Core implementation. As we advocate for our state’s business community, the Missouri Chamber believes this is the wrong course. In January, we stood beside Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as she presented to our Missouri State Board of Education. She noted the disparities between educational systems in different states. We agree with the U.S. Chamber’s position that a unified system of student achievement helps raise the bar for all educators and ensures businesses are receiving the highly trained workers they need. We also believe the Common Core state standards address the mobility of today’s families. As parents move across the state or across state lines for job opportunities, their children can find themselves in vastly different educational systems with varying standards of measurement. As each generation becomes more mobile, we need to ensure our educational system is responding and providing cohesive instruction across state lines. Looking ahead, we understand that the future is more competitive than ever. Yet, we believe Missouri is poised to succeed. The national and state-level efforts to deter the Common Core are only working to push us off course. Instead of holding our students back, grasping to systems of the past, we need to continue to raise the bar. Let’s make sure our educational system is equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Our future depends on it. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Daniel P. Mehan is President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.