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.
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.
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
A report on the state of Business-Education Partnerships in the U.S
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.
The challenges facing traditional higher education cannot be overcome without fundamental transformation brought about by strong institutional leadership coupled with policy reforms that promote innovation. The cost spiral will continue without innovations driven by e-learning and incentives built around increasing productivity. Regulations and incentives should be crafted to open the way for the most dynamic innovations, while rendering the true costs, risks, and potential benefits as transparent as possible for prospective students.
Too often, STEM reform has entailed well-intentioned efforts to superimpose good ideas on a rickety, aged set of institutions and organizations. If today’s earnest efforts are to deliver more than that, then good intentions and thoughtful proposals must be joined by a fierce commitment to remaking America’s schools and school systems for the 21st century.