Report Urges Businesses to Get Involved in Education
Partnerships between businesses and schools are neglected economic and educational tools, pairings that have the potential to raise student achievement and more closely align the work of educators with workforce demands, a new report contends.
That argument is spelled out in the report released today, “Business Engagement in Education: Key Partners for Improving Student Success.” The report was sponsored by the Citi Foundation, an organization sponsored by the bank of the same name that seeks to help low- and moderate-income individuals, and the College Summit, an organization focused on improving college attendance and success.
The report argues that businesses can play a critical role in helping schools coping with ever-evolving challenges, which include “adapting to shifting policy demands, managing new and expanding roles and expectations, and finding ways to respond to changing demographics and social norms,” the authors say.
“Building effective school-business partnerships is a proven solution to these troublesome and stubborn challenges,” the report says. “It is clear that schools can no longer achieve their mission alone. An outside partner can provide the crucial resources and expertise to drive improvement in a high school and to strengthen student outcomes.”
The document is scheduled to be released Wednesday at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a forum that is expected to be attended by a number of business and educator leaders, as well as by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida considered to be one of his party’s emerging leaders on the national stage. (Sen. Rubio has also put forward some education policy proposals recently.)
The relationship between businesses and schools is can be a tense one. School officials sometimes doubt the motives of those seeking to apply private-sector principles to K-12, questioning whether they’re more interested in profit than helping students. Some business officials, meanwhile, regard school systems as bureaucratic entities resistant to new ideas. But the report argues that business officials can influence the work of schools for the better in direct and indirect ways. It offers a variety of recommendations for companies and their employees, which include:
- Working directly with teachers and counselors to help students shape their college and career goals, while taking workforce demands into account;
- Sponsoring competitions that promote entrepreneurship and “reward ingenuity,” and encourage students to demonstrate their subject-matter and team-building skills;
- Providing teachers with professional development and access to applied research that informs their instruction, through educator-employer mentoring programs and other means;
- Working with teachers to map the industry-specific skills and competencies that students need to succeed on the job;
- Mentoring and coaching students directly to help them understand the demands of college and the workforce; and
- Offering support to families to help them understand the college application process and the steps needed to apply for financial aid.
No single model will fit the needs of all schools, the report says. The best strategies are those that are tailored to the needs of individual schools’ student populations and recognize that businesses and schools have “common goals and interests.” Once you’ve read the report, let me know if you think the authors’ ideas are realistic options for schools, and for the private sector.
I was thrilled about College Summit’s new study this week on the critical importance of business engagement in public education. At PENCIL, we’ve been making the case for and working to forge meaningful school-business partnerships for 18 years. Through a proven model, we’ve created 400 school-business partnerships in New York City alone and dozens of affiliate partnerships in cities across the U.S.
As the study demonstrates, businesses have a unique opportunity to apply their knowledge, skills and resources to help schools and their leaders meet critical needs and challenges. The study points to a number of areas in which business can positively impact schools, particularly by providing work-based learning experiences, financial guidance and planning for college, and creating relevant curricula for students.
Those suggestions are a great way to get businesses thinking about what they can do for our students. But there’s so, so much more that businesses can do to quickly and effectively make a profound difference.
Through our experience, we’ve seen that by working in certain key focus areas partners can accomplish dramatic improvements in student outcomes. These focus areas represent the intersection of what schools need and what businesses can accomplish, and include:
1. Helping principals become stronger school leaders by teaching them how to plan strategically, motivate their staff, and manage effectively
2. Fostering family engagement by developing clearer, more frequent forms of communication between schools and home
3. Increasing student engagement by developing innovative curricula that bridges the gap between classroom learning and the wider world
We’ve seen some incredible outcomes occur when schools and businesses team up to take on these issues: when Principals work with PENCIL, they are more often described as effective leaders by their teachers; nearly 7 out of 10 Principals feel that students who consistently participated in PENCIL Partnership activities exhibit improved academic performance; and according to their principals, PENCIL Students apply to college more often than their peers.
Citigroup and Citi—whose foundation funded the College Summit study—is currently a business partner in 7 PENCIL Partnerships throughout New York City. One of those programs began in 2006, when Citibank employees began working with the Academy of Finance & Enterprise to develop their college and career skills. Students are matched with mentors from Citi, who provide them with weekly college and career guidance and opportunities to shadow them on the job. This year, one of the mentees won the 2013 Citibank Fellow Scholarship Award, which will help the student pay for higher education.
I urge individuals to read College Summit’s report, but equally important, I urge individuals and businesses to take action. Whether you’re an independent contractor, a small business owner, or an employee at a fortune 500 company, you have assets, insights, and resources that are absolutely essential for the success of our students. It shouldn’t be a difficult transition from your office to the classroom—just do what you’re already good at, but do it so today’s students can emerge as tomorrow’s leaders.