These case studies show that business leaders—whether as individuals or operating through organizations such as local chambers of commerce, foundations, or public education funds—can play a critical role in supporting effective school board governance and reforms that improve student achievement.
Reports: Center for Education and Workforce
The business community is the number one consumer of the public education system and therefore must be an involved and engaged stakeholder in the education of America’s children. Through the Business Education Network (BEN) ―a coalition of business leaders engaged in Pre-K to 12th grade education policy, programs, and research―participants will develop and promote the implementation of programs and policies that improve academic achievement in this country.
Due to unique structural and local political dynamics, the Los Angeles Board of Education is composed of colorful individual personalities who pursue divergent agendas and report directly to distinct constituencies. As a result, individual board members may be powerful players in their own right, but lack cohesion as a governing body, hampering their ability to work collectively to advance a shared vision for education in Los Angeles. This lack of board unity has created a vacuum that enables other leading figures in Los Angeles—including the mayor and a series of strong superintendents—to drive their own education reform agendas independent of the Los Angeles school board.
The Austin Independent School District (AISD) has taken significant steps over the past several years to boost student achievement through results-driven policies, including performance-based teacher pay and a strategic plan tied to student performance. But the district continues to struggle with a persistent achievement gap between white and minority students, and currently faces financial challenges caused by state budget cuts. In recent years, a partnership between the Austin Chamber of Commerce and AISD has helped drive reform, and the expertise offered by business leaders can help the district respond to new and emerging challenges. This partnership illustrates how third-party support and pressure can create stability and consensus in fractured and politicized school board environments.
Throughout 2011, ICW educated and engaged business leaders on a host of education and workforce issues, including education reform, accountability, and transparency. Through its events and publications ICW brought experts together to discuss numerous education topics, including the status of “Race to the Top,” Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, and innovation in higher education.
Over the past 14 months, the National Chamber Foundation (NCF), Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) have worked with key partners in the business community to highlight the extent of the crisis in our schools, identify forces standing in the way of needed change, and promote positive solutions such as competition, accountability, and choice to provide America’s children with the education they deserve and employers with the workers they need. Through their partnership, NCF, ICW and USCC reached business, opinion, and local leaders around the country by screening the documentary Waiting for “Superman,” creating and distributing materials and resources to state and local chambers of commerce, and engaging local and state business leaders to host follow-up forums and events to invigorate our grassroots network.
A Look Into Teacher Effectiveness, A Look Into Turning Around Failing Schools, Moving From Data Systems to Data Use, Standards Implementation and College and Career Readiness
In March 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) and National Chamber Foundation (NCF) released fact sheets for every state and the District of Columbia comparing the state of K–12 public education across nine categories. The fact sheets give business leaders, parents, community leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders a snapshot of the education landscape in each state—what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s downright ugly. The fact sheets are meant to arm leaders with basic facts and spur them to learn more about what is really happening in their schools and statehouses with respect to K–12 public education. In other words, the fact sheets are meant to fuel change.
Considerable attention recently has been focused on the skills employees need to succeed in the workplace. However, few studies have asked employers and the workforce what they see as the key skills and competencies necessary to thrive and how these might be acquired; fewer still have asked both employers and employees to consider these topics and analyze how their responses are congruent or incongruent. Independently, the University of Phoenix and U.S. Chamber of Commerce each sought to explore these topics with new primary studies conducted among the U.S. labor force and business executives. This summary presents key findings from these studies and ties them together to paint a picture of life in the 21st century workplace and the key dynamics both workers and employers need to consider as they seek to promote excellence in the workplace.
American K–12 schooling is in need of transformative improvement, and business can play a valuable role in retooling school systems for the new century. Business can provide the leverage, expertise, and leadership that will help educators and public officials make tough decisions and take hard steps they may not take on their own. The challenge is how to do this well.